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Are You Willing to Make the Exchange?

As a young man exiled to a foreign country, Daniel determined in his heart that he would not defile himself by eating from the royal menu offered by the Babylonian king.  Daniel wisely exchanged the temporary satisfaction of the king’s rich foods for the lasting spiritual riches (unprecedented ability to interpret visions and dreams, unlock mysteries, etc) offered by his God and King.  There is no comparison between the two, yet Daniel and his 3 friends were the only young men willing to make the exchange.  How many of us are settling for temporary satisfaction in the delicacies this world has to offer?  The spiritual riches available should be far more enticing, but they require a sacrifice of the flesh, in order for the spirit to be prepared for more.  Daniel’s choice to submit himself to a different standard of living resulted in his being given a series of visions that would foretell the end of this world as we know it.  Daniel made history by prophesying the future.  His gift began with a choice.  What are you choosing today?  Are you settling for a counterfeit, or are you willing to sacrifice temporary pleasures so you can feast on spiritual riches?  Only the latter satisfies long term and has the power to change the world around you.

But Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king’s food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet… God gave these four young men knowledge and skill in both books and life. In addition, Daniel was gifted in understanding all sorts of visions and dreams… ‘There was no one quite like him. He could do anything—interpret dreams, solve mysteries, explain puzzles.’  …While I, Daniel, was trying to make sense of what I was seeing, suddenly there was a humanlike figure standing before me… He came up to me, but when he got close I became terrified and fell facedown on the ground.  He said, ‘Understand that this vision has to do with the time of the end.’ As soon as he spoke, I fainted, my face in the dirt. But he picked me up and put me on my feet. And then he continued, ‘I want to tell you what is going to happen as the judgment days of wrath wind down, for there is going to be an end to all this.”  Daniel 1:8,17; 5:12; 8:15-19 (MSG)

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What it Means to be Held

This time of year, from Palm Sunday to Good Friday and Easter, it’s impossible for my mind not to go back to 4 years ago, when I was living in Bethlehem.  Though many days and months have passed since then, the sights and smells of the Holy Land are only a moment away from my memory.  That’s not surprising, since Israel is about the closest to “home” that we as Believers can get ’til we are in heaven.

I will forever be grateful for the incredible privilege to experience this sacred season in the very place where it all occurred.  I’ll never forget standing on top of the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday, watching the “parade of nations” where thousands had come from all over the world to walk the same path Jesus followed 2,000 years prior, as He made His entrance into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  The King of all Kings, on a donkey…knowing His destination less than a week later was death in the cruelest form imaginable.  What love.

This Easter season I find myself appreciative beyond words for the place God has brought me to.  A place of healing and freedom that I would have never dreamed possible just over 6 years ago.  A place of abundant life and joy, a purpose that compels me to continually share His love, and a position that enables me to daily be a conduit to others of the same hope Jesus offered me when I needed it most.  None of this new life in me would have been possible had Jesus not humbled Himself and chosen to suffer in my place.

The suffering that Jesus endured is part of what makes Him so approachable for us.  He is a Savior Who understands deep grief, loss, abandonment, false accusation, and so much more.  He is a Friend Who walks with us on the journey, never leaving us alone.  There is a song that spoke volumes to me when I 1st heard it 6 years ago.  God was taking me through serious heart surgery – emotionally and spiritually speaking.  At times on the journey to wholeness, it felt like the tears and “bleeding” would never end.  But it was during those days that I began to understand a truth that religion failed to teach me…that truth was what it really “means to be held”, as Natalie Grant sings about.  Religion keeps the heart cold, lifeless, and striving for acceptance.  Relationship warms the heart, bringing hope and life back to the places that were dead, and establishing acceptance in areas of insecurity.  That’s really what Easter is all about.  The resurrection of Jesus, yes.  But also the reminder of the “resurrection” of sorts that I experienced when I allowed Jesus to walk with me through a season of healing, breathing life into the places of my heart that were seemingly dead from years of suppressed pain.

I am so grateful that God’s allowed me to understand this: “what it means to be held…when the sacred is torn from your heart, and you survive…what it is to be loved, and to know that the promise was when everything fell, we’d be held.”

As the song goes on to say, we all have to choose how we respond to hurts in life – whether those hurts were a consequence of our own choices, or the result of actions done to us.  One response leads to further heartache, while the other leaves room for life to break through again: “This hand is bitterness, we want to taste it and let the hatred numb our sorrows.  The wise hand opens slowly, to lilies of the valley and tomorrow…”

Whatever your loss – whether it be the loss of a relationship, the loss of a dream, the temporary loss of a loved one who is alive in heaven but currently separated from you…whatever your deepest sorrow, I pray this song brings hope to your heart, knowing that the One who conquered death, is the very same One Who carries you during life’s most difficult seasons…which is what it means to be held.

(Due to blog restrictions, you may have to click on the link twice to watch it!)


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