Hearing the Truth Through the Whispers

What has ever happened in your life that was actually good?

There are days when I can think back over my life and see so clearly what Jesus has done at my best and worst moments to give me every good thing that I have.  A light shines on every moment to show me the blessings of His care, and the joy that even the trials have brought to me.  Those are the days when it is hard to keep a smile from becoming a laugh, just to think of how the King of all things delights in brightening my day.

Then there are times that the light seems to turn off like a switch.  The days when the above question seems painfully real as I grope in the darkness for the things that I know have been blessings to me, but that I just cannot seem to find.  Whispers creep into my head and argue with me at every point, telling me that all of the things that I know on the warm days, full of light, are just my imagination.  Was it ever really so nice?

Boy, the devil has a lot of gall.

Thank God that we are given strength in Jesus to be unshakable more than just some of the time!  Here are a few things you can do to keep your footing on the days when the light seems dim and the whispers seem overwhelming.

Don’t Panic!

The first thing we often feel at these moments is that all is lost.  It must be that something didn’t quite click when we first trusted Jesus, and that this is what life is going to be like from now on.  It was so happy, following Jesus.  If we don’t feel that way, it must be something we did, right?  Our actions do affect our relationship with Jesus.  If we are sinning, or have not surrendered something to Him, we will struggle.  However, that is not always the cause of our distress.  Read the Psalms.  The are full of distress, and the reminder that the Lord is faithful in the midst of our adversities, even if He seems completely absent through them.  Reading Psalms twenty-two through twenty-four is an especially good reminder.  The first verse is what Jesus spoke on the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  If the Son of God can feel that way, then all is not lost for us when we struggle under the burden of a fallen world.  Those three psalms are actually believed to be all one before the chapter divisions came along.  I find reading them all at once deeply comforting.  Try not to dwell on feeling in the dark, but do remember that it’s okay to feel that way.  Overcoming that tendency to panic is usually half of the battle.

Know the Shepherd’s Voice

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
~John 10:1-5

The devil works overtime to deceive us.  In our moments of distress, he will do everything he can to convince us that it is God who is accusing us.  Our Father does discipline us, and so the devil finds ways to imitate the Shepherd’s voice while telling us a lie.  The best way to keep from being hoodwinked is to spend so much time with Jesus that we see the counterfeit instantly.  The devil will still whisper in countless and seemingly new ways, but if we are walking hand in hand with our beloved Christ, learning the depth and newness of all of His ways, it will be rare that we are taken in and led to greater distress.

Cite Your Sources

The best way to conquer distress is to take the offensive.  Don’t wait for the confusion to set in to decide to hide God’s Word in your heart.  Sometimes the distress is too much to take, and I can’t find any words of my own for how I am feeling and what I need in order to see the light again.  At those times, there is such a deep comfort in being able to quote Scripture.  I have a few of the Psalms committed to memory, and sometimes just the fact that I can speak them and have a solid piece of God’s Word available is enough to block out most of the pressure from the enemy.  Keep the references in your heart too.  Sometimes the exact words or the context can get lost, so don’t be afraid to pull out your Bible or your concordance, or do a quick web search when you can only remember a few snatches.  It’s a great reminder that the promises of God, and the concrete truth of His presence are defined by more than our own ability to hold onto Him.  It is such an encouragement to me that Paul, in 2 Timothy 1:12, wrote,

“for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”

Sometimes, that is all I need to hear.  This is a very productive habit to start in the New Year.  If you are at a time when it seems like more should be happening, use the time you have to hide God’s Word in your heart so that you will be ready when things get more active.

Bring a Friend

Isolation is a great way to overcome someone.  When we are alone, it is so much easier to believe that all of the feelings in our own heads are what is really true.  I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t want to allow others to know my problems, since I know that they have their own lives to handle, so it isn’t uncommon for me to hold things inside for longer than I should.  When I do share something with one of my brothers or sisters, it is so deeply encouraging.  When I am distressed about the pressures of the enemy, or about a difficult thing the Lord wants me to do, just the honest “Yep, that sounds like what the devil would do,” or “Wow! He is calling you to something great!” is enough to remind me that I am trusting my life to the One with all of our best interests at heart.  It does often happen that I cannot reach anyone at the time of my distress, but Jesus is still there with me.  There have been numerous times that I have been so exhausted in my spirit that all I can do is ask the Lord to have someone else be praying for me at that time.  I can usually feel the burden eased almost instantly.

Remember too that distress will not always lift instantly.  It can be something that the Lord uses to remind us to be in prayer for someone, or as part of the process of really, truly understanding something about His character that we may have known on paper, but not experienced with Him before.  However, this does not mean that we have to be pulled back and forth by the whispers of doubt that come up, prompting “did God really say…?”

If you are struggling, and would like prayer or a chance to work through something with us, please leave a comment or an e-mail.  Also, if you would like to share a Scripture verse that has been a faithful friend to you in the midst of your distresses, please let us know in the comments below.  We love being able to connect with you.

by Stephanie H.

A Baby is the Door

 

 

 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
~Isaiah 7:14

 

I keep coming back to Tai’s post about the Highways to Zion.  Something about a real city, a physical image of the kingdom community, goes so far to help me understand what it is like to know and to come close to Jesus as a real person, a real God, a real King.  That is what I thought when I saw this Christmas card.  The baby King was born away from the people He loved, out in a little stable, or a lonely shepherd cave, but this manger cradle is tucked into a doorway.  It made me think of the city of Zion, and Jesus’ own words, that He is the door.  He didn’t just grow up to be the door.  He wasn’t even born to be the door.  He has always been “God with us,” the example we have of what our Father and His Father is really like.  And this is how He first comes to us; later, it will still be meek and riding on a donkey, washing feet, and with death for a coronation, but at the moment this new and glorious morn breaks over a weary world; a world that lies in sin and error pining, mourning in lonely exile; at that first moment, the reigning King comes as a person probably not even ten pounds, and not even able to lift His own head.

How can Jesus love us so much that He wanted to be so helpless in such a broken world?

I think of how often I can get caught up in everything that needs to be done, and everything I can try to do to make myself better; how I often worry about waking up at the right time, whether or not I know my Bible as well as I should, and always trying to know the right things to say at the right time.  We so often weigh our closeness to God with how much we can carry.  Then, we come to this little door: the way, the only way, to come to the Father.

It is such a sweet thing to hold a baby, to memorize the features of a sleeping face, or watch brand new fingers take hold of your own.  One precious blessing is that you cannot be overburdened with luggage and hold a baby at the same time.  As we come to this perfect door, we must put down everything else.  Sometimes, it is as though everything else just melts away in His presence.  Other times, it is a fight against our nature, and the belief that we now have to find a way to balance all of the cares of our lives and our Christian obligations, and still find a way to carry a baby too without hurting Him.

It is quite impossible, and it is meant to be.  The first and hardest habit to break is trying to protect ourselves.  Can you trust that the Lord will hold back the anxiety and the fear, and protect you from every enemy thought while you spend time with Him?  We shouldn’t have to be looking over one shoulder when we are in His presence; we aren’t meant to.  It is the place of absolute trust.  Trust He showed us by example when made Himself vulnerable to every mother’s worst fears, even before He was born.  He showed us how to become little children in trusting His safety to His Father, even during the time of such violent kings on earth.

Christmas does not need to come with any expectations.  The anticipation of beauty breaks our hearts when we have rested that success on ourselves.  Those expectations are meant to be trust given to Him; fears He will erase when we come face to face with His innocence: a purity that has outlasted the darkness of one thousand generations.  I pray that He will again be the light of your holiday this year.

Merry Christmas.

by Stephanie H.

If you are struggling to find the joy and peace of Christmas this year, please message us on Facebook, or leave a comment below.  We would love to talk and pray with you.

Waiting for the Letdown

 

“At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
    and I will punish the men
who are complacent,
    those who say in their hearts,
‘The Lord will not do good,
    nor will he do ill.’
 Their goods shall be plundered,
    and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
    they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
    they shall not drink wine from them.”

Zephaniah 1:12-13

 

“God…I trust you. I know you don’t want to harm us…I just…don’t really see how this could possibly work out well in the end. But, I WILL hold onto you no matter what happens, even if it is a disaster, and things don’t go the way I’m hoping.”

So often my thoughts have gone something like this, as I try to have faith for something that seems….well….just crazy. Maybe I struggle to believe that God can actually DO something that big…or maybe I struggle to understand why or how He would do something like that…….for ME. I don’t deserve a blessing like that…so…why should He see it through? I mean, I can believe for the same thing for someone else. But me? I brace myself for the disappointment. The letdown. The failure of my faith.

Faith?

What faith? Is THAT faith??

It is so easy to fall into this attitude that Zephaniah so poignantly describes in chapter 1 of his book. It is so easy to know deep in our hearts that God won’t do evil toward us…but…not letting — or MAKING — ourselves believe that He can and WILL also do good! We must guard ourselves very carefully from this attitude, for, as Zephaniah points out, this attitude breeds complacency; NOT the bold faith that sets out to conquer in the name of the Lord! We must push aside every doubt that tries to crowd into our minds and hearts when we set forth to pray in faith, and we must BELIEVE the Lord for good! For us! Today! He will not fail us, and our hope is NOT in vain. Unless we press the victory, and break through the hoards of doubts that try to stand in our way, to keep us from receiving that which we pray for, we will fall short of what God desires for us! It is like the story of Joash in 2 Kings, when Elisha told him to take a bow and shoot arrows out his window. And Joash took it, and shot 3 arrows and then stopped. Then Elisha was angry with him, because, he said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.” When we lose heart after praying only for a little while, we do not gain the victory we might have had if we pressed on! And unless we press forward in our trust in the Lord, we will be like those Zephaniah describes who never see the fruit of their labors. So too, if we do not believe the Lord for the answer to our prayers, and hold fast, waiting expectantly for His blessing, we will not get to see the fruit of the wrestling faith, and we will not have the reward of our faith. For, simply thinking, “God will not do evil….but neither will he do good,” is not enough.

Ask God to show you how you may have been doing this in your own life…and ask Him to teach you REAL faith and trust in His goodness and faithfulness!

 

 

The Darkness is Real

The devil is real.

We all “kind-of” know that… but, truth be told, we often aren’t really sure what that actually means… or how to deal with it.  Some of us may not really want to think about it all that much, because we’re afraid… or confused… or maybe you’re one of those who knows the devil is real, and has experienced his presence, but you don’t know what to do about it or how to get out of his grip (or help those who are).

Today I’m going to share with you an interview with a girl who is very dear to me.  A girl who has been through an incredible amount of pain, grief, and darkness in her short life.  But God has brought her out of it all safely, and she is now full of the joy of His presence.  My hope is that her testimony is both a help and an encouragement to those of you who are stuck in fear and bondage to the devil—that there IS a way out!

AND, for those of you who are still skeptical about the devil’s existence and the reality of his presence in our world and his work amongst the young people of our society today… I hope this testimony is eye-opening to you, and moves you to earnest prayer on their behalf… and I hope it stirs you to action to rescue any you can from the devil’s grip.  This is reality.  This is why there are so many suicides and kids filled with darkness and despair.  We cannot sit passively by while the devil deceives and destroys lives with impunity.  We MUST fight back.

Can you fill us in a bit on how you grew up, and what “normal life” looked like for you as a child?

I grew up without the guidance of either parent.  My dad left right away, and my mom was an alcoholic.  I was tossed between family members and my mother’s friends.  My mom dated a lot, only, she dated women, as she is a lesbian.  I saw her blaze through so many relationships, including those which sometimes involved other kids.  I saw the damage done by these relationships, and I often got the blame when they ended.  Normal life for me was never staying in one place; it was living with whoever my mom dated, and often getting left behind so she could go out drinking.  Sometimes I wouldn’t see her for months, and didn’t know if she was coming back.  I became depressed, suicidal, and got into self-harm.  I was medicated and anorexic and I began to look for comfort in all the wrong places.  Those wrong places led me to a cult and to demons.

 

When did you really start to get into dark, demonic things yourself?  What was it that drew you in?

I really started to get into dark, demonic things in my sophomore year of high school.  I liked the feeling of having the protection I thought I was being promised.  I was drawn in by the promise of never being alone and having a “spirit” to look after me; a “spirit” I could call my own and which would defend me.  I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, and I figured I could do that if I were something more than human.  There was a “pack” of demon-bound students in my school, which I joined up with.  Each pack member got a demon which stayed with them, and was always supposedly in the form of a wolf.  These students would enter the bodies of their demons and command them to go about and to kill other demons.  I wanted to be a part of something like that because it was bigger than myself, it was adventure, and because I craved the closeness of a pack.

 

Can you summarize what it was (as far as the demonic activity) that you were drawn into?

When I got into the pack, I didn’t know it was a cult because they seemed like regular high school kids, and like they didn’t want to hurt anyone.  When I joined, I was bound to a demon that controlled fire, and was taught how to use this demonic power… BUT, by getting that close to demons, I attracted other demons to me that tried to kill me and control me.  I had voices in my head all the time.

 

How prevalent was all this in your school?  How connected through the rest of the country—or was this an isolated group?

There were at least a dozen students bound to demons in my school that I knew about, but they knew another pack in Nebraska (a state not at all close to where I lived).  This particular cult is spread all across the U.S. and Canada.  I cannot even fathom how many people are stuck in this mess.  It was definitely not an isolated incident; there are SO many kids involved in it.  There are even little kids “in training” that are relatives of those who are already bound to their demons.

When did you start to want to be free?  How easy was it to get free?  What kind of process did God have to take you through to get you free?

I was sitting behind my door one day, at home alone, and I was crying out to no one in particular.  I had been hurt, and the demons wouldn’t leave me alone.  I was so tired of cutting myself and feeling worthless.  I had grabbed a kitchen knife and wanted to slit my throat.  I had thought about overdosing so many times, but never went through with it.  I raised the knife to my throat but I hesitated, and in that moment, God called out to me.  He asked me where I was going—where I would go when I died?  Of course I knew I wouldn’t be going to Heaven—only good people went there, and I was into all things demonic.  But God told me He had plans for me.  He had found me in the darkest place and still He came for me.  God loved me so much that even with all I had done, He wanted me.  He didn’t look down on me and say I was too far gone.  He didn’t want anything from me—He wanted ME!  Even though I had nothing, even though I was bound to demons, even though I was broken and dead inside, He wanted me—even when I was so, so filthy.  THAT is when I wanted to be free.  I wanted God because He wanted me… just because He loves me.  It was a while after that that God began healing my heart and washing me clean, and He had me surrender anything related to the cult that I had.  Then, I prayed for the bonds to be broken… and… I was free!  There was a lot of healing to come, but I was free of demons, and I felt the weight of them fall off of me.

 

What would you most want to say to someone else who is stuck in a similar situation?

I want to tell the people stuck in a situation like this that it isn’t a game.  It isn’t “safe” to play around with… and there is a greater Love for you!  God won’t treat you like the demons do.  He won’t put that much pressure and weight on you.  There is no love in those kinds of cults.  God will not leave you alone, He won’t let you suffer, and He will stay with you all the days of your life and protect you for REAL.  Demons may promise protection, but they cannot deliver what they have promised.  They are liars, and their way is death.  But God is real!  He is more powerful, and He is good.  When you surrender your life to Him, He will guard you from their grip for real.

 

What do you think parents, grandparents, and church-goers who don’t know what to think of the devil or the current amount of demonic activity in the world need to know and do?

I want to tell those who don’t know what to think about the devil that he is VERY real.  Demons are very real, and they aren’t trying to help you, and they don’t actually give you power like they promise.  There is so much demonic activity in the world that Christians need to be on high alert.  It is far more common and widespread than anyone thinks it is.  Please pray for the Lord’s guidance, and be active Christians.  Remember: this is a battle.  Tell your children and grandchildren about the devil; tell them the dangers of these things while they are still growing up, and train them in battle.

 

What is the best way to help kids who are stuck in these things find their way out?

The best thing to do for kids who are in this is to pray for them, take every opportunity you can to talk about Christ with them, and show them His love.  Most of the time kids don’t even know what it is they have gotten into, and they don’t know how serious the devil is (he isn’t playing around, even if they are).  Tell these kids that the devil is real.  Take Proverbs 22:6 seriously when it says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

 

Is there a way to tell what kids are stuck in these things?

It is so hard to differentiate who is stuck in these demonic things and who isn’t.  There is no specific behavior or mark to identify them.  That is what makes this so scary; it is like a plague with no symptoms.  The devil has created a seemingly perfect trap.  There is no specific age, no specific gender or race.  However, kids stuck in this trap usually stay away from Christians and withdraw from family… but then, most teenagers do those things today anyway.

 

Now, looking back, what are the biggest differences you see between serving demons and serving God?

Serving God has brought me more joy than I ever knew I could have!  God does not endanger me.  He keeps me truly save, and promises me real and lasting love for all of my days.  Serving demons was being on edge everyday, not knowing when the next attack would come… but knowing it WOULD come.  Everything about me became different when I began serving God instead of demons.  I became happier, healthier, at peace, and I started seeing my family more often.  I became a real person again, instead of being controlled by the whims of the devil.  God doesn’t think of you as a slave like demons do.  He is a Father that only has His children’s best interests and well-being in mind.  There are no words to describe how loved you feel when you serve God.

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.

Is Giving Better than Receiving?

 

by Stephanie H.

 

Is giving better than receiving?

 

The obvious answer is, yes, of course it is.  And that is very true.  Focusing on what we have and what we get immediately puts a wall between us and God.  The last of the Ten Commandments tells us that coveting what belongs to others, wishing we could have it as good as we think everyone else has it, turns our eyes away from Jesus, and leads to a whole host of other sins.

 

So it does seem like a silly question.

Let me continue.

 

I grew up wanting to be very independent, and learned to be very good at it.  My grandparents were raised to be hard workers who took care of themselves, and considered it a matter of honor not to “take charity”.  You do what it takes to provide for your family, and for your neighbors in need, but there are always others who will need the help more than you do.  They never wanted to be a burden to anyone else by not being useful, or being unprepared for whatever life had to throw at them.  That work ethic trickled down into me as well.

 

Determination not to be idle, and to do one’s part are very valuable traits to have, but they can also be used to focus us on ourselves and to distract us from Jesus’ work in and through us.  For years, my determination to be independent and to be useful to others led me to bottling up every problem I had so that I would never have to be a burden to anyone.  Even now, being blessed to bring my every fear and concern to my Savior, it is easy for me to use that as an excuse never to rely on others for prayer, especially when I am stressed or feeling inadequate.

 

Jesus knows me so well though.  There are times that He draws me away from others so that I can spend time alone in the quiet with Him.  Then there are times when I can hardly pray a word or read a verse without Him pressing me to seek others out, share my weaknesses, and pray with them.  When I obey those promptings, it is such a blessing.  There are so many intricate ways He has to urge me to overcome my proud independence.

 

I had to confront all of this rather recently at work.  The Lord has blessed me with coworkers who truly love Him, and they have been a wonderful blessing to me.  The path on which Jesus is leading me had me living on very little, and they provided help for me in that time.  It made my independence squirm.  I hadn’t realized I had so much pride left!  At first I wanted a reason not to accept their gift, then I wanted to find someone who needed that help more than I did, and give it away as soon as possible so that I could go back to having only a little again!  Do you ever feel that it is easier to accept reluctant help than it is to accept help eagerly given out of love, without even having to ask for it?

 

Receiving sincere gifts, with no obligations and no flattery attached, really forces us to be vulnerable.  It forces us to admit a need.  How often do we want to do that?  In those times, it can be so easy to hide behind Jesus as an excuse for not needing help from His people.  Sometimes He does have us accept less from others than they are willing to provide.  Think of Paul, working as a tent-maker so that the churches he was helping would not have to pay for his needs.  Other times, we stubbornly choose to live in the wilderness out of habit, rather than allowing Him to show us the joy and glory of relying on our brothers and sisters, even as He has them rely on us.  That relationship, and the vulnerability that comes with it, strengthens us together as the body of Christ, and teaches us so much about Him that we never could have known on our own while resisting the call to depend on each other.

 

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ~James 1:17

 

When the Lord calls us to give of ourselves, He is allowing us to be involved with Him in what He loves most.  Yet He shows us something so magnificent when we sit and watch with Him as others have the opportunity to experience that same joy of giving.  It is also a strong and comforting reminder that we are not the ones who cause good things to happen.  He loves to have us involved, but it is such a humble blessing to be taught to close our eyes and hold out our hands for the blessings He has prepared through others.  Be willing to receive, and see what love He will shower upon you.

Kneeling to Pray

 

 

by Stephanie H.

 

We can read about it in classic literature, we see it in paintings and other art in the church, even modern comics and movies that feature little children show little pajama-ed knees bent in prayer, sometimes with teddy bears sharing the same posture.
So why do we kneel to pray?
Sure, we don’t always have to kneel to talk to the Lord.  If we’re to pray without ceasing, we’re going to have to stand up and walk around at the same time!  So why is it so traditional to kneel while praying?
Consider this parable from Luke 18:10-14
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, on a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer.  The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all I get.’  But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
 
Now, don’t think that the only way to approach the Lord in prayer is to crawl up in agony because of all of your sins.  Look at the contrasted postures of these two men.  The one was praying “thus to himself” (an interesting choice of words), thanking God for how great he himself was, but talking of himself more than anything.  If this were a conversation with the Lord, what would the Pharisee expect Him to say?  Meanwhile, the tax-gatherer begs God to act on His promise to be merciful to the repentant.  He is humble, and knows that the Lord is the one with the power to be merciful, rather than believing, like the Pharisee, that he is the one who can make himself good enough to talk to God.  We don’t earn the privilege to talk to God by being important enough for His attention.  No one could ever be important enough to get the attention of an eternal God.  We can best approach Him in prayer when we realize that He is willing to come down to listen to people that will never really be worth anything all by themselves.
Have you ever tried to make a business deal with God?
“Dear Lord, I would really like to have this, and here is what I would do for You if You let me…” or “Dear Lord, my friend needs help, and here are all the reasons they deserve the best…”
They are sincere prayers, but when I pray this way, it always leaves me anxious, wondering if I have said the right things in the right way to convince God that it really would be in His best interest to listen.  Sounds rather like the Pharisee again, doesn’t it?  It is so easy to imagine that prayer gives me the power to tap into God’s attention and favor if I can just say the right things.
I teach at a small Christian school, and one of my favorite portions of our morning prayers reminded me recently of the true posture of prayer.  Every person that is able kneels on one knee as the Great Commission is read:
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  ~Matthew 28:18-20
 
What are those first words?  “All power is given unto me…” 
 
Jesus is the one who has all power in heaven and in earth.  Because of that, He’s given us a job to do.  It isn’t a project we are left to figure out on our own, execute on our own, and then hope that it is good enough for His liking.  “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
 
If your reading this, I’m guessing the world hasn’t ended.  That means that the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is present with you, and eager to show you the work that He has prepared for you to do.
Imagine a good and honorable king, at war with a vicious enemy.  At the moment, his wise eyes are surveying little figures on a mapped table that represent the movements of his troops and the enemy’s.  A knight rushes in and kneels before hastily making his petition:
“Sire, several of your men have been captured, and are being held in the enemy’s fortress.”
Or perhaps…
“Sire, the battalion on the northern front is desperate for supplies.”
“Sire, the enemy is spreading lies that are crippling morale, and causing many of your troops to lose hope.”
What is this knight expecting to hear?  An order.  Of course, he will eagerly watch to see how his king will respond to this news.  If he is a young knight, he may worry when his king acknowledges the need and dismisses him, or when his king gives him an order that does not make sense, but the king is wise and careful.  His plans have far-reaching results beyond any short term solutions his young knights may offer.
Our prayer is when we come into the presence of the King, remember that the battle is His, and spend time in His presence, to learn the depth of integrity of His character, and be involved in His will in whatever way He chooses.
Now, the effectiveness of our prayers do not rely on us literally kneeling, or imagining kings and knights and battles when we pray, but it has been something that has really helped me in my prayers lately.  The more time that I spend in prayer and in the Word, the more I come to trust the Lord with some things.  Even so, it is very easy for me to work myself up into distraction as I try to pray in such a way to earn immediate results.  When that happens, one of the quickest ways out of that state of worry…
Surrender my plans.
Kneel before the throne.

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?

Facing Discouragement as a True Friend of God

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I don’t have a normal life.  In fact…my life is incredibly crazy.  I don’t usually like to write much about myself, but here’s just a little peek into our lives, as just a little bit of background for what I’ve been thinking about today.

We travel a lot, because of my husband’s family being a musical group.  We go anywhere and everywhere we’re invited.  And that leads to some pretty…interesting…experiences.  You probably wouldn’t believe the crazies we see.  People think that traveling and sharing the gospel and playing music must be so glamorous and exciting.  WELL…it’s exciting because we’re doing it for the Lord, and we get to see real and lasting fruit from our labors.  But…it’s not glamorous.  We chuckled today as we recounted some of the places we’ve stayed — from squishing nine people into one dilapidated motel room, to camping in tents next to alligator-infested waters, to…well…basically, if you can dream it up, it’s probably happened to us…and then some. 😉  We also find ourselves presenting our shows in many different places, to many different crowds.  Sometimes we’ve had a jam-packed full theater with four hundred people all riveted throughout the show.  Other times, we’ve had churches, partially filled, but with people who had tears streaming down their faces by the end of the night because the Lord had so touched their hearts.  And other times…well…other times, it can be downright discouraging.  Like last night.  We had a miscommunication with a newspaper that was supposed to run our concert ad for two weeks in a row, and it only got run one week……the day of the show.  We had eight people come.  In a large auditorium.  Eight people is not a lot.  In fact, it’s downright awkward in many ways.  But we thanked God for those eight people, and did a show for them anyway.  But afterwards, several of our family were feeling pretty discouraged.  It’s times like these when you’ve given all your own money and time and lots of effort and sacrifice for what you think the Lord wanted you to do…and held on in faith till the last moment…and then, things don’t go the way you thought they should, that the devil slinks in and begins to fill your mind with doubts.  Suddenly, you wonder…did you really hear from God??  Do you do the wrong thing?  Did you not have enough faith?  Should you even be serving the Lord at all?  Maybe there’s someone else who is better qualified…someone who could actually have the success you had hoped for…maybe…maybe…

 

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But as I pondered the night, the only thing that came to my mind, again and again was a quiet whisper of, “But…the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these.”

I paused…and pondered.  Yes.  It’s true.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of men and women who have given everything they had for Jesus…and many of them never saw any fruit for it.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of those who have laid down their very lives for Jesus, and never lived to see the salvation of many hundreds which has come from their sacrifice.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of those who have had many disappointments and those who have looked like complete failures to those looking on, for the sake of Christ…..and yet…..He looks down with the greatest love, tears pooling in His eyes, His heart overflowing with gratitude that He has found true friends; those who are willing to suffer with Him for the sake of some that might be rescued.  It is not an unusual thing for the children of God to encounter trials…but we must press forward, and not lose heart.  Trust…and obey.

So, may you be encouraged.  Whether you are in ministry, or whether you think God may be leading you in that direction, or whether you are simply trying to be faithful in reaching out to those God puts in your path — yes, there will be difficulties, hardships, disappointments, and much testing of our faith…but the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these.  God’s heart is so gladdened to have true friends, who love Him more than the comforts and success and acclaim of the world.  Friends who are willing to suffer with Him.  And God doesn’t say that if we have difficulties or what seems like failures we HAVE failed.  He just asks us to be obedient, to not lose heart, and to press forward in what He has called us to do.  We can trust Him, and entrust the fruit to Him.  He will bring forth a harvest for all that we entrust to His care…for any fruit that springs up can only come by Him and through Him anyway.  If you’ve ever tried making something happen in your own strength, you can attest to what I’m saying. 😉

 

Feel free to share what God has been teaching you lately in the comments, and what He has encouraged you with in the midst of your own difficulties and disappointments. 

 

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Single? 3 Ways to Have the BEST Valentines Day EVER!

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Valentine’s Day.  That blissful time of year when all of your “non-single” friends get chocolate, and flowers, and romantic candlelight dates.  That dreaded time of year when you hide out under your covers, eat lots of chocolate (that you bought yourself), and avoid everything pink, red, or even remotely romantic.  That, or you’re one of those people who actively torture yourself by scrolling through Facebook, looking at all the sweet things that people did with their “significant other”, and you cry yourself to sleep listening to gushy love songs.  [Some people do it to themselves…just saying. 😉 ]

It’s a wonderful holiday that seems to have been instituted just to remind you of your definite singleness…again.  Not dissimilar to pouring lemon juice on a paper cut [Note: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME — Just take my word for it.]…or having text messages sent to you continually about the HUGE sale that your favorite store is having…right when you’re completely, totally broke.

So, what’s a single gal to do??

Well, you CAN hole yourself up in your room all day, and have a great big pity party…by yourself. But, I mean…again??  Really??  OR…what if you tried something different this year?

Here are 3 ideas to help you have a Valentines Day worth remembering this year!

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1.  Pray for your single girl-friends.

Start now – don’t wait!  Begin praying for each of your single girl-friends…and ask God to direct your prayers for them.  Pray that God would encourage their hearts, and surround them in His love this year.  Even ask Him to give you specific scriptures that relate to how you can pray to them, or that would be an encouragement to them.  Praying for others is one of the very best ways to get your eyes off of yourself, and get out of your own pity-party.  Making a list may help you to remember to pray for them, and to not forget anyone.

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2. Ask God to show you how to be a blessing to them.

As you’re praying for your friends, ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to them.  Ask Him for ideas of things you can do that would encourage their hearts, and show God’s love to them.  Ask God to make you His hands and feet to show them His love this year.
And then…do it. Whatever God shows you — put it into action!  It may take some real time and effort…and even money, but God will bless you for all you give.  Write out the scriptures God gives you into sweet cards.  Share whatever word of encouragement God puts on your heart for them.  Buy them some flowers…or chocolate…or both!  What do you wish someone would do for you?  Now go and do that for them!  If you really want to go all-out, you can even plan a special evening to invite them over, decorate, and make them a special meal!  Or what about a special girls’ spa night, and devotion time, where you can pray together (spending time with Jesus together is always the sweetest thing)!  The possibilities are endless when you ask God for great ideas — He knows what will most bless each of your friends! And it might be something different for each one.

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3. Spend time with Jesus.

This is last, but definitely most important of all, for truly having the best Valentine’s Day!  Don’t forget to spend time with Jesus, and just enjoy His presence.  Remember: He truly cares about you more than anyone else…and even after you have a loving relationship, and a blessed marriage, no guy can fill that spot in your heart that was meant for only Jesus to fill.  You’re not just spending time with Jesus because you don’t have a boyfriend!  You’re spending time with Jesus because HE is your Love, and your Life!!

Spend time thanking Jesus for all the ways He has shown His love for you this year — even write some of them down to be a reminder of His goodness for you when you’re discouraged.  Don’t rush — how would you like it if you were out for a special time with someone and all they did was look at their watch the whole time??  Take your time to really enjoy God’s presence, and be a real friend for Him.

And why don’t you take some time to actually write God a love-letter this year?  Tell Him all the things you love about Him, and that you can’t imagine your life without Him.  Even pray about what you can give Him as a gift this year — it can be something as simple as giving Him your worries about the future, and committing to trust Him more, and not fear about the future.

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?? Do you have any other ideas for having a blessed Valentine’s Day?  Have you ever tried reaching out to those who are lonely on Valentine’s Day?  If someone was going to do something kind for you on Valentine’s Day, what do you think you would bless you the most?  Now…how can you take that and use it to bless others?  Share your thoughts in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you, and even feature some of your ideas here!

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