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“’Am I only a God nearby,’
declares the Lord,
‘and not a God far away?
Who can hide in secret places
so that I cannot see them?’”

– Jeremiah 23:23-24

Padlocked journals. Receipts tucked into a sock drawer. Deleted files. Disguised flasks. Shredded evidence. What happens in Sin City . . . behind our doors . . . outside the church . . . when we believe no one is watching us . . . allegedly remains our little secret.

Secrets range from embarrassing moments to treachery, from things we’ve done to those we should have. Some hidden facts seem innocuous, like an emotional struggle we’d rather not share. Other mysteries demand cover because we can bet others won’t help us justify the sin. Murderers feverishly cover their evidence, as do tax evaders, addicts, and adulterers.

Camouflage grants us confidence. We convince ourselves that no one sees, that the matter remains of no consequence at all. A cycle of shame and arrogance flips us between insecurity and justifying our cover.

When my boys were tots, they’d press their hands over their faces and declare, “You can’t see me.”

“Yes, my baby. I can still see you,” I’d assure them. I wanted to see their precious, beloved faces.

“No!” They insisted. “You can’t see me!”

Ah, the myth of our powerful hands. We have yet to outgrow the childish idea that we can cover our eyes and become invisible to our Father. While swirling in shame and pride over our sins, we miss the point of our relationship with Him. He adores our precious souls, and enjoys intimate face-time with us. Especially when our cheeks bear stolen cupcake grime and our noses bleed from playing in areas we shouldn’t have.

I resisted sharing my emotional struggles for years, believing they’d make me appear faithless. I didn’t want others to think less of Jesus because of my weaknesses.

“I see you.” The Lord pried up one of my fingers.

“Yes, I know. You must be very disappointed.” I peeked between my digits to glimpse His gentle, loving smile. “Can’t I just keep hiding anyway? It’s more comfortable here behind my hands.”

“Comfortable isn’t always best.” He tugged my pinky. “In order to see more of Me, you have to come out from hiding behind your hands.”

I gradually opened my palms. Transparency wasn’t a comfortable thing, but I offered a little at a time. I knew it would be a challenge, but I really did want to see more of my Father. Peeling back my hands required me to depend on His hands. And God revealed His presence in more ways than I imagined. Not only did the Lord exchange my frailty for healing, but He also used my story to lift others to see Him more clearly.

I had convinced myself of my power to hide, to avoid the risk of disclosure. The true risk, I discovered, was in keeping my secrets. The myth of locking away reality holds its believer in a dangerous lie. Pride and shame wielded authority over my purpose and identity instead of God’s power and grace. Not only could I have remained outside God’s perfect will, but hiding also withheld healing God intended to pour through my story into others’ lives. Darkness of locked boxes could have defined my life instead of God’s glory.

Maybe you have unconfessed secrets, too. Consider extending your confessions to the Father Who adores you. He transforms the darkest moments of life into a more powerful vessel of freedom than you can imagine. It’s hard to expose your heart, but I guarantee that His freedom and love are more than worth it. So are the lives of those who’ll be blessed in the wake of your new life of trust in Christ.

Will you pray with me, to become more yielded and open as He leads us? Let’s take Christ’s hands and encourage one another to become His vessels, bringing others to see Him a bit more each day.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,’
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you. . .

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be. . . 

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:11-24).

“The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God” (Psalm 19:1-2).

Tender grass bursts from the earth. Glimmering beetles scurry up to lily pinnacles and raise their antennae. My favorite gnarled oak ascends from a velvety ring of petunias. Its branches wield leafy poufs as live, rain-guzzling, sun-swallowing pom-poms.

Meanwhile, a masterpiece rolls overhead.

Coral rays claim the heavens, staking dawn’s entry. Glorious brilliance floods the earth with awesome energy, both life-sustaining  and requiring the respect rather than scrutiny of mortal eyes. The light reigns undaunted, despite the morphing hues of its backdrop and fleeting clouds to veil its position. Ten thousand bird species laud the majesty in song and aerial dance. Crimson explodes across the skies as the sun descends to meet the edge of our perspective. The world blackens against a fabulous gleam of twilight. Predators crawl out into the shadows, anticipating easy prey in the sun’s absence. The light never abandons us. A silver orb rises against the darkness to reflect the sun’s continued presence. Crickets and cicadas praise its faithfulness. It continues to guide and shine upon us in this new form as we hope for the new dawn.

Before a single word of Scripture inked the ancient papyrus, God authored creation as a living testament. The Bible anoints modern Christians with immeasurable benefits and deepens our understanding of God, but He foresaw those without access to the written word. The Father did not leave anyone bereft of His message. Creation’s magnificent design proves His sovereignty. He reveals Himself and His attention to us in the artistic, majestic, and whimsical elements of nature. The progress of each day reflects the gospel, a Son who remains with us and bestows His life upon us that we might represent Him to the world.

As we continue to cherish Scripture, let us also remain aware of its earliest writing–God’s love letter crafted upon the world around us. The story nature has read aloud since the dawn of creation.

“children running and shouting through the Temple, ‘Hosanna to David’s Son!’ . . . Jesus said, ‘Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?’” (Matthew 21:15-16).

Easter dawned on the horizon as Christ marched through formidable gates to redeem His house of worship. With every step across the courts of women and Gentiles He manifested God’s presence among those furthest removed from the holy place. In strode the One Who would make all things new.

The resident authorities balked at change. The current state of worship served their lifestyle of disdain and exclusion. Sizable gifts impressed them, not whether men offered them from their hearts. The swindling of poor worshipers failed to prick their conscience. Priests and politicians shared the drink of corruption. The Temple rulers shrugged away such apostasies.

But, oh, those children.

Jesus foreknew the Temple purification would meet resistance. Sanctification always does. He took time to weave a whip, readying His physical instrument as He prepared for battle against unseen forces. While we don’t know the inner details of this quiet time, Christ maintained perfect concordance with His Father throughout His life. That He prayed during these moments requires little conjecture.

God’s maelstrom thundered across the Temple as He flipped wooden tables over onto the stone floors. Merchants pawed across the marble tiles to recover spilled coins. Christ’s whip cracked over their heads and spurred them to flee the halls. His voice echoed off the smooth walls, declaring the purpose of His Father’s House. And His task was not yet complete.

Sanctification requires more than cleansing filth away.

Enter those relentless little worshipers. As the children ran through the Temple, the Lord used their praises to help cleanse the Temple by renewing its divine purpose. It wasn’t enough to stop doing wrong. The right type of worship had to fill God’s house again. Worship like a child who loves the Lord.

Scripture defines Christians as “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1Corinthians 6:19). Just as the driving out of money changers represented something larger in need of removal from the place of worship, our lives tend to harbor elements that don’t belong. Our sin nature clings to its corrupt old ways and resists change. Despite human and supernatural opposition, Christ’s sanctification can renew our lives. If we submit to His ongoing work of transformation, He drives out residing powers that don’t belong. Pride, selfishness, all manner of sinful strongholds flee out of the halls with a pathetic squeal.

A purged Temple isn’t fully cleansed yet. After the Lord relieves my soul of a nasty attitude, renewed purpose must complete His work. I need to reorient my spirit and fill the cleansed spaces with the worship He desires. Whether He prescribes certain actions or a discipline of stillness, complete renewal means submitting to renewed purpose. I must worship Him with the relentless praise of a devoted child.

Not childish, but child like. Knowing my utter dependence upon Him, yet comfortable that He carries me. Filled with awe and wonder. Accepting the unexplained. Believing without seeing. Trusting with all my soul. Loving Him with all my heart.

Will you join me in worship today, accepting the royal status as His transformed child?

 Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there” (Matthew 19:14-15).

“‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me'” (Matthew 18:3-5).

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

I hit the snooze. Again. Before I know it, those red digits glare alarming numbers. I have fifteen minutes to get out of the house. After a quick prayer, I hack my frizzy locks into submission. Mascara rebels against the hurry with an eye-gouge. Ten minutes left to spackle my prize-fighter appearance, jump into a pant suit, and choke down some vitamins. As I back out of the garage, a breakfast bar dangles from my teeth. It crumbles into my lap by the first stoplight.

In my hurry, I’m at risk of facing battles ill-equipped. It isn’t the first time. And the neediness isn’t related to the two-hundred calories littering my seat. I left more significant nourishment behind. Without it, stressors and needs will overtake me. Thankfully, there’s backup. I keep a Bible in my car so I’ll never go a day without my sword.

Unlike wearable armor components like belts and breastplates, a sword must be taken up and used. My mind, heart, and soul hunger for a daily meal of living scripture. Whether I memorize or study the verses, their power comes from intimate relationship with the Spirit while I ingest and apply scripture. Satan knows the Bible, but it remains a mere recitation for him. Because I know the Word Himself, scripture becomes my sword of the Spirit and pierces the enemy. The Word of God stands out as a short-range weapon to cut down spiritual opposition.

Jesus modeled successful fencing skills when He wielded Scripture to vanquish temptation (Luke 4:1-13). As the Incarnate Word, Christ could have said anything and made it so. He quoted verses to teach us how to pierce the heart of darkness with His Word. He spoke from scripture at certain times to highlight his example, but at all times He lived out God’s perfect truth.

The power of the Word surpasses human imagination, but John’s gospel offers us a glimpse. “The Word was God . . . Through him all things were made . . . In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5). Christ is the logos, the creative force through which all things came into existence. In God’s perfect symmetry, Christ is also the power through which all things are redeemed and renewed. Jesus spoke to exorcise demons, heal, and exhibit miraculous provision, but that remains the tip of the iceberg. By definition, there is nothing the Word cannot do or undo.

Not something I want to leave behind for the day, let me tell you.

Many herald breakfast as the day’s most important meal, but nothing rivals the significance of nourishing my soul. No discipline proves more vital than making time to take up the Word. I must learn it and make it a part of who I am. Wielding the sword requires putting Christ’s truth into practice. In following Jesus’ example, I must speak the Word at times and live it out at all times.

Come join me on the battle front. Let’s make sure we have left no sword behind.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
    in the shadow of his hand he hid me” (Isaiah 49:2).

“In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:16).

“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth . . .”

As we prepare to face evil himself, the first element revealed for our defense is truth. And it’s a belt. Ho hum. Belts live in a neglected rack at the back of the department store–a fashion afterthought at best. Shouldn’t we have started with a magnificent sword and something like faith or salvation? Perhaps one of Paul’s editors should have reminded him to start his message with an attention grabber.

A little further investigation into the soldier’s outfit suggests more significance in the ancient article than our modern hip huggers. Not only did the centurion’s belt secure the rest of his uniform in place, but it also carried his food rations, coins, and weapons.The placement of this wide strap could also serve as an extra layer to cover vital organs. The warrior’s sustenance, livelihood, and survival rested in the leather girding his waist. His life depended on reaching for these vital items with confidence in the unchanged position of each one. A soldier must keep his eyes on the battle at hand, and cannot afford to search for his weapons.

In our battle with the ultimate deceiver, we Christian soldiers cannot begin to wonder where the truth lies. If we begin darting our eyes to the right and left, the enemy takes advantage of our vulnerable state. Thankfully, the Lord can teach us how to reach for His Truth with confidence. It never shifts position. We must buckle this essential tool in place as the nourishment and defense of our souls hang upon it. We also cannot understand true worth or experience prosperity in the absence of Truth.

Without the belt, nothing else can stay put. Armor shifts and tangles us into a stumbling knot. We must have truth to maintain unhindered motivation to combat evil. Paul listed Truth first to help us get a grip on the divine reality. Awareness of the Who clarifies our view of every other what. Such a vision transforms flesh into armored warrior core.

Let’s thank the King for our magnificent armor, and remain mindful of what truly holds us together.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6).

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31-32).

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:17-18).

“For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:10-11).

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

“The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Psalm 119:160).

“For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:10-11).

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:3-6).

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and kind in all his works.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
    he also hears their cry and saves them” (Psalm 145:17-19).

Wrinkled baby feet and carriages adorn cards dedicated to “new moms.” Friends and family members send these greetings to stuff the mailboxes of bleary-eyed mommas. The envelopes pile on the counter, for the most significant part of a mother’s life wasn’t delivered by post.

The most significant aspect of mothering doesn’t come in print, either. Greeting cards, dictionaries, and biology texts fail to define the spirit of motherhood. Giving birth or adopting fall short as qualifying requirements or guarantees for the noble role.  A true mother nurtures the spirit of another. To become such a leader, it is she who must be reborn.

Surrender to Christ plunges her into the baptism of the Holy Spirit’s anointing. A newborn mother arises with supernatural gifts. Whether she has cradled an infant, guided adult children, or has no biological offspring, her family now expands to the edges of God’s Kingdom. Empowered and inspired by the indwelling Lord, her spirit reaches out to nurture the faith of others.

Nurturing spirits combine their gifts to nurture, guide, and protect the Lord’s darlings. Children in the family of God have a network of mothers to speak important truths into their hearts.

“You are unique and precious.”

“God crafted delightful things into your personality, and they’re worth celebrating.”

“I love and care about you.”

“God cherishes you even more than I do. And that’s saying a lot.”

“You have worth and purpose.”

A new mother’s work is never done. A season of mentoring one disciple ends, but others need guidance. While sleeplessness exhausts a biological mom, newborn mothers rest in the Father’s arms. When she feels her energy draining, the Lord will renew her strength. Though her service persists for years, she retains a beautiful glow in His eyes. Life continues to wriggle its way from within her to the expectant world around her.

Though my sons now tower over me, I aspire to remain a newborn mother for the rest of my life. Whether you’ve cradled an infant or held a brokenhearted child of God, you can accept the nurturing role in Christ’s family.

“speaking the truth in love,we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” – Ephesians 4:15-16

“whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:8-10

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families” – Psalm 68:5-6

Leprechaun impostors frolic along beer-scented streets. Shamrock patterned underwear hangs in the local department stores. Party favors honor the shamrock as a lucky charm, rather than a symbol explaining the Holy Trinity. Tavern patrons cheer St. Paddy without praising his evangelism. Most cities celebrate St. Patrick’s day with little regard for the saint or his legacy.

Despite its lighthearted intent, one holiday tradition reflects the influence of a saint. Authorities load small boats with special equipment. The sanctioned crafts launch a vibrant green dye into the water. Wherever they go, the river transforms into a beautiful new flow of color.

The Lord commissioned and equipped an escaped slave to transform the spiritual environment of a nation. Saint Patrick delivered the gospel to Ireland, leaving a glimmer of hope across the nation’s landscape. He blended new meaning into existing symbols. Wherever he went, vibrant news of eternal life sprang up alongside his path.

Scripture refers to all Christ-followers as saints. Equipped with the truth and anointed with the Spirit, we each have an opportunity to change the spiritual environment wherever we go. The culture around us starves for the truth, and a few small vessels can transform the world.

Will you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with me by greening a bit of the river around us?

“This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah” (Ephesians 3:8).

“I have become its servant, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:25-27).

An atheist erected a beer-can pole near the nativity scene in Florida’s capitol building. He dubbed the eyesore a “Festivus pole,” citing the synthetic holiday originating in a Seinfeld episode. During the television interview, he expressed his desire to present the most ridiculous display he could imagine.

Atheistic protests have increased in recent years. In avid worship of disbelief, this minority group seeks to usurp our right to express respect for the true Lord. The shadow of humanism seems most inappropriate at Christmas. Many believers gasp at the affront to our cherished season’s original meaning.

Digging deeper into the story, however, we find this news clip brings nothing new. False religions defiled the honored public places and government buildings during the night of our Savior’s birth. Humanistic idols littered the earth for thousands of years preceding the first Noel. Asherah poles plagued ancient Israel’s high places. Instead of seeking the true Lord, men erected hedonistic poles with which they felt able to control all things seen and unseen. Much like modern atheists, the ancient pagan worshipers sought to direct their own spiritual sovereignty.

The poles of false religions fail to eclipse Christmas, for they represent the reason for a Savior’s birth into the dark world of humanity. Man wandered away from his Creator. Without the light of divine truth, humans lost their grasp upon morality and life. We could not rescue ourselves from the depraved state of the world. God poured His Son into our bleak existence. He entered the world as a homeless, impoverished outcast amid the rule of oppressive tyrants and emperors. He suffered our challenges to save us from ourselves.

The Asherah and Festivus poles remind us of God’s redeeming love, and the indubious light of Christmas. 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” – John 1:5-14

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” – Isaiah 9:2

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Centuries ago, a wary king rebuilt his wooden stronghold with stones. He nestled a bluestone in its ramparts to honor the special rock’s donor. Legends swirled from the walls through a nobleman’s lips and into the royal court. His flattery confounded the queen. Rumors stirred the winds and people suspected unnatural origins to his verbal prowess. The Blarney Stone’s reputation cemented itself into Irish lore.

Strongholds anchored castle security. Often located in the center of a fortress, residents and soldiers retreated to the stronghold when enemies threatened to breach the outer walls. Blarney Castle’s owner sought to protect his estate with well-oiled speech. When the English queen presented a threat, he stood within the ramparts of words.

Tourists kiss the legendary Blarney Stone in hopes of obtaining his magical gift of eloquence. Seeking the power of influence, visitors lean backward over the precipice and press their lips against the special rock. Yet eloquence and influence weather away like wooden structures. 

It’s time to seek a stronghold that has been rebuilt with lasting stones. 

The everlasting cornerstone bears a radiant name. Truth remains impervious to weather, time, or enemy attacks. And when our lips stretch to bless Him, He returns the kiss with warm blessings. Much better than smooching a rock, if you ask me. Unlike Blarney Castle, we needn’t end our visit and return to life’s drudgery. The Word of God invites us to join Him as part of the castle. Truth offers far richer delights than legend. Will you join the glorious Kingdom structure and devote your lips to the Rock of Ages?

 “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house … through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:  ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.” – 1 Peter 2:4-7

 

Amber, coral, and rosy rays glimmer along the horizon. The cerulean backsdrop deepens to brilliant sapphire hue as the day slips out of sight. Each sunset draws a fresh sigh, as I contemplate its reflection of divine grace.

God designed our days’ end with a visual poem of crimson-streaked light. Whatever befell you in these hours, He declares, “It is finished.” The beauty of dusk cools our skin and hushes our trepidation. We can only work thus far, and then He tucks the day into the past and reminds us of His sovereignty. We can watch the masterpiece unfold across the sky like a Creator’s promise for a new day coming.

The setting of light onto earth’s curved horizon reminds me of an ancient, blood-soaked hill.  Our Redeemer hung against the sky as a sacrifice to end our strife. Darkness engulfed the earth and chilled his entombed body. Like the resurrection joy, dawn cannot break until the former day has been put behind us.

I love the divine story sunsets tell, since He offers the only happy ending to last forever after. If you’re longing for a delightful tale, perhaps you’ll join me at the window this evening and watch the Lord weave inspiration with light.

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