Saturday, May 26, 2012

What's Your "But"?

"Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria.  He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper."  2 Kings 5:1 (NKJV)

My sweet, sweet friend gave Reid an awesome children's bible story book for Christmas.  We love books at our house, so books are always a welcomed gift.  She gushed about how great this little book is at teaching our children about the stories in the Bible while tying each story to Jesus.  I thought, "Oh, that's nice."  Well...let me tell you that little book ROCKS.  By the end of the first story I was fighting back tears as we read about how our sweet and wonderful God already had deemed Jesus as Saviour of the World as He created the Earth.  Good, good stuff...

So the other night we read about Naaman's leprosy being healed in 2 Kings 5.  After I put Reid to bed I went down to the office and pulled out a New King James Version bible and read the chapter for myself.  I just couldn't leave this story alone.  I needed to get the intricate details of the story.  (The world can say 'the devil's in the details' but let me tell you that our intricate God is most certainly in the details of our lives...the little details can often bring the greatest revelations.) I started reading the chapter and verse one immediately grabbed my attention.  I managed to read the rest of the story but immediately went back to verse one.  I could not get past it...still can''s why...

According to the verse, Naaman was a great man.  He held a very high, powerful and prestigious position in his country.  He made a very nice salary every year and lived in a nice home with all the servants and things a person could want.  He was seen as great and honorable in eyes of the King of Syria.  Meaning he participated in exclusive meetings and parties and had the favor of the country's leader on his side.  He was well known every where he went. He was very good at many things.  He was very smart, very strategic and probably very charismatic.  People listened when he spoke.  He was a mighty man of valor meaning he was brave and had boldness and determination when facing danger, particularly in battle.  Life should have been good...perfect...easier to live than most...

"...but a leper."


That one little statement had huge implications.  He was unclean.  He was hindered.  He was held back from being even greater than he already was.  He couldn't impact the world around him as much as he wanted.  He walked around every day knowing there were greater things locked up inside of him that could not be utilized because of his leprosy.  He had a vision of what the future could be but knew the leprosy would always hold him back.  

I imagine that Naaman was a bit of a prideful man.  He probably thought that he would overcome the leprosy by his sheer will-power.  He probably tried to cover it up and ignore it.  He was determined that nothing would stop him.  But in the end, each and every time, his own power was not enough to overcome the power that leprosy had on his life.  He needed to be healed but didn't know where to find it.  So God brought a precious little Israelite girl into his life.  The answer to his problem came from the most unexpected of his servant girls.  And his healing would come from the land of Israel, which he had recently raided and plundered.  (That's a whole other blog in itself.)

Out of desperation, Naaman followed the girl's word and went to Israel.  Once he arrived in Israel, Elisha sent for him and gave him simple instructions to be healed... "Go and wash in the Jordan River seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean." (Verse 10)  He argued.  He rolled his eyes.  He threw a two-year-old tantrum.  He was disgusted that he had come all that way just to take a dip in a nasty river where commoners often bathed.  He tried to talk Elisha into letting him wash in a cleaner he preferred and viewed as more respectable.  He got so mad he decided to storm off and forget the whole thing.  Fortunately, the Lord used his servants (once again) to speak wisdom to him.  He finally did as Elisha said and he was healed.  Pride, it will certainly stand in the way of our healing.

We are like Naaman.  We are great at this or that.  We are favored in the eyes of our leaders and friends/colleagues.  We live comfortably.  We have a blessed family.  We have all this potential.  We have a vision or a promise that the Lord has given us.  We may already sit in the high places in our jobs, community or country.  We may be mighty and full of valor.  We have people shouting our praises, saying how great we are.  But within us we know we are...

...but a leper...

That thing...that sin...that illness...that hurt...that (fill in the blank).  Whatever it is that is holding us back.  That part of our life that we've tried to overcome through our own power or tried to ignore out of pride.  That ridiculous part of our life that will not let go of us and makes us sick when we look in the mirror.  That thing the enemy uses day in and day out to bring condemnation and shame to our lives.  The thing that we immediately think about every time someone gives us accolades. Maybe the people around you know about your "but" or maybe you're still able to hide it.

Whatever the case, it is time to take a dip in the Jordan.  There is power and healing at that place the Lord has told you to go and in the things He's told you to do.  It's all about faith and obedience.  The two go hand-in-hand.  James 2:20 tells us that faith without works is dead.  I don't want to be held back any longer...I'm jumping about you?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What's In Your Refrigerator?

It's hard for me to believe that it has been nearly four months since I've posted a blog.  I've certainly thought about it several times but really didn't have anything I wanted to share.  Maybe it was because I was far too busy or too tired.  Probably it was because I didn't need to say what was on my mind.  Some things are better left unsaid.

For the most part, I'm an internalizer.  I perceived early in life that it was better safer to keep my thoughts to myself.  If you don't say anything, you are less likely to look foolish, dumb or (fill in the blank).  For someone with low self-confidence, it only takes a few times of getting mocked, questioned or berated for your thoughts before you learn to just keep them to yourself.  Others question you so you begin to question yourself.  I was the best of the best at keeping everything inside.  I would crawl into my little prison cell and slam the door shut behind me.  And good luck to the person that tried to drag me out.  I had no self-confidence, but I didn't want anyone to know it.  I had a lot of sin in my life and I certainly didn't want anyone to know it. (And I'm sure it was a "secret"...cough, cough)

Many years ago at the peak of battling so much sin in my life, something happened that planted a seed that would help me break free of this internalizing prison.  I went out to dinner with a church group.  There were probably 10 people at the table.  The leaders of our group ran into a couple they knew from out-of-town and invited them to eat with us.  As we sat around the table, the leaders and this couple caught up on each others' lives.  Some of the others in our group joined in on some of the conversation as well.  I barely said a word outside of introducing myself.  As we were leaving the restaurant, the man from out-of-town looked me square in the eyes and said, "You know a lot more than you share, don't you?"  I simply nodded my head, smiled and said, "Yes I do."  To most that was a generic was life changing for me.

I know in my "knower" that message was two-fold and it continues to ring in my head every time I try to crawl back into my "safe place".  The Lord had him plant that seed in me.  I'm certain that gentlemen does not remember me and I probably could not pick him out of a line up today.  However, his His words rested in my spirit.  I did know more than I was willing to share (in more ways than one).  Those words also told me that I was not as invisible as I felt.  At that time in my life, I was looking for love and a fulfillment in my spirit that only the Lord could give me. I had no self-confidence.  I was broken.  I was a cesspool of sin, yet my spirit was crying out for my Abba Father.

I thought internalization was my friend, but it was certainly poisoning me.  Internalizing everything is like keeping your refrigerator full of food.  All food has an expiration date.  If you don't open up the refrigerator and take the food out and use it to feed yourself or someone else, it simply begins to rot.  No matter how good or healthy that food was in the beginning, if it just sits in there for a long time it becomes stale, useless even poisonous.  It begins to pollute the refrigerator.  Maybe you put something in the 'frig that was bad in the first place.  It will never be healthy for you or someone else.  It immediately taints the other items in the refrigerator.  And just because you try to hide it and pretend it's not still still's still's still damaging the 'frig and everything in it.

Now I am certainly not saying I should share everything that is on my mind.  Heaven help us if I start sharing everything I think.  Some things are certainly better left unsaid.  At times, I struggle knowing what to say and what to internalize.  Times like these are better handled by the Holy Spirit.  I often ask Him to be the helmsman of my tongue.  If I will listen to Him, He shows me when to speak and when to be silent.  What freedom there is when you have the confidence of the Holy Spirit backing up your words or silence!