Wrestling with God for Life

{written for The Morning Center blog: https://www.morningcenter.org/blog/wrestling-god-life}

My five year old son, Jeremiah, has a new hobby: knights and castle play. We’ve been reading “The Story of King Arthur and his Knights.” The first book ends with the motto of the Round Table: “We, the Knights of the Round Table, will be gentle unto the weak, courageous unto the strong, and terrible unto the wicked. We shall defend the helpless, hold all women as sacred, be merciful to all men, and defend and support each other until the end.

I’ll admit, the phrase: “hold all women as sacred” really caught my eye!  That is something I truly want impressed upon Jeremiah’s heart, but even more so, the truth that all of life is sacred.

It almost goes without saying that the Christian community holds to the value of “sanctity of life” and yet, I fear, without much thought. As Jacob wrestled with God, and in the wrestling held on tightly to Him, I believe that in order for our conviction of “sanctity of life” to have real depth, tenacity, and outward effect in our lives, there needs to be a true wrestling in the heart of each follower of Jesus.

When is the last time you came away from prayer limping?

In his book “Adopted for Life”, Russel Moore discusses spiritual warfare and Planned Parenthood. He argues that Satanic powers “rage against the babies and children” who reflect the image of God. He quotes Proverbs 8:36: “All who hate me love death,” and goes on to say, “Satan always uses human passions to bring about his purposes. When new life stands in the way of power [or selfish ambition]… the blood of children often flows. Herod loved his power; so he raged against babies… It’s easy to shake our heads in disgust at Pharoah or Herod or Planned Parenthood. It’s not as easy to see the ways in which we ourselves often have a Pharoah-like view of children rather than a Christlike view. What God calls blessing, we often grumble at as a curse- for the same reason those old kings did, because they disrupt our life plans.”

Let us pray boldly and sincerely:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me. ~ Psalm 139:23-24a

My suspicion is that the painful, Jacob-style of wrestling with God is absent and a dull sense of complacency has taken root, in part, because we do not speak into each other’s lives with insight and truth. In a social media world where we are all hungry for the affirmation of the “like” we live in a people-pleasing culture.

You may not actually be sacrificing babies to Molech, but your heart has grown hard and cold to life in some arena. Where has your heart turned from desire? From beauty? From delight? Do you waste the glory of your life in numbing-dissociative addictions?  

The famous puritan John Owen wrote, in his book The Mortification of Sin, that a sincere fight against sin must be universal: “We must not be concerned only with that which troubles us, but with all that troubles God… If we will do anything, we must do everything. (2 Cor. 7:1) So then, our need is not only an intense opposition to this or that particular lust, but a universal humble frame and temper of heart that watches over every evil…” (The Mortification of Sin, John Owen and abridged by Richard Rushing).

The Sanctity of Life movement must have this same universal principle behind it. We must seek fullness of life in every corner of our own lives and world which we inhabit and seek to bring down all forces of death.

Dan Allender once said that we would have much more clarity if we take out the false sense of neutrality: If something is not love, then it is hate; if something is not life-giving and affirming, then it is of darkness and a herald of death.

The Serpent wooed Eve into an agreement with Evil as she assented to his lies. All the while she was completely unaware. Let us not think too highly of ourselves for we are not unlike Eve. Without any awareness we too have made agreements with the lies of Evil.

We need a jarring voice to awaken us and invite us into painful reflection.

May this question be a holy disruption in your life:

Have you broken your covenant (or agreement) with death?

Here is the jarring voice of Jesus: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” ~ Matthew 16:25

We need to renounce the empty ways in which we search for life that are truly Satan’s façade that will destroy.

For my people have committed two evils:

they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living waters,

and hewed out cisterns for themselves,

broken cisterns that can hold no water. ~ Jeremiah 2:13

Only through repentance can we turn to Jesus afresh and let him lead us to life-abundant.

Then you will hear the voice of Jesus inviting you to fight for life and embody His mission in the unique realm he has called you to:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor;[fn]

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” ~ Isaiah 61:1

 

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

Advertisements

Spiritual Warfare Prayer for Marriage

[from Spiritual Warfare Prayers by Mark I. Bubeck]

Loving Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your perfect plan for our marriage. I know that a marriage functioning in Your will is fulfilling and beautiful. I bring our marriage before You that You might make it all You desire it to be.

Please forgive me for my sins of failure in our marriage. [Specify and enlarge confession.] In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I tear down all of Satan’s strongholds designed to destroy our marriage. In His name, I break all negative relationships between us that have been established by Satan and his evil spirits. I will accept only the relationships established by You and the blessed Holy Spirit. I invite the Holy Spirit to enable me to relate to [Your spouse’s name] in a manner that will meet his/her needs.

I submit our conversations to You, that they may please You. I submit our physical relationship to You, that it may enjoy Your blessing. I submit our love to You, that you may cause it to grow and mature.

Open my eyes to see all areas where I am deceived. Open [Spouse’s name] to see any of Satan’s deceptions upon him/her. Make our union to be the Christ-centered relationship You have designed in Your perfect will. I ask this in Jesus’ name with thanksgiving. Amen.

And from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be.

{this article was published in The Morning Center Chronicle, November 2017. The Morning Center provides free, full-service maternity care to underserved women in the name of Jesus. ProWoman. ProHope. ProLife.}

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10

The Morning Center stands for life.

However, our journey in supporting The Morning Center did not begin with life. Our journey’s seed-bed was Death:  our daughter, Tirzah Catherine Knight, was born still and silent at 40 weeks, and into the arms of Jesus on August 20, 2014. It was the darkest night of our lives.

She was our every dream and prayer come true. We loved her beyond words. Holding her in my arms, and the soft touch of her cheek was a touch of heaven… for a moment. But heaven is real, and I will touch her again.

We are people of the Resurrection. This is our hope.

It is from this place that our journey with The Morning Center blossomed.

Tirzah is NOT dead; she IS alive. Her life matters. Though born still and silent she has a voice that speaks loudly and clearly a message of life.

Tirzah’s message and the Morning Center’s mission are one and the same: Life. Resurrection. Eternal Life.

This is why we choose The Morning Center to honor and celebrate Tirzah’s life each year on her birthday, and invite others to join us. On her first birthday, we hosted an online baby shower that raised over $6000. We also celebrated her 1st birthday with a party and collected baby gifts. It was a holy experience to unwrap the gifts: clothes and dresses were chosen and wrapped through the tears of those who love us.

The dresses, that would have been so beautiful for Tirzah, were meant to bless another baby. Holding these dresses was literally holding grief and joy together: hope beyond the sorrow.

This baby shower for The Morning Center was actually a battle-cry:  A fierce stand that as Evil rages on this earth, scheming to “kill, thieve and destroy”, Death does NOT have the last word. Life wins!

In the battle against Evil and against Death, The Morning Center and all who work through the ministry are warriors fighting for life!

We joined forces with the Morning Center, because Jesus has conquered sin, Evil and death!

We stand on hope in the Resurrection. I repeat: Life wins!!

We love the Morning Center and are proud to join the war on their behalf because they have dual weaponry against the Enemy that is rare in Christian ministry: Sharing the Gospel in deed AND in Word.

The Morning Center enables women to carry and delivery their babies with excellent medical care. At the same time, their mission is sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the fullness of truth with love. I have been so blessed to join with The Morning Center through prayer and see their work overflowing in Bible study ministry to fathers and refugees in the community.

As we grieve our daughter here on earth, it has given us joy and peace in believing that the purpose of Tirzah’s life was for the grace of Jesus to spread (John 9:3). We see that promise fulfilled through The Morning Center, as her life has inspired us to take part in the gift of life to babies, mothers, fathers… and truly an entire community.

https://www.morningcenter.org/

 

 

 

Fight on Your Knees

John Eldredge has a “daily prayer” on his Ransomed Heart website that I *highly* recommend.

https://www.ransomedheart.com/prayer/daily-prayer

This is my favorite section:

Dearest God, holy and victorious Trinity, you alone are worthy of all my worship, my heart’s devotion, all my praise, all my trust, and all the glory of my life. I love you, I worship you, I give myself over to you in my heart’s search for life. You alone are Life, and you have become my life. I renounce all other gods, every idol, and I give to you, God, the place in my heart and in my life that you truly deserve. This is all about you, and not about me. You are the Hero of this story, and I belong to you. I ask your forgiveness for my every sin. Search me, know me, and reveal to me where you are working in my life, and grant to me the grace of your healing and deliverance and a deep and true repentance.

I usually start by repeating the written prayer out loud and pause often to interrupt with my own thoughts, pleas, and praises to the Lord. I love this as a guide because it is *filled* with Scripture and radically focused on truth. It focuses my mind and heart on what is true about God and what is true about myself. In this way the entire prayer IS spiritual warfare: fighting against the lies and accusations that Evil uses to plant unbelief in my heart and mind.

I love that it guides me in repentance every single morning. Repentance is the only way to have more of Jesus. If you desire to be near to him, to hear his voice, to feel his presence and love, it will only come through the brokenness and humility of repentance.

I ask your forgiveness for my every sin. Search me, know me, and reveal to me where you are working in my life, and grant to me the grace of your healing and deliverance and a deep and true repentance.

Let us be a people who love repentance… this is a battle that we must fight on our knees.

Is your life characterized by a love of repentance?

Is your church a community of people who love repentance?

Acts 11:18- “… God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Psalm 51:17- My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Isaiah 66:2- “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”

 

 

Story: Hope for a Hurting Marriage

Guest post: A story of true love and redemption:

Once upon a time, there was a young couple who fell in love.

They laughed. They had fun. They talked until the early hours of the morning about everything and nothing at the same time. They were different from each other in so many ways but they appreciated these differences. They basked in the beauty of new, young love and the possibility of their lives together. They both knew from the start that they had a future together. Within a year’s time got engaged and married the following year.

Within the first year of marriage reality set in and felt like a huge cloud looming. Not quite sure how this whole marriage thing worked, the young couple tried and tried at communicating and working together, yet they couldn’t quite get it right.

The foundation of their marriage wasn’t built very strong and they the felt the weight bearing on their marriage as the structure began to crack.

Pretty soon the young couple found out they were pregnant! Joy and happiness (and fear of course! ) of being parents now became the focus of this young couple.

Yet as the months ticked by, the arguments, stubbornness, harshness, bitterness and walls against each other kept building and building and the weight came crushing down a little more onto their home.

They tried getting help. They Learned new tricks and tips on how to work with each other better, leaned on friends who had been married longer and had good marriages.

Sigh. They pressed forward.

Pretty soon Baby Girl was born and she was such a beauty. Her peacefulness and joy radiated their home with warmth and laughter. She was truly a beautiful gift from God to this young family.

However, as the years went by their marriage kept sinking.  More walls were built. More arguing with no resolution. More sadness and loneliness began to fill the hearts of these parents.

The realization that the foundation of their home and marriage was crumbling was weighing on their hearts and minds. Coming to the end of their rope, they reached out to the Church, not knowing what else to do. Neither husband or wife wanted to give up, yet neither knew what else to do to fix the damage done. They started pealing back the layers of hurt and pain as they tried to move forward.

They pressed on, not sure if repair was possible.

Falling and getting back up. Falling again and picked up again by loved ones.

Finally, breakthrough came when this husband and wife started to surrender it all- hands up to Jesus.

When couples get married 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is often quoted:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

What does this really look like? How am I supposed to be patient when {fill in the blank}? How am I supposed to be kind when {fill in the blank}? How am I not supposed to keep record of wrongs when {fill in the blank}?

This couple lived apart for over a year. Through this time, the couple continued placing one foot in front of the other; looking forward and trusting that the Lord would lead them. They slowly kept climbing further up and out of the dark pit that had engulfed their marriage for so many years.

A change had begun. Head knowledge was becoming heart transformation. They were learning to trust each other, to work together, to give grace and find acceptance with each other. They were finding peace in their home. They did not always get it right but they kept pressing forward.

One day, the young wife looked up and felt the sun shining on her face.

 As tears streamed down her cheeks, she realized that they were no longer in the dark cycle of falling.

She realized with a grateful heart that the amount of peace and joy in their home was more then they had ever had in the 10 years of their marriage. God had walked with them through the hardest and darkest parts of their life and brought them to a new season.

Some say that marriage gets better with time, but for this couple, marriage got better by surrendering to the Lord and choosing to lay down their own agenda for the sake of the other.

Sometimes the thing worked hardest for is the sweetest in the end.

We are forever grateful to those who walked through the darkest time in our marriage with us. You spent time talking with us, praying for us, crying with us, counseling us and picking us up when we were down.  Our marriage was marked by your love and support. I can’t say we would have the same ending to this story without you and God working through you. We are forever grateful for you.

I am so happy to say “Happy 10th Anniversary” to you, Brian. Although this journey has had hardship and many painful moments, I have learned to love you more today then I could have known when we first said “I do.” Looking back, I would choose you again. I love you and can’t wait to see where our journey leads from here.

All my love,
Sarah

The Morning Watch

For my first post on prayer, I want to make a simple entreaty: Let us drop the term “Quiet Time.

Doesn’t “quiet time” sound very … soft? A bit too dispensable?

Think this through with me: what images and connotations does “quiet time” conjure up in your mind? Slippers? Coffee? A plush cushy chair?

No wonder we drop it when other things feel more pressing. Morning “quiet time” sounds and feels like a luxury… when we have time. The language we use matters; our choice of words informs our attitudes and actions.

Can you imagine Jesus or the Apostle Paul having “quiet time”? It’s a bit ludicrous, right? Really to the point of being offensive.

My suggestion is that we replace “quiet time” with “The Morning Watch.”

The Morning Watch” brings in the idea of spiritual warfare. This is TRUE prayer. And this is a necessity. We DO have an Enemy. And he is prowling, watching and looking for whom he can devour. We ARE in a war… or we’ve been taken captive.

Are you living in defeat? Anxiety? Addiction? Escaping and numbing? How is your marriage? Are you experiencing “abundant life” and “freedom” that Jesus came to bring?

Perhaps you’ve gone AWOL.

“Prayer is a wartime walkie – talkie for spiritual and missional warfare; Not a domestic intercom to increase the comfort of the saints. And one of the reasons prayer malfunctions in the hands of so many Christian soldiers, is that they have gone AWOL.” ~ John Piper

Are you dressed for war?

Do you have a sword? How sharp? How skilled?

“If you can’t run with horsemen, how can you run with horses?” ( paraphrase Jeremiah 12:5)

“You CAN get better.” ~ Dan Allender

Let’s do it together. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. ~ Proverbs 27:17

 

Community Story: A Letter to a Sister on her Birthday

Dear Serena,

When my dear friend Catherine invited me to write you, I was struck with a combination of happiness that someone still wanted to know about you and also feeling afraid of what it would look like to make time to sit with the knowledge that you are not here.

On most days I let every day tasks overwhelm the opportunities to remember you. Although you died almost nine years ago, there are moments that the mere statement: “my sister has died,” will bring me to tears. Perhaps I haven’t mourned fully or perhaps the impact you have left on me is so deep and lasting that it will take a lifetime to enter.

Every so often there are reminders so obvious that no amount of noise can drown out the reality.  When I listen to a friend complain about his siblings I feel envious that he has someone to complain about. When I realize that you have never met my dog Keiko (she is laying on me right now) I think about how much you would enjoy her. When I realize that I am alone teasing Mooma there is a sharp pang. There are countless moments where I look longingly at my phone and wish I could share a witty thought, seek comfort from you or just talk about nothing important, thoughts that only a sister would really understand.

Today is your birthday. You would have been 28 today.

I loved your birthdays. Mostly I loved finding the perfect gift and listening to the “wow” factor in your voice when you opened it. I loved being able to surprise you. Choosing a gift is a combination of knowing someone deeply and keeping an eye out for an opportunity. I used to pride myself in finding the “ah-ha presents”. I haven’t enjoyed giving gifts the same way since your passing.

I tell people that much of who I am is because I was your older sister. You were my favorite person and the person I trusted the most. The hardships of life were much more bearable because we were together and because I had someone to laugh with. Much of our childhood consisted of me running forward, seeing what was to come and guiding you through it. You came to me to learn how to use makeup, how to shave, how to deal with mom and dad, homework, friends. I was older, wiser and had faced the issues before you and I loved being able to teach you what I knew.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles, so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  Throughout the past nine years, I’ve gradually allowed the Lord to enter in to the places of loneliness. I sense Him holding me as I ask Him, “Why?” Why He would take away the person that was supposed to be there for my whole life- even after our parents died and if I never get married and have children?  I have felt Him telling me: “You will need to wait. This time Serena will have more experience and will teach you.”

Here I am, Serena, waiting to join you in Eternity. While I wait on earth, my prayer is that the pain of your passing would gradually open my heart to be able to accept comfort from the Lord, so that I can in turn, comfort others in their pain and sorrow.

I love you and I miss you.

Your big sister,

Larissa

IMG_8571.jpg