Does Familiarity breed contempt?

Have you ever been so familiar with someone, that you crossed a line, and you didn’t even realize you had done it, until you saw the look on their face and knew, you had gone too far? 

Perhaps you’re not sure what I’m talking about, so I’ll give you an example in my own life. Many years ago, when I was just a young woman I became pregnant with my second child. Twenty six weeks into the pregnancy my son died and was stillborn. Understandably, I was angry and grief stricken. I remember a friend telling me that God was big enough to handle my anger and that I should talk to Him about it. I listened to her advice and I did. But then I crossed a line. In my familiarity, I told the Lord that He owed me. And I went on to tell Him how He could make it all up to me. I told Him my demands. I cringe even now as I tell this story, because I realize how incredibly impertinent I was back then. I demanded two things from the Lord, two very big things, that only He could provide. I demanded another child that same year, and I demanded that He move us to this country, America. Oh the mercy and graciousness of our loving Father. He answered my demands. In the Fall of that year, we moved to America and on New Year’s Eve, another son was born to us. In the midst of my childish insolence, He answered my prayers. He remembered my flesh, my frame, that I am but dust. It humbles me to remember this story because it shows me once again, what an incredibly kind and loving Father He is. But it also teaches me to never, ever treat Him with that much familiarity again. 

There is a story in the Bible that speaks to this issue as well. In 2 Samuel we read about King David who finally, after many years of running from King Saul, and fearing for his life, becomes King of Judah after Saul is killed in battle. David, who is so familiar with the Lord, that he is called a man after God’s own heart, surely knows the fear and reverence of God. Surely this man, who could slay giants, knew the Holiness of God. But in chapter 6 we are told a story that would say otherwise. In this chapter, we are shown that sometimes when we become so familiar with God that we feel we know and understand Him, we can cross a line. We can become too familiar. When you look at the definition of familiarity, you notice a pattern, a slippery slope if you will that goes downhill.  


close acquaintance with or knowledge of something.

-the quality of being well known; recognizability based on long or close association.

-relaxed friendliness or intimacy between people.

-inappropriate and often offensive informality of behavior or language.

Do you see how familiarity can breed contempt? 

When I read this story in chapter 6, I realize that David was about the same age I was when I also found myself too familiar with the Lord. After David became King of Judah, he decided to bring the ark of the covenant back from the house of a man called Abinadab, and take it to the City of David. The story is as follows:  

So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.” (2 Samuel 6: 3-7)

When you first read the story, it might seem strange that God strikes down Uzzah, for what appears to be no reason at all. From all appearances, Uzzah’s intentions were good and genuine. So why did he lose his life? Apparently David had a similar question, because it tells us that  “David became angry because of the LORD’S outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day”. (2 Samuel 6:8) We are not told what went on in David’s mind that day, but the passage continues by telling us that David’s attitude changed the same day from anger, to fear. David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me? (2 Samuel 6:9) 

Obviously something made him realize that he had become so familiar with God, that he no longer feared him. I’m going to venture that perhaps David went back to the Scriptures that day and looked at protocol. Did God have any requirements about the Ark of the Covenant? Actually, He did and He told them to Moses in Leviticus 16: 2 The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he may not come whenever he wants into the holy place behind the veil in front of the mercy seat on the ark or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.  God then goes on to tell Moses the requirements: Aaron is to enter the most holy place in this way: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (Leviticus 16:3)

The Bible does not tell us David’s thoughts, at least not in so many words, but it does tell us what David did differently the next time he brought the ark of the covenant to the City of David. After Uzzah died, David left the ark in the house of Obed-Edom and it stayed there for three months, all the while blessing that house. When David found out that God was blessing Obed-Edom he decided to bring the ark out with gladness. But this time he did things a little different. 

So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet. (2 Samuel 6:12-15)

There is still worship and dancing going on but this time, David sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep every 6 paces. Why? Because he recognized the holiness of God and the sinfulness of himself and those around him. He learned to fear the Lord. 

Proverbs tells us over and over again to fear the Lord. Solomon tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, the beginning of wisdom, that it prolongs life and that to fear the Lord is to hate evil. (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 10:27, 8:13)

How do we learn to fear the Lord? By recognizing His holiness. I think sometimes we have the idea that Holy Spirit is a first and last name. You know, Holy is His first name and Spirit is His last. But that’s not what it means. God’s spirit is Holy! And we also are told to walk in holiness. The writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 12 verse 14 to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”. Let me repeat that, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord”. He goes on to tell us in verses 28 and 29, “therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. 

So I would suggest that although we can now approach God’s throne with boldness, for again the writer of Hebrews tells us so in chapter 4:16: 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”, we must also approach His throne with godly fear. That means that we can approach His throne with confidence through the righteous blood of Jesus, but we must never take that blood for granted and approach Him casually. We live in a very casual society. It seems that nothing is sacred and everything is familiar. Even God. We must learn to once again approach Him with humility and fear. He is God, and we are not. How do I know this? Because the Bible makes it very, very plain. And don’t let anyone, not anyone, tell you different. 

Will you stand in the gap?

Do you ever wonder if your prayers accomplish anything? This morning I was thanking the Lord for the way He has always protected me my whole life and for the way He has taken such good care of me. What a wonderful God He is! But even as I thanked Him, I heard Him tell me that what He has done for me He desires to do for all. What He is doing for me is not special. It is what He does. In Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 the Lord approaches Jerusalem and tells the city “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” His desire is to love and protect. But we have to be willing, as He told Jerusalem. So what does His desire to love and protect have to do with our prayers? Everything. If you look at Ezekiel 22:30, He tells Ezekiel the following: “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall (of protection) and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found no one”. The Lord went on to tell me that I should never underestimate the value of my prayers. The enemy might scoff at me, and He might try to discourage me from continuing to stand in the gap. But the real reason the enemy scoffs at my prayers is because he fears my prayers of protection, for he knows that they touch the Father’s heart and are therefore filled with power. When we pray for the lost, whoever they might be, we stand in the gap and allow Him the privilege of gathering and protecting His children, His chicks if you will. It gives them time to repent and return to Him. This image of a hen is the heart of a mother. A mother protects her children. Psalm 91:4 tells us that “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge. The very heart of God is protection. Your prayers and mine, when we intercede for those unwilling chicks who have scattered themselves and chosen their own ways, are powerful and they touch His heart. He is listening. He is working. He will restore. Will you stand in the gap? Will you make a wall of protection for the lost ones in your life?

Does the Lord feel loved by you?

I have a confession to make. I hate surprises. Maybe it’s because whenever I’ve gotten one, (I’m thinking of gifts, LOL) it’s never what I’d hoped for and expected. But in all honesty, I like to live my life that way as well. Which is why, on occasion, I ask the Lord some hard questions. For example, this morning I decided to put my big girl panties on and ask the Lord, “Do You feel loved by me?”. “Do I love you?” Just because I believe I love Him, doesn’t mean He feels loved by me. I mean, what makes Him feel loved? Once again, His answers never cease to amaze me. He responded with a question, “What makes you feel loved, Sibylle?”. Then He brought up a book I read many years ago, The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. Again, He surprised me and told me that people usually do for Him, what makes them feel loved. If you’re not familiar with the book, the 5 love languages are as follows: quality time, gift giving, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Babies and children need all of them, but as we grow older, usually one or two will become dominant in our lives. Those main ones will affect how we treat others and how we love to be treated. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I love quality time. If you take time to spend time with me, good conversation is the bomb for me. So how do these love languages relate to our relationship with the Lord? The Bible tells us that we are created in His image. We are like Him. Look at Jesus and you will know the Father. That means that He feels loved and He loves us the same way that we feel love and love others. He then broke it down for me in terms I could understand. He loves to spend quality time with us. The Bible calls it prayer, but He likes to hear your voice and know that you care enough to take time to have a conversation with Him. He gives us many gifts. Look at this beautiful world. The heavens declare the glory of God. If you look outside and see nature, you are seeing one of His amazing gifts to us. Words of affirmation. If we take the time to read His word, and listen to His voice, He will speak wonderful things to us. Sometimes He corrects, sometimes He rebukes, sometimes He encourages, sometimes He speaks pillow talk to us. But we have to listen. Do you have enough to eat? A nice house? Clothes on your back? Then you have received from Him. Those are acts of service from Him. He knows what we need and He promises that He will give us those things if we put Him first. Physical touch. This one is a little harder if you’re not a Pentecostal (lol) but God loves to let us feel His presence. I have felt His physical love and it felt like liquid waves of love. I have felt Him so powerfully at church, I felt like I was walking on clouds. When I raise my hands in worship, I am touching His heart. Writing is my act of service to Him. It is hard for me to share my heart with others. It is hard for me to be vulnerable with the world. But I am serving Him, by sharing with others what He shares with me. Do you have the courage to ask Him if He feels loved by you? Ask Him. I can guarantee you that His answer will surprise you.

The voice of the Lord.

I am an avid journalist. I fill at least 4 journals each year. I’ve learned to do this over the years because it’s been my experience that if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it. One of the ways that the Lord speaks to me regularly is through my journaling. So the other day I was sitting at my desk, thanking Him for this great privilege of hearing His voice. I love hearing His voice. He never ceases to amaze me with who He is and how His thoughts are so different from mine! His response to my thanks however surprised me. He told me that hearing His voice is not a privilege, it is a necessity. He told me that if it were a privilege it would be a special right or advantage, and it is that to the world, but I am not of this world. Without His voice, I can do nothing except what I accomplish in my own strength and wisdom. He then warned me. He told me that many of His children have turned it into a privilege for a select few, but that the danger with this is that it leads to idolatry. If we believe that He only speaks to a few select people, then those few people become special and are given honor they do not deserve. He speaks to anyone who will listen. Why? Because we are all brothers and sisters and no one is above another. We are all priests before Him. There is no priestly ruling class. Israel fell into this trap when they desired a king, like the nations around them. God was their King, but they wanted to be like the world. The church has become like the world in this respect, because they have set up leaders, a few select people who are exalted, and the rest are just subjects. But we are all subjects in His kingdom. His example of leadership is very different from the world’s. Leaders are to lay down their lives for the sheep and to protect their sheep. Leaders are not to lord it over them and pretend they are special and different. That is pride at work. If He had set up leaders according to the world’s model, He would have called the priests and scribes to follow Him. But He did not. He called simple fishermen and tax collectors. He called men who had hearts for Him, not for themselves. It will be the same for this coming harvest. He will not call those who have been unfaithful and have collected men for their own kingdoms. He will call those, who like the fishermen, have been faithful to Him for no other reason than that they love Him. He will be calling those who love Him, because they are known by Him. (1 Cor 8:3)

The rewards of overcoming

Can we talk? I want to talk about the obvious, the elephant in the room, if you will. It’s been a tough week for me. I’ve been depressed. I know that many people are feeling the way I have been. We are living in difficult, trying times. Many things don’t make sense and many things we hear and see are confusing. I’m not usually a depressed person, so I knew that I was reacting to outside circumstances but somehow I felt guilty for feeling the way I was. Isn’t it a lack of faith to be down? Isn’t it a sign of weakness to be afraid? This morning as I sat here in my prayer room, talking to the Lord, He showed me some things that I want to share with you. He took me to Acts 18:9-10 where we are told that the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision and said “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not keep silent, for I am with you.” The Lord asked me why He would tell Paul not to be afraid, if he wasn’t afraid? Then He took me over to 2 Corinthians 7:5 where Paul himself writes this to that church: “For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus”. Again, Paul is not only afraid, he’s actually depressed. That’s what downcast means. But God comforted him by sending Titus, a friend to comfort him. Then the Lord asked me if He himself was lacking in faith, when He asked the Father to remove the cup of suffering He was about to drink: …He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Jesus told His disciples while in the garden of Gethsemane, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”. We know that in this fallen world there will be trials and tribulations, and our flesh is weak at times, so what do we do about it? If you look at Revelation 2 and 3, you will notice that every one of these 7 churches is given the promise of a reward, if they overcome. The church of Laodecia (who many believe is the present day church age, the lukewarm western church) is perhaps given the most interesting one. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne”. (Rev 3:21) I find it interesting that to this church, Jesus promises that if they overcome, they will be granted permission to sit with Him on His throne, just as He, Jesus had to overcome, so He could sit with His Father on His throne. Jesus had to overcome. He’s not asking us to do something He has not done himself. But, we are never really told what it is we are to overcome and I think the reason is because each one of us has their own problems and issues to deal with. Overcoming might look very different for you than for me. Now, having said all this, I want to suggest something that I never saw before this morning. In Revelation 6:1-2 we are told about the first of six seals that Jesus opened in heaven. There is a lot of question over who or what the first seal is about. I’ve heard many interpretations of who this rider could be. “And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer”. What this particular translation does not reveal is that the word conquering and conquer are actually the exact same Greek word as “overcome”, the very same word that Jesus uses in the second and third chapters of Revelation when He tells us to overcome. Now, I’m no scholar, I’m just a mother, but I do believe that I have some understanding of scripture, and when I saw that this word used is the same word used earlier, I began to have an interesting thought. What if the rider of this first horse, this white horse, is actually given power to use psychological warfare? What if this particular rider has the power to make people so depressed, so afraid, so filled with despair, anger, hopelessness, and offense at God, that they give up their faith and walk away from the Lord? What if the reason we are told 7 times in these two chapters in Revelation that if we overcome, He will reward us, is because overcoming is difficult? If you go to Matthew 24, the disciples ask Jesus what will be the sign of the end and how will we know that it’s the end of the age. The first thing Jesus tells them, and it is repeated in 2 other gospels, is “Take heed that no one deceives you”. Deception is psychological. If you knew you were deceived, you wouldn’t be deceived. It sounds so simple, but it really isn’t, is it? There is only one way that I personally have found the ability to overcome and that is to spend time with the Lord and to spend time reading my Bible. During this incredibly difficult time, spending time in the Bible and with Him is the only thing that will protect us and keep us safe. It also means I have to be willing to accept that there will be times when my flesh is weak, but that’s ok too. I don’t have to beat myself up for being afraid or depressed, as long as I don’t stay there. I have to allow Jesus to comfort me, and that requires spending time with Him. I have to be willing to trust Jesus, that even when nothing makes sense to me, He is still in control. If you have been struggling like I have, take heart my friend. Let this be a comfort to you and an encouragement. The Lord is with us and He will keep us. 

The prodigals are coming home.

I love it when the Lord takes two separate stories, from two completely different books in the Bible and combines them to give me a word. I know we Americans are very preoccupied with our election results, but there is so much more going on in the world today than just that. There are frightening things happening such as natural disasters, economic hardships, uncertainty and fear of the future. Unless you have your head in the sand, you know that the world is no longer a safe place. It may never have been safe, but at least we all had some illusion of safety, at least in the western world. So with all that as a backdrop, I was reading the book of John this morning, and I couldn’t help but notice how many times it tells us that “no one laid hands on Jesus, because His hour had not yet come”. This sentence is repeated numerous times, just in John chapters 7 and 8 alone. They could not take Jesus and kill Him, even though they wanted to because it wasn’t time yet. So I asked the Lord, “Has the hour which the enemy is planning for the whole world, come yet? No, my question is not entirely clear here, and I’m not trying to get into eschatology with anyone. But I do realize we are very, very close to the end. How close, was really my question. He responded by pointing out that if I know that a harvest has to come first, then so does the devil. The devil is of course trying to bypass the harvest, speed things up if you will. He’s got some nifty plans in the works too. Look up “the great reset” on google, and you will be surprised at what they are planning. Anyway, this is where things got interesting in my conversation with the Lord. He took me back to Genesis 27, which I had just finished reading. It is the story of how Jacob managed to get Esau’s blessing for the firstborn. He lied and pretended to be Esau and fooled his dad. However, the blessing was actually his to begin with, but none of them really understand that, yet. When Esau realized what had happened, he planned to kill Jacob, after their father was dead. But God intervened and told Rebekah so that she persuaded Isaac, his father, to send Jacob to her brother Laban, back home. Interestingly enough, Jacob ended up with two blessings. The first one that he stole from his brother was really just a general blessing if you will (Genesis 27:27-29) but it is the second one that really caught my attention. It was like a light bulb went off in Isaac’s mind. Here it is: 

“May God Almighty bless you,

And make you fruitful and multiply you,

That you may be an assembly of peoples;

And give you the blessing of Abraham,

To you and your descendants with you,

That you may inherit the land

In which you are a stranger,

Which God gave to Abraham.” Genesis 28:3-4

Do you see it? The blessing of Abraham! The promise that this land would one day belong to his children’s children. The promised land! And here is the amazing revelation that God gave me this very morning.  In his fear of being killed, Jacob obeys his parents and leaves. The very thing that Jacob was afraid of, was the thing that drove him into his destiny: Rachel and Leah. It was because of his leaving when he did, that he ended up marrying these two women (yes, there were two others as well) and producing the twelve tribes of Israel, which would many years in the future, produce the nation of Israel. And if you take it even further, brought us the promised Messiah, Jesus. So how does all this speak to us today? The Lord longs to gather His children, all those whose names are written in the book of life. They have not been willing, but, but, the hour has come. His promises are yes and amen. The prodigals are about to come home. He told me that the pilgrimage has already begun, and to keep watch on the horizon because the harvest has started. The very thing that frightens us all, all the things happening on our earth, will actually drive us and them into our destinies. The enemy’s plans are but for a moment, but God’s plans are eternal. He is gathering His children from the far ends of the earth, for such a time as this. Do not fear for them. Do not despair if they have to go through tough times. The prodigal had to lose everything before he came to himself and remembered his father. God is using what the enemy means for evil, to accomplish His purposes on this earth. Do not be afraid. God is in control!

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