*Taken from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman
“Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better” (Eccles. 7:3).
When sorrow comes under the power of Divine grace, it works out a manifold ministry in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. Gay, trifling people are always shallow, and never suspect the little meannesses in their nature. Sorrow is God’s plowshare that turns up and subsoils the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If we had never fallen, or were in a glorified state, then the strong torrents of Divine joy would be the normal force to open up all our souls’ capacities; but in a fallen world, sorrow, with despair taken out of it, is the chosen power to reveal ourselves to ourselves. Hence it is sorrow that makes us think deeply, long, and soberly.
Sorrow makes us go slower and more considerately, and introspect our motives and dispositions. It is sorrow that opens up within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it is sorrow that makes us willing to launch our capacities on a boundless sea of service for God and our fellows.
We may suppose a class of indolent people living at the base of a great mountain range, who had never ventured to explore the valleys and canyons back in the mountains; and some day, when a great thunderstorm goes careening through the mountains, it turns the hidden glens into echoing trumpets, and reveals the inner recesses of the valley, like the convolutions of a monster shell, and then the dwellers at the foot of the hills are astonished at the labyrinths and unexplored recesses of a region so near by, and yet so little known. So it is with many souls who indolently live on the outer edge of their own natures until great thunderstorms of sorrow reveal hidden depths within that were never hitherto suspected.
Fear is probably the most dominant struggle I have in my life. Having the fear of man has become so extreme that it has begun to rule many areas of my life… much to my chagrin. After reading my previous post, I realized that I sounded a bit trite when talking about difficulty and that maybe I sounded as if turning to God during painful seasons was a SUPER easy thing to do. Well let me explain further that it is NOT one of my greatest skills. But I have also learned that if I continue to put off turning to the Lord during difficulty and try to take matters into my own hands, my spirit begins to diminish and my heart will become weak.
I think most of us can understand the pain of the pressure that comes from fear. I remember feeling pain from others that was so great at times that I gave into relieving myself from it in a way that was just as ungodly as their behavior towards me. King David did this as well when he ran from Saul. When the prophet Gad told him to go to Judah, David didn’t remain there because of fear but instead found refuge in Gath, an enemy city. Instead of using the pressure of fear to drive him into the arms of Abba, David fled to a much more unsafe place, thinking Saul’s own fear would keep him out of Gath. Instead, David found himself in more trouble… just because He did not trust in God’s faithfulness and justice.
I can describe some of those moments, like the one I had last night, where I knew that my only choice in moments of distress was to cry out to God for answers… to acknowledge my own inadequacy and brokenness before Him. I had to make a choice to trust Him instead of turning to ungodly slander (which I haven’t even come close to succeeding in previously) or some other method that would bring me comfort. I had to have the fear of the Lord that I would be disciplined for lack of obedience if I did not come under His righteousness. And finally, I had to learn to enjoy Him in the process of restoration. All of these things I am still coming to understand and just beginning to learn how to walk in.
So I’m challenging the rest of you out there to do the same. Take the opportunity, in moments of fear, to turn your face toward Him, to cling to Him with all of your strength. Don’t run to the TV, your many social networking sites, or your cell phone and start texting a bunch of gossip. Take hold of Him!!! When you feel that discomfort or accusation from others, acknowledge your fear to Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit who lives inside of you to rise up and take over your heart. He is faithful to conquer and to comfort all fear!
I’ve grown up in the church my entire life and I’ve heard the term ‘hypocrite’ thrown around a thousand times and recently have heard this word thrown around even more (ok. So this post is inspired by some Tweets by Cory Copeland). Most people associate a hypocrite with someone who calls themselves a Christian yet lives in outward sin. The people who were clumped together under this label included those who called themselves Christians but were alcoholics, had pre-marital sex, looked at pornography, cussed like a sailor, or beat their children. Jesus didn’t put up with hypocrites… but when he talked about hypocrites, outward sin was not what He was referring to. It all involved the condition of our hearts. So I pulled up some scriptures to help us dissect what is actually being said about hypocritical behavior.
1. It’s all about their “Image”.
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:2
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:5
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:16
People who are hypocrites are ones that are tormented with the fear of man. They are more concerned about their reputations than about the hearts of the people around them… not to mention the condition of their own hearts. They crave honor from other people so they put on a facade of spirituality to make people think they are something they really aren’t. Their motives in loving and serving weren’t to please God but to please men and be honored by them. Serving and giving are all about ‘the heart’. People can talk about love all day long and not really love. They talk about it to make themselves appear generous, good, and compassionate when in reality their heart is full of wickedness, jealousy, and pride. These people are hypocrites.
2. They like to point out everyone else’s sin but never deal with their own.
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Matthew 22:18
Watch out for people who point out the flaws of others more often then they are transparent with their own flaws… especially if they seem to be getting enjoyment or some sort of rise out of it. The truth is, everyone has junk in their hearts to deal with and we should all be ready to confess it (with safe people in our lives). If you are gossiping about someone else’s sin then there is a huge chance your heart probably isn’t right either. In fact, you probably use your judgment of others in an attempt to prevent sin in your own heart from being exposed. So before you go ready to pounce on someone about their issues, try sitting before the Holy Spirit and asking Him to examine your own heart first. If you don’t do this, then sorry… you are a hypocrite.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t call sin what it is. I’m not talking about tolerance of sin in any way here. God has laid out some pretty clear definitions of sin and we are not to ignore them because if we do, we are harming not only ourselves but the body of Christ at large.
3. They try to earn their salvation through works instead of resting in the provision of the cross and resurrection.
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:10-12
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Matthew 23:13
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. Matthew 23:15
The Pharisees had a ton of stupid rules and a majority of these rules had to do with food, hence the jargon about what goes into a mouth. True, God did send a few of these rules down during the old covenant but the Pharisees added a ton to these rules. They added a bunch of ridiculous legalistic… CRAP (pardon me)… that had nothing to do with God whatsover. They simply wanted a way to prove to everyone how ‘holier than thou’ they were. I have heard these man-made rules over the years as well. Some of them consisted of “television commercials are evil”, “cabbage patch dolls are evil”, “getting married is not very spiritual”, “short hair and pants are a sign of a worldly woman” or some much more unspoken rules like “if you don’t dance, you don’t have freedom”, “if you don’t raise your hands, you must not love God”, etc. Some think that the more you “do” for God the more you are going to please Him. BOLOGNA. NOW… that being said, if the Lord tells you to do something… it’s probably best to go do it or if you WANT to do it out of your love for God, of course– but don’t do something to please someone else or to make yourself look good to the people around you. That is called Fear of Man.
God is looking not for those who put on a facade of worship through external activities but He is looking for those whose hearts are sincere and who draw near to Him. He cares about us having a deep friendship and intimate relationship with Him as well as the condition of our hearts… MUCH more than He cares about the mounds of activities we’re involved in. This is conveyed all through scripture… Luke 10:30-42, Matthew 7:21-23, John 6:28-29, Romans 3:19-23, Romans 3:27-28, Romans 4:1-3, Galatians 2:15-17, Galatians 3:5-6… okay. There happens to be many more but I simply don’t have all the time to record each verse… because they are EVERYWHERE! This is not a cop-out to say that we are automatically released from all of our responsibilities but the Lord does talk about doing things out of obligation. Because we are His sons and daughters we should never feel “obligated” to work for Him… “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness” Romans 3:4. Remember that Paul is not talking about the actual work but your heart behind the work you do. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus doesn’t tell the Pharisees that tithing is bad, He just tells them that they should have tithed AND practiced justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
Leaders who shame others for not being perfect are usually the ones committing the deepest sins– as the Pharisees were. The best leaders are the ones that are leading by example. They are displaying the fruits of the Spirit in their own lives and it is contagious to those who are following them. Not that leaders aren’t suppose to confront sinful behavior, but if they feel the need to control and demand more than they are capable of doing themselves, then there is a huge problem. For example, my pastor, Pete, is a great example of faith, vision, and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I want to follow His example in this. Mike Bickle, a former leader of mine, has amazing character and true humility. As the old Nike saying goes, because of this, “I want to be like Mike.” My own Dad is also my “spiritual father”. He is a man of prayer, mercy, and compassion for others that few can replicate and he has a true heart of a shepherd. The Pharisees weren’t pointing people to faith in the supernatural grace and power of God, they were pointing them to an absolutely impossible salvation through “doing”. And they were publically rebuked by Jesus for leading these people into slavery!
Now… hope. Thankfully, there really is a simple solution to our hypocritical behavior. Get to know Jesus. Read His Word and ask Him questions about it. Ask Him for revelation on true intimacy and obedience. Take some time to sit and adore Him… without other people around. Shut yourself in your bedroom (Matthew 6:6), put some worship music on and pour out your heart to Him.
And I disagree with Cory. Not all Christians are hypocrites. HAHA.
I sat in a sideroom of the prayer room one Tuesday afternoon during a fasting meeting and listened as one of my prophetic mentors explained to me that I was about to enter one of the most pivotal, horrific, and beautiful seasons of my life. That was in November of 2008 and on the previous day I had an absolutely disrupting encounter with the Lord. Today I remembered a part of that conversation. She explained a similar encounter and journey she had years before.
“It was the most difficult season of my life. It had a lot to do with love. A lot of ‘Sermon on the Mount’ type stuff.”
A lot of ‘Sermon on the Mount’ type stuff. That sounds nice. That doesn’t sound too bad.
Boy, was I wrong.
I don’t care who you think you are, but if you think you are good at the Sermon on the Mount, you are delusional and probably arrogant. I’m pulling no punches here. I love Jesus, but this Sermon is absolutely the most flesh-killing tool He operates with not to mention the fact that it is completely offensive… in a good way :/.
This weekend I was driving down the road with my new friend Rachel who was visiting for our Winter Gathering. She told me she felt the Lord wanted to free me from the bondage of worry (ahem) and that He wanted to free me from the bondage of the ‘need to be right.’ Oh yes. That’s what she said. And the problem with this is that Rachel happens to be the sweetest person I’ve ever met in my life so I couldn’t accuse her of impure motives.
But here, I realized what the Lord was saying was that that all of this really wasn’t about who is right or wrong… it was about self-preservation. Do I care more about preserving my reputation or do I care more about pleasing Him and becoming a humble peacemaker? It’s not the question that is so humiliating but the fact that my answer is so obvious when I allow the Holy Spirit to examine my heart. It is moments like these that I don’t want to waste. Moments that I know the Father is doing something so beyond the actual circumstance I’m in. He sees so far ahead and we stand there, grasping for control when we will never really have it. We really think we’re ‘big stuff’ and then we realize that we have no idea what we’re doing. We’re idiots. Idiots with a great inheritance. Sometimes God doesn’t actually care if we’re right or not. Sometimes He just wants to show us the idol of approval in our lives.
It makes me feel like a child. Like a two year old being potty-trained.
Oh yeah. That’s how I’m suppose to feel.
Which brings me back to another incredible vision I had this weekend.
Dancing. Dancing in my pink bedroom with the ruffled canopy bed in the background. I was eight. And I was worshipping. And He was dancing too.
And then we were in a field of flowers, dancing wildly, spinning and spinning and spinning. Then a drastic change in scenery.
Suit of armor, like Joan of Arc. Swinging my sword, cutting off the heads of demons, challenging the forces of darkness.
Back the camera up. I’m not Joan of Arc. I’m a child. I’m a little child wearing a miniature suit of Armor and the Father is standing right beside me and He’s huge. HUGE.
A massive dragon flies toward me. It was not nearly as big as the Father but it was A LOT bigger than me. I thrust my sword through it’s belly and it was forced backward with ease. I threw that silly creature back so effortlessly as the Father looked on in pride… even though I knew He was giving me all of the power to do it in the first place. It was more like He enjoyed the very sight of me… not so much that I was some crazy, skilled warrior.
There happens to be more to what I saw but I’ll keep it to myself for now.
The point is this– He’s God. I’m man (lady). Whether you’re a retired 78 year old worldwide evangelist or a four year old child, we are children of God and children have a very limited understanding of what our Dads are up to; why they do the things they do. We just go with the flow and let Him handle it, knowing that whatever happens it is for our good…
The mark of surrender is handing our hearts and our lives over to the non-precarious hands of Jesus. It shouldn’t be scary but for some of us it is frightening. To wander this long journey in blind faith, trusting that His hand is guiding us through the night fog isn’t the easiest position to be in. For a select few it takes us several attempts of “putting our hands in it” before we fall face first.
Two years ago I had a dream about three trains. The first two trains represented two different people from my past. I ran across the train tracks as I saw the first train approach. I was sure that this train was the train that my friend was on and ran toward it even as it was moving swiftly to it’s destination. But instead of slowing down, it sped right past me without even blinking and almost knocked me to the ground. I turned and saw another train moving quickly toward me. It was moving even faster, charging ahead as if nothing could stop it. And nothing could; not even myself. I tried to flag it down but it moved on without me, almost killing me as it made it’s way along. Finally, I conceded and realized my attempts to stop a train on my own were not realistic. I made my way to the platform where others were waiting for their loved ones. Standing there, I wouldn’t get hurt. Standing on this firm place, I would be safe. After a short while I saw a third train enclosed in a steady cloud of steam. It was moving more slowly than the other trains and I was eager for it to arrive but this time I didn’t run after the train; I stayed in my spot, waiting. I didn’t have to direct the train, I only had to stand there and trust that the right train would come when it was ready to. I didn’t have to chase after it because if I did, I would only be risking my life (and probably my heart). At the end of the dream, I was still standing on the platform when the third train pulled right up to me and I was standing in front of the door, patiently waiting for my “friend” to appear.
For the past four years I have been standing on this platform. It has been a good four years. I’ve learned to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and obey Him (mostly) when He asks me to do or not to do something. I haven’t always been perfect with this but each time I make a mistake, I learn something new about the person of God and just how trustworthy He is. I’ve learned to be content and be satisfied with my relationship with the Jesus. I enjoy being single and have learned to take advantage of my independence. I have allowed the Lord to do a deep healing in my life from a past severely unhealthy relationship. I haven’t been perfected yet. I still have insecurity. I still struggle with trusting other people. I still wrestle with fear. I still fight against shame and inadequacy and unworthiness. I’m human but one thing I do know is that God is for me. He is has no plans to harm me but desires to give me a “hope and a future”. He loves me and wants good things for me and it’s not dependent on anything that I do for Him. I don’t have to pay Him anything for His love and care and guidance. He is a good Father and He loves to do this.
Surrender is a constant, daily task that all of us must submit to. Some things are harder to surrender than other things. The other night I had to surrender something again that I have had to surrender many other times before but it is something that never gets easier with time. It’s not that the Lord is forbidding something in the future, it’s just that He doesn’t want me to hope in something that is not Him… He is who I put my trust in. Human beings fail, but He never does. After I made the decision to once again say “Yes” to Him I had yet another dream that is similar in nature to the earlier train dream.
I was driving down a dark road (ahem, how cliché). The night was so incredibly pitch black that I couldn’t even see the outline of the road. It was terrifying but somehow my car was able to stay on the road without driving into some abyss. Suddenly, I come upon a group of large potholes in front of me and somehow drove around or through them without damaging my car or myself. I drove on, still in darkness, when I instantly notice a fire raging in the middle of the road. I quickly maneuver around or through the fire without singeing anything on my car or causing any kind of explosion. I again, continue on the dark road, still unable to see anything at all when I get an epiphany: just turn on the lights, Brooke! I flip a switch in the dashboard of my car and the whole road is illuminated in front of me.
In that moment when we truly, in our hearts, give our lives, dreams, aspirations and hopes up and let the Spirit of God rule us, understanding and light make a way for us to see situations and relationships more clearly. Blind faith, actually creates room for revelation. Revelation of who God is and where He wants us and where our lives are really headed.
I don’t want to view my current circumstances through the lens of my past any longer. Surrender is a beautiful gift from God that eliminates our false notions and perceptions. It cuts away preconceived and judgmental thoughts that cloud our reason leaving us with only His leadership and our God-given wisdom.
Surrender is gloriously painful and painfully glorious.
During college I worked as a supervisor for the afternoon program at a Montessori School in Little Rock. At the time, though I was pretty spiritually immature, I was also mildly vocal about my faith. I would often have spiritual discussions with my co-workers, many of whom claimed to be Christians. *Maria was a good friend of mine at work. She was very funny, somewhat controversial in her subject matter but when you were around her, you most definitely had a good time. She was a riot to hang out with.
One afternoon I snuck into the teachers lounge to warm up my lunch when I saw an open yellow pages on the table and noticed that it was open to the “abortion” section. I tried to shrug it off, thinking that it was just a mistake and that it just happened to be open to that page but I had a sneaking suspicion that one of my co-workers might be in trouble.
At the end of the week I was alphabetizing a school directory when Maria came into my office and shut the door behind her. She had a bewildered look in her eye.
“Brooke. I came to you, because I know you’re a Christian.” Maria said. She looked anxious. I felt anxious.
“I have five-hundred dollars in my pocket right now to go have an abortion this afternoon.” She became silent and waited for me to respond. The statement hung in the air, suspended like one of those Japanese paper lanterns… only a lot heavier.
I leaned forward and looked into her eyes and told her that if she aborted this baby she was murdering her own child. I told her that the child had a destiny and the the Lord was already drawing up plans for that destiny and she had no business altering the plans of God for her child. I told her that if she had that abortion she would be guilty of the bloodshed of a perfectly innocent human being and that she would be judged for it by God Himself. She would be judged because she not only knew it was evil (otherwise she wouldn’t have come to me, knowing I would try and talk her out of it), but because someone had warned her of how insidiously evil it was.
What happened? Ten months later she was strolling down our hallway with a tiny little boy named Michael.
I love Maria to death and I know that decision was a truly difficult one for her. She already had one child from a pregnancy when she was fifteen and now she would not only be a single mother for one but TWO children. I don’t pretend to realize that this would be an easy thing for her. But now she has this beautiful, precious little Image Bearer who was formed skillfully and uniquely for the enjoyment and pleasure of God.
We as Believers in Christ have the responsibility of warning this world of the judgement that sin will cause. Not only because we too will be judged but because those who commit that sin will be judged as well. It’s called mercy.