Freedom Friday: An Opportunity to Believe

Wednesday was not my prettiest day.

I’m not sure how to describe how I was feeling. Forlorn is about right. Discouraged, sad, disappointed and disillusioned would work, too.

In the afternoon, I went out to run errands. I was headed to the post office, where I knew there’d be a long line. I was wishing I had brought a book to read, other than the Bible (which is on my phone).

I then told God I didn’t want to read the Bible while I waited in line because I was annoyed at the current state of affairs. I was feeling frantic and inconsolable about the way He was allowing things to play out.

Basically, I was pouting and doubting.

Then He spoke.

Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?

My breath caught.

I knew exactly the story where Jesus spoke these words. It’s one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I’ve taught from this story on numerous occasions, within diverse contexts.

It’s the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Jesus came to Judea where Lazarus had died and had been laid in a tomb. Mary and Martha were with Him at the tomb (John 11).

“Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Martha, who moments earlier had said to Jesus with such faith, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

When the time came to put that faith into action, she hesitated.

Jesus’ reply is recorded in the verse above that came to my heart:

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

Martha was being given an opportunity to believe.

An opportunity is just an opportunity. In every opportunity, there is choice.

Martha was given an opportunity to choose to believe, or choose not to believe. She could choose to believe that God is true to His Word, that He is who He says He is, and He will do what He has said He will do. Or she could choose to remain in confusion and despair and doubt.

We have the same opportunity.

How will we respond when God invites us to roll away the stone?

God, do You really want to open that door?

I think this is my response at times.

Because it’s cold and it’s dark and that’s where I keep my pain. That’s where I hide away the stuff I don’t want the world (or You) to see. The pain, the fear, the junk I hold on to – it’s been in there so long that it’s starting to rot. It’s so bad, God, that it has even started to smell in there. If You open that door, God: well, it’s not going to be pretty and it’s not going to be nice.

Since when was God’s power constrained by ugliness? The stench doesn’t bother Him. And He doesn’t care if it’s pretty or nice. Pretty and nice don’t encapsulate His objectives.

He wants to do something beautiful.

Can you imagine if Jesus had said, “Oh, Martha, you think it might smell in there? Maybe you’re right. We should keep it closed. I’ve always had a weak stomach.”

Not our Savior. Not the One who endured the ugliness of the cross.

And out of that ugliness, God did something beautiful.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

When Lazarus came out of the tomb, his head, feet and hands still bound with grave clothes, Jesus said to those gathered, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

I imagine the people looked at Lazarus as one who was dead. Jesus saw past the grave clothes and saw one who was becoming alive.

Oh, how often I view my trials like this. I only see the death, the dreariness, the heartache and hopelessness.

Is this, too, how the disciples felt, as they watched Jesus take His last breath on the cross? As He declared, “It is finished,” and gave His spirit up to the One who sent Him?
Where had hope gone?

We are so short-sighted. Without death, we cannot fully appreciate life.
Sometimes, it’s us who have to die. Little by little, we have to lose our lives only to fully live.Where we see emptiness, hopelessness, death, Jesus looks at the same thing and simply sees its potential for life.

“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” (John 10:10b AMP)

Oh, Lord, forgive my unbelieving heart. I want to see your glory in this opportunity to believe. Be magnified in my eyes and in my heart. Empower me to fully trust in You in this moment. You are able.


Hi, friends of Living Unveiled.

Life is full of transitions.

This morning, as I drove to the gym, I had to turn the heat on in my car.

Autumn is coming, sooner than we think. I love autumn.

I’m writing today to share with you some transitions in my life, and how they might affect this blog.

Many of you know that we have been dealing with employment transitions in our home. I am currently working 3 part-time jobs (one of them being the ministry of Alive in Christ).

I also just started grad school part-time and am pursuing a Masters of Divinity through Regent University’s online learning program.

I am training for my first marathon (October 13th) where I will be raising $2620 to trample on sex trafficking (more on that later!).

In addition to that, we are trying to sell our condo and move to Virginia to be closer to family.

I plan on continuing to blog 🙂

That said, I need the freedom, some weeks, to say, “I can’t blog this week.” Whether it be work or family or a showing of the condo or a school deadline, I will need to be able to say, “I have enough on my plate this week,” and leave the blog for a few days (or weeks).

Thanks for allowing me that freedom.

Some weeks, I might repost a popular article, or one I liked a lot 🙂 Did you know there are 195 blog posts here? There is not a shortage of things to read. Sometimes, I read my own blog posts to reminder myself of what God has brought me through and shown to me.

I truly, truly value all the love, support and encouragement I receive with each comment (usually in person) about how much this blog means to you.

Thank you all.

Monday Morning Meditation: God is Our Hope (Psalm 71 series)

We are continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

Two weeks ago, I talked about David intertwining prayer requests with truth about God. Last week, I talked about God protecting us from our enemies.

Today, we’ll tackle verse 5-6:

O Lord, you alone are my hope.
I’ve trusted you, O LORD, from childhood.
Yes, you have been with me from birth;
from my mother’s womb you have cared for me.
No wonder I am always praising you!

I’m going to keep this short today.

David could easily see God’s care for and protection over him throughout his life.

When I look back on some of my choices and the situations I put myself in, I too can see God’s hand at work in protecting me, even when I did not acknowledge or trust in Him.

That alone is reason to praise Him.

While our natural tendency may be to look at our circumstances in order to make sense of our lives, and our human inclination may be to wonder where God was during certain trials, let us instead choose to recognize He alone is our hope. Let us instead choose to praise Him for His faithfulness, His care, and His protection, though we may still be waiting to see those things come to fruition.

Freedom Friday: Satan Has A Plan For Your Life

There are many ways that we have tried to share the Gospel, the “good news” of Jesus, over the years.

Back in decades past, Christians would often challenge non-Christians with questions like these: “If you died tonight, where would you go?” We would pull out the Four Spiritual Laws and show the person their need for Jesus to be saved from sin.

Or we would take our unsaved friends to a tent meeting or to see a known speaker. My mother speaks of going to an evangelistic crusade as a teen that scared her to pieces, but not enough that she “got saved.”

Today, we are more apt to hear a feel-good message, stating we don’t have to be alone or wandering aimlessly. You can live in hope if we believe in Jesus because God has a plan for your life.

I believe this is true. I’ve even blogged on a past Freedom Friday about how God does have a specific plan for us.

There is another message out there that I don’t often hear. I imagine it’d really get some folks’ attention if we started our evangelistic messages with this statement:

“Satan has a plan for your life.”

I suppose to those who believe in good and evil, to those who know there is a real enemy, this isn’t a very encouraging message. And to those who think of Satan as a little red guy with a pitchfork and horns, it just seems downright outrageous.

My mentor Mike Olejarz, dressed up as Satan,
to sign copies of CS Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters”

The Bible tells us that Satan is real. Given that he fell from heaven and was believed to be an angel (Luke 10:18, Isaiah 14, Jude 1:6), I doubt he has red horns and a pitchfork.

What do many Christians believe about Satan?

We like extremes in Christianity, and this is not exception.

One extreme sees a devil around every corner. Someone with this mentality stubs his toe and screams, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

The other extreme knows there is an enemy, but pays him no mind. When they think of Satan, they imagine that little red, horned creature hanging out in a fiery place somewhere far, far away.

Neither perspective is particularly helpful or accurate.

What is Satan’s plan for us?

Jesus stated clearly what Satan’s plan for us is:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

Satan’s plan for us is to steal, kill and destroy God’s best.

We see this throughout the Bible, first in Genesis, when the serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” In convincing her to eat the fruit, her connection with the Source of Life (God) was broken, her intimate relationship with Him ended, and she and the man had to leave the garden, where they had walked with God in the cool of the day.

Satan incited David to take a census of Israel, which was not requested by God or blessed by Him (1 Chronicles 21).

Satan came alongside Joshua the high priest to accuse him (Zechariah 3:1-2).

Satan tempted Jesus during His 40-day fast in the desert (Luke 4), and then left Jesus until an opportune time.

Satan spoke to Peter somehow in order to try and convince Jesus to avoid crucifixion (Mark 8:33).

Those are just a few examples.

How does Satan affect us today?

It’s unlikely that most of us will have Satan come and speak to us, as Jesus did. But Satan can still influence us today.


Despair. Hopelessness. Defeat. Discouragement. Doubt.

He is the dream killer, the hope stealer, and the life destroyer.

He does these things by asking us to question God’s goodness. The serpent’s question in the Garden of Eden was really, “Is God withholding good things from you? Is He really trustworthy?”

How should we respond to Satan?

We can respond as Jesus did in the desert: with truth from God’s Word.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

We don’t need to walk around in fear of the enemy. As I shared earlier this week, God gives us protection from him. But we are called to be aware that he exists. This is the middle ground of the two beliefs I shared above.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.” (1 Peter 5:8, 9 NLT)

We are children of God and through Jesus Christ, we have overcome the evil one (1 John 2:14).

Jesus’ statements about Satan’s purpose are not the end of the story:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

That’s good news indeed!

Monday Morning Meditation: God’s Protection from the Enemy (Psalm 71 series)

We are continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

Last week, I talked about how David, the author of the psalm, intertwines prayer requests with truth about God, as if to remind himself that despite his trials, despite the hopelessness he may feel at times, God’s character has not changed. He is still good, He is still faithful, and He is still able to rescue and set free.

Let’s look at today’s verses (v.3-4)

Be to me a protecting rock of safety, where I am always welcome.
Give the order to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked, from the clutches of cruel oppressors.

This psalm is full of beautiful and challenging pictures of God’s character and steadfastness.

I especially love the imagery of God as a welcoming rock of safety. It’s a picture of God’s solidity, coupled with His always open arms. The NASB translation further illuminates this truth: “Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come.” We can come to God, as we are, with all our fears and doubts and sorrows, and He is always willing to welcome us in.

David repeats a lot of the same prayers and promises of the first 2 verses. Like the persistent widow, he asks again, Save me, protect me, rescue me.

He also recognizes that the wicked do have some level of power. Jesus recognized this truth as well when He said that Satan came to steal, kill and destroy, but He came so that we might have an abundant life (John 10:10). When Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus told him that He was sending him to “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:18)

So while we have a real enemy (in Satan) and other enemies (in people), Jesus makes it clear, as does David in this psalm, that’s not the end of the story.

God is our fortress. He is sufficient protection against any enemy. A rock of safety, where we are always welcome. Not only did Jesus defeat Satan’s power on the cross (Hebrews 2:14-15), we have a God who able to protect us.

In what area of your life do you need God’s protection today?

Freedom Friday: Selling My Birthright

Driving to church on Sunday, I heard part of this sermon (Aug. 5th, 2012) based on these verses from Genesis 25:

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright. ”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.

red lentils

This dramatic and fairly well-known story describes the dynamics between twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, sons of Isaac and Rebekah. It was a volitile situation even from the womb, the Bible describing how the babies “jostled each other” within Rebekah. Esau was born first, but, not to be outdone, Jacob came out grasping Esau’s heel.

Yet Esau was still the first born.

We don’t have that many parallels today in Western culture as it pertains to birthrights. In Jewish culture, the firstborn child was given certain rights, privileges and inheritance simply based on the fact that he was born first. It is in Genesis and the story of Jacob & Esau where the rights of the firstborn are first talked about.

As believers, we have all been adopted into God’s family, and we are all His favorites. As His children, there are certains rights and privileges that God has given to us, promises He says will be fulfilled if we follow and trust in Him, surrendering our entire lives over to His lordship.

As I listened to the sermon, I couldn’t help but think of my struggle with overeating.

Am I selling my birthright for a plate of food? I wrote a poem that was posted 2 days ago if you missed it.

Alicia Britt Chole dissects the temptation of Jesus in her book, anonymous. You can read a Biblical account here.

Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and was genuinely hungry. Satan tells Him to turn stones into bread.

What would be wrong with that? Eating is not a sin, after all. What would be the harm in having a bite of bread?

From anonymous, pg. 65:

I find it noteworthy that Satan did not suggest that Jesus run into town and steal some food – that would have been a blatant violation of God’s commendments. But eating? Food in itself is not sinful. And here is where Satan’s lures can be deceptive. This layer was not about what Jesus would eat as much as it was about when Jesus would eat. Would he obey Father God even when obedience meant delayed satisfaction of legitimate needs?

In the layer of appetite, we witness Satan’s skillful use of a most effective lure: immediate gratification.

Imagine where we’d all be if Jesus sold His birthright for a plate of food.

Your issue may not be with food. It may be with gossip, crass talk, pornography, stealing, or subtle lying. Those could all be considered “false foods.”

What are you selling your birthright for a plate of? What false food do you run to in order to try and satisfy legitimate needs in illegitimate ways?

It is not likely that Esau was literally going to die of hunger, as he dramatically stated. Yet he was genuinely hungry.

Often when I run to the cabinets, I too am genuinely hungry.

But my hunger is not for food.

I desire comfort, escape. I am tired, lonely, bored, in pain, and am looking for a way to forget, to flee those feelings.

My need is legitimate, but it cannot be meet with food. My need is for God, spiritual strength, companionship, laughter, joy, peace and rest.

Think for a minute.

Are we despising our birthright, as Esau did, because we choose to run to false food instead of Him?

Are we missing out on the fulfillment of God’s promises – His presence, His provision, our inheritance as His child – in favor of more immediate gratification?

Is the pay-off, the “reward” really worth it?

I sold my birthright for a plate of food.

I sold my birthright for a plate of food.

Wandering the pantry, the fridge, the cabinets.
Grazing for just the right thing, the one morsel to satisfy
The craving, the longing, the pain.

But the need was like a monster.
With every bite, the pit of desire grew.
Larger. Deeper. Wider.
Never full. Never satisfied.

I sold my birthright for a plate of food, and I wasn’t even hungry.

I sold my birthright for a pretty picture.
Faces on the screen, looking deep into my eyes,
But never really seeing me.

And I looked and I looked and I looked
Until it wasn’t fun anymore,
Yet I couldn’t turn away.

I sold my birthright for a pretty picture, and I wasn’t even seen.

I run everywhere else first.

The pain of longing comes and overwhelms,
Yet I take it on, allowing it to drown me.
Forgetting Your power, Your provision, Your presence are always there.

Then somehow, when my feet tire and my brain aches from trying to make sense,
I remember.
You are there.
Available, present, ever welcoming.

If I stop.
If I am still and hand the cravings to You.
They are too heavy to carry.
You say, Come. Rest. My burden is easy. My yoke is light.

Sitting with the pain,
Pushing away the longing,
Pressing our desires into Your heart,
None of this comes naturally.

How often I sell myself short,
Ignoring what You declared rightfully mine
In favor of something I deem gratifying.

I’m always wrong.
Still, You are true. Only You can satisfy.

Teach me, Lord, to welcome the uncomfortable,
To sit with the ache,
And rest in Your arms.

All that I have is yours, child, if you will just come to me.

I sold my birthright for a plate of food, and I wasn’t even hungry.

This poem is a response to a sermon I heard a portion of this past Sunday. I hope to share more about overeating and surrender in the coming Freedom Friday.

Monday Morning Meditation: Prayer Requests Intertwined with Truth (Psalm 71 series)

Today, we will be beginning a new series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

Here are today’s verses (1-2):

O LORD, you are my refuge; never let me be disgraced.
Rescue me! Save me from my enemies, for you are just.
Turn your ear to listen and set me free.

David wrote this psalm in his old age. We see in Scripture that the end of David’s life was full of strife and pain.

David had followed God his whole life; would God continue to come through?

We know following God does not promise us an easy life. “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” Matthew 5:45 (NLT) David recognized this truth while acknowledging that God is his only hope.

Notice how he begins this psalm, intertwining truth about God with prayer. David had serious issues to bring before God, but he didn’t just bring his laundry list of prayers and leave it at that.

Our laundry list can often be quite depressing. David recognized the importance of reminding himself of the truth of God’s character and reminding God of His promises.

David states:
God is refuge – don’t allow disgrace.
God is rescuer – save me.
God is just. God is listening.
God sets free.

When things look grim, we can remind ourselves of God’s character, His heart, and His desires for His children.

Lord, help us to remember to bring our requests to You alongside reminders of who You are, what You have done, and what You are able to do. Be refuge, be rescuer, be just, as You have said You will be. Set us free, Lord, as only You are able. Amen.

Freedom Friday: Hang on His Every Word, Chicken Edition

Is anyone else grieved over the Chick-Fil-A hub-bub?

I’m not going to tell you what I think about it all so you can stop hoping I will 🙂 I’m not going to tell you if I would have participated in chowing down on some CFA if I had time on Wednesday or if I lived less than an hour away from one.

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at CFA. The one time I tried to near my dad’s house, it was Sunday and I forgot they were closed.

What I will say is I think we are trying to simplify what is a complex issue. It’s not just about free speech. It’s not just about Cathy wanting to deny someone a “right.” It’s not just about how “of course” Jesus would have never participated in a boycott and what would happen if we took all this time and effort and volunteered at a food pantry instead of eating a chicken sandwich?

I read these challenging and quite relevant verses earlier this week:

“After that, he taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him. But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word he said.” Luke 19:47-48

People keep posting on their Facebook and Twitter and whatever means they can about what Jesus would do.

Do we really know Jesus well enough to say that?

When was the last time we hung on Jesus’ every word?

I can’t say I feel as those described in Luke 19 feel when I read the Gospels, which I’ve been working through for several months. I want to. I want to be that desperate for a greater knowledge of my Savior that I hang on His every word.

Have you read through the Gospels lately?

During Jesus’ temptation in the desert, Satan tells Jesus to feed Himself by turning stones into bread (Matthew 4). “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The words of Jesus invite me to go deeper, to take my faith to new levels, to know Jesus and all He was and is and all He experienced.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11 (NIV1984)

If I believe that Jesus’ words are the words of life (John 6:68), that He is the One who sets me free (John 8:36), and that I am to be like Him (Philippians 2), then I, like His early followers, need to be hanging on His every word.

As we ponder prominent issues in our world today, let us truly study and consider the words of Jesus. Let us not claim to know definitively how He would react to certain situations. Let us strive to simply know Him and the fullness of all He has for us.