The Ring of Fire: Why Satan wants to give you a Crown without a Cross.
He did not come as expected. He did not descend to the earth as the “Rock Star” king with an entourage singing His praises. Jesus came in such a way that the world did not recognize Him. The world was looking for a mighty and powerful King and He came as a humble servant. God became man. What a great truth to wrap our minds around! Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven to be born in a barn, where his doctors and nurses were camels and donkeys. He left a perfect place to come to an sin-filled place. He left the beautiful worship of angels 24/7 to the sounds of cattle mooing and pigs snorting. Jesus laid down His heavenly crown for another crown – a crown made of thorns. Jesus was born to die. To contemplate Jesus’ humility is an incredible thought. He was an embryo. He grew inside the belly of a woman (women were not respected in this era). He was pushed out of a womb into a world that would not recognize His Greatness. What is “great” about a baby? A baby that would live in a poor community, raised by a woman with a “reputation” and a father that was an “everyday Joe.” Jesus had dirty diapers. He cried. He was 100% human. As a teenager, he likely had acne and endured puberty like every other kid his age. Yet unlike every other kid, Jesus would love his siblings perfectly, even when they sinned against him. Jesus was an avid learner, and enjoyed submitting himself to authority. He would attend a small synagague in his community and almost certainly did not have the chance to listen to the most articulate Rabbis of His day. He would work as a carpenter, hands calloused from hard work, tired from the trials of daily life. As Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us, Jesus is able to relate to human beings in every single area of our life. After all, Jesus was (and is) a human being – a human being that sympathize with us on our very worst days.
Near the age of 30, Jesus was led by the God’s Spirit in the desert to be tempted by Satan for 40 days and nights. He humbled himself to being tempted! He was hungry. He was tired. I mean this was the desert! Satan tempted Jesus, asking him to prove His diety by turning the rocks into stone (something He could have done in an instant, yet He quoted God’s Word and resisted the temptation). Then Satan brought Jesus up to a mountain top and showed him “all the kingdoms of the world” (ironically, the very kingdoms that Jesus Himself created)), and Satan said to Jesus, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whome I will. If you, then , will worhsip me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5-7). Satan wanted to give Jesus a crown, but he wanted to give Jesus a crown without the cross. He was willing to have Jesus rule and reign – but without the suffering. Why? Because God’s plan required Jesus’ humiliation before His exaltation. God’s plan for Jesus was glory, but that glory only came through a bloody cross – a bloody cross that would set the captives free. As Jesus died, He would crush the head of the serpent and disarm the powers and authorities of darkness (Gen. 3:15, Colossians 2), and Satan knew it. Satan knew he wasn’t dealing with an ordinary man; he was dealing with the Head Crusher. However, if Jesus took the crown instead of submitting himself to the cross, we would not be free. Satan would have won.
I am so thankful for the Cross. I am so thankful that Jesus obeyed God perfectly. I am so thankful that even though “Jesus was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant….and being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6). Jesus knew that this life wasn’t the end. “Therefore God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knew should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord….” (Phil 2:9). Jesus endured the horrors and shame of the cross for the joy and glory that was set before Him.
Why we have to take up our cross daily
Normally, family car rides growing up were filled with laughter and sounds of loud singing; however, this ride was mostly silent. My father and I were riding home from the Miss Kentucky pageant, you know, the one I lost. I am sure my father, being the great dad that he is gave me great wisdom and encouragment, I just don’t remember what it was. All I remember is listening – listening for God. I wanted to have a “Moses moment” where He would just call out to me from a burning bush, but that did not happen. Instead, He chose to speak to me through a verse that I had memorized four years earlier. I praise Him for giving us His word and that He is always speaking through it. I had memorized Jer 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek e and find me, when you seek me with all your heart”; He gave me the faith to believe that He was good and that all things (including another “first runner-up”) were working together “for my good.” I was excited to see what my senior year at Murray State had instore for me.
For quite a while, through His Word, God had been preparing my heart to lay down my crown. During the preliminary night of Miss Kentucky, I remember going into one of the bathroom stalls with my formal gown and just crying out to the Lord (silently – didn’t want to freak all my pagenat girls out). Tears ran down my face as a feeling of uncertainty came over me. I was unsure of whether I really wanted what I thought I wanted. Did I really want to be Miss Kentucky?
God always gives us the grace we need to get through our darkest hours.
There would be several dark days and then, there was light. I finally stopped binge eating mint chocolate chip ice cream, took a shower and put on something other than sweat pants. I also stopped replaying the pageant in my head…”If I would have just said this,” “If I would have just looked more excited,” “if I would have just not been so conservative…” (I mean seriously, how am I gonna win Miss Kentucky with the platform of sexual abstinence?) However, the Lord gave me His word and gave me the faith to believe it.
My senior year was a year of going deep with the Lord and because of that I was filled with great joy. I had a hunger and zeal for Him. I spent hours in His word. I remember walking to class reading Scripture memory cards filled with truth, I just couldnt get enough! I often think about those days, treasuring those intimate moments with the Lord. (I also have a tendency to look back and think what the heck is wrong with me now- I don’t ever spend enough time with the Lord… why can’t I just be like I was in college? That needs to be a blog in itself). Long story short, I began to feel Him calling me into ministry, but I was unsure of what that would look like. Maybe I was going to be the next Joyce Meyer! (my husband inserted this sentence).
I had many people involved in the pageant world encouraging me to give it one more shot, “This is your year!” “You deserve this!” The Lord gave me the strength to say no, but in the back of my mind I wondered if I would have regrets. Instead of competing for a pageant I decided I would use my singing for God’s glory in the contemporary Christian realm. My mother had some connections with a record label president and I was introduced to a well-known vocal coach in Nashville. I began to take lessons in Nashville, hoping this would lead to some kind of ministry opportunity in the field of music.
Then It happened. After weeks of not being able to sleep, I woke up in the middle of the night and cried out, “I surrender. I will be a pastor’s wife!” I could not believe the words that came off of my tongue – a pastors wife! That is the last thing in the world I wanted to do; I would rather go to another country and sleep with crazy, huge bugs. However, I knew I had to surrender if I ever wanted to sleep again. I called my mom on my way to class and told her the horrifying news, hoping she would cry with me. Instead my mother tells me she is not shocked at all and that she had been praying for this very thing (go figure). Praying for me to be a pastors wife?!? What kind of mother does this to her daughter, I thought (now I know it’s a mother that loves the Lord; I have a great mom). My grandmother chuckled at the thought of me being a pastors wife – oh the irony, she must have been thinking.
Well, now how do I become a pastors wife? Is there a sign up sheet? Do I go to http://www.Christiansinglepastorwifewannabe.com? Is there an interview involved? Do I go to seminary? Do I throw away all of my shorts and swimsuits? Do I need to go to cooking school to learn how to make fried chicken for the dreadful potlucks we’ll have every week? Instead of all of this, I just went to my classes (which I often time skipped). I had three classes that year with a very handsome country boy who went by the name of Jamus (Don’t let the accent fool you, he is a smart guy;) I knew Jamus, we actually had dated for a week the previous year (I told him “God is calling me to be single,” but then the next week I was dating a “band boy.” Jamus is still recovering.) Anyways, even while Jamus was still kinda mad at me, we eventually spent a few nights running together (I needed a running partner, afterall it was dangerous in Murray, Kentucky at night). We began to have some very transparent (sometimes awkward conversations), and long story short, we decided to date. Five months later he proposed (on top of the Sears Tower in Chicago – by the way, well done.) I said “yes” and we got married three months later…wow…that is quick! (no, we did not get married because I was pregnant).
Burning Ring of Fire
My one claim to fame is that I married into the June Carter Cash family…cool right? Jamus’ father is first cousins with June Carter Cash. Jamus’ grandmother actually taught June how to play the guitar. Jamus’ parents have fond memories of holidays together spent with Momma Maybelle, Johnny Cash, June, and the Carter Clan. Johnny’s famous song, “Ring of Fire”, has many diffent interpretations, but I understand it to mean that love, a “ring of fire,” BURNS – to use Christian language, it “sanctifies.” It hurts. It’s fire purges from you sin, pride, and selfishness.
When I said “yes” to marriage I was saying yes to the life of a pastor’s wife and to a life of NO fame and NO fortune. While my husband will be “up on the platform” in front of everybody, I’ll be the mom sitting on the back row trying to make my babies be quiet. The only glory I would get is, “oh, you’re the pastor’s wife.” As this new identity progressed, the fire was reavealing that my heart still longed for a crown, and that really, I still wanted my “best life now.” I didn’t want to serve my husband (who was a youth pastor at the time); I wanted to back up my bags and leave (which I attempted several times). For me, love was a purifier. The fire burned.
As I’ve looked back through old journal entries, I asked to grow in many areas and apparently marriage was God’s way to answer this. I thought marriage was to make me happy and lovey dovey…hot sex every night… Jamus telling me how wonderful I am… gazing into my eyes and asking deep questions about my heart every night….he was going to be my new crown. This did not happen (Jamus forced me to insert that the 2nd thing on this list did happen – at least some). My husband found out really quick how big of a sinner I was and he was not impressed to say the least. This new discovery about one another led to many loud fights, doors slamming, high heeled shoes thrown at foreheads (from me, towards him) and double decker pizzas being slammed on the ground with Jamus looking at me and saying, “eat that.” Our poor neighbors in seminary; they must have thought the Jerry Springer show was being filmed next door (What is this guy studying in seminary? To be a pastor in the church of Satan?)
Then, Satan held another crown in front of my face. If I was willing to walk away from God’s plan, I believed it could have been mine. There was an audition for my favorite musical, “West Side Story”, and against my husband’s wishes (because it would have been a romantic role with another man; I just told Jamus that he was “insecure” – he didn’t appreciate that). Anyway, I went and got called back for the role of Maria (2 girls left). I thought that I had sacrificed everything to be married and I was not going to sacrifice anymore. All my fears of regret had been right. I regretted getting married; I regretted not doing what I wanted, and now God had given me a husband that wasn’t crazy about me. I mean, “Doesn’t he know I could have had any guy!” (sounds like I needed a little fire” huh?) Humble, I think not. I did not get the role of Maria, but God used it once again to bring a fire into my life that would reveal and destroy sin. I believe this fire was the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God (or, Jamus called the director of the show and threatened him if he offered me the position, jk).
Satan doesn’t want you to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. He wants you to have your crowns now, your best life now. He wants you to have the promotion now,after all, you deserve it. He wants you to have the biggest and best of everthing – after all, it’s all about you!
If we stopped seeking our crowns here on earth, and trusted that the Lord has good in store for us, wouldn’t we love others better? I would be present when my babies are trying to talk to me instead of checking out emotionally. I wouldnt think, “I deserve MY time.”
In conclusion, be encouraged my friends – when you are changing diaper after diaper and your three year old still won’t poop in the potty, when you are cleaning up orange juice off the floors you just cleaned, and when you are playing Thomas the Train and princesses day after day. You are bringing Christ to your children. You are “counting others more significant than yourself.” You are being like Jesus. Be encouraged. Trust in the Lord when you are not getting that promotion that you have worked so hard for, and be at peace when your boss does not recognize your abilities. Don’t be discouraged if nobody notices your new haircut at church on Sunday. It’s okay if your clothes don’t fit you quite like they used to. It’s alright if your son isn’t the all-star athlete, or if your husband doesn’t bring home the biggest paycheck. Your identity is not primarily in who you are in this world’s eyes; your identity is primarily who you are in Christ. In His eyes; you are precious. You are chosen. You are beloved. You are the crown of His creation. And good crowns come to those who wait. Exaltation comes to those who are humiliated, first.
Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it preofit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-35)
What earthly crown are you desiring? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us “consider it loss” and take up our cross daily. Our enemy does not want you to die to yourself because there is Joy and fullness in the empty. I’m praying you would see these crosses given by the Father’s loving hands, like a fire, to make your heart beat more like His.