What are you “no” to?

But Jesus said “No!”

Matthew 4:1-4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 5:37 Just say a simple, “Yes I will,” or “No, I won’t.”

In her book Saving Grace (Convergent, 2021), Kirsten Powers tells her painful story of trauma recovery and ways she is learning to live by grace. In her chapter about boundaries, she says “I am a ‘no’ to contempt, cruelty, disrespect, shaming, judging, bad-faith accusations, bullying, gaslighting, demonizing, dehumanizing, lying, both-sides-ism (creating false equivalency between the behavior of different people or groups), and any and all forms of bigotry. I am a no to having conversations with people who are committed to misunderstanding me.” She continues by identifying practical ways she has learned to say “no,” so she has space in her life to say “yes” to grace.

Shutterstock: Kastoluza

Saying “no” can be painful. And we love avoiding or minimizing pain—at least I do. But in her wonderful Transfiguration sermon on Sunday, Jess Bennett linked suffering with glory, inviting us to explore that connection during this season of Lent. And Jonathan Millard in his Ash Wednesday sermon told us fasting (saying “no” to whatever enthralls us) intentionally creates space for us to draw close to God and to discover he is kind and gracious, not angry and vindictive. Jonathan challenged us to let the cravings we feel when we say “no” stir in us our longing for our Father. Most of all, fasting in secret challenges our “approval addiction,” setting us free from our desperate need for the approval and affirmation of others.

I’m working on my “no” list. Then I’ll move on to my “yes” list. Will you join me? And then use this Lent to explore ways to make your “no’s” stick?

During these forty days, I’m deep-diving into Matthew and Hebrews. So I’ll close with this encouragement from Hebrews 12:10-12:

Our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

But God brought them out

Acts 5:16-20, 32, 40-41 Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed. The high priest and his officials were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!” … [When they were arrested again] Peter replied to the high priest, “God raised Jesus from the dead … We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.” … The high council had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.

What imprisons you?

For me, as I mentioned in the last blog, it can be fear, or worry that I’m not capable of doing things “right,” in a way that will bless other people. Sometimes I’m paralyzed by anger at human injustice, deception and manipulation, and the suffering people endure at the hands of others, rather than using the energy of that anger to try to make a difference. Old messages from childhood can creep up and cripple me. The enemy of our souls knows where we’re vulnerable.

But God frees and heals me as I turn to him. He longs to free and heal you, too.

In Brazil, my husband Dave started a ministry of emotional healing called REVER. The acronym means “to see again,” or “to take a second look.” It stands for “restoring lives, equipping restorers.” Our kids grew up in the context of healing prayer ministry in our home and in our church. We watched God do one miracle of release and healing after another, as dramatic as the physical healings in Acts 5. Our church doubled, tripled, quadrupled in size as people met Jesus and experienced his love for them. Under Brazilian leadership, REVER has spread across Brazil and is active now in several Spanish-speaking countries. The Holy Spirit is alive and well!

Take a risk. Show God your shackles and your wounds. Ask him to release and heal you. If you know someone who loves God, ask him or her to support you in this prayer. Find people who can walk with you as you grow into freedom and health. Discover for yourself the joy of God’s care for you, the message of life he is speaking just for you.

I want to share with you one of Karis’s favorite songs: