Commitment, Faith, Obedience, Perseverance, Sanctification, Spiritual Battle, Surrender, Trust, Victory

Chomp Chomp

“May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!” Psalm 20:5

Recently, my husband and I spent the weekend in Gainesville, Florida visiting our oldest son, Sean.  On Saturday we made our way to the UF football game. Traveling by foot through campus in the human current of orange and blue we passed some professional tail-“Gators” anticipating the sure victory over Colorado.  However, the majority of fans were, like us, eagerly speed-walking to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, nick-named “The Swamp.” It was the second hottest (and I’m guessing the most humid) game-day on record for the Gators. Regardless, we all rose up the ramp in ant-like procession. Everyone was so excited — joyful even — as they took their seats.  Although fans (literal paper fans) were waving, no one complained about the heat. Apparently Gators don’t sweat.

Soon, the band played and everyone cheered as the team streamed onto the field. Then it happened. Thousands of arms lifted, right over left, elbows locked, and moved up and down, like an alligator’s mouth. At the same time ninety-thousand voices shouted,”Go Gators!” Go Gator’s is their battle cry but there is something about this chomp, chomp motion that motivates both fan and player. It gives them a sense of belonging — a confidence because they know they are part of a winning team. And (chomp, chomp) they wanted their opponents to know it.

Wow! This kind of community is inspiring! I’m not even a football fan and I enjoyed it. However, this experience made me question my own approach to the spiritual battle we find ourselves in as Christians. We too are a part of a winning team. However, we are not always excited to gather together. And even though we have the best quarterback, coach and manager in the universe we don’t always trust Their judgement. We may have a rag-tag team but because of Jesus – because he resides in us – we are victors! What is our intimidating war cry? “Jesus lives!” and our motto, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” Romans 8:37. What is our uniform? “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience Colossians 3:12.

Do I believe Jesus has secured the victory? Do I act like it? Do I confidently endure all things by faith? Struggles, like conflict, pain, heat and injury, are expected by the football player. But, he doesn’t overcome these obstacles alone. He stands on that battlefield as part of a unit. We too are part of an enormous community. The “great cloud of witnesses” cheer us on because they already know the outcome.  The individual Christian is encouraged while doing his part as the sure victory unfolds because God provides us with a team called the Church. Instead of The Swamp we have The Sanctuary and instead of a war cry we have praise. Instead of tailgating we have fellowship and instead of a winning season we have salvation by grace, through faith in our leader, Jesus Christ. So, this Sunday put on your game shirt and cheer on your “team” while raising your hands and shouting with joy! Chomp, chomp!

“For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.” Psalm 18:39

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

Anxiety, Control, Faith, Insecurity, Life, Obedience, Patience, Pride, Trust, Worry

Waiting

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.”  

Psalm 25:4-5

 

Although waiting is defined as “The act of remaining inactive or stationary it seems it takes more energy to wait upon the Lord than it does to jump ahead of Him and do what we think He wants us to do.  Right now, my husband and I are experiencing a time of waiting and it’s hard. At times I feel like a little kid holding my breath, about to burst with anticipation. It isn’t a matter of doubting God’s goodness or faithfulness but it is a matter of not trusting His timing. As we wait I feel restless and sometimes anxiety rises as I think about the options before us, including all the possible outcomes. I find myself wanting to do something, anything to make me feel like there is progress being made. But, the Bible says to wait upon the Lord. The problem comes when I focus on the next step rather than on the relationship. In all things God draws us to Himself. In waiting He is asking for us to trust His love. He is asking us, as our Heavenly Father, to believe His plans are for our good.

However, right now I feel like I’m warming a bench at a bus stop. I’m not sure of the bus schedule but know it will come eventually because my father told me it would. But it’s been awhile and I’m starting to wonder if I heard correctly, so I call Him.

“Hey, Dad, it’s me.”

“Hi sweetie! How are you?”

“I’m ok. Just sitting here waiting for the bus. It’s been twenty minutes. I was just wondering if I’m at the right stop.”

“Are you where I sent you?”

“Yessss!”

“Then you’re at the right stop. Is there anything else? You seem stressed.”

“No. I just think it’s taking too long. I was thinking of walking.”

“Just wait there. I’ll talk with you until the bus comes.”

“Ok. I’m kind of anxious about the trip anyway. I’ve never been there before. How do I know I’ll like it?”

“I understand. Doing something new is hard, but I wouldn’t send you someplace that wasn’t going to be good for you. And you can talk to me anytime. Just trust me.”

“I do. It’s just I don’t always feel good about it.”

“Just remember I love you. That’s it. I love you.”

“Okay Dad. I know. I love you too.”

Do you believe God is there, talking to you in the waiting? Many times, instead of talking to God I look for the next step. Something to “do” instead of spending time with Him in intimate conversation. Of course, sometimes it’s hard discerning between the vision and the timing. Like Abraham, God showed us a picture of what would glorify Him–what He wanted us to do by faith, and yet we do not have the green light. Instead of peacefully waiting on the bench God has provided, I feel like walking or hitch-hiking or maybe taking a scooter. I want to be set free to do what I want (for God of course) without any restraints. But God is not incompetent, nor does He procrastinate. The waiting period is a time of molding and testing and a time to cultivate intimacy with Him. Just like a wild horse is mastered in the coral, God pens us in for the refining process, keeping us close to Him as he works out the willful pride and self-reliance that I am so easily bent toward. I don’t like it–AT ALL! But, because of His love, I am willing.

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

Habakkuk 2:3.

Faith, Trust, Victory

That You May Know

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening.  And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.” 1 John 5:13-15 The Message

Is there someone in your life with whom you can be “bold and free” in their presence? Imagine that someone trying to put you at ease by saying, “Trust me, it’s going to be okay.” What would your response be?  Mine would probably be, “Oh yeah? We’ll see about that.”  But, it would honestly depend upon the level of trust I had in the person reassuring me.  That’s why, when it comes to salvation, eternity and Heaven I believe God wholeheartedly.  No, I don’t just believe, I KNOW without a doubt that it is really going to be okay.  The unity I have with Christ is secure, not because I say so but because I have experienced what God’s Word calls being “born again” (John 3).

However, I have experienced trust issues with people (mostly men) all of my life.   Because of abandonment and betrayal early in life I learned to question the intentions of others and protect my heart.  It is no fun assuming the worst of people, even nice people.  More than that, it is exhausting.  Fortunately, God has given me relationships that have redeemed the past and I am slowly learning to trust again.  Not long ago my husband helped with this process by wearing a name tag that read, “Your Godly husband who loves you,”  during a time when I was struggling with trust in our marriage.  Most of our life together my husband was not a believer but a few years prior to the name tag incident he had given his life to Christ and truly was a different person.  Our relationship had changed but I refused to relate to him as a Godly husband who would “never leave me or forsake me.”  Fortunately, one day my counselor said, “You are not secure in your own reality,”  and it struck me that I was not believing truth.  You see, even though it was true that Marty and I were married and he was loving I still responded to him the same as before.  Self-protection was a comforting habit that created a barrier in our relationship.  I was not free to approach my loving husband because I refused to believe it was true.  What more could he do to convince me? Nothing.  It was obviously true that there was nothing I could do to lose his love.  It was all in my mind.  I needed to step out of the looking glass by faith, into reality and relate to him based on the truth.  This was scary trust.  This is what God calls us to do with Him as well…trust.

In the same way, we can offend God by acting like He’s not trustworthy.  However, God would not give the free gift of eternal life and then take it back.  He  would not adopt a child and then disown him.  That does not line up with Scripture and it is not the heart of God to leave us in a state of uncertainty.  Now, there are those who may believe they are born again but have never confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believed in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).  These people would rightly question whether they were truly saved.  This is not, however, an indication of loss of salvation, rather it is an awareness of your separateness from the Spirit of God who is prompting you to respond to Christ’s invitation to believe on him.   If you do not experience intimacy with God in your Spirit then you can ask God to give you the faith you need to believe in Jesus, inviting Him to come into your life and take over as Savior and LORD.

But, for true believers, a consequence of uncertainty is insecurity.  John wrote 1 John 5 to ensure those who are God’s children that they have eternal life so their relationship with God would be one of freedom and trust.  Look closely at 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”  If we doubt our adoption into God’s family,  unsure where we stand, then we will not be so bold as to approach Him in prayer, asking anything in His name.  A very effective tactic of the enemy is to distract and deceive, convincing us that it is no use praying, relieving us of a very powerful offensive weapon in a very real spiritual battle.  For this reason, God desires a knowing deep in our hearts that we are His.  Only then will we be “bold and free” in his presence.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Romans 10:9-10

Further reading: John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4-5; Hebrews 6:4-6

Control, Faith, grace, Hope, Humility, Life, Submission, Surrender

Boxing Out

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Boxing God out has been a common occurrence throughout my Christian walk.  Viewing Him as an opponent, with elbows out and my backside pushing against Him, I try desperately to keep him from getting the ball.  This is what happened on a Southwest flight in the summer of 2017 when my husband and I were sitting together in the aisle and middle seats.  Knowing the flight was not full I laid my jacket on the window seat next to me hoping no one would sit there.  (Yes, I did that.)  “Why is your jacket on the seat?” My husband asked, noticing the subliminal “Do not sit here” message I was sending.

“I really don’t want anyone sitting next to me so I put my jacket there hoping they wouldn’t ask.”

He replied, gently, “Uh, you should take that off the seat.”

So, while grudgingly removing my coat and sliding it under the seat in front of me, a young lady stopped and asked, “Is that seat taken?”

“No.” I whispered, letting her slide by.

Plopping in the seat next to me she promptly put her earphones in so she could listen to her music.  As she did my husband noticed the album cover on her phone.  “I love that band,” he said smiling.

Looking over at her phone I saw she was playing Christian music.  From that moment on Avie and I were flight friends.  In fact, we didn’t stop talking until we got off the plane.  As it turns out she was going into her Senior year of high school and in a dilemma regarding College.  She didn’t know if she should go to college or, if she did, where to attend or how she would pay for it.  Her parents were divorced and focused on their new families and spouses with little to offer for advice or money for education.   Avie had a heart for missions so I told her about Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and other options she hadn’t thought about.  At the end of our time together she said, “Thank you so much for talking with me.  I really needed to hear from someone other than my parents or my guidance counselor.”

Wow!  I almost missed it.  My comfort was the only thing I considered at the time and, in my narrow mindedness, forgot that God is so BIG that He could orchestrate a conversation to give a high school girl hope for her future.  He loves that much.  All I can think about at this moment is the waterfall of grace He has for His children.  Instead of calling “foul” He rolled around me and stole the ball.  I realize we are on the same team and all is forgiven, however, this encounter gives me pause for the future.  I resolve not to knowingly box Him out again and asked God to make Avie an Ebenezer stone for me; a reminder that God works in subtle, loving ways, running the plays of life through His children.

Lord, please give me a heart for those you wish to lavish with your love through this earthen vessel of mine.  Help me to remember.  I long to be compelled by your love and to live for Christ and not myself, keeping the Passion at the forefront of my mind.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.”  Psalm 37:23

Faith, Humility, Overwhelmed, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized

Look Up

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5

Imagine a well-lit stadium full of enthusiastic believers before a Casting Crown’s concert. Now imagine a “no sense of direction” me trying to find my seat in a sea of people when finally, an usher brings me to “my” seat but in the wrong section.  I was overwhelmed and confused because my husband was not there and was texting, “Where are you?” when I thought I was in the right place.

“I’m lost,” I explained to a different usher, handing him my ticket.

“You’ll need to go all the way up the stairs and around to the next section,” he said, while handing the stub back to me.  I must have looked pretty pathetic because he immediately said, “I’ll take you,” and bounded up the steep stairway.

Just then the stadium went dark and, trying to follow him with two water bottles, my purse and my phone in my hands, I tripped on the concrete steps and fell, dropping the bottles and my pride somewhere in section N.  Disoriented and embarrassed, I looked up and saw the light.  The usher was holding his iPhone with the flashlight shining down the stairs so I could find my way up to him.  Just follow the light.  Walk in the light.  Thankfully, I arrived at my seat without further incident.

A bit shaken, It took me awhile to start enjoying the concert but the genuine love, patience and grace shown by the usher moved me.  This is God’s heart.  His light is always there for us to follow.  He waits patiently for us to get up when we fall.  He doesn’t make fun of us or even chastise us for looking stupid or being late or making a mistake. When we are confused He meets us in our confusion and orders our “steps.”

In many ways this experience had a profound effect, changing my way of thinking about walking in the light as well as living in a state of humility.  In the dark we cannot see and WILL have an accident, be disoriented and lose our way.  However, if there is light, any light, and we focus on it, it serves as a calibrating force in our hearts and minds, pulling us to safety.  Humility, though, is really a sense of selflessness where you find it easy to “look up” and follow God because you are consumed with neither pride nor shame, only Jesus, the Light of the World.

So, although I was embarrassed at first, when I looked up and saw the literal light I chose to follow it instead of hide in utter humiliation.  Now, to be honest, thoughts did swirl through my head like, “Everyone must think I’m drunk, or stupid or clumsy or…” but that kind of thinking is self-focused and not even based in reality.  The fact that everyone was actually watching the concert and NOT me was evident but I felt like they were judging me! Capturing my thoughts was no less awkward then retrieving the rolling water bottles but, like living water, so worth it!  Because God’s light is there for me (both physically and spiritually) I was able to walk out of the darkness by faith one step at a time.

Compare these two Psalms:

“For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.” Psalm 40:12

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3

The first Psalm reveals a self-focused heart heavy with guilt and shame.  The second a God-focused heart full of love and faith.  Although my tripping may seem like a “silly” example, there are all kinds of ways we trip and fall; some more severe and painful then others.  The circumstance doesn’t really matter because the principle is the same.  God is there for you.  He is patient, kind, loving and gracious and waiting for You to… look up.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Hope, Submission, Surrender, Uncategorized, Worry

Are You the One?

“Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?'” Luke 7:19

Have your circumstances ever caused you to question God?  Mine have.  The questions came pouring out faster than I could process them. Thoughts like, “Um, hello! Do You really know what You’re doing, God?” were floating around in my mind wrecking my peace and pressing me into a dark room locked by unbelief.

In the same way John the baptist must have felt abandoned and alone.  I’m sure he wondered why he was sent to make way for the LORD and then immediately afterward was ushered “off stage” right into a prison cell.  After all, John was obedient, doing the will of God by pointing people to the coming Messiah while baptizing them into repentance so they could see their need for a Savior.  “Are You the expected One?” he asked, “Or should we look for someone else?”  Jesus answered him with faith building evidence that screamed, “Jesus is Messiah!”  In essence Jesus was reassuring John that He was who He said He was and who John knew Him to be.  Jesus comforted John by telling him, “I AM still God, I still love you, I still care and I do have a plan that includes this trial.”

Likewise, Jesus reminds you and me that He is fully present, aware, loving, in control and all knowing.  He is also all powerful and capable of changing any circumstance.  Why, then, do we question God today?  I question God when He doesn’t do what I want, therefore,  mistakenly assume He must be wrong or not know what He’s doing.  An example of this was never so apparent to me then when I begged God to soften the heart of our ten-year-old son eight years ago.   God answered my prayer by allowing him to break his right femur during a football game.  Broken both physically and spiritually, our son’s heart softened but it WAS NOT the way I would have done it.   The LORD declares in Isaiah 55:8, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” Still, we are bent on getting our own way instead of trusting God’s love and sovereignty by surrendering to His will.

Surrender means “to give oneself up into the power of another”(www.merriam-webster.com).  John went to the LORD and asked for reassurance with a surrendered spirit. Jesus answered and gave him hope.  What peace and joy must have overflowed in the heart of the locust eating prophet as he trusted in the God of hope (Romans 15:13) instead of his circumstances.  So often I drop my eyes and am overwhelmed by circumstances that I have no control over.  This usually leads to confusion but the remedy is found in Psalm 121. He is The One! \O/

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth”

Psalm 121:1-2

 

Love, Obedience, Trust, Victory

Living in Victory

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:35-37 NLT

Living in New England, surrounded by avid sports fans and successful profession teams, it’s easy to live in victory when it comes to our regional identity.  But, I have to confess, most of the time I don’t care who wins or loses a sporting event. (Don’t hate me Patriot’s fans.) However, when one of my sons is playing I really want their team to win.  So, knowing that we are ALL on God’s Son’s team and that the victory is certain, I can also rest in my identity in Christ.  Jesus secured the victory and we now get to join Him by taking our place on the field day by day.  There is no condemnation if you drop the ball or strike out.  In the end, we are all going to celebrate.

Nevertheless, the empirical force unbelief sometimes has on me is crippling.  My fist holds tight to what I’ve experienced in the past when my heart longs to be free from the pain of living in a pool of insecurity.  Negative self talk from the enemy chokes creativity and convinces me not to try. “Why bother?  Nothing will come of it,” he hisses quietly.  “You aren’t that good so why would God use you?” or “You certainly don’t know what you’re doing.”  Then, to cinch paralysis, “You will be rejected, it will be painful and it’s not worth it.”  There it is, the crippling lie that “I’m unloveable” lurking under the feeling of inadequacy.

Having said this, I know, from experience, that my experiences do not define me.  Even still, I expect rejection and defeat because, growing up, that’s what I learned from  human relationships.  Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”  Because of this truth, the best weapon the enemy of our souls is armed with is the ability to convince us that we are not loved by God and He will not use us.  He first thrusts us to the edge of doubt before pushing us over the cliff of unbelief.  If we take the bait then we are taken captive by the enemy, bound by a fortress of lies.  The lies are effective because, in reality, we have blown it, experienced hardship and suffered rejection. The seen reality has told us we are unloved, worthless or unlovable.

But, God tells us clearly in His Word that He loves us so much He died for us.  He also tells us that He will never leave us, has good plans for us, has given us Himself and we have the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit within us to do whatever God calls us to do.  We shrug our saved shoulders and say, “Uh, okay?” This unbelief becomes a nagging injury that can only be healed by God’s truth.  God really will NEVER leave you or forsake you.  He really does, at all times and in all circumstances, whether you are cranky or having a bad hair day, deeply love you inside and out.  You are gifted and have a role to play, not on your merit but because Christ is in you and you were chosen.  If we could all live in the reality of the victory we have in Christ we would have complete freedom to love and be loved!  So, let’s believe in the unseen reality that we will never be cut from the team and play with confidence because our uniforms are red and white, a picture of the victory Christ secured for us all.

Uncategorized

Worried and Bothered

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

Whenever we plan an event at our house my default is “worried and bothered.”  On these occasions I can identify with Martha, although, on an ordinary day I am right there with Mary at Jesus’ feet as the dishes pile up in the sink.  But, like Martha,  I too struggle with feeling overwhelmed, abandoned and unloved!  I too accuse God of not caring and tell Him what to do!  However, the reality of Jesus’ love for Martha, as well as for you and me, is that it is endless and unconditional. He wants us to sit at His feet and trust Him for everything because He really does care for you and for me.  This is demonstrated in His words, “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  He’s not excluding or rejecting Martha but inviting her to join them!

Similarly, in Exodus 16 (the first account of God providing manna and quail for the Israelites in the desert) the Israelites also complained and told God what to do.  Even after witnessing God’s gracious provision they still didn’t believe Him.  Some even decided to do it their own way, gathering more manna than they needed for the day, and it “bred worms and became foul.”  Instead of trusting that God cared enough to provide for them the next day they lived by sight and ended up with rot. So too, when I refuse to live by faith the worms of fear and discontent are apparent.

Even now as I sit here writing I am distracted by the reality of selling our home.  I want to know what tomorrow brings instead of trusting that God cares for me and resting in His plan. Simply put, it is unbelief for the here and now.  In the same way a puppy automatically starts paddling when held over water (even though it’s being held securely) all of us tend to panic and start “paddling” when circumstances are out of our control.   In short, we fail to trust that God will keep holding on and tend to anticipate the worst when we choose to believe lies.  Can you hear the enemy whispering, “God doesn’t really care for you,” even though His Word says He does?

So, how do you and I live by faith and not by sight?  We choose to believe God, taking Him at His WORD and purpose to reject the lies.  Yes, living in the unseen reality means we need to fill our minds with God’s truth and believe Him even if it doesn’t make sense and especially when it goes against our natural inclinations. That is called faith.  As Martha focused on her circumstances she became worried and overwhelmed just like we do.  However, Jesus invited her into the unseen reality of a free spiritual life in Christ which is void of “have to’s” and full of “get to’s.”  We have the privilege of sitting at Jesus’ feet when we don’t have time and He miraculously stretches the minutes.  We get to tithe when it doesn’t make sense and He miraculously stretches the dollar.  We are free to drink His living water and He miraculously bears fruit in our lives.  His burden is light because He is outside of time and circumstance.   God tells us to “take My yoke upon you and I will give you rest.”  When I resist this I identify with Martha, the Israelites and also with Peter who heard God say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5b