Memorial Sacrifice

Memorial Day (here in the USA) is a day to remember all our service men and women who have laid down their lives for our freedom. Their blood on the battlefield has been payment for the freedoms we live under in this country. My admiration for these people and their families is and will always be indescribable.

When we are in love with someone, we think about them all the time. Since this past holiday weekend, I couldn’t help but think about Jesus laying His life down for my freedoms as well. The freedoms that transcend the place I reside in; these freedoms gifted to me go so far beyond. They give me peace in the midst of storms, provisions in my needs, love for the “unlovable”, forgiveness for everything not apologized for, forgiveness for myself and all the things I’ve ever said and done, an eternal freedom in Heaven when my time is done here on this Earth. This freedom is like a breath of the fresh air on the first day of spring, breathing in all the fragrance of the budding flowers and grass; all the new life coming into bloom. His willingness to give up His life for me so that I can experience these freedoms leaves me blown away every moment of every day.

Then, I’m left with this question for myself: Is there anything in my life that I’m willing to lay down in sacrifice for Him? When you’ve been blessed with a freedom like this, you want to do something to honor it. Not because you have to or because it’s required, but because your heart is filled with gratitude. How has my life honored this? Am I just enjoying the freedoms or am I truly honoring it.

I wrote about this in a previous blog post (Net-Breaking Blessing) that I’m constantly being reminded of. This story about Simon Peter (Luke 5:1-11), a fisherman by trade, had been out all night long trying to bring in a harvest and was grossly unsuccessful. Pulled his boat to shore early that morning, cleaning off the nets and closing up his day and likely full of frustration and discouragement, is now asked by Jesus to use his boat. He then gets Jesus on his boat, puts out a bit from the shore and Jesus preaches a message to all who were following him. After the message, Jesus tells him to go out into the deeper waters and cast his nets on the right side of the boat. After a long night of unsuccessful fishing, the last thing I’d want to do is more fishing. But, he did it and not only did Jesus fill the nets with fish, they were in such abundance the nets were breaking and the boat was sinking! Once they got to shore, Simon Peter was in awe of this miraculous thing that had just taken place. Jesus spoke purpose over him and Simon Peter’s reaction was to leave his blessing right there on the shore to follow Jesus into an unknown future.

I share this to say, what have we sacrificed out of our adoration of Jesus and the blessings He’s gifted us? How could we become fishers of men if we hold onto the blessing for ourselves? How would we gain wisdom without trials? How would we grasp a hold of peace if it weren’t for storms? How would we recognize the amazing and lush greens of our Promised Land if we hadn’t experienced the elements of the desert? The thing we have to continually sacrifice is our flesh. Our flesh wants the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil when wisdom tells us the Tree of Life is all we truly need. Our flesh wants the blessings without sacrificing some comforts to become all the Lord has called us to be. I suppose Simon Peter could have still been a fisher of men while enjoying the spoils of that net-breaking haul, but I don’t believe he would have been as successful as we was. He still would have reached lives, but not at the level of impact that he had. No matter our choices, the Lord will use us. It’s our choice to learn and understand Heaven’s accounting. Simon Peter became more blessed than that load of fish. Wholly blessed, inside and out, not just isolated to his bank account.

So, my challenge is this: to be willing to lay my life down in sacrifice, walking away from what appears to be the blessing I’ve been praying and hoping for; realizing that if that is so amazing, He has something so much better in store. We have to strive not for the blessings, but for the purpose He has on our lives. It’s not about me, it’s about Him working through me to reach the ones who haven’t met Him yet. Becoming “fishers of men” in this life.

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When Healing & Maturity Come, So Do Your Dreams!

I’ve had this phrase in my mind for a couple of days and just this morning I was reminded of Joseph’s life (Genesis 37-45). The parts that aren’t typically talked about are what were highlighted to me. Not in a way to dwell on pain, but to look at in a way to bring about revelation and healing.

When he was thrown into the pit, he was young, he experienced abuse, betrayal and stripped of his inheritance. I began to think about what he could have been going through in that dark isolation. Everything he knew and was comfortable with was gone.

He went from a position in his family to a slave for strangers. As he was brought into slavery, any and all dignity was stripped away and put in a place of humiliation. All he had was on display for everyone to see.

He regained some dignity and grabbed a hold of some purpose as a servant, but it didn’t reflect his dreams. Then, in the midst of that, he was thrown into prison; another place of isolation and solitude. In that solitude he found some purpose, but once again, it was not any reflection of the dreams given him.

It took thirteen years from the pit to the palace and for his dreams to come true.

That thirteen-year journey brought forgiveness, understanding, wisdom and maturity.

I often wonder how long it took him to forgive his brothers after what they did to him. Did he forgive them as he journeyed into Egypt? If so, did he experience anger with them again as he stood on the auction block? Maybe at that time, a deeper level of forgiveness came. Not only did he have to process through forgiveness for his brothers, he had to grieve the separation from his father. He had to accept his “new normal”, as a servant which was something much less than he had dreamed.

I’m sure he had questioned the validity of those dreams in the past. Were they really for him? Because nothing about his circumstances had any sliver of those dreams embedded in them. Yet…through all of this, God was with him and had favor on him. He had favor and comfort in the most unfavorable and uncomfortable situations.

When nothing adds up, God is up to something. Because in the midst, finding some purpose in your pain, isolation and service may very well be the time and place to launch you into the court of the king. In that one moment, his service was remembered and instantly his dreams from the past were given breath.

He was finally ready to handle the size of those dreams. He now knew true forgiveness, he knew grief, he knew what isolation and humiliation felt like, pride was gone and through all of those lessons, he learned his identity in The One that created him. He grew in a relationship that in turn reflected the Heavenly Father; his servant heart, humility, wisdom, unconditional love that manifested his dreams from long ago in a way that not only benefited himself, but brought favor and provision upon the entire country.

If you’ve been given big dreams, be ready to go through some big learning experiences. These God-sized dreams are not for our benefit, but for the lives He will use us to reach. It is always about Jesus and the ones that need Him.

Every single thing we go through, will be used for His good! Absolutely nothing is wasted!

Luke 12:48 “…from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” “

Gen. 45:5, 7-8 “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…….But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God…”

Rom. 8:28 “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”