by olivia Caldwell
Hey, when you pray, do you believe that God hears?
Do you believe that He answers?
There was a time several months ago that I was sitting in a conference and before it began, our Pastor prayed over us, and over the weekend. He asked that the Lord would remove anything that would distract or hinder us during our time together and, up until that moment, I had been dealing with a pounding headache. It had been a crazy day and it was like the stress of everything had just compounded in my head.
So, I'm sitting in my seat at that highly-anticipated conference and I'm a little worried that I won't be able to concentrate through the throbbing of my head. And then my Pastor prayed. And my headache immediately subsided.
And look, that was amazing and wonderful and so kind of the Lord. Honestly, it blessed me, and then our time in the Word that weekend blessed me even more. But that moment really changed the way that I think about prayer.
I thought about my pastor, who wouldn't know that the Lord answered his prayer unless I told him, and I thought about times that I have prayed and wondered, 'What do I think happens when I pray? Do I actually believe that when I pray, the Lord answers me?'
I mean...I do. I do believe! A lot of the time, God actually reminds me of past prayers or illuminates when He has worked in my life and in my heart and in the lives of others and answered my earnest prayers. But I began to be concerned about my heart and my posture regarding prayer and regarding God Himself.
What is my posture in prayer? What do I believe happens when I humbly and yet boldly bow before the throne of God? And when I open my eyes and stand to go about my day, are my eyes really open to looking for how God may already be moving and working? Is it His promises I am standing on? Do I truly believe that He has heard me and will work things out for my good, according to His will and purpose?
There is a story in Acts 12 that increases my conviction when it comes to prayer.
Herod has killed James, brother of John, and arrested Peter. Peter is in prison, guarded by four squads of soldiers, and Herod's intention is to bring him out before the people after the Passover.
"So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church." Acts 12:5
So, at Mary's place, there were many gathered together, praying. No doubt these followers were praying fervently for Peter, especially after the devastating loss of James by the sword.
I think it's safe to say they did not anticipate what happened next.
"Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” Acts 12:6-11
Peter heads to the house of Mary, where everyone is praying and knocks at the door. A servant named Rhoda came to answer and she recognized Peter's voice! And "...in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate." (v14)
As many were praying, their meeting was interrupted by a servant girl who was so overwhelmed with joy over the miraculous answer to their prayer that homegirl didn't even let Peter in!
And their response?
"You are out of your mind."
I kind of wish you could see my face right now. I'm envisioning this scene and thinking, "I'm sorry, what? Out of her mind? What exactly were you praying for?"
Really, what were they praying for? What were they expecting? Probably not for Peter to show up at their door right then and there, to be fair, but was it so hard to believe a breathless and exhilarated servant girl carrying news that their prayers had been answered? Was what she said too outrageous and good to believe?!
Instead of going to see for themselves, they kept saying, "It is his angel!" when Rhoda insisted and insisted. I wonder if it would have been more believable for them to hear news of Peter's demise instead of his rescue and deliverance from the violent hands of Herod.
Why pray, then?
Rhoda kept insisting and Peter kept knocking. They finally opened the door and were amazed when they saw him standing before them!
"Christians are often overwhelmed and astonished when even their own petitions are granted, and when God manifests his own power in his own way and time. Prayer should be persevered in, and we should place ourselves in a waiting posture to catch the first indications that God has heard us." (Barnes' Notes on the Bible)
Oh, sisters, may we be found in a waiting posture to catch the first indications that God has heard us! May that be our posture! May we be like Rhoda, not swayed by unbelief, but instead persistent in the face of it!
I'm a bit tempted to insert some sort of caveat here, but honestly? I think we have enough of those. I think we should keep this story fresh in our minds and do our best to enter into prayer with a posture that honors the Lord and says, 'I believe You. I believe You are mighty and that you can do mighty deeds by Your mighty arm. I believe You are God Almighty. I believe in You!'
And then, we need to wait expectantly.
God, make us like Rhodas rising up in the midst of an unbelieving generation. Make us persistent and insistent upon Your Word and Your character and Your might and Your works! Make us women who beckon those around us to come and see what You have done. Give us a posture of prayer that honors You. And God, give us eyes to see how You are answering our earnest prayer unto You.
In Jesus' name we pray! Amen!
Miriam, the prophetess:
"Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea."
"..Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?"
Miriam, the prophetess, tambourine in hand, leading the women in song and dance out of Egyptian captivity.
And Miriam, with brother Aaron, speaking against brother Moses, whose pitch-daubed basket she once watched through reeds in the Nile.
"And the LORD heard it."
A family meeting, called by the LORD Himself:
""Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.""
A pillar of cloud and a Father's firm:
God, Mighty Defender:
"Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"
The LORD's cloud lifted and Miriam's face white as snow
Once lit up with joy as she danced forward in freedom
Walking on dry ground in the midst of the Red Sea
As the LORD brought the waters back
Shattering her enemies with His mighty hand
Standing before the tent of meeting shrouded by cloud
And her face revealed
The devastation and gravity of her sin
Now brothers united
Grieving and pleading for their sister
Shattered by sin
Please heal her-
Separated in her sin,
Examined by Aaron the priest,
And not left behind,
Brought back in.
Blessing our God and Father
And cursing our brother
Made in the likeness of God
With the same mouth.
Hearts crusted over with leprosy,
Dancing with death,
Drained of lifeblood
And infected with
Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.
The Greater Moses,
Not only interceding for us,
But giving His very life
And spilling His blood for us
So we are not cast out.
We are not left behind.
Our Great High Priest,
Declaring us clean
And our sin,
Though once as scarlet,
Now white as snow.
And this Jesus,
And every vile practice,
Even the most hopeless,
Irreconcilable of circumstances,
From the unlikeliest of circumstances,
Like taking what was meant for evil
And turning it for good
And just like Jesus
May carry out
His ministry of reconciliation.
Miriam, Numbers 12
WRITTEN BY: Olivia Caldwell
Hey, so, do y'all remember that part in Exodus where the Lord sought to put Moses to death and then Moses' wife, Zipporah, circumcises their son and touches Moses' feet with her son's foreskin?
To be fair, all of this takes up just three verses sandwiched between the Lord commissioning Moses and Moses gathering with his brother, Aaron, and the elders of the people of Israel just before confronting Pharaoh and delivering the Israelites. Take a look:
"And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”
At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.
The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped." Exodus 4:21-31
See what I mean? What are we supposed to do with this?
Okay, first, let's remember that God called Moses. God heard His people and intended to deliver them. God gave Moses promises concerning this weighty call:
"When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”"
God called Moses by name and promised not only the Israelites' deliverance, but also His presence with Moses and a sign unto him - "...when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." So, did the Lord really intend to put Moses to death?
There's a lot about these three verses that are not straightforward and even invite some speculation, but I do think that we can look at the text and also Scripture as a whole and see that, a) the Lord's promises are true, and b) if He really did seek to put Moses to death, He absolutely could have, but He ultimately did not. So why is this included, then?
I believe we see here the importance of obedience unto the Lord. For some reason, Moses' son was not circumcised. We see in Genesis 17 that God commands circumcision as a sign of the covenant between Abraham and God. "So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant." (17:13b) I believe we can conclude with some certainty that Moses himself was circumcised (Pharaoh's daughter did immediately recognize Moses as one of the Hebrews' children) and yet his son was not. How could Moses answer the call of the Lord to deliver the people of Israel from slavery and oppression if he was not obedient to the Lord's command? How could he move into the promise of God if he was neglecting the covenant of God?
Matthew Henry's commentary says this, "Omissions are sins, and must come into judgment, and particularly the contempt and neglect of the seals of the covenant; for it is a sign that we undervalue the promises of the covenant, and are displeased with the conditions of it."
Whoa. Okay. Let's talk about Zipporah now.
For whatever reason, their son was not circumcised. And yet, when this event happens, Zipporah somehow knows exactly what to do.
And she does it.
All speculation of her part in this ommissive disobedience aside (as she was a Midianite), she, at the very least, knew of the call Moses had received from the Lord Himself and had left her home behind in order to set out for Egypt. And when faced with the conviction and judgment of the Lord, she immediately obeys. She knows - and she goes. Whatever reservations she may have had before, any mindset or notion - gone, in the presence of the Lord.
Listen, dear sister: we have to know that our obedience is of utmost importance. There are going to be times in our lives when the Lord has set something before us and we need to be obedient. That may look like stepping forward in obedience into a calling, yes, but we also must be faithful to listen and to obey quickly, when the Lord confronts us by His Word and by His Spirit. When conviction stirs in your heart and sears your conscience, do not delay! Do you not know what God has promised and the fullness of life that lies before you?
Zipporah may not inspire us to radical obedience in the same way that, say, Miriam or the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1 may, but in her swift obedience on the precipice of the call and subsequent promise of the Lord, she provokes an immediate obedience, full of a great fear of the Lord.
May we remember Zipporah and today, even, invite the Lord in to cleanse our hearts, transform our minds and invite us into even greater obedience. May we step right into the promises of God over our lives, fully trusting in His Word, His character and His ways. May we remember such a seemingly small step of obedience that was of the utmost importance before the Lord God Almighty and that led to the deliverance of a nation and the securing of freedom for generations thereafter. That is how very big our obedience is.
May we have fresh eyes to see!
Have you ever had moments in your life where it seemed as if the Lord stepped in to do a little course correction? Like, maybe things were good.
And then things start happening. Rather abruptly sometimes, right? Like big, “OH, this is really happening” things or subtle “I can’t quite place my finger on it but things seem different” sort of things.
Either way, you may begin to notice as the Holy Spirit brings your attention to these things and even the subtler things feel magnanimous when the Lord is turning your attention toward them.
And so, on the cusp of something new, something at the very least, in part, unknown, our status quo comes under scrutiny. Maybe there are some parts of your life, some habits or lack thereof, that you began to be convicted of- but you’ve just seemed to lack the determination to do much about it. That’s the worst, isn’t it? Knowing the thing you ought to do and yet not doing it?
That’s sin, by the way. (And you know, maybe that’s just me, since I’m realizing I journaled a prayer for myself from James 4:17 earlier this week and now whoomp, there it is.)
Okay, okay, the point is- there is something in our lives that needs to change. Something cannot stay, something needs to go or something needs to be done. And it’s right in our faces now.
What are we going to do about it?
Because we can’t ignore it anymore. No. Those rumblings have grown louder and louder, to the point where we can hardly hear anything above the noise. It’s like something’s about to fall and maybe that something ought to be us, right to our knees.
“Lord, I know I am not living in the fullness of life that you have promised me because of this thing in my life. God, it is hard for me to imagine scrapping this and living a completely different way, but I want YOUR way. I want YOUR will. I want my desires to be YOUR desires and I want my utmost desire to be YOU.
So right here on the floor, I yield to you. I ask that you give me the strength to turn, to flee, and to instead follow you where I have not followed you before. To invite you into the places of my life where I have gone my own way. To allow you to transform the parts of me I have not yet submitted to you.
Your will, God. Not mine.”
Truth is, this life is too much for us to handle on our own, try as we might. The stakes are much too high. God has prepared good, good works for us. We cannot afford to stand in the way because of fear or discomfort or complacency.
The greatest thing we could ever do with these disruptions (to our status quo) would be to recognize, acknowledge, repent and allow the Lord to reorient us.
He knows where we’re going, friend, and so, often, this orientation enables us to not only get there, but to get there well. With excellence.
Tonight, I felt the enormity of the call on my life. And it felt heavy but not like a burden. Just weighty. And I sobbed. For a lot of reasons.
For the time I have wasted because I have missed what great importance being faithful in the small things holds.
For the absolute honor and privilege it is to get to take part in the good work that God has prepared for me, for His Kingdom and His glory.
For all of the things I settled for and believed were better than the Lord Himself because I sought to satisfy my flesh rather than walking by the Spirit.
I know, though, that faced with this merciful reorientation by the Spirit of the Lord, there is a “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” that will happen if we will only surrender.
He strengthens us so that we may throw off all that hinders and the sin that ensnares us- so that we can run the race set before us.
So now we’ve got our bearings. He’s set us on our marks and we can see more clearly the direction we are heading.
Written by: Olivia Caldwell
Photo by Emma Simpson. https://unsplash.com/photos/mNGaaLeWEp0?unsplash.com/photos/mNGaaLeWEp0?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content =creditShareLinkutm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLinkn
Today my younger daughter and I were riding down the road when she said to me, “Mom, God is in the future.”
I was caught off guard, as I often am when my 5 year old interjects her musings into conversations about her latest creations and her backyard adventures and constant cravings for Mac-n-cheese. But as I thought about what she said, something the Lord has brought to my attention many times lately came to mind.
I began to talk to her about how amazing it is that God holds our future and so- He’s already gone before us. And if He’s already gone before us, doesn’t that mean that He knows what lies before us? Doesn’t that mean that He knows just what we need right now for then?
Have you ever been in a season of waiting? Has it ever felt.. well, weird, for lack of a better word? I mean, have you ever felt a bit bewildered by it?
Maybe you felt confident in the path you were on, confident in what the Lord was calling you to. Maybe you even anticipated how He would move in something you’ve been praying and praying over, earnestly and fervently, certain that you would see His hand move as only He could.
My goodness, even in the shaking and sifting and pressing and persevering, you were expectant. I mean, just- gaze set forward, standing firm in the Lord, fully vigilant at your post. Always praying, surrendering and searching, trusting Jesus as you followed Him.
And then.. Jesus, did I miss something? Did I wander off? Take a wrong turn?
It’s sort of starting to feel a bit like I’m wandering in the desert. I’m seeking after You, I want to follow you, but I even feel kind of aimless.
Doubt is beginning to cloud my vision, slowly creeping in and crowding out where that wide-eyed anticipation once was.
Maybe then the whispers come:
Did I hear Him right?
Did He really say?
Did I do something wrong?
Did He change His mind?
It’s tempting to head down these rabbit trails, unraveling and sometimes flat out spiraling.
But beloved- God is in the future!
He was with you in the beginning and He is with you now as you plod along and He is before you, holding your future in His hands. He knew what your journey would look like and He even knew that you would have moments like this.
Isn’t there purpose in this?
Is any of this wasted?
Yes. Great purpose.
And no. Not one bit.
So then- throw off doubt. Let the Lord renew your strength. Let Him renew your vision. Let Him renew your resolve and gracious, girl, let Him light a fire under your expectancy.
There is good for you here and there is gold for you here. This right here is a gift from the Lord, exactly what you need for where you’re going.
God is in the future. Keep going.
Written by: Olivia Caldwell
Last night, we had dinner with a family from our church. It was so lovely to share a meal around our 9-foot-long table and to hear our kids running around together downstairs as we talked and got to know one another a little more.
We shared about our kids, our interests, how we met our spouses and how long we had been a part of our church and how we came to be there. We landed on the subject of our church several times throughout the night, almost as if this common thread was woven throughout our varied topics of conversation.
As our friends described some things about our church body that they love, and as we agreed, I remembered a time a few years ago when I prayed for this exact thing. I remember reading through a book with a group of friends and reading the most beautiful descriptions of the church operating as laid out in Scripture: just as the body of Christ.
And don’t get me wrong: my experience with the church up until that point had been wonderful. I adored ‘doing life’ with and serving alongside brothers and sisters. But I began to read illustrations of how this particular author’s church operated alongside countless Scriptures outlining how the body of Christ is to operate and I honestly was overwhelmed. I wondered over what that would look like, what it would be like to be a part of that church, operating in the giftings given to me and surrounded by my brothers and sisters doing the very same thing: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:7
I began to pray for that, for the Lord to show me what that could look like. And sitting around the table last night, talking about our beloved church, I almost had fresh eyes to see the gift that is my local church. We were led to our church mere months after this praying and dreaming and our church family has been the most delightful gift.
It’s funny, though, because as I’m sitting here at the same long table with a cup of coffee and reflecting, the Holy Spirit reminded me of just why my heart longed for this so much in that particular season. I was honestly in such a refining season, walking through hardship and suffering and a purification that I had prayed for but didn’t realize would come in the form it did.
I was real tender and surrounded by people I loved dearly who were serving the Lord through all sorts of roles and avenues and.. I felt like I didn’t have a place. I felt like I didn’t belong and that I didn’t have anything to offer up. There was one particular night that I felt actually sidelined as my people were celebrated for their roles and giftings. I tried desperately to hold back the tears that pricked my eyes and immediately felt great shame and guilt. I didn’t want to be feeling this way! I loved seeing how the Lord was working in my friends’ lives. I wanted to wholeheartedly celebrate, too, but at the same time I lamented, “What about me?”
My sweet friend, who loved me well through this difficult season and who didn’t know exactly how my heart was aching then, sent me this passage from 1 Corinthians 12:12-26:
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
As I suffered, these people suffered along with me. As they were honored, I was to rejoice along with them. And as I sat off to the side, wounded and bemoaning my inadequacies and almost completely believing the lie that I didn’t belong, my heart needed this truth: I was not any less a part of the body of Christ. Not one bit.
This is such a marvelous design. “God has so composed the body.” No division, all members having the same care for one another. The many parts of the body having specific and unique purposes, indispensable and making up one body, Christ as the head.
It’s such a beautiful thing, to have walked with the Lord through this difficult season, almost just right into an opportunity to live this out in my everyday life. It gives me such an appreciation for the Lord’s design for His church and for the church itself. It makes me want to take commands regarding the church seriously. I want to nurture His church in this way:
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another.” Romans 12:10
Friend, I don’t know if you can resonate with any part of what I’ve shared here today, but I pray that you let this passage of Scripture sink down deep into your heart and soul today. The way God has created His church to function leaves no room for exclusion, division, feelings of inadequacy, resentment or selfishness, even. No, we belong to and are called to nurture the body, operating as one under Christ. We are called to lay down our lives just as Christ did.
So Lord, would you open our eyes to areas of our hearts that we may, even unknowingly, carry bitterness or resentment? And would you then purify our hearts and awaken us to the design of your church, that you yourself intentionally composed? We want to obey your commands regarding your church wholeheartedly, delightedly even. We want to strive for the sort of love that undeniably presents us to the world as yours. I pray, Holy Spirit, that you would reveal to us the gifts and talents that you have given us and that you would teach us how to use them for the building up of your church and for your glory, God. Amen.
Written by: Olivia Caldwell
Last week I set out to read the books of 1 & 2 Kings. I’ve been meaning to read them for some time now and so I began to basically devour 1 Kings..
And then I read 1 Kings 13.
I was reading before bed one night and, truth be told, I had to start reading what was unfolding aloud to my husband because at one point I went, “Oh, dang!” And I guess maybe it’s a little out of the ordinary to audibly comment on Bible reading that way? It's safe to say his interest was piqued.
So in 1 Kings 13, a man of God is sent by the word of the Lord to confront Jeroboam at the altar he set up. He plotted to keep Israel from offering sacrifices in the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem and ultimately from returning to King Rehoboam of Judah. He made two golden calves for the people, saying, “..Israel, here are your gods who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” (1 Kings 12:28b)
“This led to sin..” (1 Kings 12:30a)
He also made shrines on the high places, made a festival for the Israelites, offered sacrifices on the altar and burned incense. I mean, just WOW. This paired with what I had read about him the day before had me feeling some kind of way.
The man of God arrives and proclaims what the Lord commanded and then: “He gave a sign that day. He said, “This is the sign that the LORD has spoken: ‘The altar will now be ripped apart, and the ashes that are on it will be poured out.’” (13:3)
Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, crying out, “Arrest him!” and his hand withered and the altar was indeed ripped apart, ashes pouring from the altar, just as the man of God had said.
So Jeroboam pleaded for the man of God to pray for him so that his hand would be restored- and he did. His hand was restored to him right then and there. And then.. This is where I (very immaturely) basically cried out, “BURN!”
Jeroboam insisted that the man of God come home with him to refresh himself and receive a reward. And this man of God replies, “If you were to give me half your house, I still wouldn’t go with you, and I wouldn’t eat food or drink water in this place, for this is what I was commanded by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat food or drink water or go back the way you came.’” (13:8-9)
Juvenile comments aside (ahem), check his statement. His steadfast resolve to what the Lord had said to him. No, no, NOT EVEN IF YOU... Because the LORD SAID.
The rest of the story, however, is quite sobering. It’s why my reading in this book has halted because I just keep reading this over and over again and pondering over it.
An old prophet was informed by his sons all that the man of God had done that day and they also told their father what the man of God had spoken to the king. He saddles up his donkey, follows the man of God, and says to him, “Come home with me and eat some food.”
The man of God repeats to the old prophet what the Lord had commanded him: I cannot.. I will not.. “For a message came to me by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat food or drink water there or go back by the way you came.’”
The old prophet responds by saying, “I am also a prophet like you.” (13:18) and tells the man of God that an ANGEL spoke to him, telling him by the word of the Lord to bring him back to his home for food and water.
“The old prophet deceived him, and the man of God went back with him, ate food in his house, and drank water.” (13:18b-19)
Basically, back at the old prophet’s place, the word of the Lord actually does come to this deceiving prophet this time, and he cries out the judgment to come to the man of God: “but you went back and ate food and drank water in the place that he said to you, “Do not eat food and do not drink water”- your corpse will never reach the grave of your ancestors.’”
And then when the man of God left, a lion attacked him and killed him.
Like, my mind is just reeling as I read this. There’s so much more to this story and there’s a lot to unpack. But mainly I’m thinking, this man of God (man of God!) came and boldly opposed Jeroboam’s wickedness, he at first stood firm when it came to what the Lord commanded- and then he was DECEIVED! That old prophet sought him out, having known what the man had told the king Jeroboam, and LIED to him! What is happening here?!
And I mean, I guess in a way I’m kind of defending his disobedience right now. Ouch.
This is really hard. So hard. But what it comes down to is: this man of God deviated from the last thing God had told him to do.
This is so sobering to me because I look around at everything happening around us right now, at all of the voices and the chatter and the noise. And I’m trying to call to mind what it was that the Lord last called me to do. And I’m like, how easy could it be for me to get off track? To stray a little? To be deceived?
Will I trust in what God said or will I allow doubt to creep in? Based on what I see in the physical, my circumstances, my tarrying to obedience.. Anything?
Will I trust in what God said TO ME or will I begin to believe the voices that may come at me? Will I stand firm or will I waver because it sounds good? Because it sounds legit? Even though it is not right simply because it’s not what GOD SAID? TO ME?
Will I take the time to seek the Lord’s will? Will I remain in Him, walking in step with His Spirit so that His will remains at the forefront of my mind?
I just have felt like this is so significant. My hubby even brought this story up again today and said he felt like it was no coincidence that I landed there this week.
I don’t want to lose sight of what God has asked of me. I want to remain in a holy fear of the Lord that keeps me ever before Him, abiding in Him, hearing His voice and remaining resolute, never wavering or compromising. Never straying even a BIT from what He has said.
Listen, I’m no scholar and I make dumb commentary sometimes. And I’m still wrestling with and pouring over and praying about all of the details of this passage of Scripture. But for today, we have GOT to take this to heart: keep in mind what the Lord has said and stand boldly, defiantly, against anything else.
Do not doubt, church. Do not let unbelief creep in. Remain in His Word; trust in what He has said. Our God is holy; He cannot lie. Every word He has said is true.
Anything else, anything less? Flee from it.
Praying for you, sister, as you refuse to budge or compromise on what God has called you to. Holy Spirit will guide you and keep you. I hope you have a chance to dive into the full story here and I pray that you see God for who He is: holy, loving and full of kindness and mercy. Love you!
Written by: Olivia Caldwell
In true Olivia fashion, I am staying up late to finish an article I’ve BEEN KNOWN was due. It’s been in the back of my mind..familiarity and intimacy rolling around in my mind here and there. I’ve read the wisdom of my sisters here thus far this month and gleaned great insight from them on this topic. I just didn’t really seem to have a direction in mind yet..
I didn’t know what I would be lead to write on as it pertains to familiarity//intimacy and I maybe could’ve guessed it would come as I swept the floor of my kitchen (literally sweep my floors all day long and mostly love it because I hear the Lord so clearly during this monotonous chore) but I’ve gotta say that the Scripture that popped into my mind while sweeping the other afternoon seemed a bit out there.
I mean, imagine just going about your business, cleaning up your kitchen for about the 73rd time that day, and all of a sudden you think to yourself: “..holding to the form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5)
Well, the good news is: that certainly didn’t come from me. The bad news? I’m procrastinating, praying: Lord, how can I possibly tackle this scripture well?!
More good news, though: I think the ‘How’ here is the key.
So this somewhat stunning description in 2 Timothy 3 sums up a rather long line of characteristics of people that will be plentiful in the hard times to come:
Lovers of self
Lovers of money
Disobedient to parents
Without love for what is good
Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
These traits all seem to be quite antithetical to those of the fruit of the Spirit and in fact seem to resemble the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:19-21.
And look at this parallel between the two passages here:
“The works of the flesh are obvious..” Gal 5:19a
“..their foolishness will be clear to all..” 2 Tim 3:9
And all of these descriptors in 2 Timothy 3 are wrapped up with that kind of haunting characteristic: “holding to the form of godliness but denying its power.”
So- in order to avoid this and to avoid “resisting the truth”, being “corrupt in mind and worthless in regard to the faith” 2 Tim 3:8b (btw-ouch!) is it that we must remain in intimacy with the Holy Spirit?
There’s this book written by Michael Reeves that I cannot recommend enough, titled Delighting in the Trinity. I kind of wish I could copy/paste the whole chapter on the Holy Spirit and call it a day here because this man’s writing is so intellectual and yet dripping with an awe-inspiring beauty- but I will restrain myself and instead begin with this excerpt:
“What we love and enjoy is foundationally important. It is far more significant than our outward behavior, for it is our desires that drive our behavior. We do what we want. The Father, Son and Spirit love and enjoy each other and, created in their image, we were made to love and enjoy them. Blindly and foolishly, though, we have all turned to love and enjoy other things- things that in reality are completely unable to satisfy. But the Spirit’s first work is to set our desires in order, to open our eyes and give us the Father’s own relish for the Son, and the Son’s own enjoyment of the Father.”
Okay, okay, one more:
“The Spirit of the Father and the Son would never be interested in merely empowering us to “do good”. His desire (which is the desire of the Father and the Son) is to bring us to such a hearty enjoyment of God through Christ that we delight to know him, that we delight in all his ways, and that therefore we want to do as he wants and we hate the thought of ever grieving him.”
Okay, so just now I realized I missed a word in that last quotation and assumed I meant to type that the Spirit’s desire is to bring us to a hearty knowledge of God through Christ. But nope, it was enjoyment. Enjoyment!
The Spirit enables us to enjoy God through Jesus and He enables us to delight in the Lord! To delight in the Lord, to truly desire Him above all and to delight in following Him, obeying Him, in order that we may please Him and not grieve Him.
And so if we are enjoying intimacy with the Holy Spirit, who is actually enabling us to share the enjoyment the Father has in the Son and the delight the Son has in the Father, wouldn’t it remain that we will end up looking nothing like that long list above from 2 Timothy 3?
Wouldn’t it mean that we walk less and less in the flesh and we bear more and more fruit of the Spirit?
And wouldn’t all of that mean that, remaining in that gift of intimacy with the Holy Spirit, there is no way we would end up having a mere appearance of godliness?! Because we wouldn’t actually be denying the power of the Spirit that produces true godliness but instead walking in it?!
A couple of weeks ago, I was wiping down the kitchen table (I’m telling you, I am very exciting!) and, okay, honestly, I was doing my best to make the paper towels in my hand go the distance. And so I’m wiping, scrubbing and folding those towels and I suddenly thought, “Do I actually care if this table is clean or am I just aiming to make it look that way?”
In other words, what is my desire here?
Completely unlikely- but if this table were to be examined closely, swabbed maybe, would it be found clean or would there be a bunch of junk beyond what the eye can see?
And so- what about us?! I mean, “Who perceives his unintentional sins?”
But by the Spirit, we can pray the next part of that psalm, “Cleanse me from my hidden faults.” Psalm 19:12
And Psalm 19:13: “Moreover, keep your servant from willful sins; do not let them rule me. Then I will be blameless and cleansed from blatant rebellion.” (Emphasis added)
The Spirit transforms. He cleanses. He beautifies. He gives us new life and new hearts.
Today..right here, right now, we can ask Him for a deeper intimacy with Him, with eyes to see Him and ears to hear Him.
We can invite Him in to search our hearts and to create in us clean hearts.
We can ask Him to transform our desires and to soften our hearts.
We can ask Him for the ability to walk in obedience, to delight in obedience, even. To please the Lord and to yield to His Holy Spirit immediately and always.
And we can rejoice because He is the only One who can truly transform us, with a work that goes deeper than any outward ‘cleanness’ ever could.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Thank You, Holy Spirit. May we walk intimately with You all the days of our lives.
Written by: Olivia Caldwell
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I took this photo of my husband last weekend. It seemed profound somehow then.. How small he appears as he surveys all of the wild wisteria that has grown up unchecked in our new-ish yard. What can we even do about this? Where do we start?
We are dealing with an invasive species. It grows rapidly and is dangerous, as it can smother shrubs or even understory trees beneath the heavy weight of its vines. It grows around the trunks of a few large oaks inside the fenced-in area of our backyard and it almost seems to circle the trunk at the ground, vining up, like a predator prowling for prey.
It's interesting that wisteria is not likely to choke out a larger tree; mostly just those trees with a smaller diameter. However, it can grow up the trunk of a tree. It will creep out and around smaller side branches, strangling them as they grow. With its thick foliage, it can shade out a tree, weakening it, and all of those ever-thickening vines high up on that tree greatly increase its chance of coming down in a windstorm.
It is recommended that wisteria be cut off at the base.
This same weekend, my husband came to me with John 15. And there it was:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit." (John 15:1-2)
Do you ever feel like the sin in your life looks a lot like this overgrowth of wisteria? Like you are just staring down this giant and wondering how in the world you can ever overcome?
What in the world can we even do about this? Where do we start?
I mean, in the case of the wisteria, we can start. Slowly but surely plodding away at cutting back the vines. But realistically, how much can we do? We can't eradicate it. At best, we can manage it.
Oh, did I say that was in the case of the wisteria? Well, SAME, in the case of our sin.
Look at John 15 again. God is the gardener. THE gardener. He's not someone who has never seen this before and He's not someone who just had to google wisteria (ahem). He is the One we can call on when we are overwhelmed and He is the One who prunes us.
He cuts back every branch in us that doesn't bear fruit and He even prunes the ones that already bear fruit so that we will produce more fruit.
And I don't know about you, but I don't want my sin to grow wildly and unbridled to the point that it has crept up and begun choking out any growth or fruit that may be growing. And I don't want to be consumed or weighed down so that when a storm comes, I can't withstand. I don't want to fall. I don't want to be destroyed.
I think maybe I want to be more like those mighty oaks inside the fence. I want to be rooted. I want to have a thick diameter, if you will, that is strong and sturdy. I want the years of walking with the Lord to be easily read like the rings inside a tree trunk that are used to determine the age of a tree. I want this to be evidence of His goodness: here's where it all began, here is where there was a dry season and here, a rainy season. Here there was even damage sustained from a fire- but look at how through it all, there was still growth. Look at how, no matter what, she remained. And, ultimately, look at how, through it all, He sustained her and grew her and cleansed her.
I look at these oaks inside the fence and I look at the trees outside. The ones outside are surrounded, covered, darn near consumed. And even those are not too far gone for the Gardener. But when I look at the oaks inside the fence, I think I would much rather have just a bit of wisteria creeping around, right? It's far more manageable, after all.
There's this massive oak, though, right out front. And basically, these five oaks are in a row, with this mammoth oak leading the way. And I'm thinking now: no, I want to be like that one. No wisteria threatening to slither up. Just a firm, beautiful oak.
Isaiah 61:3b: "..that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified [Or 'that he may display his beauty']."
Oh yes. Let any sin in me, though it may at first be overwhelming and untamed, be cut away so that I may, in some supernatural and God-given way, display the Lord's beauty. May I be an oak of righteousness so that He may be glorified.
Jesus, may I remain in You all the days of my life. May I stand tall: rooted in You, Jesus, dressed in your righteousness and displaying the beauty of the Lord. May I yield to your pruning, O God, knowing that You will produce much fruit and, from this, be so glorified. Oh yes, Lord. May You be most glorified.
written by: Olivia Caldwell
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Recently I found myself standing right next to this super beautiful woman during a time of worship. And as I stood there next to her, suddenly, I wasn't so sure about my outfit choice and I was instantly aware of my old, worn out sandals, my long neglected eyebrows and my long hair that just always seems to get real tangled and crazy looking. I mean, just immediately, I was consumed by these inward laments of my outward "lack".
I came to worship. I'm standing in the presence of the King, to worship His Holy Name- and there, with my dusty old sandals kicked to the side and my bare feet standing on Holy Ground- I'm looking around me and then looking at myself and I'm feeling small and like maybe God should just use someone a little more... MORE, ya know? And it's like... What am I looking at? My God or my lack? How can I possibly think this way when I'm standing before the One who created me?
This has been a constant battle for me, not just in light of comparison but in light of being enough. And I think to a certain extent, it's okay. I'm keenly aware of my weakness and my desperate need for my God to fill me with His strength and His power for what He has called me to. I pray that He is most glorified in the places where my weakness is clearly evident and His glory shines all the brighter.
But then.. there's this place where I get stuck when my eyes remain on my inadequacy. If there's not a shift and if my gaze does not stay fixed on the might of God and the purpose of God and the miracle of the mere presence of Christ in me, that's a problem.
And just now, my husband began speaking to me about Gideon and the tears just started welling up because I can't tell you how many times the Lord has brought Gideon to me.
"The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor." (Judges 6:12)
Lord, how? Me? I am inconsequential. My family is the weakest and I am the least.
"But I will be with you.." (Judges 6:16)
Isn't that enough? To stand before the angel of the LORD and to hear who the Lord says you are, the call He is giving you and the promised presence of the Lord with you? "Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?" (Judges 6:14)
But I'm hiding in the winepress and You're telling me to go and save Israel. Like, thatIsrael? Israel, Israel?
I can't tell you how many times I have uttered or thought the phrase, "I'm such a Gideon." And even there, the focus is on the inadequacy and not God. Because God called Gideon, He purposed Gideon, to do something impossibly big- AND HE DID. God said and he did. And I'm over here concerned with everything in between, like, well, I'm just like Gideon because I'm unsure like him and I'm constantly asking the Lord to confirm like he did.
OKAY, but what if I said, "I'm such a Gideon" as in: God came to me in my weakness and in my hiding and He gave me this call that is so much bigger than me. It's so, so crazy great and enormous and, uh, not to mention crazy, but the Lord Himself said that I am ____ and that He will be with me and He reassured me that HE HIMSELF CALLED ME.
I guess this place of inadequacy I have been stuck in is a little like my very own winepress. And I'm constantly hiding or looking to the left and to the right but God meets me right there. He is looking right at me and saying to me: I am with you. I have called you (insert name that is so outrageously not anything I in see myself and comparable even to 'mighty man of valor') and I have called you to this. You are not inconsequential; I created you with great, specific purpose.
And what if I also changed how I view the ways that Gideon asked the Lord to show him, to reassure him? Instead of, "Oh, that Gideon!" maybe I should think, "Oh, MY God!" Because in his wrestling to reconcile how he perceived himself and what the Lord was saying to him, Gideon asks for a sign- and God says, "I will stay till you return." (Judges 6:18) He was patient with Gideon and willing to work with him and work this stronghold out of him. And later in Judges 6:36-40, Gideon asks for another sign two nights in a row. And still the Lord reassured Him with miracles and His anger did not burn against him, even though he asked to test the Lord in this way.
AND THEN. THEN. In Judges 7:10, right before Gideon is to attack, the Lord says to him, "If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp." Look at what the Lord arranged for him, y'all:
"Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”
When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.”" (Judges 7:13-15)
Okay, be right back, crying. God didn't have to do that. He didn't have to do that.
But He did.
Why? Why was he so gracious with this man who struggled so deeply? Why was He so patient with a mere man who feels, even in the presence of the Lord, that he needs to test the Lord to be sure? Why would He even care?
"What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:4-9)
We should absolutely stand in awe of our God! Look at what He did in and through Gideon! He took this man who hid himself and who perceived himself as the lowest of the low in comparison to all the men and the clans around him. This man who needed confirmation when maybe we think he shouldn't have. God was patient with him and kind and gracious. And finally, Gideon rose up and proclaimed the victory God had promised him. The one who himself struggled to get up out of that winepress called out to those heading into battle with him: "Get up!"
Get up. The Lord SAID.
Who does the Lord say you are, sister? Who are you in Christ?
What is it that He has called you to? That thing that seems impossibly big? That thing that has you like, "Me, Lord? Surely not me? I'm not anywhere near enough for this."?
Don't look to your left or to your right; don't you dare even go on looking at yourself through those human eyes of yours.
No, no. Shift your gaze. Dare to see what the Lord sees. Dare to believe what He says.
Maybe even ask Him to show you, like Gideon.
And then get up, beloved.
Does not the Lord send you?
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
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