Truth Frees

I have long loved the verse in John where Jesus says,

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

-John 8:32 (NKJV)

I always thought it referred to discovering Truth in the Bible, which frees us. And I still believe it refers to that.

But I also think it applies in a more general way. This hit me about three years ago.

Truth has the power to free us, whether it is the Truth in the Bible or a truth in our own lives.

Let me explain. There are people in my life whom I love deeply. But the relationships always felt one-way. As if I had to do all the work; I had to make all the compromises; I had to tread lightly for their feelings. Yet I still thought they cared about me, so I tried to put in the effort, you know?

Three years ago, one of these people blew up in front of me. I had long known he had a temper, but never seen it on display. He berated principles I hold dear, insulted people I love more than anyone, and basically mocked my whole lifestyle.

Not exactly endearing behavior. Rather shocking, in fact.

But…

I got to see the truth.

It hurt, but I got to see how he really felt. And it set me utterly free from his expectations. Now the relationship is completely on my terms because he showed himself unwilling to extend any amount of unselfish love.

There’s freedom in that. In living without concern for his opinion.

It wasn’t pleasant to see the already-fragile relationship fracture. But it set me free. More in my mind, perhaps, than anywhere else.

And it is good to live in freedom.

Sometimes when Jesus reveals to us the truth about ourselves and others, it’s ugly. When He reveals truth about Himself, it is beautiful. But either way, truth frees.

And it’s worth any pain it may bring.

-Miss Darcy

The Measurement of Success

The world has its measurement of success, and pretty much screams it at us constantly.

Money. Wealth. Things.

Fame. Popularity. Status.

Pleasure. Any kind. All the time.

But when you don’t plan to spend most of your life in one place, it’s important not to stockpile your treasure there.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;

but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

-Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)

Writers usually measure success in sales. In number of positive reviews. In number of loyal readers. Or number of new readers who rave about your book.

And, to be honest, I would appreciate all those things when I finally publish. But I never want to forget how I measured success when I first started writing: success is giving someone a blessing, however small.

Souls touched for even a little good will be treasure in heaven, yes?

But the world’s measurement of success can be distracting from what’s important.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

-Matthew 6:24

I can’t afford to get distracted by pursuing this world’s success. Yes, I’ll do the best publishing job I can. Yes, I’ll market my books. And, most certainly, I want people to enjoy and be encouraged by what I write. I want it very much. But I must remember that people’s approval is not the main thing to aim for.

I want to write for my King’s approval.

Of course, I want His approval in my whole life, not just writing. But writing has become a big part of my life.

You’ve probably heard the verse about “well done, good and faithful servant.”

His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.

-Matthew 25:21 NKJV (emphasis mine)

That’s what I want. To enter into the joy of my Lord.

-Miss Darcy

Awesome Creatures, Awesome God

I’m not really a “horse person,” if you know what I mean, but I love to see a fast horse run. Or a graceful horse dance in dressage. Even in our day, when humans no longer rely on the horse as in past centuries, we’re still fascinated with them.

To watch a horse race all-out inspires awe.

Raw power, speed, and tenacity, with fluid rhythm and natural grace. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help standing in wonder.

I think the reason horses hold such fascination for humans is simple. They really are magnificent. Even God thinks so. Here is what the Creator says of this member of His creation:

Have  you given the horse strength? Have you clothed his neck with thunder?

Can you frighten him like a locust? His majestic snorting strikes terror.

He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; he gallops into the clash of arms.

He mocks at fear, and is not frightened; nor does he turn back from the sword.

The quiver rattles against him, the glittering spear and javelin.

He devours the distance with fierceness and rage; nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded.

At the blast of the trumpet he says, ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of captains and shouting.

-Job 39:19-25 (NKJV)

I read this and think, So that’s why I love to see a horse tear down the racetrack or perform an exquisite routine. Because the Lord made this animal amazing.

I love the last four chapters of the book of Job, when the Lord finally speaks and sets everyone straight as to Who has the authority. And why.

There’s no question about God’s authority when you consider His creation.

We can’t make a teensy little thing from absolute nothingness. But God made the stars; the snow; the horse; and (my favorite) Leviathan.

We meet Leviathan in chapter 41, and he’s such a cool creature I can’t help talking about him. He’s a water-monster, who is sometimes assumed to be a crocodile.

Friends, this ain’t no crocodile.

Leviathan laughs at javelins. Iron and bronze? He thinks they’re straw and rotten wood. Dare to harpoon him? You’ll never try such a battle again. He has a mouth full of terrible teeth. His heart is as hard as stone.

“His undersides are like sharp potsherds; he spreads pointed marks in the mire.” This beast has pointed scales all over him, even his undersides. You will recall that crocodiles have smooth bellies.

Ever wondered where the legends of fire-breathing dragons came from? “His sneezes flash forth light… Smoke goes out of his nostrils… His breath kindles coals, and a flame goes out of his mouth.”

The Lord says, “I will not keep silent about his limbs, his mighty power, or his graceful proportions.” The Lord is almost boasting of His Creation–and who has a better right to do so?

Of Leviathan, this awesome creature, God says,

No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up. Who then is able to stand against Me?

Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is mine.

-Job 41:10-11 (NKJV)

Friends, it is right that we should marvel at the awesome wonders God created in this world. And then bend our hearts to worship, not the creatures, but their infinitely more mighty Creator.

-Miss Darcy

P. S. By the way, I really hope God has Leviathans in heaven. I want to meet one of these creatures! (But not on earth, of course, even if Leviathan hadn’t gone extinct.)

Shield of Virtue, Sword of Truth

I’ll start by saying I love Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The old animated film with the distinctly Disney music and distinctly Disney horses. It has some interesting spiritual depth if you look for it.

One of my favorite parts is the final battle. Right before it starts, the good fairies gift Prince Phillip with an enchanted Shield of Virtue and a Sword of Truth.

The Shield of Virtue is one amazing shield. From all appearances, it weighs next to nothing. It’s strong enough to take blows from swords and battle-axes without a single ding or scratch. It handles large falling rocks as if they’re pebbles rolling off its face. Quite the piece of armor.

And virtue is a shield–to protect you from the consequences of sin.

For example…

If you’re a teetotaler, you’ll never find yourself facing the consequences of drunkenness.

If you don’t steal, you’re less likely to end up in jail.

If you shun anger, you’re far less likely to need to repair broken relationships constantly.

If you’re humble, you’ll probably have stronger friendships because pride can’t keep you from admitting when you’re wrong.

If you follow God’s rules for marriage, you’re much less likely to find yourself a single parent.

And, one of my favorites, if you don’t commit sin, Satan has nothing to shame you for.

All God’s instructions are for a reason. If you choose virtue–that is, following God’s commands–it will protect you from sin and its consequences.

To get back to Prince Phillip’s battle, the witch Maleficent is determined that Phillip shall not rescue the princess. So she casts a spell of fierce briars around the castle where Princess Aurora sleeps. But with the Shield of Virtue to protect himself, he uses the Sword of Truth to hack through the hedge.

The Sword of Truth is a weapon any noble might covet. It’s straight, strong, two-edged, and deadly-sharp. The briars can’t hope to stop it.

And Truth is a sword.

Ephesians 6:17 bids us take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

In John 17:17, as Jesus prays to His Father, He says, “Your word is truth.” (emphasis mine)

So I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to say that the the Word of God, which we typically term the Holy Bible, is our Sword of Truth.

And God’s Word is certainly our best defense against Satan’s attacks.

When we’re tempted to explode in anger, we can be strengthened by this: “Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice…” and instead “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.” (see Colossians 3:8, 12)

When we’re about to worry ourselves sick, we can remember to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

When we’re feeling proud, we can remember “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (see James 4:6), hopefully before we make a fool of ourselves.

When we’re tempted to sacrifice our bodies’ purity, we can remember to “Flee sexual immorality…. For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (see 1 Corinthians 6:18, 20; emphasis mine)

If you look for the key to victory over your fight, I promise you’ll find it in the Word of God. Even subjects you think the Bible would never address are in there if you go hunting with God’s Spirit for a Guide.

Now I get to my favorite part. When Prince Phillip breaks through the briar hedge, Maleficent herself comes to fight him, saying, “Now you shall deal with me and all the powers of hell!”

And she changes herself into a dragon. A huge dragon whose fiery breath devours the ground in front of Phillip’s feet. Her mouth is big enough to hold the prince and several more, if she wanted. But Phillip doesn’t back down. He attacks whenever her snout comes near enough.

And the Sword of Truth pains the dragon, even through its stout scales. So she sets her hedge on fire and drives Prince Phillip up a cliff toward a precipice. He’s still defending himself with the Shield of Virtue, but she finally blasts a breath of fire so strong it tears the shield from his grip and hurls it over the cliff.

So the good fairies give the Sword of Truth a dose of extra power, and Phillip casts the weapon with all his strength into the dragon’s breast. (You didn’t know a great-sword could become a javelin, did you?)

My friends, that’s how strong the Sword of Truth is.

Even when the devil strips away your shield of virtue;

When you have fallen into Satan’s snares and he laughs as you’re helpless against “all the powers of hell”;

Or when you dabbled in Satan’s pleasures and now you’re covered in his filth, ashamed to be seen by your God;

The Truth can still conquer. It will set you free.

It doesn’t matter how low Satan drags you. Call on Jesus, then pick up the Scripture and let Christ help you whirl the Sword of Truth in Satan’s face.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

-Hebrews 4:12

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

-John 8:32

Satan can’t keep you down if Jesus is on your side. He’ll try, but we don’t have to let him.

When Phillip’s sword pierces the dragon, she cries out and topples over the cliff. Phillip peers over to see her dead at the bottom.

Unfortunately, the devil doesn’t die as easily as that. God has given him permission to wreak havoc for a long while yet. But Satan will flee.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

-James 4:7

Unlike Phillip’s irretrievable shield, our Shields of Virtue can be restored to us by Jesus, the only Manufacturer of true Shields of Virtue, so to speak. Even if Satan somehow steals our Shield for a time, the Sword of Truth is still powerful. All we have to do is use it.

-Miss Darcy

P.S. Here’s the clip of Phillip’s fight from Sleeping Beauty if you’d like to see it.

When the Bad Guy Dies

Confession: Every once in a while, I like to read a western. You know, an old Louis L’Amour story with a good guy, a bad guy, and all their friends and enemies scheming and fighting over–something.

I’m not perfectly certain why I like them. I like that the good guy always wins over ominous odds. I like the excitement, I suppose. I like the characters’ capability to handle whatever situation confronts them. I like the beautiful, dangerous, wild land where the story unfolds. I like the code of honor, so to speak, that all the decent characters adhere to.

Anyway, I enjoy them. But, honestly, it’s a purely superficial enjoyment. Because, when I stop to analyze the story, there isn’t much that’s worth holding on to. Let me explain.

Many of the fights start over land. Or cattle. Or power.

And even the good guy is prepared to kill people–people with immortal souls–over land, or cattle, or power. None of which will be worth the powder in a cartridge when he meets his Maker. All the land he deeply loves, all the power he wields will mean nothing when he stands before God to give account of his deeds done in the flesh.

Now, generally, the good guy will eventually shift his goal. Instead of fighting for the land, he starts fighting because the bad guy is just plain wicked, often stealing something from someone who can’t defend himself–or herself. (Throw a bit of romance in; it helps the story immensely.)

So the good guy takes the side of justice, and law, and human kindness. Admirable. In fact, the Bible advocates it.

‘Thus says the LORD: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

-Jeremiah 22:3 (NKJV)

But. (You knew there was a ‘but’ coming, right?)

But the bad guy still has an immortal soul. A soul Jesus died to save. A soul the Lord loves.

In the end, he dies. (Once in a while, they let him depart in disgrace.) And, yes, the bad guy deserves to die. The good guy is decidedly in the right. By all human law, all human morality and decency, the bad guy deserves what’s coming to him.

But, in the eyes of the Lord, the good guy is just as sinful as the bad guy.

God doesn’t place degrees of wickedness on sin. The bad guy kills; the good guy cusses. Sin is sin compared to the holiness of God.

Now I’m not saying the bad guy shouldn’t pay for his crimes. I’m not even saying he shouldn’t die.

I’m saying that a Christian should never be casual about a person’s death.

Even if the person needs to die–even if it’s not a pointless death as regularly happens in westerns–his soul still plunges into eternity, unready to face the Lord. That should never be a nonchalant event. But in the western, it always is.

So what am I trying to say though this rambling?

I’m reminding myself that, with God, it’s all about souls.

Not land. Not money. Not power. Not even personal rights. It’s about souls surrendering to their Creator.

Is it really worth killing someone to stay on land I legitimately own? Well, many factors influence that question, but I dare to say: “Not always.” If I’m fighting for others, like my family, perhaps. If I’m fighting to stop someone who will only do worse if allowed to succeed at small crimes, perhaps. But if I’m fighting for only myself, maybe I need to give up.

Because what really matters is not what I want, or what I think is right. What matters is what is important to God–saving souls.

Of course, none of this is even relevant to our times. (I hope.) So why write a weblog post about it?

Good question.

Because, as innocent as entertainment may be, it will subtly influence my thinking. Whether I like it or not. Whether I realize it or not. I can’t keep putting this stuff in and expect to have no alteration in my thoughts. The brain doesn’t work that way.

I have only so much time for entertainment in life. I want the best entertainment–stuff I don’t have to filter too closely to make sure it’s not influencing me the wrong way.

That’s why at the top, I said, “Every once in a while.” Maybe it doesn’t hurt to breeze through an old western on a rainy afternoon.

But it pays to be aware.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

-1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

-Miss Darcy

 

A Seventy-Year Captive

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time in America, you’ve probably heard someone quote Jeremiah 29:11. You may have even heard a sermon on it.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

-Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

What you may or may not have heard is the context of this promise. The LORD had finally brought judgment on the land of Judah for their rebellion against Him. But He sent, through Jeremiah, a comforting letter to the Jews who were exiles in the pagan land of Babylon. Here’s the verse which precedes the much-quoted one:

For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

-Jeremiah 29:10 (NKJV)

The promised blessings come after the captivity.

So that may not be earth-shattering to you. But a couple years ago, after I heard a sermon on this topic, I got to thinking.

What if the seventy years could symbolically refer to our lives on this earth?

Consider this from the Psalms:

The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

-Psalm 90:10 (NKJV)

¬†Seventy years. That’s all we can really expect.

When Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden, they were bound in captivity to sin. They could no longer enjoy full communion with their Creator.

Now Christ can free us from the power and consequences of sin, but we still dwell in our physical bodies, unable to have full communion with our Creator.

We are captives. For seventy years. And at the end of that time…

I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

-Jeremiah 29:14 (NKJV emphasis added)

Death in these physical bodies will deliver us from our captivity. We will be “brought back” to the place of perfect fellowship with our Creator.

Meanwhile, how shall we conduct ourselves in the land of our captivity?

Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.

Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters–that you may be increased there, and not diminished.

And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

-Jeremiah 29:5-7 (NKJV)

Build houses to dwell in (not to make a status statement).

Plant gardens so that you may eat of them (not grow rich by them).

Have children and encourage your children to have children (nothing wrong with increasing the population of Christians through raising godly offspring).

Pray for peace in the city where you are captive (for me that is Huntsville, and by extension, the whole state of Alabama and country of the United States).

And cling to the hope of your future.

Not some perfect life on this earth, but perfect restoration of your relationship with the LORD.

-Miss Darcy

P.S. I believe that the Bible’s books of prophecy are very deep. Sometimes a given passage may have two, or even more, applications. Jeremiah 29 may very well refer to seasons of trial in our lives, as well as our lives as a whole, as well as the plain-and-simple promise to the captive Jews in literal Babylon all those centuries ago. My main point is that the captivity often comes before the good things. I hope you enjoyed exploring with me.

Tangled Emotions

Whenever I hear anything about “following your heart,” I always think of this verse in Jeremiah:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

-Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)

I have proven this to be true. My thoughts and emotions both surprise and scandalize me sometimes. I find myself thinking, Where on earth did that come from?

Maybe it started with something I read or something I watched that got embedded without my conscious permission. Sometimes it might have come from nowhere on earth at all; it might have come from Satan. Either way, I want it out of my head. But getting something out and getting something in are two entirely different propositions. Once a thought has taken up residence, even just for an hour, it can be hard to convince your mind that the thought has absolutely no right to be there.

And how about emotions? Sometimes you can’t exactly put them into words. An emotion is sometimes a strong impression on your soul, and that is even harder to fight because you cannot pin it down with words.

I can’t tell you how many times I come before the Lord and say, “God, I don’t know what this is or where it came from. Take it away and cleanse my mind. I want to think Your thoughts and follow Your will.” Sometimes I pray Scripture, and sometimes I just pour out all my frustration about this crazy heart I can’t seem to control.

And God will give me the victory. But sometimes it takes a while. Why can’t it just disappear? Why can’t He erase the weight? Why does it have to return and try to worm back in?

I honestly don’t know. I’m pretty sure it must be because I haven’t fully surrendered it to Jesus, no matter how much I think I have. (It’s excessively annoying. I think I have something resolved, and here it pops up again, almost as if it never left. I mean, really!) Sometimes I’m so sure I released my thoughts to Jesus to cleanse, and later that day, or tomorrow or next week, I have to do it all over again.

But the victory when it comes is very sweet. Freedom from the bondage of my own wrong thoughts is exhilarating.

And then we have the truth that God gave us our emotions. He has emotions, after all, and we are made in His image. Not all emotions are bad, even anger. God says that sin angers Him, and that He hates it. [Just a note to be perfectly clear: God does not hate the sinner, but the sin itself.]

To eliminate our emotions would be to smother part of God’s image in us. Yet God never acts out of His emotions. They don’t control Him.

And that is a very fine line to maintain. God does it with no trouble, of course. His emotions are infinitely purer and higher than ours. It’s humans that have problems keeping our emotions from dictating our actions.

God created us with minds, bodies, and emotions all inextricably intertwined. We can’t really compartmentalize ourselves. Yet it is extremely difficult to learn the balance.

I know I haven’t. I pray and try to prepare for the next challenge. And when the challenge comes, I often fall (quite hard) on Jesus. Then He picks me up and washes me clean, and we have another try at it.

Quite frankly, it’s a bit tiring. I still haven’t learned this dance of balancing the emotions God gave me with the truth of His word. I still haven’t mastered the tactic of rejecting wrong thoughts immediately and keeping them at bay. I still haven’t perfected a complete surrender to Jesus Christ.

But I plan to get there. I have my whole life to keep trying, and I will not give up. Because I know Jesus won’t give up on me.

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

-Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

-Miss Darcy

P.S. I feel like this isn’t one of my best-thought-out, best-organized posts. I hope that, in spite of that, it rings true with you in some tiny way.