Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

God calls us to go ALL the way.

dark-prison-cell

Part 1.

Looking at the saints of old, I see a mysterious and Holy pattern.  God doesn’t stop short of the miraculous.  He doesn’t go half way or do anything in a less than complete manner.  God takes his people to the very edge, He brings them to the last-minute rescue and the midnight hour desperation and then reveals himself with such power, glory and might that we are left speechless.  His plans are for his works to be displayed in such a way, so that there can be no other explanation for what has happened except that God has intervened.

However, these gripping stories are also to build our faith.  Our lives are not so unlike the people of old.  Sometimes our trials bring us to very edge of disaster and if God does not work, we are done for.   If God does not part the Red Sea, we will be destroyed.  If he does not dry up the Jordan, we will drown.  God calls us to go all the way to see the miraculous.  It is necessary to go the distance. Consider this example:

Genesis 37 relates a tale of a very dysfunctional family where sibling rivalry and hatred peaked with a brother being sold into human trafficking by his older brothers.  Let’s look closer at the pattern. It was necessary for Joseph to go ALL the way down into the pit that his brothers cast him into.  There he learned that God had a plan to preserve his life.  Thru the long dark night, with each passing hour, he survived.  As dawn broke over the wilderness, he realized that his body was whole and preserved and that he had lived to see the sun’s rays pierce the darkness.  It was then necessary for Joseph to be sold into slavery and taken hundreds of miles away from his home and family ALL the way in Egypt.  On an auction block, his favored son status was stripped away and he became the property of someone else.  He had no say, no input, no nothing.  His elevated status in an affluent family was cruelly ripped away as he was inspected and chosen solely for his physical build.  His father, his family, his lineage meant nothing.  It was then necessary for him to be accused falsely and sent ALL the way to prison.  Ultimate humiliation and unfairness became his daily bread.  It was in prison, however, that he learned to trust the God of the dark.  Totally constricted and unable to dictate the terms of his life, he was helpless before God.  How easy to lose faith and hope in such a circumstance.  Who would have blamed him if he had.  The evidence, however,  tells a different story.  The evidence speaks of a young man who continued to work with excellence not to please men but God.  The way he ordered his cell, his habits, his time was of such a nature that it captured the attention of his guard.  He was then placed over other prisoners so that he could teach them the same order and habits.  But still his case and cause were overlooked.  Year after year he remained in his confinement and was able to contribute nothing to change the outcome.

What did he dream the outcome to be?  To be set free at some point and make his way back home?  To be free so that he could take revenge on his brothers?  While we are not privy to Joseph’s private thoughts and agonies of soul, we are privy to God taking him to the limit and then some.  Just when it seemed it could not get any worse, it did.  God had set an against all odds scenario so that if God doesn’t act and save, Joseph is toast.  I am sure that no matter what Joseph longed and dreamed for, he could not have imagined the outcome that God  accomplished.  He went from the prison cell to the right hand of pharaoh.  Who but God could bring such a conclusion?  Revenge to his brothers?  Joseph ended up not only saving his immediate family from starvation but the entire known world at the time.  It was necessary for God to take Joseph ALL the way so that the work accomplished was so incredible, no one could deny God.

Yes, God often calls his children to go to the brink of disaster.  But no matter where God takes us and calls us to go, we are not alone.  We have His promise never to leave us or forsake us.  If He takes us to the very edge, He is there.  We are not alone.

If you find yourself in a prison cell of unfair life’s circumstances, falsely accused and forgotten….Wait and watch.  You are primed to see a miracle.

To be continued.

 

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Patience, Personal Growth

“I Your Teacher”

classroom

Isaiah 30:20-21…..”I your teacher will no longer hide myself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher and your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it” whenever you turn to the right or left.

What does it look like to be in the Holy classroom of God?  I am sure it looks differently for different people but here is what it looks like for me.  I might be listening to a sermon, a friend, or even a stranger when a truth gem is exposed.  Its beauty begins to resonate deep within my soul and I know God has spoken.  I usually journal these nuggets of gold and meditate on them for days and weeks.  I find that over the course of those next days and weeks, I will hear the same truth in varying ways.  God will keep instructing me and reminding me of what He has said.

Like all good teachers, an opportunity to practice the truth ALWAYS follows the instruction.  What good is anything learned if you cannot use it in everyday life?  So it is with God, he does not waste His words, instruction or his time.  If He has been so intentional as to instruct, He has a purpose in it.

Several weeks ago I heard a message that contained more truth nuggets than I could write down.  I jotted down what I could and have actively thought on what I couldn’t.  Here’s the gist of what I was instructed in:

  • The fear of the future is often worse than the future.

Anytime God gives the command, “Do not fear”, it is ALWAYS coupled with a why not to.  For example:

Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

When we face our fears because of the realization that the God of the Universe is beside us, then we can take steps forward in faith and courage.  Personal victory has the potential to unleash corporate blessings. Consider the personal victory of David against Goliath.  The outcome had actually been dictated by the giant; whoever was victorious, their nation would enslave the losers.  David’s victory was applied to the entire nation of Israel!  He declared that he had come in the name of the Lord; he was living in faith and gained a courageous victory!

  • Do not entertain any thought reduces God or your position in Him.

1 John 4:1 (NASB)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…
Our loving Father does NOT use discouraging or despairing language with his children.  If you hear any “head talk” that is hopeless, filled with failure and fear, rest assured it is from our enemy and NOT our Father.  Years ago, our pastor at the time, gave me some very good practical advice for when the enemy was on the attack in my mind.  He encouraged me to say aloud,
“My Father said I am not to talk to strangers.  You are a stranger and if you want to talk about me, go see my Father!”
We are the sheep of our Father’s pasture.  We hear and know His voice.  Make truthful declarations to yourself and others about His character, His love, His power, His faithfulness and His glory.  What God has revealed to us in His written Word is for our instruction.  His past works declare who He is, not who He was!  Read and be encouraged and declare who our God is.
So, true to form, God gave me these nuggets and has also given me a test.  From where I am standing, the bay has emptied and a tsunami has formed and is poised to come crashing down.  However, by God’s grace, I will look beyond the wave to the creator of the wave.  The wind and waves still know His voice.  I know His voice.
Friend, if you also find yourself in God’s Holy Classroom, you are not alone.  He is right there with you as well as countless other saints who are in similar trials.  Remember that God is for you and me and has purpose in our tests:

James 1:2-4 (NASB)

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
God desires that we lack in nothing and be perfect and complete!  What a good, good Father He is.
Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Redemption

God is the Faithful One!

God is Faithful

I am telling you again, I have been in a 3 week slump.  I have not been able to pray, or read the Word or do anything that I would consider spiritually uplifting.  Sadly, I have been able to get angry, be selfish and manipulative, and lazy.  Ugh.  Guilt fests and emotional toilet flushes have abounded.

This week, I am faced with a scheduled trip to fulfill a speaking engagement on the subject of encouraging women!!  I awoke this morning, full of dread and fear realizing that I have not prepared at all!!  This is not false humility but harsh reality; I am not ready.  Lying in the hotel bed, I feebly eeked out a prayer of desperation….”God, you have brought me here but I am unprepared and need you.”  Then, my mind wandered away and UGH, again!  “God, help please!”

Mind wanders again and I find myself deleting emails from my phone.  As I am selecting which ones to delete, my eye catches the word, “Arise” in the subject line of an email that I am automatically sent from crosswalk.com.  Curiousity more than anything compelled me to open the email.  I began reading the writer’s telling of Jesus healing the young daughter of Jairus.  As I read, the tears began to flow.  God heard my cry and like the good shepherd He is, reached down and gathered me in His arms.  Here is the excerpt from the devotional:

…..And though she was already dead, Jesus went to the little girl and said one thing: “Get up.” (Mark 5:41)

And she did.                                                                                                                                       

Is He calling you to do the same today?

Hear this: it doesn’t matter who you were before He told you to get up. In fact, I love how little we know about the characters in this story because it speaks volumes about who our Savior is. There was only faith by the grace He supplied–everything else was Him bringing death to life.

The new basis of her identity was this: she was dead and Jesus brought her back to life. If you believe in Him, that’s your story too.

Last year, last week, even what you did last night does not define you. Your sin, your shame, your accolades, your family name–none of these details matter compared to the truth of who He is and who you are in Him. The fruit God produces after He raised you from the dead can be beautiful and glorifying to God, but you are everything you are because of the moment when He said: “Little girl, I say to you, get up.”

You are everything you are because he brought you back.

You are everything you are because you are loved.

You are everything you are because you’ve been made alive.  No sin in your life is beyond the power of Christ’s forgiveness, and no brokenness is beyond the reach of His healing, restoring touch.  It’s time to get up. Arise.

(Excerpted from the She Reads Truth Bible. Published by Holman Bibles, Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams, general editors. copyright 2017)

 

Wow!!  My God heard me.  He answered me.  He reminded me again that He is the faithful one.  Because of who He is, I can get up.  Because of who He is, I can fulfill my calling.  Because of who He is, I am restored. 

“Oh God, thank you for the new mercies of today.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Use me if you will, but thank you for your love and mercy.  Thank you that YOU are the faithful one!”

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Redemption

Will the Real Christian please stand up?

cross-sun-sky

Do you ever feel like you’re blowing it as a Christian?  I do.  Stand?  Some days I am just barely able to make a shift in my horizontal position, much less stand.  Currently, I am in a 3 week slump and feel very unsure of my footing.  In my own strength, I cannot stand to answer this call.

As I reflect on Easter and the incredible mystery of death bringing forth life, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace for those, like me, who are unable to stand.  The cross of Christ stood high on a hill, erect and firm.  It was immovable.  Christ allowed himself to be nailed there and was immovable also.  There it was finished.  There the call was answered.  Every sin I have ever committed in the past, will commit now or in the future, was laid upon him.  He who knew no sin, became sin for me!  He stood in my place.

Not only did he stand in my place, he died in my place.  He knew the depths of the separation from God so that I do not have to.  He laid in the darkness of the tomb so that I would not have to.  Then, in glorious form, He stood again!  He rose from the grave so that I might have eternal life also!

“God, how merciful and loving and powerful you are.  Thank you for standing for me today and on Calvary.  Thank you for standing again in life!  God, thank you for the promise that your strength is made perfect in weakness.  Lord, I am desperately weak. Please, by your strength and might, help me to stand for you today.”

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Redemption, Reflections

Me? Lord, Are You Sure?

Judges 6:6

So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the Lord.

Times were desperate and the people of Israel were in hiding.  Having been forced to leave their homes, they were barely surviving in caves and holes and animal dens .  With hardly enough food for themselves, their livestock was perishing also.  God’s people were, “brought very low.”

There is a pattern of the ancient Israelites and their interaction with God.  In times of plenty, comfort and ease, they tend to forget God and all that He has done for them.  They forget His past works, His present promises and His future plans for them.  Their attitude and posture becomes rather self-sufficient and seems to say, “Thanks God for all the blessings, we’ve got it now.  We’ll call you again if we need you, but we’re good for now.”  Treating God like a magician with a bag of tricks never ends well.  God is not a god among many or the best of the choices…..HE IS THE ONLY LIVING AND TRUE GOD!  He will not share His glory or our affections with any other!  Like the Israelites, I forget who He really is and the position He holds.  Often, God uses unpleasant and desperate circumstances to bring us back to our senses and the reality that HE IS GOD!

Oppression by the Midianites is where we find Israel in Judges chapter 6.  The Midianites were a cruel people who frequently teamed up with another enemy of Israel, the Amalekites.  Taking the harvest from the Israelites fields wasn’t enough.  The Midianites would utterly decimate the fields and leave nothing behind.  Killing and enslaving captives, stealing livestock and casting our their opponents from their homes, were all trademarks of the Midianites. Conquering was not the consummate goal; destruction and despair was the objective. This scenario is where we find God’s people;  totally defeated, hopeless, despairing with no champion among them.

A young Israelite named Gideon is among the defeated and cowering. We are introduced to him in a winepress but he is not, however, pressing out grapes.  He is threshing wheat instead.  I can almost imagine the scene: Him beating the sheaves, a few at a time, and peeking over the edge of the press to see if his enemies saw or heard anything.

wine press

Working as fast as he can, he tries to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Normally, you thresh wheat out in the open so that the wind carries away the unwanted parts but desperate times have called for desperate measures and Gideon is not only hiding, he is having to settle for a less than desirable end product.

I can imagine that while the sweat and dust and chaff cling to his face, he wonders how long will he and his people live like this. “God, where are you?  When will you deliver us?” I don’t know if he could even remember a time that was free of oppression, defeat and fear or when daily survival wasn’t literally a struggle between life and death.  A young man, in his prime, found himself living in fear among a family and nation who were crippled by fear. But God appears on the scene doing what He alone can do.  He greets Gideon with a salutation that is in direct contrast to Gideon’s self identity and circumstances.  He also reaffirms God’s relationship status for his people:

12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.”

The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.  I can almost see Gideon turn and look behind him to see who God might be talking to.  “Um…Are you talking to me?”  God is addressing the right person and the man of his choosing,  a fearful, oppressed young man hiding in a winepress.  Gideon’s response goes straight to the heart of the matter:

Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

God answers him with a calling.  The calling was that Gideon would deliver his people from the Midianites.  Again, I am sure Gideon looked over his shoulder.  His response backs me up in this:

“O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”

gideon hiding

The least among the least, what a moniker!  Proving once again that God’s ways are not our ways, He chooses the least among the least to accomplish mighty things.  God is not a respecter of a person’s status, age, lineage, wealth, or social standing.  God chooses the base and weak things to confound the wise and strong.  God uses the Gideons of the world. There is great hope in that!  God did indeed work thru Gideon to defeat the Midianites.  Be encouraged if you feel like the least among the least in desperate circumstances.  God can use you!

God, let me remember that you are with me!  Even when I find myself fearful and despairing and hiding, you desire to accomplish great things thru me.  Lord, your power is perfected in my weakness.  Thank you for renaming me and being with me always, even to the end of the age!

 

 

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Redemption, Reflections

You Are Mine!

Called you by name

Isaiah 43:1

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!

I crave a sense of belonging.  Somewhere in the deep secret places of my being, I fear being left out and overlooked.  I struggle with the false belief that I am not good enough for this or that.  I can go on a real downward spiral if I embrace that lie.

Enter God.  He first reminds me that He formed me.  He put me together and He knows my inner workings.  He always addresses my fear; “Do not fear.”  He always reminds me what He has done for me; “For I have redeemed you” and “I have called you by name.”  He then goes straight to my heart, to that place that wants to belong…..”You are Mine!

“Lord Jesus, thank you that when I was far away from you, you brought me near.  Thank you that you made me your child.  Thank you that I now belong to you!”

 

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Reflections

Keep Moving!

Holmes quote

Philippians 3:13-14

13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

There are new mercies for us in this day.  God isn’t using yesterday’s leftovers or rationing out from tomorrow’s supply.  He has provided NEW mercies for our journey TODAY!  You are clothed with His strength and His royal garments of dignity.  Keep moving, keep sailing, keep living!  The Living God is with you!

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Redemption, Reflections

You Are Enough

Some days, a lot of days, I wake up with a megaphone of defeat and failure blaring in my mind.  “You blew it.  You can’t do it. You are worthless” are some of the phrases that I hear.  Usually a smothering blanket of shame and guilt needs beating back too.  HELP!!!

Enter God.  “Shhhh, my child.  You are enough.  Not because of anything you do or don’t do but because I have done it all for you.  You are clothed with my garments.  I have place royal robes around your shoulders.  You are worthy, you are beautiful, you are enough….YOU ARE MINE!”

I am enough because He is more than enough.

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Reflections

Make Your Selection

tulsa-vending-machine

Part 2. (a long post)

What kinds of selections do you make in hard times?  In other words, what’s your “go to” or modus operandi when the going gets tough?  Angry outbursts?  Blame shifting?  Anything that numbs? Hiding?  Or maybe your “go to” is a person.  Your spouse, a friend, a sister, someone who might tell you what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear.

Mine has always been my husband. He’s a fixer and I am frequently in need of a fix. Because of this dynamic, ours has been at times a toxic relationship.    Like an addict craving a drug, I have demanded that he bring whatever crisis to an end.  I have demanded circumstances to change so that I felt better.  What a cruel demand.  I had not crafted a golden calf, but fashioning God in the image of my husband makes me an idolator nonetheless.  What an angry, disappointed and bitter worshipper I would become when he didn’t fix it, whatever the “it” was. Whether it was controlling fears, misbehaving children, empty checkbook, outrageous family squabbles, or anything else that swamped my mind and emotions; I demanded that it be fixed or else.

Addicts cannot wait.  We are desperate for our fix.  My cravings for emotional fixes often came with a very high price tag, unrestrained lashing out at my loved ones until the junkie in me was satisfied.  As my older children became teenagers, I saw the rotten fruit of my anger becoming ripe.  The stench overwhelmed me.  A tidal wave of despair and hopelessness threatened to consume me.  They each had varying degrees of scarring, woundedness and pain.  They each had varying degrees of detrimental responses to their pain.  “Oh God, what have I done?”  “God, PLEASE fix my family!  PLEASE fix me!”

God, however, does not always fix things.  He does promise something else.  Something potentially greater than fixing.  He promises to redeem.

Years ago, I was cleaning out an old barn stall that the previous owners had used as a trash pile.  Rusty cans,  old rags, bits of this and that were buried in layers of forgotten soil.  It seemed like I was on an archeological dig at the dump!  Among all this junk, I unearthed an old glass bottle.  A natural terrarium had formed inside it.  There was mossy growth, gunk and a wriggly earth worm; gross!

bottles

I discovered one more bottle and then another.  I had obviously hit the mother lode of glass bottles.  As I examined each one, something suddenly struck me.  Most of them were old Coke bottles and had “Redeem for 10 cents” printed around their necks.  I paused from my grimy excavation and reflected on the word, “redeem” for a bit.

God began to teach me about me in that moment.  I had been the old dirt filled bottle.  There had been a time that I had forgotten my original design and purpose.  I had been made for so much more, but I had become filled with gunk and grime.  Enter God. He entered my dump heap of a life and redeemed me.  He did not erase or fix my past failures, but He began to redeem them.  What is redemption?  What does it look like?

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines redemption as,

“the act of making something better or more acceptable.”

Making my past something better or more acceptable carries so much more meaning than simply fixing it.  Redemption embodies the idea that even my mistakes have purpose and can be used.  They are not wasted sorrows.  Redemption is not a redo.  It’s taking something ugly and broken, something splintered and fragmented and fashioning wholeness and beauty from it.  There is hope and power in redemption.

Redemption  also offers me the opportunity to grow with God.  If I am in Christ, then all my sins have become white as snow.  There is no scowl of disappointment in His eyes.  No look of disgust at my repeated offense.  No sigh of exasperation or brow beating.  God is more committed to my growth and wholeness than I am and so His hand is continually reaching for mine.  He is encouraging me to be complete in Him and will not settle for less even tho I might be willing to.  He calls me to more.  He calls me to live abundantly.  He calls me to live.

When I grasp these truths, I can release my husband and others from “a fix”  because God promises to work ALL things together for good.  The hope of redemption also enables me to surrender my mess and grime and broken places to him with the assurance that He can turn them in to something better and MORE acceptable.  He is able to rescue, reclaim and recover all my mistakes.  They can be used.

This is what I want my selection to be.  Lord, I don’t want to be fixed.  I choose you.  I choose

REDEMPTION. 

coke-bottles-with-daisies

Ephesians 1:7  (NASB)

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

Romans 8:28 (NASB)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.