Keep Walking

I’m excited to introduce my guest blogger to you. He’s passionate about God and people, and spends much of his time ministering to the discouraged, helping the hopeless find hope again, and being “salt and light” in his local community. He also pastors a small church in North Florida where I sit in the front pew each week, cheering him on as he share’s God’s Word in interesting and innovative ways. His name? André Van Heerden. I’m proud to call him my husband and friend. Here’s what he has to share with us:

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Isn’t it a tremendous blessing to go to a spiritual retreat, sit back and listen to the Word of God being preached, spend time praying with like-minded people, go for walks in nature, and so forth? Sometimes we can be tempted to think that the feelings and emotions we experience during those ‘mountain-top’ encounters are what we should be experiencing at all times. Then when we don’t experience those ‘spiritual highs’ we think God is far from us.Stained Glass

Where is God when we are alone in the dark valley and far away from those thrilling mountain top encounters? God is right beside us, as close, or closer, than He was during those spiritual highs. Yes, we can feel God’s Presence with us when we are in a spiritual environment where the conditions are all centered around God, but what happens when conditions aren’t centered around God—when we are at work, or in traffic, or trying to fix a water leak at home, or trying to resolve an interpersonal conflict?

Paul counsels us 2 Corinthians 5:7 to “walk by faith, not by sight.” We love to see, feel and touch miraculous signs and wonders all around us. When we are in the dark and cannot see, feel or touch the tangible evidences that God is moving, we tend to think that God is not with us—that He has pulled back from us for some reason. More often than not, we believe that God has pulled back from us due to our sinfulness and because we have fallen back into habitual sin or an addiction.

The enemy of our souls comes alongside us and tells us God is not with us. He tells us we are too sinful to have God be close to us and accept us as we are. He tells us we have to stop sinning before God will come close to us. During these times in the dark valley, we must walk by faith—faith in God’s promises, faith in who God is and faith that God is with us. Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29, “because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Dear friends, we cannot survive spiritually by using a physical or emotional measure! We survive spiritually by using a spiritual measure! If God said it, I believe it, and that’s enough for me. The simple, well-known words of Psalm 23 are powerful to carry us through those dark valleys—“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” We need to repeat these words to ourselves, over and over—“you are with me.”

Having the promises of God on the tip of our tongues will prevent the spiritual slump we experience in the dark valleys. When we don’t see, touch or feel the spiritual thrill we experience on the mountain-top, we are still to ‘walk by faith.’ We stay confident that ‘God is with us,’ that He loves us and that He understands that we are but dust.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:8-14.

You see, as Psalm 119:105 says, the Word of God is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It’s a lot easier to walk over rocky ground at midday than at midnight. But, when there is no light, we keep on walking because we have light. So whether we are in the dark valley, on a dark rocky path, or in the dark woods, we keep on walking. The enemy of our souls wants to shut out the light. He wants us to stumble, doubt and be confused. God gives us sure footing, confidence and clarity. He makes a sure pathway open before us on which we can keep walking.

 Prayer – Father in heaven, You are All-wise, All-Powerful and Ever-present. There is nothing that I can think of that You can’t solve. Please remind me that YOU ARE WITH ME, irrespective of my sin and my weakness. Please give me the confidence and the boldness to keep walking in spite of the obstacles that lie in my pathway. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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You can read Pastor André’s blog at http://andrevanheerden.org/ where he shares how God guided him into ministry in our local community. Some of the stories are amazing and encouraging. If you are interested in impacting your local community for Christ, but feel so small, perhaps his stories will encourage you.

 

 

Spring Cleaning & Voodoo

I didn’t know she was evil. I thought she was cute with her meticulously hand-beaded dress and braids. I bought her for next-to-nothing from a girl in a South African market and brought her home in my suitcase.

She escaped the purging of my home two years ago. That was when my husband and I prayerfully scoured the house for anything remotely connected with the dark side. Between us – in our world travels, we’d managed to collect a pair of ancient fertility dolls, replicas of masks that represented spirits of the dead, sun gods in various forms, and even some images of Peruvian white llamas and other animals that were used in sacrificial rituals. Who knew, right? I mean, we’re Christians. A pastoral couple. Why didn’t we know better? How did we end up with so many not-so-innocent travel souvenirs?

I’ve learned that the saying, “What we don’t know won’t hurt us” isn’t exactly true. What we don’t know can cause havoc in our well-ordered lives. I believe it’s a Christian’s job to be diligent about what is brought onto our property and into our homes. I learned this the hard way years ago, when evil spirits gained access to my space because of the “open doorways” of drug paraphernalia and other items brought under my roof unbeknownst to me. I re-learned it when the Holy Spirit revealed the reasons behind the constant harassment in my new home after my pastor-husband and I merged our belongings together under one roof.

It was only after we prayerfully scoured our home and burned the offending objects that we were able to breathe easier and make order out of the chaos in our busy lives. How I missed that little cloth doll remains a mystery. She remained “under the radar” – until yesterday, when I came home to discover her sitting innocently on my kitchen table. “She’s a voodoo doll,” announced my visiting friend. “I Googled her because I didn’t like the way she was staring at me.”

“What are you talking about?” I said, picking up the little black doll.

“Since I’ve arrived, that little doll has given me the creeps. So, I Googled her and discovered that she is a Zulu Voodoo doll.”

I was surprised, but not shocked. The doll had been sitting on a shelf in my guest room, a place I don’t often look. She hadn’t really bothered me, but she bothered my guest. Her presence was disconcerting. Evil.

“I’m so sorry. I thought we’d disposed of everything evil in our home. I will get rid of her! With that, I took her outside and did what the Bible instructs us to do… I burned her with fire.Burning Doll

The graven images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God.

Neither shall you bring an abomination (an idol) into your house, lest you become an accursed thing like it; but you shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is an accursed thing.” (Deuteronomy 7:25-26 Amplified Bible)

Then I bound and rebuked in the name of Jesus, any evil spirits that were attached to her or sent on assignment through her to us. I reclaimed our territory for God and repented of my unknown sin.Zulu Voodoo Doll

Some may think that a bit extreme. But, I’ve learned that these things cannot be taken lightly. The “roaring lion” does not rest. Thankfully, neither does our powerful Father in heaven. His Name and His Word does not fail. He redeems our innocent mistakes and frees us from the bondage of ignorance.

When we live with people who are reading, listening to, watching, and using things that go completely against the culture of heaven, we become vulnerable to the spirits that attach themselves to those things. Spirits of chaos, rebellion, fear, suicide, and depression feel at home in the dark places where idols are worshiped. If you’ve ever lived with or loved a person caught in the traps of addiction, you cannot argue that their “drug of choice” quickly becomes an idol in that person’s life; an idol that must be sacrificed to on a regular basis.

Here’s what I know: The enemy of our souls is always looking for access to us. Sometimes we unknowingly open doorways that allow evil into our space. Sometimes other people in our lives make us vulnerable to attack because of their activities. Either way, we do not need to be ignorant of his devices. The name of Jesus is a powerful weapon in a Christian’s arsenal. So is a trash bag and a burn barrel. We don’t have to live with darkness in our camp. We can Spring clean in a deeper way than ever before. Let’s ask God to reveal the doorways from the dark side that are open in our lives. Let’s take back that ground and live in freedom!


I Saw You. You Are Beautiful.

Compassion squeezed me until the tears spilled out. The room was a small space filled with big pain. Palpable pain. I was eye to eye with you, my target audience. You – who quietly read my blog while your loved one sleeps “it” off in the other room. You – who nod in understanding when a chord of truth resonates with your story. You – who carry on with your calling, despite the ache in your souls as you long for your loved ones to be free. I saw YOU last weekend. You simultaneously broke my heart and made me proud.

Heather Kopp, in her memoir Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With A Christian Drunk, boldly claims, “…people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do over shared beliefs.Cross As we rubbed shoulders together, I understood what she meant. Your “game faces” melted under fluorescent lights as I shared my story. A silent, silken thread of shared brokenness wove its way through the room, making us soul sisters, regardless of our differences.

I’m thankful for you, for you represent every woman I write and speak to: every woman whose heart is heavy with the burden of someone else’s addiction. I knew you were out there, holding your heads up while your hearts break, serving others, as your own lives seem to unravel at the seams.

I’m proud of you… for being brave enough to attend a breakout session with an elephant in the room. You didn’t ignore it. You didn’t deny its presence. You swallowed your pride and spit out the seeds of denial so they could no longer take root in your lives. You embraced the pain and allowed your facades to crack as I held the mirror for Jesus as He turned your eyes toward the truth that you are not alone in your suffering. He is right there with you in every ounce of disappointment as you pour yourselves out for someone who cannot love you as they love themselves (because self-love is something addicted people have very little of). You wept as you allowed my story to penetrate your private hells and give you some survival tools and some hope.

Thank you for allowing me into your suffering. Thank you for the hugs at the door and the encouraging words of affirmation. Thank you for putting flesh on the souls of the women I’ve written my memoir for. I loved being able to share my heart with you. I loved connecting with you. I love you. As Kathryn Stockett wrote in, The Help, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” And you is beautiful!Hibiscus

I read Ann Voskamp’s blog post today. It’s entitled, “When You Feel Wounded By Your Own.” She says, “It is the wounded ones who make us heal.” I agree with her. When we share our wounds, our sorrows, our suffering, something healing happens. Healing takes place in community. Seeds of hope are sown in community. Sorrow is divided in safe, healing communities like Celebrate Recovery or Al-Anon. Please find one. Or, create one. Allow God the space in your busy life to finish the good work He has begun in you.

“He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The LORD has spoken!” (Isaiah 25:8, NLT)

(Find Ann’s entire post here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2015/03/when-you-feel-wounded-by-your-own/ )