The Warrior

11d4cc66fd62f24a6213348bfb996d9fNEW SONG #7

Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? Song of Solomon 8:5

(verse 1)
Oh, Abba! What words can I write
To sing new songs of sweetest praise?
To tell of victories in the night
And how a victor’s shout is raised?

Who is this? Her brow so bloodied?
Coming out of desert grim?
What has happened to this warrior?
Who will hear her soldier’s hymn?

(chorus)

Soft she sings—as hard she leans
Her Savior only strength and shield
From darkest battle’s she has gleaned
Truth, that Freedom’s sword will yield,

Only when the battle’s over!
Only when the victory’s won!
A warrior never quits, or surrenders,
‘Til Father whispers, “It is done!”

(verse 2)

Not ’til then can sword be rested
Not ’til victory has been found
Not ’til soldiers metal tested
And enemy’s surrendered Holy ground!

She turns and lifts her sword now skyward
To honor her Father’s Holy Word
Remembering day when He first called her
Broken Vessel—so absurd!

(verse 3)
And now scarred lips and heart once broken
Gladly she lays at nail-scarred feet
Here to sing! Her Victor’s token!
Her song declares—enemy’s defeat!

She raises voice in song of praise
To tell of desert battles won!
Her sword surrendered at His feet
A Freedom Fighter she’s become!

 

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Make Mine Broken!

Broken_Vessel_We don’t all view BROKEN the same way, do we?

I think it might be difficult for some of us to connect to those we consider BROKEN if we have experienced “breaking” in only minor or irritating ways.

For instance, if you are pitching a fit because you just broke another nail? Trust me. You and I are on opposite sides of the Looking Glass.

When I say “broken” I see smoking rubble and bombed out buildings in my soul. Yet, even I don’t “see” smoking rubble the same way a woman fleeing Syria or Iraq would, right?

Does that help?

We, meaning we in The Church, can often trivialize people’s pain by our own casual approach to what we do not understand. My “brokenness” may be very different from what you have experienced. You can think you are “aware” when perhaps you are actually clueless. I have often heard well-meant heartfelt messages from those who I believe really did mean well, but there was a kind of authenticity or depth that was missing, simply due to a shallower understanding or experience of the subject.

Unfortunately, what people who haven’t survived gross abuse don’t know can add new wounds to the souls who have.

If you haven’t been through deep and dark water or been on intimate terms with Evil, the deeply wounded and broken will know it, because a crushed heart covered in the scars of an intimate acquaintance with Evil is not something you can head-fake.

I also believe there is a kind of inborn intolerance, an unknowing or condescending heart will reveal. Not to intentionally be unkind perhaps, but simply because of profound ignorance.

I don’t say this to be mean, but I believe it is necessary to know, Hearts that have bled from deep wounds have an internal radar that will register any FEAR or SHAME tactics immediately. You may not mean it to sound that way… (Or you might, depending on your motives?) either way, I just want you to understand where I’m coming from when I ask,

“When have you looked into the eyes of your Abuser and seen the pure pleasure that they derive from inflicting new pain? New horror? New terror? New shame? When have you heard pure hatred screaming at you; seen its face contorted in ugly rage inches from your face? When have you seen them smile as they slice and shred your soul again, intentionally carving new wounds?”

There is Real-Evil in this world and some of us have looked helplessly many times into its cold dead eyes. That is a “knowledge” you can’t fake or forget. And, that experience changes HOW you view BROKEN—and how you respond.

Yes, Christ and the sheer power of His love and grace poured out on His cross, can overcome Evil’s power to make one cringe in terror or run and hide. And yes, forgiveness poured from old wounds will lift the broken and crushed heart, and bring it back to resurrected Life. Absolutely!

But, that miracle of love and forgiveness in itself is no guarantee that Evil will surrender its hold on the Abuser, or that the Abuser will magically choose to change their ways.

The Abuser is also free to choose and many choose to continue their abusive ways. (Perhaps due to their own self-loathing?) I don’t know. I have never understood my Abusers. What I do know is that I have been on the receiving end of my Abuser’s resistant intolerance for love and their entitlement to their own cruelty.

I have loved my Abusers, believing that my love would change them; cause them to make changes in their behavior. It did not. Love for Christ and our devotion to Him does not mean we will be able to reconcile ourselves to those who steadfastly refuse to surrender their hatred and destructive behaviors.

Yes, we must forgive them for their past abuse. Yes, we must pray for our enemies and those who willfully choose to continue to abuse our love and trust. But I do not believe we have to be reconciled to continue in a close relationship or in proximity with those who embrace Evil and refuse to surrender their deep desire to destroy us.

I also believe there are sincere Hearts that have not bled at the hands of that kind of Evil, who don’t understand this. They haven’t seen this for themselves—felt it or heard it—and so they just don’t KNOW.

I used to succumb to critics who would loudly proclaim “broken” as “incapable.”

All those in The Church who are so intolerant, unable, or unknowing, because I thought they were right.

I figured that they knew their stuff!

When those dear souls would criticize my tears; my fragility; my brokenness, I would listen to them.

Believe them.

When they would criticize the broken saying, “You can’t speak, or teach, or reach, unless you toughen up, put on your wax lips, and smile… your gratitude will fix it all.” I would inwardly wince! As if doing all those things hadn’t ever been tried by the abused who also love God and their abusers!

(Oh, please!)

I think those who advocate such simplistic answers have no clue the damage their naivete inflicts.

The abused and broken don’t want band-aids. They don’t work! And I don’t believe the broken want another slick-song-n-dance-schtick of:

“I got it ALL TOGETHER and ain’t it great BEING ME?”

How many times have I heard a speaker “speak to me” just like that, and I would think, “That will NEVER be me.” because I felt too, broken; too much of a mess, and saw no way out of my terror-ridden situation!

Not today. Now I believe hurting people just want real with all its awkward and messy flaws.

In ancient days if a guy was making and selling pottery, and it came out of the fire with cracks, they would rub a little wax into those cracks so they wouldn’t show.

(I mean, who deliberately buys a defective pot, right?)

I guess people got wise to the practice, though. (People eventually do.) So among the potters, the term “sincere” was born, meaning: Without wax.

Without wax, yeah. I’ll take my books and sermons and songs without all the shiny wax, please. Just give me real.

Remember what Jesus compared the “religious professionals” of His day too? Vipers. White-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones! When He confronted “the money-changers” in His temple, He made a whip and drove them out! It doesn’t sound like nine bars of “smile, smile, smile” does it? No wonder they hated Him. He chose to hang with the nobodies. Sinners. Prostitutes. Tax collectors and smelly fishermen—He sought them out! The Broken. The failures. The outcasts. (Yeah.) The Son of God said to all of us messy-misfits,

“Make Mine Broken!”

The professing-professionals I once knew used to “help me” feel real-unqualified. Told me, “I had to get my act together.” if I wanted to be the real-thing—before I opened my mouth.

What I believe they just didn’t get? Nine miles of bad road is supposed to change you. Rearrange you. Jesus uses UNDONE as a big part His transformation process.

The wilderness-furnace is meant to remove the wax and reveal the cracks—’cause we’ve all got ’em!

I hope anyone who reads my stuff can see ALL my flaws. (They’re there.) Every bump on that bad road I’ve been down has done its worst.

But, when you see my faults and failures, I hope you see one thing more…

I hope you see the glorious Light of Jesus shining through those broken places, because He is The One that makes all the difference, in my faults, and in yours; His Love shining through ALL our brokenness.

So let’s let His word to us, be our last Word:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV

Please remember when someone asks to hear your story:

  • Tell them your story—your way.
  • Keep it simple. Keep it real.
  • People are starving out there for real!
  • And that BIG noise? The one you hear from the sidelines selling “the best wax” that money can buy?
  • Pray for them.
  • Ask God to give them understanding hearts.
  • Then go out there and let His Light and amazing grace shine, baby.

YOU were born, for such a time as this!

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Called To This?

I have not been “called” to this.

The easy chair.

(Or the easy crowd.)

Though I confess?

(There are days I wish I were.)

Simply put God has called me to the Prodigal-Church.

Yeah, you know.

The ones referred to as:

The Messy-misfits.

The Raucous-runaways.

The Wrecked and Wounded.

The ones who have heard it all before and just ain’t listenin’ anymore!

(Yeah, them.)

These are the “ones” who are severely bruised, deeply disappointed and pissed off at God, The Church, or all of the above.

(Nope. Not an easy crowd.)

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But, you know what else?

God passionately LOVES these that many folks just privately hope will “Go away.” leaving us in ‘The Good Church’ to our sleepy tranquility.

(Yeah.)

I know because I was one of these prodigals, and truth be known? Sometimes I still am.

Ticked-off that is—not prodigal.

I still get angry because many of these folks have been brutally beat-up good-n’-proper.

Perhaps they “once upon a time” believed. But, now?

Now they ain’t havin’ anything to do with it!

They have hit the dusty trail, and now have turtle-shells thick-n’-crusty around once trusting hearts.

Yet they are STILL HIS. And are perhaps MORE WANTED than they were in the beginning.

(Before it all went wrong in their lives.)

Make no mistake about it—He still calls them BELOVED, and He longs for them to come home to Him.

These the Saints consider rabble-rousers, and futile-flotsam, He calls with infinite tenderness, “My Beloved.

I believe this because—I was one of them when He came after me.

(And I do understand how “The Church” feels.)

I fondly remember the days of easy crowds and occupying easy chairs. (Yeah, I confess.) All gone now, and it’s okay because I believe someone needs to reach Wounded Sheep! All those Prickly-Prodigals with crusty shells around hearts that have stopped believing in anyone calling themselves Christian—walking away from our churches—taking the back door out.

Yep, they’re my assignment. My mission. My project.

Broken Vessels Recovery Project

(To be more exact.)

  • Some in The Church say they are MIA.
  • Some know they are AWOL.

But whatever “they might believe? Know this.

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They are His.

They are loved.

His very own Beloved.

(And wounded or wrecked—He wants them back! )

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Making Bible “Family Time” Simple

This new devotional by Tony and Jonathan Evans, KINGDOM FAMILY DEVOTIONAL, turns what often seems like a daunting task into a simple, consistent, and fun routine!

It simplifies family devotions.

We’re all busy these days, kids included! Carving out a consistent time to come together as a family over God’s word sounds simple, but very often isn’t.

The KINGDOM FAMILY DEVOTIONAL helps tackle that problem with family devotions that are short, clearly Biblical, and do-able.

There was a lot for me to like about this little book but here are the five things that were at the top of my list:

  • First, it picks a one-word topic and stays there for five days.
  • Good thinking! For five days the family can come together learning the serious stuff but weekends are for family fun!
  • I liked the way it came up with ways for the entire family to participate. Not always an easy task!
  • I liked that it is for all 52 weeks of the year. That builds consistency, and for me—that’s the real challenge.
  • I liked that it began with the topics of LOVE and then RESPECT. To my mind, they go hand in hand and are desperately wanting in many of today’s contemporary families.

So, summing up:

  • This book is clearly Biblical in it’s teaching.
  • It is a devotional that brings the focus of our family time around a single word for an entire work-week using the Bible as a life reference.
  • It encourages our family with fun ways to participate together and apply what we’ve learned.
  • And, it gives parents a simple to follow Biblical road map for their families for an entire year.

Easy, consistent, focused and fun—what could be better!

My sincere thanks to Focus on the Family Resources and Tyndale House Publishers for sending me this complimentary copy and asking me for my review.

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Be Strong and Courageous

strong and courageous

 Be strong! Be courageous! Do not be afraid of them! For the Lord your God will be with you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you.

Then Moses called for Joshua and said to him, as all Israel watched, “Be strong! Be courageous! For you shall lead these people into the land promised by the Lord to their ancestors; see to it that they conquer it.   Don’t be afraid, for the Lord will go before you and will be with you; he will not fail nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6-8  TLB

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A Plea For ALL Captives

What is a captive?

Well, Webster describes a captive like this:

1 a :  taken and held as or as if a prisoner of war b (1) :  kept within bounds : CONFINED (2) :  of or relating to captive animals <captive breeding> 2 :  held under control of another but having the appearance of independence; especially :  owned or controlled by another concern and operated for its needs rather than for an open market <a captive mine 3 :  being such involuntarily because of a situation that makes free choice or departure difficult <a captive audience>

Yeah. That was me. A captive of disillusionment, disappointment, disgust, and eventually deep, deep discouragement.

And because I’ve been there?

I just can’t think of Prodigals as belligerent runaways or rebellious troublemakers.

No.

And I don’t think Jesus does either.

I believe He is heartbroken over one of His own who leave The Church.

I, perhaps audaciously, think He sees a Prodigal-sheep—as one who has infinite value and potential.

One of His who has been “taken captive” by all those ugly “D” words to which I was just referring.

So let me ask you:

What do you see when you say the word: Prodigal?

Uh-huh.

Now, what do you see when you say the word: Captive?

Isn’t the perception different?

I believe one word hardens the heart (just a bit) while the other word softens the heart and makes it willing toward compassion. Naive perhaps, but maybe it is—just that simple.

I also believe it is high time we who call ourselves His Church, begin to view our prodigals more as captives, than runaways.

Don’t we need to embrace them with compassion, rather than judgment?

I have been a captive of disillusionment; caged by my disgust and disappointments. And yes, I have been judged and condemned by my Fellow-flock. Perhaps that is why I view those who have left our churches through tears, rather than with raised chins and cold shoulders.

I think Jesus weeps when He sees one of His own, wandering.

I believe He wants us, in His Church, to be more proactive about going out and finding those we so quickly write off with our shaking heads and wagging fingers.

God loves Prodigals!

Every. Last. One.

Don’t you think it’s high time, we in His Church, did too?

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Why Bother With Prodigals?

Yeah, why?

Don’t we in the church have enough problems?

Must we really go to all this bother?

For Prodigals?

Well, I wondered the same thing until I read Timothy Keller’s book, The Prodigal God.

In his chapter titled Redefining Lostness, he wrote this:

It is typical for people who have turned their backs on religion to believe that Christianity is no different. They have been in churches brimming with elder-brother types. They say, “Christianity is just another religion.” But Jesus says, no, that is not true. Everybody knows that the Christian gospel calls us away from licentiousness of younger brotherness, but few realize it also condemns moralistic elder brotherness.

Our big cities are filled with younger brothers who fled from churches in the heartland that were dominated by elder brothers. When I moved to New York City in the late 1980s to begin a new church, I thought I would meet many secular people who had no familiarity with Christianity at all. I did, but to my surprise, I met just as many people who had been raised in churches and in devout families and had come to New York City to get as far away from them as possible. After about a year of ministry, we had two or three hundred people attending services. I was asked, “Who is coming to your church?” Upon reflection, I answered that it was about one-third non-believers, one-third believers, and one-third “recovering” believers—younger brothers. I had met so many younger brothers who had been hurt and offended by elder brothers that neither they nor I were sure whether they still believed in the Christian faith or not. (emphasis mine)

Hmmmmmm.

They are a bother—those pesky prodigals!

(Yeah.)

A BIG bother!

Those pesky Prodigals—of ours!

(I can almost hear every “Elder Brother” mumbling under their breath, “They’re foolish. Reckless! Don’t they deserve everything they get?”)

Yeah. I’ve thought this myself in yonder days.

(Even said so.)

So why should The Church bother with calamitous rebels such as these?

These troubled-troublemakers!

Shouldn’t we just jettison this riff-raff and get on with our good n’ Godly “Christian” causes?

Ah, but let me first ask, “Whom should we jettison?”

Our foolish and undisciplined Younger Brothers, or our unloving-law-upholding Elder Brothers? Keller makes the legitimate case that BOTH brothers are lost, and both in need of repenting and returning to The Father.

(Oh, dear.)

We the Faithful Ones?

Lost?

Doesn’t scripture say,

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 KJV

All we like-sheep… yeah.

(So, can I ask again?)

Why, for heaven’s sake, should we in the church bother going after our Prodigals!?!

Well, perhaps the best reason I can think of, is because we who were once counted as hopelessly lost?

Like that pesky little lost and wandering sheep?

(Yeah, you know.)

That story!

Didn’t Christ go to great bother?

For us?

 

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Inconvenient Truth

I used to ask God, “Why?”

I rarely got any sort of an answer so I stopped asking.

(But I confess, I never stopped wondering.)

I’ve heard good Christians tell me that “THE Answer” was that I had to learn to live with all my unanswered questions.

(That didn’t help much either.)

I don’t believe a broken heart is about getting answers anyway.

(Not really.)

I believe mostly it’s about what Ann Voskamp said in her book, The Broken Way—it’s about communion. It’s about wanting someone to come close in our pain. Feel close. It is the aloneness we feel in our brokenness that magnifies all our other stuff.

For Prodigals this is especially acute, for the communion, they most desperately need—is also the thing they most fear.

Where do they go then?

What do you do with your wounded heart, when your once “safe place” has become to you the image of Habakkuk’s Vineyard?

Where do you begin to look for a PLACE of healing and hope and strength to believe again?

Is there such a place?

There are many prodigals who would not hesitate to answer a loud and resounding, “No!” Especially if you are presenting today’s Church as your answer to that Safe Place!

They’ve been there—bought the tee shirt.

They’ll gladly show you the blood-stains, pointing out all the bullet holes!

(What do you say to that one then?)

That Outcast who looks at The Church and sees a carefully camouflaged Enemy lurking there?

Do you say, “Just trust us? We’re different. We’re the REAL thing!”

(And if they’ve heard all that before?)

If they know The Church in their past is guilty of shooting it’s wounded?

Then what?

What if the inconvenient truth is this?

We have met the enemy—and he is us.

quote-the-prodigal-son-at-least-walked-home-on-his-own-feet-but-who-can-duly-adore-that-love-which-will-c-s-lewis-247172

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Part X ~ Blind Bride In A Broken World

To take an overall view of the church today leaves one wondering how much longer a holy God can refrain from implementing His threat to spew this Laodicean thing out of His mouth. For if there is one thing preachers are agreed upon, it is that this is the Laodicean age in the church.

Yet while over our heads hangs the Damoclean sword of rejection, we believers are lean, lazy, luxury-loving, loveless and lacking. Though our merciful God will pardon our sins, purge our iniquity and pity our ignorance, our lukewarm hearts are an abomination in His sight. We must be cold or hot, flaming or freezing, burning out or cast out. Lack of heat and lack of love God hates.

Christ is now “wounded in the house of His friends.” The Holy Book of the Living God suffers more from its exponents today than from its opponents!

…I do not marvel so much at the patience of the Lord with the stonyhearted sinners of the day. After all, would we not be patient with a man both blind and deaf? And such are the sinners. But I do marvel at the Lord’s patience with the sleepy, sluggish, selfish church! A prodigal church in a prodigal world is God’s real problem.

Oh, we bankrupt, blind, boasting believers! We are naked and don’t know it. We are rich (never had we more equipment), but we are poor (never had we less enduement)! We have need of nothing (and yet we lack almost everything the Apostolic Church had). Can He stand “in the midst” while we sport unashamedly in spiritual nakedness?

—Leonard Ravenhill, The Prodigal Church in a Prodigal World

 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.  Revelation 3:14-18 KJV

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