Living in the VICTORY of the Holy Spirit!

 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV)

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately praying for the Lord to fill me with the strength and tools I need to be able to do His work and not lose heart. And not only to do His work…but to do it *well*. In particular, I have spent a lot of time praying for Him to fill me with JOY in all the varied situations we find ourselves in, and His LOVE for the people we meet — a love that would compel me to reach out to them, and not be content to just let them pass by on their courses to hell.

But then, one day, I stopped in the midst of my prayers. I suddenly realized that each of these things I was pleading for — joy, love, peace, faithfulness, etc. — they are all fruits of the Holy Spirit, as Galatians 5:22-25 says:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

“Okay…” you might think, “I know those verses. I’ve sung the fruit of the Spirit song since I was three. I know all that already. What is so groundbreaking about that?”

Well, I sang that song all my life too. But here, just take a look at some more verses with me real quick…and then I’ll explain it:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13 ESV)

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 ESV)

“….and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5 ESV)

 

The Holy Spirit IS the power that we need to live victorious Christian lives, full of vibrancy and light! HE is the source of all JOY, all LOVE — all that we need for serving the Lord! Without the Holy Spirit, we do a pretty poor job trying to live righteously and godly in our own strength. We don’t need to try to manufacture these things in our own hearts — we can’t ever muster up enough faithfulness or love to live as God’s hands and feet in this world. We don’t need to spend hours and hours pleading with God to make us more loving, kind, or joyful! In fact…we need to get past our self-focused prayer times, and start using our prayer times to storm the devil’s fortresses, and set the captives free! We weren’t saved to feel good about ourselves. We were saved to serve our King…and to rescue others! And the fruits of the Spirit aren’t so people can think about how wonderful we are – they are to cause us to be better, bolder, more selfless soldiers who don’t back down from advancing the Kingdom of God! The Holy Spirit comes in to win victories for the Lord!

So…how do you get the power of the Holy Spirit then…if I just said that we need to stop our self-focused pleading every day for help to stop doing the things we know we shouldn’t, and start doing the things that we should…???

 

LET THE HOLY SPIRIT TAKE CONTROL.

Yep. That simple. Each of us has a “driver’s seat” of our lives. There is one of three chauffeurs. It’s either going to be yourself, the devil, or the Holy Spirit. Now, the devil is no gentleman. He just barges in whenever he can find a crack to squeeze through. But the Holy Spirit IS a gentleman. And He will never force His way in. He will always wait to be asked. Kinda’ vexing. 😉

So for starters, we must ask the Holy Spirit to actually not only fill us, but to take control of our lives, that we might actually BE the hands and feet of Jesus, doing HIS will, and not our own on this earth.

However, for the Holy Spirit to actually be ABLE to take control, we must be willing to surrender anything that is contrary to God’s Spirit within us; anything that would hold us back from being completely surrendered to His will and heart. In fact…any time we feel like we are lacking the power we need to serve the Lord more effectively, or when we are lacking the vibrancy and joy that we know belonged to those who have gone before us as they served — people such as Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward, Jackie Pullinger, Jonathan Goforth, D.L. Moody, Reese Howells, etc. — it is likely that there is something we are holding onto. Something that we have not been willing to let bow before the Lord.

And this is why I was so excited to begin thinking this way. Instead of pleading with God to give me more joy in my life, I can take hold of the Holy Spirit’s power in my life in a deeper way…and it comes from surrendering my heart and life more fully to His service!

How do you receive the Holy Spirit? Well, there is much division over things of this nature. Some believe there is no more Holy Spirit (I have already seen this disproved enough in my life that I don’t even consider it a valid argument any more), some believe that you automatically receive the Holy Spirit when you become a Christian, others believe it is a separate experience. Whatever the case, if you are already a Christian, it cannot hurt to just humble yourself before the Lord and be honest with Him. Just say something like, “Holy Spirit, I desperately need you in my life. I need you to live through me, to give me victory over my flesh, and to cause me to be fruitful in the Lord’s service. I invite you to take control of my life…and I want you to live through me, to do the things that the Father needs done on this earth. I also understand that it will mean surrendering my own desires and the things in my life that are displeasing to you…and I don’t know where to start…but I want to be willing. Please come in. Please make me willing…and please show me the things that are in my life that are hindering me from serving you with total abandon, and then, root those things out so that there’s not one particle of them remaining, but only YOU.”

And that is where I, too, am at today. Eagerly expecting the Holy Spirit to begin to work through me in a deeper, more effective way; making me more one with the desires of God’s heart. I want to be His hands and feet. Do you?

 

The Gift of a Mommy Heart in a Selfish World.

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“God is a God of hope, and He will turn any heartache that is offered to Him into beauty.”

I don’t know if any of you will ever have to face the intense battle of getting pregnant and having to choose whether you want to keep your baby or not – I hope none of you who read this ever do. But just in case…and for the sake of saving even one little life, I have written this article. I have also written it so that you can help any of your friends who may end up in this situation, because abortion is so common today, and most of us will know at least one person who ends up facing this choice – probably more than one. This is just a little bit of my own story…because I want you to really understand that there is always hope, no matter how impossible things may seem. God is a God of hope, and He will turn any heartache that is offered to Him into beauty. This is also an encouragement for any girl who, deep inside, wants to be a mommy, even though the culture will say that it’s not important, or not a “real job”, or tells you that you’re so smart that you should “do something with your gifts”, or that you need to make something of yourself first, or enjoy your life, or that kids are just a burden…..etc. It’s a lie. All of it. You don’t even have to be a mommy to have a mommy heart; there are a few courageous young women throughout history who were never married, and yet have become true mothers for many orphans and neglected children. And for those who are on their way to being mommies soon, but who haven’t been experiencing the “fairytale” pregnancy….be encouraged – you’re not alone, and it’s all worth it. And for those who are moms already, young or older, and have been struggling because they’ve been flooded with the lies of the culture…there’s still hope for you too…and I pray that this article will be a blessing and reminder to you of the beautiful thing that God created when He made us to be Mommies. But regardless of where you are in life…whether you’re 10 or 20, or 45…cultivating a Mommy’s heart can only be a blessing to you.

I stared at the changing numbers on the computer screen with horror. One second it would add one to the end of the number…the next second it would add two. Never ending, the numbers continued to count up with sickening rapidity. Tears started to pool in my eyes, and I quickly closed the screen…but not before I took note of one number – “Abortions That Have Happened While You’ve Been on This Site” – over 90, in just such a short period of time. And since 1970 worldwide? Over 1,300,000,000. That number is almost bigger than anybody knows how to read these days. And yet…numbers can be so empty to us. Our minds can’t really even grasp what a billion IS…let alone, a billion babies being murdered. But that “90-and-counting” brought it closer to home. More than one baby every single second is being mercilessly killed in the most horrific ways. And why? Because the devil hates – HATES – babies…because each new baby is a promise of someone who COULD be drawn to Jesus and live with Him in Heaven forever. And because babies are filled with the sweetest, most pure innocence…and it’s no surprise that the devil HATES innocence…and that’s why he works night and day from the time a baby is conceived to either snuff out that pure light of innocence and hope, or to corrupt them as soon as possible with the flood of sinful passions he has so carefully prepared to tantalize their senses. And yet…it is also more than that; the devil works in the hearts of the mothers as well…because, unlike China, where mothers are forced to have abortions by the government, here in North America we choose. We, the ones who SHOULD be the most fiercely protective of the little lives growing within us, are the very ones who condemn them to death row. And that is the most heartbreaking realization of all. You could almost feel a little better about that growing number of abortions worldwide if it was all forced by a wicked government. But it is us. And yes, there are real struggles…and very, very deep hurt and pain that many go through…and the devil plays with our emotions, making everything seem SO big and impossible…making it seem like our lives are over if we choose to keep this baby. But it’s not a choice. A mommy is not something you can choose to be or choose not to be. You are a mommy as soon as you get pregnant. You are THE mommy of the baby inside of you. It’s a real baby, and you’re the real mommy. It’s not some choose-your-own-adventure book where you can change your mind half way through and go back a few pages to pick a new path. It’s real life. And as soon as there is a little life growing inside of you, you were meant to be it’s mommy. That’s how God made it to be. What gives us the right to say that one child is worthy of life and one child isn’t? The father? Our jobs? Our reputation? Money? What have we become?? What has happened to our love – our compassion – our morals? We have become a society of heartless, selfish people…who care more about ourselves than sacrificing any comfort we hold so dear or facing a little difficulty to raise a child. Ok. Now that I’ve said what I needed to say in that regard (the cold, hard truth)…I will tell you what I’ve experienced…and how I can understand those who feel hopeless in a way that I never could have before.

 

My ears perked up as I heard my little daughter babbling as she woke up from her nap. I rushed into her room…because all I wanted to do was hold her and hug her and kiss her soft cheeks and tell her, “I love you,” after all the heart-breaking things I had just seen and read. As I snuggled her, and gave her eskimo kisses, my mind drifted back to the days before she had been born…
My husband and I had been praying for God to direct the timing of when we had our first child for a while, because, with lives that are as busy as ours, and being on tour for a good half of the year, there were plenty of logistical details to think about and pray about. Then, at the beginning of our 3 month tour…God decided it was time. Potentially a little sooner than we would have preferred…but God doesn’t make mistakes. I spent the first 3 months of my pregnancy touring across Canada…and can I just say that morning sickness and the smell of burgers with fried onions filling a van don’t really go together too well? But God was very gracious, and strengthened me for those 3 months. However, things got much harder once we got home in December, believe it or not. The morning sickness was starting to wane…but then came the intense emotional and spiritual battles that lasted the entire remainder of my pregnancy. I was overwhelmed with the sense of not being able to be a good mom. I was terrified of having a baby. Actually terrified. I spent hours crying nearly every day, because I wanted to be able to go back and not be pregnant any more…but I was…and I knew that I was committed…and I was scared. I also struggled with intense loneliness – despite having a dear husband and family all around me continually, overwhelming fears of the future that often caused me to just curl up in bed unable to move, and a very difficult lack of any good feelings whatsoever. Women would come up to me continually and tell me how much they LOVED being pregnant. I could only give a weak smile and nod. People asked me, “Are you excited yet?” And I had to get creative at giving answers…because I didn’t want to lie…but there wasn’t even an ounce of excitement in me – not even up to the day I went into labor. I thought, “There must be something wrong with me, because everyone who talks to me was just SO excited to be a mommy. Do I not even have to capacity to love children??” This was me for 9 months. And I really loved the Lord. I was married to an excellent husband. God had chosen the timing for us, and we’d had a whole year of marriage before our baby was conceived. The circumstances really should have been ideal; you’d think my heart would have been rejoicing! But after a few months of being so overwhelmed by the oppression and the feeling that it was just an impossible situation and that I could never be a mom…God spoke to my heart, when I cried out and asked, “Why am I feeling all of these things, Lord? I just want to be able to enjoy this pregnancy and to be excited to be a mom. What is wrong with me?” He said, “This isn’t about you. I’ve been letting you feel these things so you can understand what girls in difficult situations are going through, and have mercy in a way you could not have had otherwise.” He led me to 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, which says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
From that day on, my heart was filled with rejoicing, because if I went through everything for even just one life to be saved…it was totally worth it. (It’s amazing how God can simply show us His perspective of things, and all of our distress just melts away.) And maybe it was just for you. And if it was, I just want you to know that I understand your fears and how very, very real they are. I want you to know that it’s ok to cry. I want you to know that, no matter what has happened to get you into this place, Jesus is waiting to hold you close, and to comfort you, and to wipe away every tear. He is so glad for you to be able to lay your weary head on His shoulder, and to let your tears soak through his robe. He wants to lift up your head, and look into your eyes, and tell you, “You are not alone. I love you. And I will never leave you or forsake you…even if everyone else does.” And I have seen Him do the impossible. I know that He will give you the strength to do what you cannot do on your own. He can and will redeem every situation that is given to Him. And if you’ve made mistakes and sinned…just come before Him in humility and confess your sins and repent of them…and He will wash you clean and give you a new life and a new heart. For, as He said to the woman who had been caught in adultery, “….Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) And covering up one sin (whether yours or someone else’s) with another (abortion), is not a fix. And though your feelings are very real, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are TRUE. The devil is truly a master at manipulating our feelings; I have seen it over and over again in my own life…and then, in the midst of my distress, when I pray and ask God to show me the truth, and when I rebuke the devil with Jesus’ authority…God will remove the distress from a situation that I felt was impossible or so overwhelming that I couldn’t even move or think…and He will fill my heart with the truth…and with hope. Hope is one of those things that you can hold onto with all your strength, in the midst of the emotions and the trials…because, “…hope does not put us to shame.” (Romans 5:5) God sees all your struggles…and He cares about every bit. He will provide for you, and uphold you, and He will help you to be a mommy to your child, whether you are ready for it or not. And chances are, you’re scared. Really scared. And really NOT ready. But you don’t have to be. God gives all mommies who want it the gift of a mommy heart, whether or not it comes naturally to you. I felt like the least likely candidate of all; I only had one brother who was just 2 years younger than me, I never liked babysitting, I struggle with selfishness every day, I am an introverted personality…and I didn’t even know if I could change diapers, let alone pouring love out onto a little person 24/7. But I asked God to change my heart. I asked Him to fill me with HIS love for this little life. I asked Him to teach me how to be a good mommy. And you know what? Even though the struggles lasted up ‘till the very day I gave birth…the moment Hope was born, God filled my heart with such a sweet and deep love for her that hasn’t gone away – it has only grown. And as I held her close to me in those first minutes after her birth, I cried because of the greatness of the love God poured into me…and I said to my husband, “I don’t think it is going to be hard to love her at all!” Don’t give up or give in to the pressure you feel inside…the devil will try to discourage you in every way he can, but it is so worth it to be a mommy! And it is the kind of beauty and sweetness that you really can’t even expect or understand until you’ve experienced looking into your child’s eyes for the first time, or you’ve had their tiny hand close around your finger – so small that it can’t even fit all the way around it, or you’ve felt their little heart beating, or seen their perfect little lips, or heard their little gurgles…and you know what? Even their crying becomes like a sweet song to your heart, because it is full of innocence and complete dependency on you to take care of their needs…and that is exactly what God created us to do! Your little person NEEDS you…and that is such an amazing reality. God has perfectly created mommies and babies for each-other. And I discovered that God made being a mommy to be the most natural thing in the world – I found that I knew all that I needed to know, and having a daughter just seemed to be the most natural thing in the world. In fact, as soon as she was born, we wondered how we had ever lived without her! God caused our “transition” from being “just us” to “parents” almost not even noticeable. And changing diapers was never a problem like I had feared it would be.

Yes, being a mommy is giving up our lives daily…hourly…but I can’t imagine trading the “freedom” to live a selfish life doing whatever I may have dreamed about doing, for the joy of being a mommy; for the heart-melting giggles, for the soft lips calling my name for the first time (or the first thousand times – it really never gets old to know your child loves you), for kissing that squishy forehead, for wiping away the tears from flushed cheeks, for getting to tell them about Jesus and how much He loves them and wants to be their best friend. And I can tell you that there are many I know of who have kept their babies even in the midst of extremely difficult situations, and they are SO glad that they did. In fact, I am one of those children…and I am so thankful that I was given the chance to live and learn and serve the Lord with my life. And I can also tell you that there are many, MANY who have gotten abortions, and never recovered, and have only ever wished they could go back and choose to let their child live. Abortion clinics will tell you it’s not really a person inside of you – it’s just “tissue”, they say. But that’s a lie. There is a real life inside…full of promise, full of beauty, full of innocence…and a real, live beating heart. A life that NEEDS a mommy…a life that needs to be hugged and snuggled and kissed and taught about Jesus and how much He LOVES children. A life that needs someone to care.

 

The “benefits” of any job on earth are fleeting; money doesn’t last, status doesn’t last, location doesn’t last, comforts and gadgets don’t last, looks don’t last….but being a mommy is the most important job on earth, because you are given charge of a little, eternal soul, to cherish and to train up in the way it should go. A little soul that, with patience and lots of prayer, can be a little disciple of Jesus, and follow in His ways…and can lead many others to know Him, and to be part of the innocence and beauty of heaven forever.