Tempted to be Offended

Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devilAfter fasting forty days and forty nightshe was hungry.The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of Godtell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the templeIf you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    
and they will lift you up in their hands,
    
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendorAll this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, SatanFor it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

11 Then the devil left himand angels came and attended him.

During a recent corporate fast, I became hungry.

Like HUNGRY hungry.

Let me be clear: I had not gone without food for forty days. But I had repeatedly denied my flesh so that I may be led by the Spirit…

Into the wilderness.

To be tempted.

Wait.

What?

Why?!

Why would a loving Father, a sacrificial Son, a comforting Spirit lead me into the desert to dance with the devil?

Perhaps to prove to him (and myself) that he could try to lead, but I do not have to follow.

On this particular encounter, I was hit by the enemy. Twice. Through the same person. On the same day. My flesh immediately felt the impact. After the shock set in, I went straight into defense mode. I began planning my reaction:

Who could I tell?

Who could I get on my side?

Who could I ask to fight for MY name to be cleared?

A few people came to mind. I rehearsed what I’d say. I even assumed how it might feel being justified in my anger, and affirmed for being “right.” But someone prompted me to pause, and reconsider. Perhaps there was a better way to process. Perhaps my initial reaction wasn’t what Jesus would do.

Cue hearing Matthew 4:1-11 in my mind.

Cue hearing Romans 12:19 in my mind.

Cue hearing Psalm 148: 13 in my mind.

Cue seeing our church wide devotional for that day about wielding the Word of God (based on 1 John 2:14).

Cue our discussion about it in the prayer room that morning.

Cue me crying out to the Lord a short time later, literally asking Holy Spirit for help; to desire His Word above all else. To hunger and thirst for righteousness!

Immediately, with enough evidence stacked against the accuser of the brethren, I simply stated the Truth. I answered that prosecuting attorney in the same way my Savior and Lord did,

“It is written…”

“It is written…”

“It is written…”

I quoted Romans 12:19 & Psalm 148:13. Of course, that jerk didn’t remain silent for very long. Oh no. He tried again. This time, he began pointing his finger at one of my friends, saying she shoulda, coulda, woulda told my offender off if she really loved me. I wasn’t buying what he was selling. I reminded that snake of who my friend is. I knew she had not partnered with him against me, and I wasn’t going to partner with him against her.  

And in that moment, the Lord reminded me of another friend who had the same trap laid for her not so long ago. She was tempted in the very same way I was. Unfortunately, she reacted quite differently. In her anger, she unwittingly joined in the lies and false accusation against others. Instead of pointing a Pharisaical finger at her, my heart was moved with great compassion. I’ve been exactly where she is. I’ve taken the bait more times than I can count. And I’ve found myself caught in the same trap, suffering the effects of bitterness when I refused to forgive those who had sinned against me.  

Ugh!

So many battles.

So many arrows.

So much bleeding out.

So much loss.

So much trauma.

So much pain.

And….yet,

So much healing!

So much deliverance!

Praise the Lord, He did not leave or forsake me on the battlefield when I fell. He didn’t reject or condemn me when I failed to obey His orders – the Commander of Heavens Armies. Instead, He waited and kept the Red Cross tent open and ready for the day I recognized my sin, confessed it, repented, and returned to Him.

My friend, I hope I’ve learned my lesson.

I hope next time I’ll be slow to anger and quick to forgive.

I’m grateful His Spirit was my strength in weakness, allowing me to pass this recent test. I’m certain there will be more. And I’m certain His Spirit is and will be able to remind me again of His Word; my weapon of warfare against powers and principalities I cannot see. And I’m certain His Spirit will help me to forgive those I CAN see again.

Who is my Mother?

Matthew 12:46-50

46 As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.47 Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak to you.”[a]

48 Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 50 Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

The Lord began highlighting this passage of scripture years ago, when He called me, like Abraham, to leave my father’s land to go to a new land which our family would inherit. In the midst of the process of uprooting from North Carolina, God continued asking: “who is my mother?” Simultaneously, He continued confirming His call to leave everything and follow Him over and over again through Scripture, dreams, visions and divine appointments with complete strangers! One dream in particular, He whispered “consider the cost…” I had NO way of knowing at the time, what that Word would require. Sure, I knew to some extent the “cost” would include physical hardships in selling a house, buying a house and moving a lifetime of stuff from NC to FL. And I knew there would be a spiritual battle as I obeyed. But what happened, was completely unexpected, as warfare often is. At some point in the process, many people I love opposed the Word in me. Yes, friends and family, alike, knowingly or unknowingly partnered with the accuser of the brethren against the promise I carried. The enemy would not go down quietly, without a fight. He wanted my soul to stay in Egypt; in bondage to Pharaoh, enslaved to the work of churning mud into bricks without straw (He literally gave me this vision at a corporate prayer meeting one night). Battered and bruised, I would not be moved! That slithering serpent even sucker punched me, with one final low blow beneath the belt when we arrived in Florida.

I realized pretty quickly, once we got somewhat settled into our new home and covenant community that I needed to come off the battlefield to rest and recover in the RED CROSS tent.

I’m still there.

It’s a strange thing to be living and growing and learning in the fertile land God promised, while simultaneously allowing the Lord to bind up my broken heart. In this season, I am surrounded by mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters in the faith who are caring for me in ways I cannot begin to comprehend. It’s miraculous. I’ve found my family!!! And we are living together in our Father’s house; a house of prayer- in central Florida, surrounded by cows and citrus farms! Multiple times a week, I meet with other intercessors who carry a burden to see His Kingdom come, His will be done. I often praise the Lord on my drive to and fro, “THANK YOU, Lord. You are faithful! You fulfilled your promise! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!” Gratitude explodes from my heart. And yet, sometimes…even in the proceeding moment- I cry out in the deepest grief.

How can this be?

I believe it’s all a part of the process ….of being transformed into His image.

You see, it was His Spirit that whispered the promise my elder Brother heard from Our Father in heaven. It was His Spirit that gave me the faith to obey His command. It was His Spirit that prepared me to leave Egypt. It was His Spirit that sustained me in the wilderness. It was His Spirit that enabled me to continue marching on towards the land flowing with milk and honey. And, it is by His Spirit that I am coming up out of this present wilderness, leaning on my beloved as I grieve the loss of my mother, leaving my father and sister, my spiritual mommas, and extended family and friends.

He is still with me; in gratitude AND in grief, He is with me…

Comforting me with His rod and staff.

Leading me through the valley.

Renewing my strength.

Guiding me.

Preparing me.

Honoring me.

Pursuing me.

And I will dwell in His house forever and ever, Amen!  

The Shadow

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd,
[a]shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside [b]quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the [c]paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the [d]valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no [e]evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You [f]have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
[g]Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will [h]dwell in the house of the Lord [i]forever.

I’ll be honest: I was hoping to be out of the valley by now. For heavens sake, I’m IN the land God promised me and my family! Away from the bondage of Pharoah. Out of the dry, barren land of Egypt. *We left the circus. No more Sunday morning show. No more ring leaders juggling the praises of men and people pleasing. No more clowns performing for the crowd. The lions have been released from their cages and they are ROARING!!! (*a prophetic picture of the church in Egypt) We are IN green pastures. We are being pastored by shepherds after Gods own heart. No more manna. We’re eating delicious milk and honey. We are part of a family of believers who truly desire to “give God what He wants.” Worship is focused on THE Man; Jesus. Prayer is intercession: seeking Gods will and declaring it back to Him. Teaching is the Word of God. God’s will has become our reality.

My Spirit is jumping for JOY!!!

My soul, however….is not.

The shadow of death is longer and wider than I expected. There was so much loss and letting go in the wilderness. I assumed once I got out of the desert, it would all be over. But its not. I’m still grieving the death of my mother. I’m still grieving the death of our homeschool. I’m still grieving the death of our ministry. I’m still grieving the death of our home. I’m still grieving the death of relationships with family and friends.

Death is over, but the darkness surrounding it remains.

This is the shadow….

This is the shadow of the cross.

This is the shadow of resurrection.

And,

This is the way…

This is the way of the Good Shepherd.

This is the way for His sheep.

His sheep know His voice.

His sheep walk through the valley.

His sheep are not afraid of the shadow.

His sheep follow Him unto death.

His sheep receive His rod and staff.

His sheep lie down in green pastures.

His sheep drink from quiet waters.

His sheep are restored.

His sheep just want Him.

Into the Land

Deuteronomy 6:10-12

New Living Translation

10 The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build11 The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land12 be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.

Matthew 1:18-25

New King James Version

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit19 Then Joseph her husband, being [a]a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is [b]conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name [c]Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and [d]did not know her till she had brought forth her[e] firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

The Lord brought our family into the land almost 5 months ago. Possessing the promise has been an exciting, exhausting process. How best can I describe the pain of the previous season?

Pregnancy.

A reallllllly loooooooong pregnancy.

Imagine carrying such a burden- a baby, of the Spirit, for YEARS (did I mention it took YEARS? Yes, my friend: YEARS!) During pregnancy- natural or spiritual- every thought, every decision, every action is made in consideration of the one that depends on you; the carrier of life. A pregnant mother is literally subject to the demands of the seed that requires body & soul  to survive and thrive to maturity. The same is true of spiritual pregnancy. A person literally surrenders to the Spirit so that the seed can survive and thrive. Spiritual pregnancy follows the same painful process of natural pregnancy:

Conception.

Growth.

Contractions.

Labor.

Transition.

Delivery.

But, OH the joy when that precious little one is finally born! In the euphoria of the moment, a momma forgets all the pain of the previous season as she holds that newborn in her arms…all too quickly, however, the moment is over. More pain is coming:

Post-partum.  

Nursing.

Colic.

Vomiting.

Diarrhea.

Screaming.

Sleeplessness.

Welcome to motherhood! Congratulations for surviving pregnancy. Now you must persevere YEAR after YEAR in the process called maturing. Some say parenting is an 18-year commitment. I believe it’s a covenant between God and man for life.

And so, here I am. A new spiritual momma to a new spiritual baby that I love, but don’t yet know. In a new spiritual land, in a new spiritual family, in a new spiritual house. The pain of pregnancy, labor and delivery is behind me. The adventure of maturity lies ahead. But just for a moment, allow me to praise Him for all that He has done in the previous season….

Lord, thank You for,

Bringing me out Egypt, in the midst of famine.

Giving me Yourself and Your Spirit.

Baptizing me with Your fire and power.

Placing me in family, to grow and produce good fruit.

Teaching me to pray.

Rescuing me from captivity.

Helping me forgive those who’ve oppressed me.

Binding up my broken heart.

Delivering me from slavery.

Sustaining me in a dry and weary land.

Making a way through the desert.

Giving me manna from heaven, and water from a rock.

Discipling me.

Disciplining me.

Giving me Your Word, causing it to take root in my heart, and grow.

Prospering me in a city I did not build.

Stocking my house with goods I did not produce.

Supplying water from cisterns I did not dig and food from vineyards and trees I did not plant.

Help me never forget, Lord….

THIS is family.

John 19:25-27

New Living Translation

25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home

As my man and I traveled back from our first HOTFM home group meeting last week, we were discussing the difference between this community of believers and those we’ve been a part of for more than 2 decades. We had a hard time articulating what we felt. We couldn’t quite put it into words… it’s just… different.

The next day, with a BOLD cup of coffee in hand while watching the sun rise over our lanai, revelation hit:

THIS is family.

This is what Jesus died for!!!

This is not a corporation.

This is not an empire.

This is not a circus.

This is not a one man show.

We’re accustomed to the local church operating as a business with a CEO, CFO, Boards of Directors, etc. etc. etc. We’re used to performing our religious duties in order to be praised and promoted by men. We know how to work the system to receive affirmation and affection from big daddy- aka the senior pastor. We know the drudgery of making bricks without straw for Pharaoh. We know the bondage of Egypt.

Let me be perfectly clear. I am not under any false illusion that the people of HOTFM are practically perfect in every way. No. They are maturing in Christ, just as we are. The difference is: what we previously experienced and what we’re currently experiencing is that this group of believers was birthed by the Spirit- not a business plan. Led by the Spirit, not the flesh, a church was constructed on THE cornerstone. Governed by the headship of Jesus Christ, a family of fathers were appointed- a plurality of elders, as written right there in black and white in the OLD and NEW Testament! (Plural, as in adding an “s” on the end. Meaning, more than one.) Fathers and mothers training & equipping ALL of God’s children. And ALL of God’s children doing their part in the family (ministry) without competition or comparison!

Welcomed as new members of Heart of the Father Ministry!

THIS is family.

THIS is what Jesus died for!!!

Sons and daughters that share the same Father.

Sons and daughters that share the same older brother.

Sons and daughters that share the same Spirit.

Sons and daughters that share the same blood.

Sons and daughters that share the same name.

I gotta tell ya. Getting here came at a cost. I spent 7 years groaning, weeping, and laboring. I spent 7 years asking, seeking, knocking for the door to be opened. I spent 7 years feeling rejected, betrayed and abandoned by those I love.

THIS is what I died for.

THIS is His Kingdom come.

THIS is His will being done.

THIS is on earth as it is in heaven.

My friend,

Have you found your family? It’s time. It’s time to come home to the Father. It’s time to know the Son as Savior AND Lord. It’s time to overflow with His Spirit. It’s time to celebrate with brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s time to share everything you have with a community of Spirit filled believers. THIS is family. THIS is eternal and abundant life.