Jesus is on the Way

They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.
~Mark 5:1-5

The Word of God meets everyone right where they are living, and maybe, today, this is where you live.  On a recent read-through of the Gospel of Mark, it stood out to me just how common this man’s circumstances are in this day and age.  The Bible can seem very disconnect from our modern way of living, but everything we could face in this world is right there in black and white.  In the case of this man, it was cutting.  His demonic bondage had him in such agony that all he could do was scream and cry out, day and night, and find ways to try to destroy himself.

I can remember feeling like that…

People had tried what they could to restrain him.  Maybe some of them were family who cared and wanted him back.  Others might just have wanted to give him under control so he would stop scaring people and making a scene.  Either way, they couldn’t control him.  He snapped the ropes and cords, even the chains broke off of him the longer he was under this power.  With no one who could help him, he lived his life in the wilderness and in tombs and graveyards.  If he had lucid moments, maybe he really believed that it was the only place for him to belong.  I don’t know how long he was there, with no one to love him, no one to help him, and a legion of demons for company, that tortured and tore him the way dogs would handle an old sock.

He was someone society had thrown away.  The Jews on the other side of the lake kept the laws so that they would keep from sin and stay close to God.  They never would have touched a human bone, let alone live in a graveyard.  The people of his region (called “the other side” by the Jews) had compromised their faith.  They lived for whatever made them happy, whatever made them great, and served any god or goddess who would get them there.  Maybe at one point this man had been happy.  Maybe he had been close to being great.  He surely must have tried.  Now, he was the last person anyone would want to be seen with.  He was the last person anyone would want to see.  Between the ten great cities in that region, everyone would have heard him coming through the wilderness and among the tombs, and they would have gone as quickly as they could in the other direction.

Everyone but Jesus.

And Jesus was on His way.

Jesus had been teaching the people earlier, and had been interrupted by a man with a demon.  I don’t know how long this man had be enslaved to this demon.  I don’t know if anyone else had known before the demon lashed out against the pain of hearing the Savior speak.  With a word, Jesus freed the man from his nightmare, and gave him peace and hope again.

The people were overjoyed.  His disciples must have been awestruck and trilled to see the goodness and power of their Rabbi.  Yet they were confused and afraid when He told them that they were going to “the other side.”  They could not imagine why anyone good should go there.  Jesus knew what He would find there.  I think that in His heart He must have been thinking of a dear son He had lost: a son that He was going to bring home.

The man didn’t know it, but Jesus was getting into a boat and coming for him.

The devil knew, and he was not pleased.

The storm that rose up caused the life-long fishermen to fear for their lives.  They knew that the other side of the sea was the devil’s domain.  Now the powers that could keep a man from being bound with any rope or strong chain were pounding them again and again and again with violent waves and gale-force winds.  Try as they might, they could not reach the other side, and they were giving up hope even on living to tell the tale.

Even as the demons fought to keep claim of their victims and slaves, the Prince of Peace was asleep in the front of the boat.  No fear touched Him when He awoke to the storm.  He had no thought of turning back.  Nothing, no power of Hell, no scheme of man, would stop Him from reaching His lost child.

He rose from His seat and, with a voice perhaps no louder than a decisive whisper of “Peace, be still” the rage of devils, that could tear chains and overpower a crowd, was as submissive as a sleeping child.

 

Imagine.

The wail of the wind still ringing in their ears.

Now the only sound is the sleepy lapping of the water against the boat, and the pounding of their own hearts.  I imagine they whisper more than they speak.

Who is this man?

I wonder if the sun and wind had dried their storm-swept clothes by the time they reached land.  Did they even have time to recover from the experience before the next storm came tearing down the hillside?

Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;  and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!”  For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”  And He was asking him, “What is your name?”And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”  And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain.  The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.”  Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.
~Mark 5:6-13

The calm of the sea is broken as the boat crunches on the gravelly shore, and immediately this all but God-forsaken creature is before them, perhaps running down from the tombs, or appearing from behind a rock before throwing himself at Jesus’ feet and screaming.

I don’t know if he had very much of his own control over what he did.  The demons are the ones that answer.  I don’t know how many more demons he had than the man who was freed earlier, but it seems to have been very many.  Whether or not they or he had witnessed the storm, they knew that a power that could finally hold them had come.  Perhaps, deep down somewhere, it felt almost like hope, but the pain of being in the presence of Jesus must have been searing to every facet of his being that was controlled by such evil.  It always burns at first, when we are confronted by His presence.  Sometimes it is enough to want to hide or run away.

Now, after all of those endless hours of torment, his demonic captors are begging for mercy.  The blackness inside is replaced by a searing, burning pressure that builds and builds until suddenly it breaks, and all he can hear is the lap of the waves and the beating of his own heart as he catches his first shaky breaths, cries his first hopeful tears, as a free man.  And perhaps that first reassuring touch came from Jesus as the man received the first clothes, so warm after all of those nights in the cold, that anyone could remember him wearing.

Jesus showed others how it felt for this man to be free.  A storm of two thousand pigs, used as unclean sacrifices to false gods, unable to be contained by their herders and keeps, rushed into the sea and were drowned.  I don’t know how many of these temples this man had visited for worship, but I don’t believe he ever did again.

Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened.  Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.  And they began to implore Him to leave their region.
~Mark 5:14-17

With His healings among the Jews, Jesus often tried to be discreet.  He told people not to tell anyone, and often silenced the demons before they could say anything about who He is.  In this case, He seemed to want everyone to know whom it was that He loved.  I don’t know if the swineherds knew that the man was set free before they lost all of their pigs.  Perhaps they would not have noticed Jesus coming if the demons had not been allowed to enter the pigs.  At hearing that the swine were lost, the people came out to see that the possessed man, the man no one in their culture was smart enough or strong enough, or wise enough, or loving enough, or godly enough to save or control, was resting contentedly at Jesus’ feet.

Who is this man?

Perhaps they felt some of that same pressure, that same burning.  We know we are unworthy.  We can’t believe He would care, so we beg Him to go away.

As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.  And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”  And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.
~Mark 5:18-20

Imagine.

A crowded city market.  Shouting from vendors from every corner.  Jostling from every direction as loads are carried in and out, some for selling, some having been bought.  Important people discussing everything from politics to poetry under the statues of Caesar and the other greats.  She doesn’t concern herself much with them as she make her way to a strong-smelling shop stand covered in all manner of herbs and incense.  Maybe, just maybe, they will have something to heal her son.

She squeezes her heart to be still and to hold back tears when there seems to be nothing that can be done.  She barely notices that the crowds begin to whisper and tentatively pull away.  A cheerful, almost strong, voice says “Hullo!”  She looks up to see whom she has almost run into, and pulls back with a start when she sees that his face and his hands are covered in scars.  She can’t bring herself to meet his eyes.  She knows who he must be, the dead one from among the graves, but his eyes are so cheerful that they make her feel afraid of what he might see in hers.  A part of the crowd keeps quiet as he tells an extraordinary story.  How can it be real? but there he is, right in front of them, sometimes laughing, sometimes with tears rolling down his scarred cheeks.  She listens, hardly daring to hope.  But maybe, just maybe.

And then Jesus is on the way again.

It was through another storm.  This time, He came walking on the water before calming the storm from the boat, because nothing would stop Him from healing His lost children.

When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore.  When they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him,  and ran about that whole country and began to carry here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was.  Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.
~Mark 6:53-56

If you are fighting a battle with self-harm, contemplating suicide, or hating yourself or your body so much that you want to destroy it or break, I want you to know that there is hope.  Not just happiness or distractions from what you’re going through.  All of those things are the work of a real enemy with real servants who want to see you hurt, and want to keep you in pain and in the dark.  There are so many ways you’ve tried to fix it, so many people who have tried to help, but none of it seems to hold up against that storm.

Jesus is on the way.

No storm can stand against even His slightest word.

Run to Him.  Shout to Him.  You know His name.

Jesus.

Son of the Most High God.

He will rescue you from everything that torments you.

Even if you can hide it on the outside, He knows that you were never fine.

Come into His presence.

Don’t hide.  Don’t run away.

Jesus is on the way.

by Stephanie H.

The Arrow of Thanksgiving

Your fingers hurt as you pull back the string, keeping your eye on the fletching.  Your arm wants to shake as it pulls against the tightness of the string.  You move your focus down the shaft, linger on the arrow head, then center on the yellow circle in the distance.  Breathe, and-

Thwi-!

Holidays can be difficult times for me.  I love the comfort and quiet they can bring, the moments of warm, soft reflection in the midst of all that goes on day to day. Sometimes, however, that peace can be far more elusive on the special days than it is in the midst of the deadlines and the daily grind.  If left unprotected, it is peace easily lost and disappointment readily gained.

How often does Thanksgiving cross the calendar this way?  Expectations run high, and when we come to the familiar “What are we thankful for?” it can be so much easier to think, Well, I would be thankful, if…

The Bible shows us holidays in a way that is different than we are used to thinking.  Instead of days off to do what we want in the hopes that we will feel better at work after, Biblical holidays were days of training.  When the Lord established the Sabbath day, the foundation of all holidays for His people, in Deuteronomy chapter five, this is what He said:

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.
~Deuteronomy 5:15

When life gets busy, we have to make a conscious effort to keep from drifting off with our moods, stresses, and fears.  That effort can be something that seems to add to the burden of our to-do list rather than lightening it.  Because we are used to the hope of resting recharging our emotions on holidays, training sounds exhausting and intimidating, but God designed holidays to be training in joy.  Joy is not a spontaneous feeling like happiness.  Even at our lowest points of fear and sorrow, joy can be ours if we are used to exercising the right muscles.

This is where I come to thinking of thanksgiving as a weapon.  It can be so hard to be thankful.  It really isn’t something that comes to us naturally.  When we first feel the weapon in our hands, it is so alien that we hardly know how to handle it.  We know how it is supposed to work, but surely it is meant for other people to use.  People who are “talented” in the realm of thankfulness.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Yes, we can feel our fingers scream when we first pull back that tight string.  Our muscles tremble within us as we struggle to keep the bow steady and pulled back tight.  We miss the target, then again, then again.  It is a struggle to hit the bull’s-eye of joy, but we must learn to think like Leah.  Leah could have been tossed about mercilessly by her circumstances.  Her husband loved her sister more than he loved her.  God blessed her with three sons, but even still, she was lonely amidst her blessings.  Finally, she made a choice: “This time, I will praise the Lord.”  And her fourth son Judah became the forefather of our precious Jesus Christ.

This time—whatever the time may be—will you praise the Lord?  Think of the bow as His faithfulness.  It is solid and true, but sometimes hard to grasp at first.  We know its strength, but how could we ever be able to approach it?  If we try on our own, we will never be able to get the arrows on the string, but Holy Spirit helps us the draw the strength of the unfamiliar string.  Devote time to training.  Set aside pieces of the day, especially the holidays, to learn of His faithfulness, and to practice putting your trust in Him.  Remember that in the same chapter as the command to keep a Sabbath, Moses shared with the people:

The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.
~Deuteronomy 5:3

The Lord’s faithfulness is something He gives to you.  It is not loaned to you by permission from someone else.  It is what God Himself has given directly to you.  Don’t be afraid to interact with His faithfulness in your own life, no matter the situation.

I think of the arrows as truth.  Circumstances and emotions can toss us back and forth; in the midst of that, there are solid truths to which we can still cling.  Maybe they don’t seem very significant at the time, often they won’t be enough to rocket us from the doldrums straight to cloud nine, but sometimes just a little piece of something that is really, honestly true is enough to give us a hint of joy.  Again, we know these truths better the more time we spend in the Word and in prayer.  If we devote time to memorizing the Word, it is like we get used to reaching for the quiver without even having to think of where to find it.

God is faithful.  Here are the truths.  Draw the string, aim for the center of His presence: joy lives there.  Hold steady.  Remember, thanksgiving is a choice.

Rejoice always;  pray without ceasing;  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In everything.  It sounds an awful lot like training, doesn’t it?  We still have some time before Thanksgiving Day comes.  Take the time to learn the tools.  It is a hard thing for the enemy to stand against a truly thankful heart.

Deep breath.

This time I will praise the Lord.

And…

Release.

by Stephanie H.

Battle Prayers: Thy Tents Shall Be Our Home

 

I struggle constantly to share prayer needs with others.  I often have no trouble talking to God about various things on my mind, but I have also struggled personally to pray for my own prayer needs, and to pray without ceasing over the daily actions and routine of my life.  The biggest reason for this is that I have a hard time counting many things as needs.  It can be easy to pray wishful prayers about what I would like to see happen, but over which I have no control.  Yet there are plenty of other times that prayer just seems… impractical.  Barring an unforeseen disaster, why would I need to pray for strength to get a jar of peanut butter off of the shelf when I could just do it?  Surely praying without ceasing does not require me to be imagining that I break my arm doing the most simple tasks!  That kind of imagination also wouldn’t be very good to apply to corporate prayers, knowing now many others have serious and present needs.  It is often so much easier to see Jesus as Friend than as Lord.  These blocks have added a layer of awkwardness to my prayers for years.

I still can’t tell what sparked the process, but the Lord put me on a train of thought recently that has overwhelmed my prayer life.  It didn’t come all at once like some of God’s lessons.  It was half of a thought that sat for some time before it blossomed.  The beginning that I can remember was wondering, “What am I missing when I keep my prayers to myself?”  I know that there is power in prayer, so why do I so often isolate myself from the prayer of others, when prayer brings us into such sweet communion with our brothers and sisters, even over the small things?  That’s not to say we make the focus of prayer meetings be the strength to open pickle jars.  On the contrary.  How often do we pray for normal rather than for extraordinary?

Our entire life as disciples of Jesus is a spiritual war, and prayer is the most vital battlefield.  Yet so often we can make the focus of our prayers the desire to stay safe and to stay normal.  It is easy to see how so many of my prayers have been defensive: focusing on keeping my head down, my shield up, and hoping that my prayers add extra strength to my rock, fortress, and high tower that God promises to be in Psalm 18.

But we really have no reason to pray defensive prayers of safety from inside God’s mighty fortress.  Read Psalm 18 in its entirety, and try to imagine our hopes and thoughts being able to add any sort of power to the unyielding storm of our Heavenly Father when His children are in trouble.  It isn’t our job to keep Heaven from crumbling, or from protecting God from His enemies, and the enemies and dangers we face are so numerous, that we would be crushed just by being aware of all that God protects us from without our knowledge!  In a manner of thinking, none of our prayers are defensive, because God’s kingdom will never fall.

Battle metaphors speak to me, so I love coming back again and again to Caesarea Philippi.  Jesus takes His disciples to this pagan city, the location of a cave called “The Gates of Hades” where demons were actively and grotesquely worshiped, to give them a clear and lasting image of their role as His disciples.

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
~Matthew 16:18

Gates don’t make a habit of going out and attacking other castles.  Gates are made strong to protect their cities.  Gates can stand strong and overpower attacking forces, but those forces have to come to them first.  We are the advancing forces, not the gates.  At the same time that our treasures are stored up safely beyond the gates of Heaven, we are on the march.  When we are spiritually attacked, it is because the Lord is pressing us forward into enemy territory, and they are rightly terrified of losing.  The battle belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:31), and no weapon that is formed against His armies will prosper (Isaiah 54:17).

When we neglect to pray over situations we can handle ourselves-on a physical level-we are skipping over our battle training.  We are disconnecting ourselves from our fellow soldiers who will need us in the fight.  We may feel safer and more comfortable, but we won’t be useful in rescuing anyone or spurring each other on to greater effectiveness on the battlefield.

No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
~2 Timothy 2:4

Our battle prayers do not have to be complicated to be offensive instead of defensive.  “Lord, I want to be chosen for the front lines of the battle.  Let this situation equip me for the fight.  Keep my focus on you so that I can reclaim lives for you.  I don’t know how getting a jar of peanut butter off of a shelf will be a strike against the enemy, but if it can be, make it count!  Keep my armor and my resolve strong when your enemies lash out in self-defense.”

That is not to say that we can never pray for our own protection.  Our hearts and our treasures are safe in the stronghold of Zion, but we must go out against the gates of Hell, where we will be attacked.  There is a hymn that has become a favorite of mine that paints a very good picture:

Lead on, O King eternal,
The day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest
Thy tents shall be our home:

A tent is not nearly as defensible as a castle, but it is where we find the fight.  Remember that the church is built on the very rock that was named “The Gates of Hades”, so we are in full range of the attack.  Our souls are safe with our Father, but our bodies, minds, and hearts will be wounded and broken on the battlefield.  Choosing to fight for our King will mean choosing to live in dangerous places.  It is not wrong to pray for healing and for protection here, but we cannot withdraw from the fight in order to keep ourselves safe.

Training will be hard.  The fight will be long.  The more we pray, the more we will be attacked, and the less normal life will be, because God will put us into more significant battles as we press on.  Never pass up the opportunity to become a stronger, more fierce, more devoted soldier.  As you leave normal comfort behind, the Lord will be your source of joy and peace.

Dear Sister, press on and let the enemy know your Sword, let the captive know your love, and know Who has rescued you and given you both.  Never hold back, never look back, and pray because lives depend on it.

You have been chosen for this fight.  Take your stand, choose this day whom you will serve, and do not be afraid, for the Lord your God will be with your wherever you go.

 

by Stephanie H.

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?

 

I’m SUPPOSED to Be Afraid? Part 2


Does it feel kind of like we’re back at square one?  Fear involves punishment, so we should not be afraid if we love God, but Jesus Himself said that we should fear God because of… punishment?

 

Sometimes it is so easy for us to take things apart and look at them piece by piece, and forget the big picture in the process.  Remember that fear does not exist in a vacuum.  The same God who is the God of love is also the God who judges every man according to his deeds.  He is just because He is merciful, and merciful because He is just.  So what other attributes of God do we need to remember as we consider how fearsome He is?

Omnipotence
God is all-powerful.  He created the world, and there is nothing He cannot do with it.  All throughout the Old Testament, we have pictures of the immeasurable power of God, from the creation, to the flood, to the plagues of Egypt.  The history of Israel, the Psalms, and the speeches in the book of Job all show that God is worthy to be feared.  When we think of someone wanting to be feared, it is usually a human being who wants to be in control of others, and wants everyone to know that they are in control.  They want fear to do all of the work for them so that staying in charge is easy.  God really is in control.  He doesn’t need to show off His power and use fear just to keep us in line.  Often, His shows of strength were to remind His people of how weak the enemies of God are (Exodus), and to remind those with a great deal of power that they were not to play God (Daniel).

Holiness
God is separated from all things that are evil (Psalm 5:4).  He is light, and in Him, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  Darkness and light cannot live in the same place.  If there is light in the room, there is no darkness.  If the light leaves the room, darkness can return.

And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.
~John 3:19

This is why we are so often afraid to enter the presence of God.  When we love evil, we can feel the darkness in us being burned away in the presence of the true light.  The devil is very good at convincing us that this means we can never be at peace with God.  We identify with darkness, but know that God is light.  We then fall into the trap of believing we are condemned to Hell whenever we discover a sin we had overlooked before.  Here is where there is hope:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
~Hebrews 4:12

Darkness cannot stand in God’s presence, but we can ask God to have our love of darkness surgically removed, and He is more than willing to do so!  He can take away anything in us that is at war with Him, so that we will be able to have joy in His presence rather than wanting to run and hide.  That is why there are two different responses to fearing God for the enemy of God and for the child of God.  An enemy refuses to leave his sin, and hates the thought of it being taken away.  A child fears the pain of the surgery and the unknown of the life afterward, but trusts his Father to do what is best for him.

Love
We often think of love and fear as opposites because we are used to fear and hate being so close together in our experiences.  There are so many things in this world that can cause destruction that it becomes easy to find numerous examples of evil and fallen things that we fear.  It is hard to think of things that we love as being fearsome at the same time.  Waterfalls, fire, dogs, and driving can all lose their loveliness if we personally experience the side of them that can be destructive.  Some of us like roller-coasters of skydiving because of the thrill of controlled fear, but it is very hard to find an earthly example that can do justice to fearing and loving the Lord.  The only example I can think of are the people of the Lord themselves.  There is not one godly person in the Bible who did not face great hardship.  Even Jesus’ own mother and step-father faced the most humiliating and difficult circumstances in bringing a child into the world.  Following Jesus is a terrifying thing because it mortifies our flesh.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
~Matthew 16:24

Those who follow Jesus do not face an easy life.  At times it seems that much of our lives are destroyed when we come to follow Him.  That is not only because God has enemies, but also because God allows the things He loves to be broken so that they can be glorified beyond what they ever could have been before they were broken.  Thing of how much more Job had after the Lord restored him.  Think of Jesus Himself after He became flesh and was broken before His enemies.  That refining process still scares me.  Just thinking about what the Lord might have me face next as I write this has made my stomach a little uncomfortable because I know that He always considers me ready for more than what I can handle on my own.  He’s always making me nervous!  But then He is always showing me more of Himself that I never would have seen if we were going at my pace, and He is making me more like Him the more He takes out of me.  As much as it scares me, I so much more desperately want to be with Him where He is working.

And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.”
And this expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;
for our God is a consuming
fire.
~Hebrews 12:26-29

 

Faithfulness
God is trustworthy to keep His promises, and He has not been shy in making them.  He is the God of all power, we have nothing to offer Him for a bribe, and He allows His people to meet with some of the most terrible trials imaginable.  Yet, in the midst of all of this, He has promised us joy, comfort, and peace.  That is not to say that God will give us pleasure and laughter in the midst of every circumstance.  We often expect this to be true, and that is why we so often hate fear.  Fear can be terribly unpleasant, but the Lord uses it to teach us trust.  There have been many times for me already when it seems as though everything is going the absolute opposite of the plan God has told me He will accomplish.  Those are times when I have to choose to believe what He says in His Word more than what the world around me is trying to convince me is true.  It is like a plant having all of it’s green chopped off until it is just the roots.  That pruning can ache for so long, but those roots will dig deeper while they are not focused on feeding the leaves, and deep roots are terribly difficult to pull up.  David speaks constantly in the Psalms of the painful circumstanced the Lord had him face, and yet he always fell back on the promise that God would not abandon him.  Job is a man famous for having faced more than most of us could imagine, yet he said,

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.
~Job 13:15a

That is not to say that Job was more faithful to God than God was to him.  Quite the contrary.  But he knew God well enough to know that there must be a bigger picture that he could not yet understand.  The more time we spend with God, and the more we read of Him in His Word, the more we come to trust who He is, and believe that what He does really is best for us, and for countless others He will influence through us.

Humility
God is unbelievably humble.  I felt weak and inferior when I stood in front of that tiger in the museum, knowing that there would be no way for me to beat it at its own game if it had been living.  I cannot even imagine now insignificant I should feel in the unfiltered presence of El Elyon (God Most High).  And yet, He likes to make me laugh.  He feels my pain when I grieve, and He wants to teach me to do work that He could accomplish without so much as the snap of fingers.  When we keep in mind that God is fearsome and omnipotent, we often lose sight of just now much He wants to be involved in the lives of such insignificant people.  What scares me about tigers, landslides, and snapping turtles is that they don’t know me from anyone.  It isn’t personal, it’s just what those things do.  But the fearsome, omnipotent God is my Dad.  If I felt His presence wash over me while standing in front of a real tiger, it would be very hard for me not to grin or even laugh.  Why?  Because the powerful cat is just one of His playthings.  It may still be able to hurt me or even kill me, but only if He says so.  Moses was able to encourage the fleeing Israelites with these words:

But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Take your stand and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.
The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.”
~Exodus 14:13,14

 

I cannot say that Moses was unafraid of the Egyptians when he spoke these words, but He feared the Lord, and there was no room for any other sort of fear to make decisions for him.  It is the same promise given in Joshua 1:9 and all throughout the Old Testament, in the Great Commission, and straight through to Revelation.

We have no reason to be afraid of fear itself.  Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the fountain of life, and keeps us untouched by evil.  In the darkest circumstances, it is like hearing the trumpet blast and the thundering hooves of a faithful king’s army.  Remember whom you have believed, and feel the thrill of His power and love.

I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Thy works,
And my soul know it very well.
~Psalm 139:14

 

by Stephanie H.

The Day I Gave Up.

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by Anna Faith

When you are a single twenty something, you do a lot of thinking. And watching. You watch your friends settle happily into their “marital bliss”. You think. You watch their children be born and make those mile-marker memories. You think. You watch friends graduate. You think and rethink your purpose in life. Too often, I have found, there is that temptation to doubt the Lord’s GOOD plans for our life. Sure, He’s got a plan. But GOOD? Hm. That sneaky Enemy (whose main goal is to steal, kill and destroy, mind you) often waves the whole “I drew the short straw” notion under my nose like a sock with that never recovered partner. Kind of unfortunate, a little awkward and always alone. “You’re always going to be alone, and one step behind”. 

Jeepers. That devil sure is mean.

As I waded through some deep, stormy waters in my “newly twenty” years, I was faced with wave after wave doubting God’s good plan. I had my network of people that I knew loved me, but I felt alone as I faced “trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). Most of my friends were over eight hours away, which was an additional blow. I was brought to my knees with intense relationship conflicts, illness, deaths, and emotions I’ve never had to deal with before (Hey, I’m an INTJ. We don’t feel emotions quite the same way *wink*). There were times where I would lay curled up in my bed, so emotionally weary and tired. Thoughts of “if only I had a shoulder to cry on. If only I had that privileged of a strong arm around my shoulders…if only” popped up at unsuspecting times. I saw people around me, going through similar things, but they seemed to have that support I craved. My friends could go home to their husbands. I went home to my quiet little room.

“Lord, what are you up to? Why does it seem like you have placed me in a quiet place–alone? What is your purpose in this?”

I will never, ever forget His response. It was forever branded onto my heart about a year ago.

He told me it was because He was giving me a gift. A gift of friendship. He wanted to not just be called my best friend–He wanted to BE my best friend. He told me HE wanted to be the One to hold my hand, the one to gently lead me. He wanted to be my heart-holder. He wanted to be my strength. He wanted to be my “husband”. [FYI, I burst into tears every time I stop to think about it (which is a big deal for us INTJ’s)]

I have walked with the Lord since I was 13, but grew up “knowing” about the Lord since I was born. My dad was a minister for almost 20 years. I knew about the Lord’s character. Yet, we can know ABOUT the Lord’s character….but fail to KNOW HIM. I have known Him as my dearest friend, but that day He took our friendship to such a deeper level of my heart. A level I didn’t even know I could have.

 

So, I gave up. I gave up that comparison game. I gave up dreading quietness. I gave up that “score keeping”. Sure, I do want to get married. That is a deep, strong desire within my heart. There are days where I question if I’m just…not worth loving. Days where I feel ugly and awkward. But when you give your heart–your entire heart–to Someone who you can trust, He fills that “space”. He fills your days with joy, He fills your HEART with laughter. It’s the devil which feeds us lies of insecurity, DOUBT, and fear. That’s not God. It is not God’s desire for us to be afraid that “we are missing out”. In fact, my BEST adventures are the ones which God has planned…and He’s always gone with me.

Singleness is NOT “that awkward time in between stages of life”. Singleness doesn’t mean you “have it wrong”, or that you failed. Singleness means God is giving you the sweetest, most beautiful opportunity to know HIM–and I mean really know Him–in a way you could never imagine. It means you get the Creator of a heartbeat as a confidant. You get the one who hung up the stars as your best friend. He sings over you. He gave the only Son He ever had to humbly bear your sins, just so you could be saved FROM your sins.

I am my Beloved’s, and He IS mine. Trust Him. Remember Him. KNOW Him. He is that hand to hold, that under-girding strength, that Joy, and that calming peaceful presence to quiet anxiety.

He wants to be your Best friend. Will you let Him?

True Freedom

sea-gull-bird-sky-nature

 

Guest Post by Stephanie H.
Freedom is a word with a very different meaning for the soldier than for the child. The latter is keenly focused on wanting to do the opposite of what they are told (and often, what is right and good), and seeks freedom as the opportunity to indulge whims rather than heed the wisdom of his parents. The freedom of the mind of a soldier is a far different thing. During the Civil War, with rumors of a draft to take place, many men enlisted in the army so that there would be no doubt about their loyalty to the honor of their nation. They considered it a shame to need to be forced to do what they considered they highest honor and most basic duty to their nation. The freedom exercised in the life of a soldier looks suspiciously like slavery to the wayward child.
Consider then, the freedom of Christ. We dearly like to talk about the freedom of Christ allowing us to let loose, and forget the laws laid out in the Old Testament. We embrace the freedom to indulge. We are free to state our opinions in whatever manner we like, regardless of ramifications, because we are free to think our own thoughts. We can season our conversation with profanity, because we are free to speak. We can sleep late, eat this or that, sit back, relax, and do unto others as they do, because we are free. We are not required to atone for our sins and selfish quirks, so what have we to fear?
In choosing this freedom, we choose to return to the slavery of the natural man. For centuries, the Israelites kept a very close account of right and wrong, and had very specific penalties and payments when they were transgressed (though many generations turned away). When Jesus came, there were many who seemed to be able to meet the standards laid out to Moses in the wilderness. Jesus did not remove that standard so that the prostitutes and tax-collectors could get in too. He did not reverse the order so that the righteous in deed would be cast out while the sinners were proclaimed righteous. In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus reaffirms the standards God had given the people centuries before, and then raises the bar to include the merest sliver of selfishness that could hide in our hearts. Even if we think we have kept the laws, there are countless ways in which we have mortally sinned against it, without our even being aware. Yet He has given us freedom in that He will be the strength when we choose to pursue His righteousness. In comparing the two, the new covenant is impossible in our own strength, far beyond the difficulty of the old covenant which dealt so greatly with the actions and appearances rather than the heart.
Yes, we are free to choose Christ, or our worldly loves, but that does not mean either path is equally blessed. When it comes up in conversation that I do not do, or have given up certain things, it is not uncommon for the conversation to turn to “freedom in Christ”. True, I am not required to slaughter a lamb or pigeons if I play video games or read fiction or watch television. But I pray that I might use my freedom like a soldier. That when the Lord would ask of me a mile, I would be willing to give Him two at least. When He gives an order, I have a choice to obey or not. Am I wrong to obey simply because I have been given the freedom not to hear His voice? Willingly, I have signed my life away to the One who signed His away for me. His blood has given me the freedom to choose a path so difficult, as to kill my own flesh, and has most often ended in the painful deaths of those who have gone before me. I accept.

Spring Cleaning the Heart

 

Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again: SPRING! Unless you’re in Canada (where there is still snow floating around), hopefully you are seeing blossoms peek through the ground and cheerful little birds popping around on the treetops. I live in an area that’s nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and I LOVE Spring here. Dogwood Trees, Redbuds, Weeping Cherry Trees and every other kind of budding tree make such an incredible display every single time I set foot outside my door. It is glorious.
 
But, along with these happy thoughts, most people also think: SPRING CLEANING. *Insert the moans and groans of housekeepers everywhere* You know – that week where you spend time cleaning areas you didn’t even KNOW existed? Those places where you don’t even think to look? I mean, who cleans their baseboards anyways? Like REALLY cleans them?
 
Just as the faithful housekeeper tends to the nooks and crannies of her home, there is a spiritual cleaning we need to remember to do. Even more than once a year, WE – the up-keepers of this earthly vessel – need to tackle frequently the nooks and crannies within our own hearts. The places we didn’t even know were in existence. The DEEP parts of our heart.
 
When we become a Follower of Jesus Christ, it SHOULD go without saying that things are going to look different in our lives. I mean…Jesus and the World (aka: the way our lives looked normally before we allowed Jesus to take the lead in our life) don’t mix. There’s no way they can mix. One is Light and the other is Darkness (2 Cor. 6:14). Our “old man” (Romans 6:6) has to begin to die, and we have to pack up and move out our old desires. Our old ways. Our old sins. Things must leave in order for the aroma and Light of Christ to fill our hearts.  It is an ongoing process, which never actually stops–no matter how “spiritual” you think you are.
 
However, as we mature in our faith, often we forget to do basic maintenance. We forget to “check the fence-line”. When farmers have a large herd of animals, they have to make it a routine to check ever square foot of the fence line. Not only are they looking for holes, but looking for weak areas in the fence. This enables the farmer to keep his herd safe, MEANWHILE keeping danger OUT. As we pursue Christ, we need to check our own “fence lines” within our lives and hearts. By doing this, we are required to humble ourselves (seeing ourselves for who we truly are) AND keep the devil OUT.  We have to clean out these hearts so he has no place to hide among the dust and clutter!
 
Three steps to start your Spiritual House Cleaning:
 
1.) Ask. YOU may not see any areas of “blatant” sin, but you would be surprised at the things that sneak in. ASK the Lord to reveal any areas of your life that you have (a) withheld from His Lordship OR (b) any areas where you are unknowingly sinning. It may not be adultery that you have committed, but lust (even lusting via Romance Novels) is a sin (Matthew 5:28). You may not have killed anyone, but hatred IS a sin (Matthew 5:21). Harboring un-forgiveness (intentionally choosing NOT to forgive someone). FEAR–which is not trusting the Lord. Greed. PRIDE. GOSSIP. Vanity. These are just a few of the things that sneak in – often before we even realize it. ASK the Lord to show you areas where you need to repent.
 
2.) Examine. Spend a few moments thinking about your relationships. Think about what you are investing your time into – with work OR leisure time. Who are the people you chose to spend time with? What do you and your friends do when you are together? Is your conversation pure, or do you “push the limits” with inappropriate remarks (Phil. 4:8)? Do you actually make an effort to speak well of others (which can be really hard), or do you join right in “bashing” the character of someone else (James 4:11)? What do you do when no one else is around? Do you feel like you have to hide your activities from others – especially your parents? What are you watching on TV? If you had a godly woman sitting beside you, would you be ashamed to tell her what you’re watching? Are you seeing good things – good fruit –come from your words, your actions, and your decisions? Or do you see rotten fruit (Matthew 7:16-20)?
 
3.) Respond. A house doesn’t get tidy by the housekeeper sitting down and pointing out all the areas that need to be cleaned. It’s when she stands up, puts on her “shnazzy” yellow gloves and TACKLES that grime -THAT is when the real change happens. In the same way, there is almost no point in doing anything if we are not willing to ACT. When (and I say when, because there is always something to apologize for – we aren’t in heaven yet!) the Lord shows us these things, we can’t just say “woe is me” and then pull the rug over our pile of dirt. We are offered forgiveness when we repent. If we leave these things standing in the way of our relationship with Christ, it truly hinders our walk with Him. It hinders our growth, our discernment, our relationships, our Souls. Everything. It prohibits our ability to produce eternal fruit. In the Gospel of Matthew, it says to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Repentance is crucial. When we repent, it is going against our human nature by (1) humbling ourselves, (2) admitting we were wrong, (3) asking for forgiveness, (4) and choosing to acknowledge that God’s way is better. By HIS strength, we choose to follow HIS better way. His perfect, incredible way.
 
We have to let go of anything that ties us down, dear friend. We live in perilous times–there is not time to “mess around” and waste our lives. People are dying. Spiritually and physically. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1). We must lay aside the things that continue to “trip” us up, in order that the Kingdom of God may expand!
 
 
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (Acts 3:19)
Article By: Anna Faith

How to Make Time to Pray

 

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It happened again this morning.

I got upset. My heart felt thin and cold…and I lost patience with my daughter, and those around me. It wasn’t a big explosion, or an argument…in fact, I didn’t really even say anything. It was just my heart hardening, and raging, and really, just feeling sorry for myself.

I moped away, crying. It was a totally un-related situation that caused the hardening to surface…and yet, as I stewed, I just kept telling myself, “All I wanted was to be able to pray. All I wanted was to have a quiet morning to pray, and to not have to deal with the ceaseless chatter of my daughter…and now? Now I have the weight of my sinful heart to deal with on top of it all! How wrong can it be to just want peace and quiet, and the ability to pray?”

I was hoping for a “magical” opening to pray this morning. Feeling the need of it even stronger than usual, after a restless night, and a headache on top of feeling so, so weary this morning. Not even coffee could make me feel like I could face this day.

I knew the feeling. I’ve gotten quite familiar with it now. It was my spirit longing to be close to it’s Maker. It was my spirit panting for living water. And…it was also my very human heart feeling a tinge of guilt for having not made more of an effort to get up earlier to pray before my daughter woke up…and feeling like I had lost my chance…and not really wanting to own up to my own laziness. I decided it was easier to blame those around me for the way I was feeling, than to admit that my utter emptiness was because I had made excuses, and put forth the effort I needed to, to be filled with the Strength that is not my own for this day.

The truth is…there’s never a “magical” opening to pray, where your environment and circumstances all end up aligning to create that perfect “prayer room” atmosphere. Least of all, when you’re a mommy, and/or have a demanding job, and/or school work that has taken over every free grey cell of your brain. Yeah…I know. I know it all too well. Why? Well, it’s the same for every single one of us. We all think that there’s something “special” or “unusual” about our current situations that gives us an excuse for not having a closer walk with Jesus. We think, “If I can just make it through this ______ (day, week, year), I am sure there is a time coming when I can *actually* just ENJOY spending time with Jesus, and actually have a chunk of time to use each day for seeking Him earnestly.”

BUT…the truth is…we will never find time to pray.

Never.

Ever.

Nope — not gonna happen.

We must make time to pray (yes, I am preaching to myself here, too…as usual). And often, this will include having to wrestle for it, as if it were a 300 pound octopus; with every.drop.of.strength we can muster.

We have to say, “My time with Jesus is the most important part of my day, and I’m going to treat it like that. I can’t live, or have any joy or peace in my day by trying to plow through it in my own strength. I already know that – as much as I may try to ignore it. I know that everything I try to do by myself ends up being unfulfilling, or exhausting, or taking way longer than it should, or just plain being a total flop. I NEED Jesus.”

And then, we must do whatever it takes to take that time captive.

For me, this morning, it meant saying to my 2-year-old daughter, “Can you please go play quietly in your room for a little bit? Mommy just really needs to pray for a while.” And, to my surprise, she went…and I sat on the couch and prayed through my tears…and shouted many, “Hallelujah’s” out loud. Even when she crept back into the living room, she whispered to herself, knowing that I was praying, and needed to not be interrupted. (There went all my distress over being *certain* I had missed my ONE chance, and wouldn’t be able to even think over her rather loud, bubbly chatter all day long.) I am so grateful that she has grown up in a house of prayer, and that she is beginning to understand, even just a little, the seriousness and need for earnest prayer.

For you, it may be different. Maybe you have many more children…or perhaps, you have children who don’t listen when you ask them to be quiet (as I’ve frequently experienced with mine as well — today was a mercy from God!). Don’t give up! Susanna Wesley had 19 children (yes…you read that right: NINETEEN children), and she would frequently feel that same nudge in her spirit that I felt today, and the one that perhaps you are feeling even now; that thirst and desperate heart cry for Living Water. And, right in the middle of the chaos, and commotion of everyday life with a house FULL of children, she would sit down in her chair, and fling her apron over her head to create just the smallest bit of personal space to be with Jesus…and she would pray for as long as she needed. Her children came to realize that when mommy had her apron over her head, that meant that they were not to disturb her. You CAN do this too, in whatever way you need. It is *not* neglecting your children, it is receiving the strength that you can’t manufacture on your own to be the mommy that they need.

Perhaps your situation is different entirely. Perhaps it is the busyness of school, or work that seems to crowd out your time with Jesus. The principal is the same: Do what you must, but don’t neglect that most needed time with the Lord. Sacrifice an hour of sleep to pray early in the morning. Use your lunch break. Don’t go to sleep without sweet communion with the Lord, and soaking up His Word. Surrender your time to surf the web, and pray instead. Don’t watch that TV show — pray! Do whatever you must…but pray. Oh, dear fellow child of God…we must not neglect time to really, earnestly pray — it is our life, and our breath! And even in the most extreme situations, don’t despise grabbing just 15 minutes here and there. A little time to pray is better than none at all! And it will add up! It is remarkable what battles can be won, and what peace can be obtained in just 15 minutes of concentrated, earnest prayer.

So be encouraged to seek the time with Jesus each day…and to take hold of it!

What are some ways you can “capture” that time to pray in your own day?

 

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Esther, from Wellness Mom Life says in the comments: “Such a beautiful post. I too used to think that I would magically be given time to pray – that somehow it would be dropped in my lap. I’ve now realized that does not happen, as you said. I do my best to get up earlier now, so that I have specific time alone with God before I start my day. And I also do my best to talk to God all day long. To acknowledge Him in every part of my day – not just when I have a crisis. But this is a great reminder that moms CAN make time for prayer – we just have to be intentional about it!”

 

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What to Do…When You Don’t Know What to Do.

Girl before a white doors in fear of the unknown

Following God is simple. But most of the time, it’s not exactly what any of us would expect.

People press in around us from the time we enter middle school, with questions, suggestions, always wondering what we’re going to do with our lives – urging us to make decisions, and follow our dreams, watching us, waiting for us to do something big – amazing – something to change the world. They’re always so supportive of the kids who decide that, when they grow up, they’re going to be a doctor, a firefighter, or a hairdresser. But for any who might be tender enough to voice their desire to be a “missionary”, there is often polite laughter, a pat on the head, and unending, “But what are you REALLY going to do with your life?” questions. And for those who don’t even have a clue, there is so much pressure to jump into college and spend tens of thousands of dollars “figuring out” what you want to do…because…well…you’ve got to be doing SOMETHING.

But let’s take a step back for a moment. Let’s lay aside all the pressure, the opinions, the advice…and just quiet our souls for a minute. There are always more things to be done, things that COULD be done, things that people think you should be doing. But what is it that God wants you to do? There is one question that keeps me going, and helps me to stay focused when my brain is trying to go 120 different directions at once…and my body can’t even comprehend what it would mean to keep up. Then the Holy Spirit cuts through my anxious, overwhelmed thoughts and says, “What if Jesus was coming back today? What would you want to accomplish before His return? What do you want to be doing when He comes back? Now DO that.”

That one line of thinking can change everything. In that light, there are suddenly a lot of things that seemed important, but aren’t. A lot of pressure that doesn’t need to exist. A lot of hesitation and questioning that can be swept away. And so much freedom to throw yourself into the Lord’s service with abandon.

If Jesus was coming back today, I would want to rescue as many lives as I could. I would want to share the gospel with as many people as possible. I would want to take advantage of every meeting with someone, whether at the store or on the street as if it was their last chance to be saved from judgement.

If Christ’s return was imminent, I wouldn’t have to worry about having enough money saved up. I wouldn’t worry about what people thought about me. I wouldn’t worry about having a good enough education. I would take what I do have, and what I do know, and go out into the world and preach the gospel. I would lay aside all my own plans, desires, and dreams…and every vision of success in the world, or what the world says I need to do or have. I would set out with just Jesus, and courageously go forth to do whatever He set before me. I would let Him fully and truly live through me, to do the things that are on His heart to do; the things that He would want to do if He was in His own body on earth right beside me.

Following God’s will isn’t that complicated. We can make it complicated, by inserting all of our “what-if’s” and fears and plans for ourselves. But really, if we were all perfectly honest, we would know what God is asking of us. We would know what His will is — it is to go forth and share the gospel with every person. No degrees required. And, if we could truly trust Him to provide, there would be no need to worry about money, or organizations supporting us, or anything. We could actually just go wherever He lead us.

It’s not complicated. But it’s not easy. It means that our lives are not our own. It means all of the rosy plans we had for ourselves are no longer our goal or aim. It means that any acclaim of the world, any recognition, any hope of fun or doing what we like or what we feel is our “gifting” is gone…and replaced by the urgency to just get out in any way possible and share the gospel with whoever will listen. Laying down our own lives to share God’s amazing love with the hurting, broken world at our doorstep.

God’s will means simply saying, “yes”. And going.

katie-davis

Katie Davis is an excellent modern-day example of a life surrendered to God, and what He can do through one who lays down their own desires and plans and ideas of what would be “fun” in order to rescue lives, and share God’s love. Katie was just a normal teenager in pursuit of all the things that were on the normal teenager’s mind: popularity, boys, a good career….and then, God showed up and turned her world upside-down.

After she graduated from high-school, she had decided to take a year off before going to college. She signed up for a short-term mission trip to a Ugandan orphanage, and, as she said, “I moved over there thinking that I would be there for a year and then I would come back and go to college and be normal again.” But God had other plans.

While she was there, God captured her heart and opened her eyes to see the desperate need of the people there…for someone to love them and to show them a better way.

“I quit my life…I quit college; I quit cute designer clothes and my little yellow convertible; I quit my boyfriend. I no longer have all the things the world says are important.”

Then…God took her back to Uganda, with no plans to ever return to her home land, and began to make her a mom, at 19, to little Ugandan girls who had no one to love them. God brought them to her, one-by-one, until she had 13 little ones in her care, and gave her charge over them as their mother, to love them, snuggle them, teach them, clean them…and to tell them about Jesus. She also started a ministry in her home, to any who wanted to come. She started “Amazima Ministries”, so that the destitute children would have someone to sponsor them, and so they could eat and go to school.

You might think, “Wow. It takes a special person to do that! I could never do something like that.” No! Don’t even think that way, friends! That thought is where the call of God dies. You must understand that NO ONE is spectacularly gifted to love people like that. We are all weak, sinful, and sorely lacking the love it takes. BUT, Jesus has said, “Come, and drink freely!” He has promised to give us all we need to do the work He sets before us. It’s not about how capable we are…it’s about allowing God to fill us with HIS power and strength, and to work and live through us.

As Katie expressed so well, “I remember when I wasn’t ready to move to Uganda. I remember when I wasn’t ready to kiss the people I loved the most goodbye. I remember when I didn’t have enough money to sponsor just ten children, and I remember when I wasn’t old enough to be a mother, and I remember when I didn’t know how to parent. I remember when I couldn’t cook for fifteen people and when I didn’t want to share my house and my things and my life with sick people and addicts. I remember when I was afraid of the slum community that now holds hundreds of friends and when I was terrified that my daughter would never walk and when I was scared that we would never heal after tragic loss. And I remember that never, not once, was I really as ready as I wanted to be. And I remember that God kept all His promises, every last one, in His perfect time.

This new season looms and I don’t know what is next. But He doesn’t need me to be ready for this season because He is ready. He just needs me to be clinging to His feet.

Now. This is where He has called us.”

“People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me good job. Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people.”

“I want to give everything, no matter the cost, because I believe that nothing is a sacrifice in light of eternity with Christ.”

“The goal of the book [“Kisses From Katie”] was for other people to be encouraged that, in small steps of obedience to God, he can create something more extraordinary than you could have imagined. When people come into my story from this side of things, they might say, ‘Oh, this young girl has this organization and all these children—either she’s totally crazy or she’s gotta’ be incredible.’ I’m neither, but the story started with one open door of going to this third-world country. I said yes, and then God placed needs in front of me, and I tried to meet them in the best way I could.

I think prayer is key. I would encourage people to follow and obey, and try to serve others one step at a time, whoever is in front of them. If there is an open door to go to a foreign country and it is something you want to explore, walk through the open door. Once you get there, God will open other doors and bring needs to you. And as you meet the needs right in front of you, he can build something different than we ever would have thought or planned.”

“Maybe courage is not at all about the absence of fear but about obedience even when we are afraid. Courage is trusting when we don’t know what is next, leaning into the hard and knowing that it will be hard, but more, God will be near.  Maybe bravery is just looking fear in the face and telling it that it does not win because I have known The Lord here. I have known The Lord in the long, dark night.

We still tremble, but more than that we have faith. Even though we feel uncertain, we press into a God who is so certain, so sure, so steady. He carries us, He lifts our heads. And His unfailing love and comfort becomes our courage and our hope.”

So what is God’s will for you? Be faithful to do what He sets before you. Move forward through one door, and He will open another. Trust, and, as God has told me very seriously: make sure to do nothing out of fear.