The Bear

The Honeymoon Stage. You know it. You remember. Back in the beginning of your relationship with your husband when everything was easy. Love flowed just from looking at each other. The passion was written on your faces and expressed regularly without effort. Joy overflowed by the mere mention of his name.

The same thing happened when you came to Christ. The realization that He loves you – that He has always loved you was overwhelming. Joy was new every morning. You spoke of Him to everyone you met. You longed to know Him more.

The same thing happened when you started that diet. Those first ten pounds just came flying off. You really didn’t have to do much of anything. It was easy. You start to believe that you are on your way.

Then it happens. The honeymoon ends.

Children come and work gets stressful. Trying to juggle bills and playdates and sports leaves you tired. Passion is now about sleep. The physical part of your relationship dissolves into decisions of whether you should even bother to take your clothes off or just leave them on as you need to get up soon anyway.

You go to church on Sundays and the worship which used to bring you to new heights with the Lord now just seems to bounce off of your forehead. Reading the Word becomes a chore. Knowing that Christ loves you is understood, but the joy is gone.

You hit that plateau in your weight loss. You did the same things you did the last few weeks and now you not only didn’t lose anymore, but you gained back a couple.

Everything suddenly seems so hard.

It is at this moment, like when Jesus was in the wilderness, that the enemy arrives. He smells your feelings of weakness and doubt. He is ready for his assault.

He asks you the questions: if the passion is gone from your marriage, then maybe he was not the right guy? Shouldn’t it be easy? If your husband really loved you, he would know that you are needing him right now. Clearly this was a mistake. It’s time to pull back and start guarding your heart against the hurt that he will bring you.

He continues: Church isn’t doing anything for you anymore. Maybe it really didn’t do anything in the first place. Maybe you just got caught up in the hype. It was just a feeling and nothing of substance. Why don’t you just sleep in today? It will do you so much more good than pushing yourself to go to church, wasting two hours and then being so far behind in the things you need to do.

And finally: Of course you aren’t losing any weight. You are not meant to be healthy. You don’t have it in you to look good and feel good. Isn’t this good enough? You’ve been like this forever. Why change now? Just accept it. You are fat and ugly and nobody loves you.

And there in the background you feel it. That heavy blanket of self-loathing and doubt. Depression. Fear. All of the characteristics of your old man. Right there, pouring in to smother you in darkness. You find it hard to breathe. Your body aches. Nothing is good anymore. The habits of your old man are there too. I should just lay down here and accept my fate. I am alone. In the dark. There is no hope. I will just close my eyes and sleep. Maybe then I won’t have to face it.

Is that the end?

My father used to tell me about a dream he had as a child. Many nights he would dream that he was being chased by a bear. Just as the bear was about to overtake him, he would wake up. Over and over again he spent his nights running from this bear. Finally, one night in his dream, he stopped running. This time he turned around to face the bear. He beat the tar out of it and never had the dream again.

This story taught me that I do have the power to change things. I could spend my life in despair or I can say, “Wait a second devil! Just hold on here. I belong to God. You don’t have any hold on me anymore!” I can push back against the darkness and see the light.

Paul tells us in Hebrews 5:12-14 that we can’t continue living on spiritual milk. We need the meat. We need to mature. We need to search for the Lord with all of our hearts (Jer 29:13) and seek Him like silver and gold (Matt 13:44-46). The most precious gems are not on the surface, they must be mined. It takes a mountain of effort to uncover one precious stone, but once you have found it – how precious it is!

It is after the honeymoon stage that marriage moves into something much more precious. When love goes so much deeper than the surface stuff and can grow roots into each other. When “oneness” really begins to flourish.

It is in the search for the Lord that we begin to understand that love is more than a feeling. We learn His heart for us and that in turn changes our hearts toward others.

It is in the work that is required to lose weight that new healthy habits that can last a lifetime are born.

Everything requires work, persistence and the unwavering belief that what I am working for is worth it. Your marriage is worth it. Your health is worth it. Knowing Christ is worth it.

It is time to face the bear. Time to stand up, roll up your sleeves and say “no more!” When you stop running and hiding, when you look the enemy in the eye, when you realize that you are not alone in your fight as the Lord’s armies are with you, you will see, the bear is not as big and scary as you thought. In fact, it is nothing more than a flea with a big growl.

Remember who you are, and fight!

No Room for Jesus

When we were in prayer last week, the Lord brought to mind a song that I sang many years ago in church at Christmastime. It was called, No Room. The second verse and chorus go like this:

No sweet consecration, no seeking His part, No humiliation, no place in the heart; No thought of the Saviour, no sorrow for sin, No prayer for His favor, no room in the inn.

No room, no room for Jesus, O give Him welcome free, Lest you should hear at Heaven’s gate, “There is no room for thee.”

He also reminded me of a recent conversation where someone was stating that all religions are the same, we all believe in God, etc. And my response was, “But you are forgetting about Jesus!”

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 1-8 tells us:

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

This is our gospel – our good news!

He also goes on in vs 14 and 17-19:

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Christ is the crux of our faith. There is no hope without Him!

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 he says:

“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

I find it remarkable how quickly I can lose sight of Jesus. Whether through laziness, distraction or deception, my life suddenly seems to run out of room for Jesus. I start to operate in my own human wisdom and fall back into religious tradition. As a result, my faith has no power, and when I am attacked by the evil one, I am unable to stand.

I am grateful to our pastor who, this past Sunday, delivered a passionate message reminding us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, and appealed to us to wake up and take up the fight!

I must determine to push through the haze that blinds me to my need for Jesus and God’s power every day in my life. I must fight to make room for Him and the time to cultivate my relationship with Him. Without Him I am weak, my focus becomes misdirected and my compassion for others and their salvation disappears. Satan would like nothing more than to keep me in this stupor.

Just think – if the church at large is under the same spell, what would happen if the sleeping giant awoke? What magnificent demonstrations of God’s power might begin to be seen by the world? Time is running out. The battle is on. We must take up the fight and it begins by making room for Jesus!

Intimacy

Intimacy. Everyone wants it. Whether it is with our spouse or with God we all want to be able to connect with ever deepening intimacy each time we are together. But intimacy doesn’t just come by itself. You have to work for it. You have to fight for it.

Having been divorced and remarried, I am acutely aware of the struggles for intimacy. I not only have to fight for time with my new husband, but I must fight against the baggage I bring with me: the hurts, the “ghosts” and the memories that want to insert themselves between him and I. It was harder at the beginning of our marriage, but thankfully my husband is both discerning and patient. He would ask me in those early days if we were really alone or if there were a “third person” present as he could sense that something was not right. If so, he would simply hold me and pray that I could be freed from the memories that were haunting me.

Paul describes the relationship between the church and Christ like a marriage in Ephesians chapter 5 and Solomon describes the intimacy of a marriage relationship in great detail. The adoration that husband and wife have for each other is palpable in the pages of the Song. This depth of intimacy takes time. Time to bask in each other’s presence. Time to notice the little things. Time to fall in love. In this sense, intimacy and the “quickie” are mutually exclusive. The more we substitute “quickies” for love making, the cheaper the relationship gets – the more intimacy we lose. This is true both with our spouse and with God.

God is described as a jealous God in Exodus 34:14. There is no way that He will allow growth of intimacy with a “third person” present. Whether that “person” is our chore list or the phone or our children, God wants our full attention in those moments that we have with Him. If we desire intimacy with Him, we have to fight for it. Just as hard as we fight to maintain intimacy in our marriages, we must fight to achieve it with God.

There is one who will oppose us. One who very much does not want us to reach deep intimacy with our Maker. He is the same one that destroys our marriages and he will insert himself and his agenda into our relationship with God. We have the power to overcome him as “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). However, unless we actually fight, we can’t win. No matter how much power we have access to, it must be put into action. The biggest, strongest man can still be bound and tortured by the smallest if he will not fight.

God revealed this to me this week. I had been distracted by the business of the week and then days without Him started to lead to dryness of spirit. Dryness led to a parched soul. This had been evident in my attitude, my ability to deal with stress, and my lack of joy. Then the sadness took over and the lack of energy and the desire to just sleep appeared. There was no fight left in me. I wondered what was happening to me. Then He showed me that I have not been fighting for us. He deserves my fight. My soul is panting after Him and I do not want just a drop of water to keep me from dying. I want a river of life giving love flowing from Him to me. I want our relationship to not just be barely alive, but thriving. He deserves my time, my focus, and my fight. He is waiting, arms open wide, desiring to spend time with me and for me to know Him, to fall in love with Him, to be brought alive by the experience of His love. Isn’t He worth the fight?

Abundant Life

Written Jan 2015: When I was 17 I was assaulted and strangled. That was more than 25 years ago. And although much healing has happened since, I still cannot stand the feeling of something against my neck. I have tried, but I cannot wear turtlenecks or scarves that wrap around my neck. Not that they are tight, but just feeling something there makes me feel like I am choking and I am forever pulling at it in order to breathe. So, I have accepted that I just won’t wear the scarves or turtlenecks. God reminded me this week that “the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10a) And I realized – I have been robbed. Robbed of the freedom to wear whatever I want. That sounds a little silly, but I started to wonder – where else have I been robbed? When I was growing up my family attended a church that was alive: hands raised in worship, amens during the message. It was vibrant. And then some people started coming to the church. People not from our community. People who spoke in tongues. Uninterpreted tongues. They pushed their way into leadership and split the church – completely destroying it. Once this was accomplished, they were gone. The church never recovered. Since then I have always been sceptical of tongues – knowing that not all are the genuine article. And because of this experience, because of the fear that the experience or the gift may not be genuine, I have never received the baptism of the Holy Spirit or the gift of tongues. Should I simply accept this as my lot as well? No scarves, no baptism. C’est la vie. I don’t think so. The second half of that verse says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b) Is the scarfless/baptismless life the abundant one that Jesus came to give me? No. How many ways has the thief robbed us? What experiences have we had that keep us from living the abundant life or enjoying our church family or living in joy? What about that one that was so needy before – does that keep you from opening up to others in case you end up with another? What about that preacher’s wife that was so shallow – does that keep you from embracing all of them? What about our life situations? That diagnosis or the news that your child is doomed. Should we simply accept what is thrown at us and adapt to life with the new darts impaling us? Should we lay down in defeat and struggle through in mediocrity until we see the Lord in the next life? Absolutely not! We may not know God’s plan, but we know our God! Nothing is impossible with Him! We are told to live and to fight! Ephesians 6:10-17 lays it out plainly for us, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Of course, the fight is easier when you are not alone. It is time to set up triage, and help each other. Bring the darts and the wounds to the Healer to be removed and healed. And then it is time to get up off the ground, to take back what has been taken from us, and to recognize the thief for who he is and what he has done. God is trustworthy beyond measure. It is to Him alone that we surrender. Then, take up the full armor, and know that the armies of God are with us. It is time to stand!