I am Chosen

“Dear brothers and sisters, you are dearly loved by God and we know that he has chosen you to be his very own.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4)

When I say the following words, what comes to your mind?  Second Grade.  Gym class.  Kick ball.  Picking teams.

For me, these words druge up a lot of negative memories and emotions.  They contain one of my least favorite stories from elementary school .

I remember standing in a straight line with my classmates in the school gymnasium.  The teacher told us it was time to pick teams.  Two students were chosen as “team captains” and they were responsible for picking teams for the kick ball game that was about to ensue.

What a mortifying feeling.  Just thinking about it makes me cringe.  Standing there waiting to be picked.  Waiting to be chosen.

Being picked first made you good, right!?  If you were popular or a good addition to the team, a team captain would pick you first.  It meant that you were desirable.  Wanted. Necessary.  Needed.  Crucial.  The further down the picking order you go, the less wanted, necessary, needed and crucial you were.

It never failed.  I was always one of the last kids left.  This always left me feeling unwanted, insignificant and just plain undesirable.

I wish I could go back and have a conversation with my 7-year-old self.  The things I would tell her sound a lot like the things I tell my kids today.  You are chosen.  You are wanted.  You are dearly loved.  You are chosen to be my very own.

This is exactly what God is telling His children in 1 Thessalonians 1:4 and its what He wants you to hear even still today.

You are dearly loved by God and He has chosen you to be His very own.

Let that sink in.

I know what you may be thinking. “But He didn’t answer my prayer for XYZ”. Or “But He didn’t give that (insert whatever) that I really really wanted.”

I hear you and I get it. My husband and I cried out for almost 2 years for healing. And it didn’t happen. We waited on the Lord for so long only to end up exactly where we started. Total laryngectomy. My voice taken. If anyone out there feels differently than what this verse says, it’s me. I didn’t feel loved and chosen when I woke up from the anesthesia and realized the supernatural healing so many has been praying for didn’t happen.

Here’s the truth that will set you free. God’s Word supersedes our emotions. God’s Word is the standard. The constant. Our emotions can trick us.

The fact is that we, my brother or my sister, are deeply and affectionately loved by an everlasting and amazing God. He chose us before the foundation of the world. When Jesus hung on that tree to become the curse of the Law for us, he saw all our seemingly hidden moments. Those moments we think are secret, as he stretched out His arms allowing himself to be nailed to that tree, he saw them. Yet he still laid down.

He chose me.

He loves me deeply.

When no one wants me on their team, He wants me. There’s nothing I can do to be separated from His amazing love. Glory!!

So today, as you about your day, I want you to keep telling yourself this. “I am deeply loved. I am chosen by God regardless.”

Lord, thank you for loving me. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you that way back 2000+ years ago as your Son lay dying on the tree that even though He saw my secret places, He chose me. He laid Himself down for me despite anything I’ve done or will do. You are love. I rejoice that I am chosen. I rejoice that I am truly, affectionately and deeply loved by you. Holy Spirit, help me to see myself with God-esteem instead of esteem found inside myself. Help me to know the truth of what your Word says about me. Write it on my heart. Amen.

©️ Dacian Keaton Ministries, 2019. All rights reserved.

God-Esteem

Esteem: to regard highly or favorably; to regard with respect or admiration; to consider as of certain value or of certian type; to regard”

Over the years I’ve heard a lot about developing self-esteem in yourself and your kids.  I’ve seen dozens of parenting strategies to help raise whole and confident kids by developing their self-esteem.  The older I get the more I realize, as a Believer, it’s not just about self-esteem.  Learning and recognizing the things we can do in our own strength and uniqueness is all well and good.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t constantly be encouraging our kids and helping them find their God-given gifts that make them unique to the Kingdom.  However, when we only focus on what they can do because of who they are, we are missing one key element.  We miss the perspecitive that shows us the completed work of the cross and just what God has done to make us whole and complete.

Things that affect our self-esteem can fade.  Our skills can get rusty.  Today, I’m no where near the athlete I was in highschool.  My skin isn’t nearly as flawless as it was in college.  My physical abilities, with age, are only going to deteriate and dull.  So when I allow my esteem to come from “self”, it is fleeting.  Always changing depending on my current level of skill.

However, there is one constant for a Believer that only gets better with age.

God-esteem.

While self-esteem is regarding yourself favorably with admiration because you have learned to love the things you can do and accept who you are as you are, God-esteem is regarding yourself favorably with admiration because of who and whose you are. God-esteem is entirely based on God.  It has nothing to do with us and is therefore unbreakable, consistent and continual. When you realize you are a new creation and living from a place that you are in fact already there regardless of your emotions, you have learned God-esteem.  When everything in your life and the world screams “You are worthless” and you can sit with a smile on your face knowing your value based on who you know that God says you are, you are standing in a reality that doesn’t always match our experiences.  You are standing in God-esteem.

I really think that until a person understands God’s true impression and astounding opinion of themselves, they really can’t ever have healthy self-esteem.  We must first find our God-esteem.  Then we can find our self-esteem.  Self-esteem for the Believer is always rooted in the way God esteems us.

 

So what does God think of us?  What is God’s astounding opinion of us as Believers?

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Over the next several weeks, I want to ellaborate on these verses and help you see just who God says that you are.  The Lord really does have an outstanding opinion of us.  As Believers we are a new creation.  Our Spirit is made NEW!!  Glory. One-third of us is already perfected and He’s working to perfect the other two-thirds (soul and body).

If you’ll stick with me a few weeks, I think you’ll have a great astouding opinion of yourself as well.  Are you ready to grow your God-esteem?

©️ Dacian Keaton Ministries, 2019. All rights reserved.

Romans 8:18-39

My meditations over the last few days have been on this passage from Romans 8:18-39 (The Passion Translation). Enjoy!  No commentary from me today.  I’ll let the Holy Spirit marinade it in your heart.

“I am convinced that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us. The entire universe is standing on tiptoe, yearning to see the unveiling of God’s glorious sons and daughters! For against its will the universe itself has had to endure the empty futility resulting from the consequences of human sin. But now, with eager expectation, all creation longs for freedom from its slavery to decay and to experience with us the wonderful freedom coming to God’s children.  To this day we are aware of the universal agony and groaning of creation, as if it were in the contractions of labor for childbirth.  And it’s not just creation. We who have already experienced the firstfruits of the Spirit also inwardly groan as we passionately long to experience our full status as God’s sons and daughters—including our physical bodies being transformed.  For this is the hope of our salvation.

But hope means that we must trust and wait for what is still unseen. For why would we need to hope for something we already have? So because our hope is set on what is yet to be seen, we patiently keep on waiting for its fulfillment.

And in a similar way, the Holy Spirit takes hold of us in our human frailty to empower us in our weakness. For example, at times we don’t even know how to pray, or know the best things to ask for. But the Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede on our behalf, pleading to God with emotional sighs too deep for words.

God, the searcher of the heart, knows fully our longings, yet he also understands the desires of the Spirit, because the Holy Spirit passionately pleads before God for us, his holy ones, in perfect harmony with God’s plan and our destiny.

So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose. For he knew all about us before we were born and he destined us from the beginning to share the likeness of his Son. This means the Son is the oldest among a vast family of brothers and sisters who will become just like him.

Having determined our destiny ahead of time, he called us to himself and transferred his perfect righteousness to everyone he called. And those who possess his perfect righteousness he co-glorified with his Son!

So, what does all this mean? If God has determined to stand with us, tell me, who then could ever stand against us? For God has proved his love by giving us his greatest treasure, the gift of his Son. And since God freely offered him up as the sacrifice for us all, he certainly won’t withhold from us anything else he has to give.

Who then would dare to accuse those whom God has chosen in love to be his? God himself is the judge who has issued his final verdict over them—“Not guilty!”

Who then is left to condemn us? Certainly not Jesus, the Anointed One! For he gave his life for us, and even more than that, he has conquered death and is now risen, exalted, and enthroned by God at his right hand. So how could he possibly condemn us since he is continually praying for our triumph?

Who could ever separate us from the endless love of God’s Anointed One? Absolutely no one! For nothing in the universe has the power to diminish his love toward us. Troubles, pressures, and problems are unable to come between us and heaven’s love. What about persecutions, deprivations, dangers, and death threats? No, for they are all impotent to hinder omnipotent love, even though it is written:

‘All day long we face death threats for your sake, God. We are considered to be nothing more than sheep to be slaughtered!’ (Psalm 44:22)

 

Yet even in the midst of all these things, we triumph over them all, for God has made us to be more than conquerors, and his demonstrated love is our glorious victory over everything!

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”

The Lord Will Provide the Sacrifice

There is one story in the Old Testament that makes me marvel — The Lord testing Abraham in Genesis 22.  I mean… every time I read it I can’t help but think, “What in the world, Lord!?”

Isaac was the fulfillment of a long-awaited promise. Abraham and Sarah waited and waited and waited for this one, but in their old age, they did in fact have a son.  God’s covenant was formed.  The promise fulfilled.

Then God decides to test Abraham.

“Abraham!! Take your son, your only son, whom you love– Isaac– and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Um… I can see Abraham scratching his head. Lord, did I hear that correctly?  Are you sure about this?

WOA_IMAGE_1The scripture says that early the next morning, Abraham loads his donkey, takes his servants and Isaac and goes to the mountain.  Abraham showed the faith and the obedience for deliverance multiple times in the story, yet the Lord waited to provide the ram.  Abraham showed faith and obedience when he loaded up his donkey with enough wood to make a fire and took his first step towards the mountain.   Shouldn’t this had been enough for the Lord to show up?  Isn’t it enough when we just show up in obedience?

He showed faith again when he left his servants at a camp on the mountain saying “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there.  We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5)  He said “we”.  Did you notice that?  Abraham was walking in the faith and obedience required to pass the test.  Yet no ram here either.

Then Abraham put the wood into Isaacs arms and with the fire in one hand and his knife in the other, walked with Isaac the last part of the way up the mountain path.  Along the way, Isaac says to his father, “Father, the fire and the wood are here but where is the lamb for the offering?  Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ (Genesis 22:7-8) “

Now you would think that at this point in the story, Abraham should have passed the test.  I mean he’s loaded the donkey.  He’s gathered the wood.  He’s got his fire in one hand and this knife in the other. He’s walking along with Isaac in faith and obedience.  But the ram is not given here either!

Then Abraham builds an altar.  He arranges the wood on it.  I’m sure several times in this process he had to look up towards heaven and say, “Okay Lord.  Have I passed the test yet?  I mean… you can show up any time now!?”

I marvel at God’s timing.

Notice what it took for God to finally show up; Abraham had to lay Isaac down on the altar of sacrifice.

It says that he bound Isaac.  Laid him on top of the wood and laid him on the altar.  And it was THIS action that finally caused God to show up.  Finally God reveals Himself and His plan.  Don’t lay a hand on the boy.  Do not harm him.  And in that moment Abraham looks up and caught in a thicket is a ram caught by his horns.  Finally, God provides the sacrifice.

I think many times in life we, like Abraham, walk in faith and obedience waiting for the Lord to show up.  Have you ever had a situation where you knew God was going to do something but for a long time you are left scratching your head wondering what in the world, Lord?

I believe God wants to show up.  I believe often times, we are the ones holding him back.

In Isaiah 61:3 it says God will turn our ashes into a crown of beauty, but here’s the thing: Before we can have our crown of beauty, we need ashes.  Before we can have ashes, we have to lay down the promise.

God is an all-consuming fire. Hebrews 12:29  Whatever it is that you are waiting for God to show up in, bind it up, lay it on the wood and prepare it for sacrifice.  See, when we lay down the promise on the altar of sacrifice and let him fully consume it, that’s when he truly can turn them into a crown of beauty.

Abraham had the faith and obedience necessary for God to show up.  Multiple times he passed the test of faith.  I believe many times we too pass the test of faith.  But God is waiting until our “Isaac” is bound, laying on the wood ready to be sacrificed before providing the ram.  Before he can show up and give us that glorious crown of beauty, we have to do our part.  We have to lay the promise down on the altar. Bound and ready for sacrifice.

So I ask you today, what are you holding onto?  What pain, disappointment, injustice or promise are you holding onto that needs to be bound up, laid on the wood and made ready for sacrifice? You can live by faith and walk in obedience all you want.  Abraham did.  Will you lay the promise down on the altar, let the Lord consume it to ashes and then trade you ashes for a crown of beauty??  When you finally do, that’s when the Lord can give you your crown of beauty.  That’s when He can show up.  That’s when you can find your break through.

Holy Spirit, show me today the areas of my life that I have been holding onto.  Show me what “Isaacs” I have in my life that need to be bound up, laid on the wood and made ready for sacrifice. What promises have you given me, that haven’t been provided yet that I need to lay down on the altar so you can consume them?  Lord, give me eyes to see and hears to hear.  I want to lay the rubble of my life on the altar of sacrifice where you can consume it to ashes and trade it for a crown of beauty.

© Dacian Keaton Ministries, 2019. All rights reserved.

 

What Fruit Are You Eating?

There’s a lot of chatter in our churches about producing fruit.  We need to be attached to the vine so we produce good fruit.  We judge church health by the fruit its members produce and by what fruit we see coming out of it. I think producing fruit has become the measurement of success for the Believer.

I agree with the idea that we need to be producing fruit.  It’s a natural outflow of a life connected to Jesus.  The vine and the branch. When connected to Jesus, we will produce fruit. It truly is a litmus test of a spiritual reality.

I would like to propose another aspect of fruit that we don’t hear talked about very often in our churches today.

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)

I’m not going to ask you “What fruit you are producing today?”  Instead, I am going to ask you, “What fruit are you eating today?”

Did you catch the last part of that verse?  When we speak death or life we eat it.  We actually ingest what comes out of our mouth. In Solomon’s wisdom he wrote that our tongues carry with it death and life and we eat the fruit of what we speak.  So when we speak death, we eat death.  When we speak life, we eat life!

Sometimes the things that come out of us are caused by the things that come in.  “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)   It’s the whole “garbage in, garbage out” idea.  Be careful little eyes what you see and little ears what you hear.  So we do need to be guarding what comes in, but that’s only part of the story.

The other part that isn’t talked about very often is the idea of guarding what comes out.  What comes out of your tongue?  Death or life?

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I love this poem. I’ve always been fascinated with the life and poems of Emily Dickinson.  This one has always been one of my favorites. It’s so true. There is power in our words.  We say something flippantly not realizing that we actually just planted a type of seed for a plant in our garden.

What seeds are you planting in your garden?  Are you grumbling and complaining under your breath? Do you speak poorly about the people who anger you? What are you saying about your fellow drivers as you drive down the road.  What are you speaking over your children even when they can’t hear you?

I have to admit, I am a naturally cynical person.  My personality is one that is usually skeptical at first. So this concept of speaking life into a situation was very hard for me. It didn’t feel right… at first.  It was always much easier for me to point out the bad instead of speaking out what good I want to see.

What does it mean to speak life or speak death?  Think of the last time someone cut you off while driving.  What did you say in that moment?  I’ve had to train myself to compliment them.  To speak blessings over them.  That’s speaking life.

I could give lots of examples.  But honestly, I don’t want to create a low unto itself.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.  So I’m going to ask you to get to a quiet place with the Holy Spirit and just meditate on this verse.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the reality of your words.

Lord, Show me what fruit I am eating when I speak today.  What seeds am I planting in my garden that I will later sow?  Am I speaking life or speaking death over people today?  I ask you for opportunities where I can speak life into people’s lives today.  Give me a chance to bless people with my words.  AMEN.

© Dacian Keaton Ministries, 2019. All rights reserved.

 

Under the Circumstances

Did you hear about the man who when asked, “How are you?” responded with “Not bad under the circumstances.” Then his questioner laughed and said, “What in the world are you doing under there?”

If there is one thing the Lord has pressed on my heart over the last 2 years dealing with this tumor, it’s that I am NOT under my circumstances. We may choose to allow our circumstances to over come us.  We may feel like we are under our circumstances. However, the truth is that when I chose faith, I am NOT and do not have to be under my circumstances.

Habakkuk is a good example of someone who chose to not live under their circumstances.  The book of Habakkuk is one of those gems in the Old Testament that few Christians read.  It’s stuck in the back of the Old Testament along with the other minor prophetic books and often overlooked.  But I want to encourage you to find it and read it.  It’s well worth the 3 chapter investment.  In it, you will find how to live a life that is not under your circumstances.  You can read it online here.

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Little is known about Habakkuk’s life. We know less about Habakkuk than any other writer of the Bible. His name not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture. However, Rabbinic tradition holds that he might have been the Shunammite woman’s son who Elisha restored back to life in 2 Kings 4.  The story of the Widow’s Oil is one of my favorite.  So it’s fun for me to think that Habakkuk might have been her son.

Even though we dont’ know much about Habakkuk’s life, we do know from his book that he chose faith.  Habakkuk was faced with an impossible situation. Written someime in the later part of the 7th centure BC,  it’s a brilliant conversation between the Lord and Habakkuk concerning the Chaldeans (Babylon) who were coming to capture Jerusalem.

The Chaldeans were nasty people.  Suffice to say the Chaldeans had a reputation of violence and they were not someone you would want leading you off to captivity. Habakkuk is having trouble justifying why God would let such an atrocity happen.  He is heart broken and confused.  After all, they were God’s chosen people.  Israel had bragging rights.  They had a covenant with God.  So why would God let something so terrible happen to His people?

Habakkuk laments to the Lord.  “How long, Lord must I call for help, but you don’t listen? Or cry out to you “Violence (injustice) but you do not save!? Why do you make me look at injustice!? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing!? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.” (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

The Lord answers him. “Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.(Habakkuk 1:5)

The Lord openly confesses to Habakkuk just how terrible the Chaldeans are and just how bad it’s going to get.  Yep! You’re right, Habakkuk.  They are “feared and dreaded people; a law until themselves” but I’m going to use them.  So you’re just going to have to deal with it because when it’s all said and done it’s going to be glorious.

Habakkuk then argues with the Lord! But… but… but…. Have you ever argued with the Lord?  Even after getting a word from Him?  Even after getting an answer that He’s going to do something amazing, did you continue to question and doubt?  I know I have. Habakkuk did too.  It’s like Habakkuk’s heart had not quite caught up to him mind.

What finally gets him there?

“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” (Habakkuk 2:1)

This gives legs to the idea that those who wait on the Lord will be strengthened and renewed. Scripture doesn’t tell us how long Habakkuk waited.  I don’t know this for sure, but I imagine he spent several nights camped out on the ramparts of the city waiting for the Lord’s response.  What I do know is that in Habakkuk’s waiting, the Lord showed up.

He tells Habakkuk to write down the revelation He was about to receive.  Put it on tablets so it can be passed around to the people.  Then He makes a promise to His people. He promises that the hardship will one day end and that He will not let them fail. “Those it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

This is also where the Lord talks about living with the faith of God that is later quoted in Hebrews 10:28 to start off the “Faith of Fame” chapter.

So how does the story end?  Quite simply.

H: How can you let this happen, Lord?

The Lord: Simply put, I’m allowing it to grow you.

H: How can you let this happen, Lord?

The Lord: Simply put, I am with you and will you will not fail.

The ending, as all great stories, is the best part.  Habakkuk, in his despair, doubt and questioning begins to praise the Lord.

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deed, Lord.  Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)

Then the entire last chapter is a song of praise to the Lord. He resolves his doubt and lamenting with praise and surrender.  Beautiful.

Have you ever had a time in your life where you dug your heals in with the Lord? We camp out in our doubt and despair like a toddler who doesn’t get his way.  We can stay there arms folded proving a point. Or we can chose to let it go into the hands of a loving Father and let it end with praise and surrender.

That’s how we find resolution to our hopelessness, despair and our doubt.  Praise and surrender. Just like Habakkuk.

Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.  (Habakkuk 3:16-19)

It’s also how we live a life where we are not under our circumstances.  A life where we are not victims to the things that happen around us.  Glory. That’s the life I want to live and the life I want to teach my kids to live.

© Dacian Keaton Ministires, 2019. All rights reserved.

Romans 8:28 in New Light

IMG_2473.PNGI’ve heard this verse one thousand times and never really truly understood it.  I accepted it as truth simply because it’s God’s Word. Infallible.  Always true.  I’ve even quoted it to people going through a tough time to remind them to hope in the Lord.  God’s got this, right?

It wasn’t until I experienced my own hardship that I really started to understand this verse completely.  A dangerous tumor in a really bad place.  Only operable if they removed my larynx and took my vocal cords.  To one who is called to teach God’s Word this was devastating news.

 

How on earth, Lord, are you going to work this out for good?

My husband and many loved ones around me dug in for almost 2 years trusting and praying for healing.  Knowing it was something already provided. Knowing it is always God’s will to heal. Knowing that God wanted me well.  “By His stripes I have been healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 & 1 Peter 2:24). Past tense.  Everything I needed for healing was provided on the cross.  We waited for 2 years until finally the tumor grew to a place where it literally could suffocate me at any moment.  Doctors were recommending an emergency tracheotomy.

I went to the Abby of Gethsemane and prayerfully sought what to do next. Finally, it came down to the fact that God wanted me well. He was either going to supernaturally reach down and remove this tumor or the doctor was going to do it.  Either way.  Death was at my door step and it needed to go.

In the months after the surgery, I cried out “why” to the Lord more times than I can count.  We were hopeful that the doctor would be able to remove the tumor and the Lord would restore the vocal cords.  It didn’t turn out that way. My entire larynx was removed.  My two pipes separated.  I now breathe from my neck making my nose simply ornamental.  And my esophagus was surgically re-done.  I learned how to breathe and swallow again pretty quickly.  However, learning to speak again has been much more of a challenge.

I know my calling.  I know my passions.  I know my purpose.  All of them use my voice.  How could God have let something take my voice away?  How on earth is God going to work this out for good?

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I recently read Dutch Sheet’s book called The Power Of Hope.  I can honestly say over the last few months I have experienced “hope deferred”.  Learning how to manage the “new normal” has been a lot to handle.  All dreams I once dreamt are gone and I am figuring out what new dreams the Lord wants me to dream.

This book has been helpful.  If you’ve experienced loss of any kind, I highly recommend picking up a copy and going through it.  Find hope again.

Dutch teaches on Romans 8:28 in this book unlike I’ve ever heard it.  I love when people can bring meaning out of the original language.  It made me stop in my tracks and dig in a little deeper with the Holy Spirit as my guide.  Here’s what I learned.

The phrase “work together” doesn’t just mean God is going to work things out for us.  The phrase comes from the greek work “synergeo”.  It’s where we get our English word synergy.  Sun in greek means “together” and ergon means “work”.  So somewhere in the mid 18th century the word “synergy” was born from these two greek works meaning “work together.”

According to the dictionary, synergy means “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”  So when two things “synergies, they work together with the end result being an outcome that is greater than you could have had if either party was working on their own.

According to an online lexicon I read, there are two possible meanings to the Greek word synergeo.  First it is “to work together, help in work, be partner in labour.”  But there is also a second meaning which is “to put forth power with or thereby to assist.”

I used to read this verse very passively thinking, “Okay.  I’ll sit back and endure this hard ship and God will somehow turn it into something good.”  Like Joseph in Genesis 50:20 where he tells his brothers he forgives them and God meant their evil for good.  All I have to do is “grin and bear it” and take comfort knowing that God’s going to do something with it.

However, now I see a dynamic power in this verse that I’ve never seen before.  Yes.  God is working with me in it.  God is partnering with me in the labor.  He is helping me as I work through the hardship.  But the second meaning brings so much more!

He’s not just partnering with me.  Nor is He just doing it for me.  Instead, He is putting forth his POWER around and through me. Together as I allow Him to work in me, the Lord’s POWER is changing me.  I dare say through hardships I experience God’s power unlike I could without that hardship.  Maybe this is why the Apostle Paul says so many times in his letters to the church that we should rejoice in our hardships. Without them, we will never experience God’s power like we do when we synergize with him during hardship.

Dutch Sheets says, “Synergism is the ‘working together of two or more drugs, muscles or etc, to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.’  In choosing this word, God is promising He will take all of the bad, all of the pain, and every attempt of the enemy to destroy your faith –“all things”– and then mix in Himself, infusing these evils with His miraculous power.  ‘I will synergies with them’, He says, ‘and the good in Me will overpower the bad in them.’  Amazing!”

So when I go through hardships, I really can rejoice.  Because it’s in that hardship that God is unleashing his power over and in me.  He is synergizing resulting in a creation that could not have been if the two things didn’t work together.  And I am so much better off for it.

Copyright © 2019 Dacian Keaton Ministries.  All rights reserved.

 

I Am Not Just A Survivor

UnknownI am a cancer survivor. We hear that statement a lot these days. It’s a war cry associated with various colored ribbons that immediately identifies a person as someone who overcame something difficult. Someone who survived a dreaded disease. Someone who deserves a pat on the back and recognition. If you’ve ever had a bout with cancer, you know exactly what it means to be a cancer survivor.

I could call my self a “cancer survivor”.

But I don’t.

And here’s why.

When I first received the diagnosis “laryngeal cancer” and “chondro sarcoma of the larynx” I was immediately labeled as a “cancer patient” by the medical community. I became known as someone who had cancer in their body. I become someone to be pitied. Someone to talk softly around. Someone to act emphatically around.

In the months following the doctor’s initial report, I would spend time with the Lord in our quiet place. It was there that the Lord was very clear to me about one thing. He didn’t want me labeling myself as someone with cancer. I wasn’t to tell anyone “I have cancer.”  I was simply to say I had a tumor trying to take over a very dangerous place of my body and we needed to pray.

for-god-has-not-given-a-spirit-of-fear-but-of-power-and-of-love-and-of-self-control-2-timothy-117-bible-verse-with-photo-of-the-grand-canyon-at-night.jpgThe Lord has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:17). Anyone who has dealt with cancer knows, all it does is propitiate fear. Since the Lord has not given me a spirit of fear, I was not to have an atmosphere of fear surrounding me. I was supposed to choose faith. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21). The Lord was very clear that He wanted me speaking life and not death. By identifying myself as someone with laryngeal cancer, I was speaking death. I would have been agreeing with something that I didn’t want.  In obedience, my husband and I told very few people the seriousness of our situation. By faith, we took almost 2 years to wait and see what the Lord was going to do.

I wish I could say my story of faith ended with this glorious and miraculous touch from God.  It didn’t.  I ended up having the same surgery the doctor suggested even after 2 years of pressing in and seeking healing.  A total laryngectomy.  My airway was relocated to my neck.  My esophagus rebuilt.  My vocal cords removed with the larynx.

Recently, I was chatting with a couple sweet ladies at a new church my husband and I were visiting. They had seen the larytube around my neck, heard me using my electric larynx and were curious. I stood in the kitchen of the home church and shared a very abbreviated version of my story with them. I took a few minutes to explain exactly what they doctors did to separate my two tubes, create a new nose for me in my neck and surgically rebuilt my esophagus.

They marveled at it all. Then one of them very emphatically asked me, “Was that hard for you?”

I laughed. All I could do was laugh. Was it hard for me?

Even now as I type this, I chuckle. I can’t help it. YES! It was hard. So so so so hard. Most days it still is very very hard. The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I looked at the woman and with compassion that can only come from the Holy Spirit I said, “Yes. It was hard. But one thing I’ve learned is that we all have our stuff.”

UnknownSee, tragedy is not a respecter of persons. Tragedies can not be compared, measured or thought of as worse or better than other tragedies. Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have troubles (John 16:33).” Tragedy and hardships are inevitable. If you get to live long enough, you are going to experience them. Everyone has something that was, is or will be considered “hard”. And I’m not going to compare mine with someone else’s. Nor am I going to cower down and say, “Oh it’s so hard!” becoming a victim to my circumstances.

I think the Apostle Paul understood tragedy more than anyone else ever has. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he boasts about his sufferings to the Corinthian church. Shipwreck. Flogging. Beatings. Jail time. Stranded at sea. Exposed to death over and over. Constant danger from bandits, his fellow Jews and the Gentiles. Hungry.  Thirsty.  Cold and sleep deprived.

Yet in Romans 8:31-19, despite everything he had experienced, he very clearly says that we are more than conquerors.  (Note: Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians was written around 2 years after Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. This tells us the frame of mind Paul had.  Despite all the hardship he endured, he carried a victorious attitude in life.  He never allowed himself to be “under his circumstances.”

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I’m sure in those many moments of hardship, Paul didn’t “feel” like a conqueror. In fact, I’m sure he felt quite conquered while laying in chains awaiting his next beating. Yet he writes to encourage the Roman church that we are not merely survivors. We are not merely conquerors. We are, in fact, MORE than conquerors.

There is something glorious about stepping into hardship with this attitude. Lord, I don’t feel it. In fact, I feel quite the opposite. But I know that I know that I know that I know… that I am in Christ. My spiritual reality far supersedes my physical reality and because of that, I know that I AM MORE than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.

Copyright © 2019 Dacian Keaton Ministries.  All rights reserved.

Holy Holy Holy Is the Lord God Almighty

Grief is a funny little thing.  You never know when it’s going to hit you or what event is going to trigger it. I’m 141 days into losing my larynx to a cancerous tumor.  Some days are better than others, but the grief still hits me.

Last night grief arrived as I watched a video of a young woman singing.  An absolutely beautiful voice, it triggered some old dreams about singing.  I used to sing at church.  I used to help lead worship. Never again. Just another thing lost in this battle.

As I watched this young woman sing, emotion overcame me.  My heart hurting, I started crying.

Silently I cried out to the Lord, “Lord, I just want to sing again.”

I want to be able to release emotion and creativity through song once again.  It’s one thing to lose your voice and not be able to communicate.  There are tools that help you regain your ability to communicate.  But there’s nothing that will ever help me sing again.  Not like I used to.  Nothing that will help me release that creative side of myself through music.  Nothing that will help me once again feel the emotions coming out of me as I sing a song.

I love when the Lord reveals His presence to us.  The great Comforter. He is I AM.

In a flashing second, I heard Him sing to me part of the Mercy Me song “I can only Imagine.”

“Will I sing hallelujah or be able to speak at all….”

And in that moment, I saw a vision.  It lasted just a few seconds but it was powerful and packed with meaning.

I saw a sea of saints before me. They stood in what looked like and endless field. More than I could ever count.  All colors of skin.  Ethnicities I’ve never seen in real life. All shapes and siizes, yet all united in song. They were in heaven singing praises to the Lord.

I heard their song very clearly. “Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come.”  Harmoniously united with arms lifted high in praise.  It was the most beautiful thing my mind’s eye has seen.

In a second, I knew what the Lord was saying to me.  “It’s okay daughter.  I know your pain.  I understand your heart.  I know it’s hard.  I know you want your voice back.  But’s going to be okay, daughter.  We will have all of eternity to sing together.  You will once again sing and when you do, it will be for all eternity long.  Never again will your voice be taken from you.  And it will be the sweetest singing of all because it will be singing in my presence.  Completely in my presence.  I am here with you.  You are not alone.  It’s going to be okay.”

Overwhelmed with a feeling of love.  Comforted beyond anything I could ever imagine.  I wept.  There in the quietness of my living room with my children sleeping above me, I wept in the presence of my Father.

I hear you, Lord.  Thank you for 40 some years with a beautiful voice.  I surrender the next 40 some years of no voice to you. Use me as you see fit.  And I long for the day I meet you in eternity and we sing songs together.  You and me.  Together.  Forever. Thank you for your Holy Spirit and for walking this very hard journy with me.  I hear you.

Copyright © 2019 Dacian Keaton Ministries.  All rights reserved.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

A lot has been written and taught on prayer over the years.  My personal book shelf holds thousands of pages on the topic.  How to pray more effectively.  How to pray the best more fervent prayers. How to get better results when we pray. Visit any Christian book website or brick and mortar store and you’ll get tons of books on the topic of prayer.

Today I was reading through Luke and I came to chapter 11 where the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray.  “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples,” the disciples asked Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t hesitate.  He seizes the teaching moment and gives them what has become known as the Lord’s Prayer.

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Beautiful.  A model prayer.  Something Believers have been praying in various forms for centuries.  It’s been recited, sung, quoted, studied, broken down, taught to children and passed around for generations.  It’s the “go-to” prayer to pray when you don’t know what else to pray.

What strikes me about this passage in Luke 11 is that as beautiful as this model prayer is, there is something much more exciting to glean from Jesus’ teaching on prayer.  Something that is much more powerful and something that if more Believer’s adopted into their prayer lives, their prayers would become unstoppable.  With one simple change in our prayer life, we really can “seek and find.”

Jesus tells a story about a friend lending bread a midnight.  This is a lesson on prayer that teaches about our persistence and God’s good character.

Then Jesus says something that has always puzzled me.

So I say to you “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asked receives; those who seek find, and to those who knock, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10 TNIV)

As first glance this really makes it look like when we accept Jesus and become a Believer that we join this magical little club.  Then whatever we ask Abba for, it will just magically appear.  Like a good fairy with a magic wand or a genie with infinite wishes.

I know this isn’t true.  God isn’t a genie granting wishes.  Yes He loves us.  Yes He is a good good Father.  Yes He gives us bread instead of a stone and a fish instead of a snake.  But he’s not some magic genie out there doling out wishes whenever we ask.  So what does this mean?

Jesus finishes his lesson on prayer with this statement.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for [bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asked for] a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asked for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13 TNIV)

One phrase sticks out to me in what Jesus said. The very end.  “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Did you catch that?

Jesus closes his teaching to his disciples on how to pray by talking about asking for the Holy Spirit and saying that God will give the Holy Spirit to all who ask for him.

When I read this a light switch went off in my heart.

What is the single most powerful and important thing a disciple of Jesus can learn from this teaching in Luke 11?

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It’s simple.  When we pray, we ask the Holy Spirit what we should pray.

When we pray, we pray according the God’s will by allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through us. How do we have a prayer life that leads to whatever we ask being given to us?  We pray according to His will.  We pray the very heart of God.  And we can do this because we have the Holy Spirit indwelling in us.  The Helper.  The Comforter.

People talk a lot about a surrendered life. This is all good.  A surrendered heart and flesh is important!  However, I think the most powerful tool we have as Believers is a surrendered prayer life.  When we start our petitioning prayer time with “Holy Spirit show me how to pray. Lord, what is your will for this today? Show me your heart for this burden I carry today. “, we are in essence saying “may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  We are opening up heaven to be done on earth. Our prayers start making changes in the spiritual atmosphere around a situation.

How many hours have I spent in prayer praying my requests to God?  Rambling off my requests before him.  Casting my burdens at his feet.  Trying to bend His work & His favor towards the things I think need to be done.  How arrogant.  How foolish. How powerless.

Don’t get me wrong.  He is our Father and He enjoys hearing our hearts. He wants to take our burdens and carry them for us and with us.  However, instead of just listing the requests the way I think they need to be answered, I really should be asking the Holy Spirit to show me His heart on the matter. To pray powerfully is to pray the very heart of God rather than my own heart.

“Lord, teach us to pray.”  Holy Spirit pray through me so the very heart of God come out in my prayers.  Get that.  We can pray the heart of God into a situation and over a person for whom we are burdened!

Talk about power.  Talk about world-changing.

With one simple change in the way we pray, we really can have the things we seek.  We can knock and the door will be opened.  We can seek and find.

Have you been praying for a lost loved one for years?  I have. There are several loved ones that I’ve been praying over for years.  Next time I sit and pray for them, I’m going to change my prayer to include the Holy Spirit. Prayer time surrendered to the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit, show me how to pray today.  God, show me your heart for those around me and tell me how to pray your will into their lives.  I know whatever I ask according to your will, will be done.  So I ask you to show me your will for the burdens on my heart.  I will not ask you to bend to my will.  In stead I want to pray powerfully according to your will Lord. Speak to me and pray through me.   I am here.  Your willing and broken vessel.  Pray through me so that  your will be done on earth as it is already done in heaven.

Amen.

Copyright © 2019 Dacian Keaton Ministries.  All rights reserved.