Encouragement, Faith, Personal Growth, Redemption

All the Way, and then some.

A longer post.

moses in basket

In continuing with the idea that God often calls his children and people to go to extreme places in order to reveal himself, I want to look at the beginning of the life of Moses.

Moses was born into God’s chosen people who were enslaved by the Egyptians.  Not only were they enslaved, they were terribly oppressed.  Hard labor was forced upon them by harsh taskmasters.  The ruling pharaoh had succumbed to fear of the multitude of the Israelites living in his land.  Fearing that they might join forces with enemies of Egypt, he was determined to demoralize them with grueling work.  However, Exodus 1 tells us that the more he afflicted them, the more they multiplied and prospered.  Pharaoh’s strategy then took a cruel turn.  He would go to the source of Hebrew increase; he would eradicate the male population.  He first enlisted midwives to kill all the boy babies that they helped to birth.  Fearing God more than Pharaoh, they would not carry out his heinous instructions.  He then called upon the Egyptian general population to cast any male child of the Hebrews into the Nile.  It was during this reign of terror that Moses was born.  He was born under a death sentence.

His mother, like countless others, tried to hide him in her home.  When she could no longer muffle his cries or keep him sufficiently hidden, she resorted to a desperate plan. She covered a basket with tar and placed her tiny infant afloat among the reeds of the Nile.  This is my first point.  It was necessary for Moses to be placed all the way outside of the security of his home.  God is bigger than the safety of our homes.  Even if our children are taken away, given up, or leave on their accord, God is bigger than our homes!  God is bigger than the security we think we can provide.  What courage it took for his mother to place him there.  What courage it took to ask her daughter, Miriam, Moses’ older sister,  to stand watch at the river’s edge.  Crocodiles lurk there also and can potentially move faster than a girl who was still a child herself.  His mother’s courage and resourcefulness would bear much fruit in this story as we will see.

My second thought is that Moses was hidden in the very place that he should have been cast into!   The appointed place of execution had become his refuge.  More than refuge, the Nile became his place of rescue.

This brings me to my third point.   God can and does use anything and anyone to accomplish his purposes!  For the princess, the daughter of the very Pharaoh who issued the death decree, to discover Moses is not coincidence!  Oh I love how God writes surprising characters into his stories!  God put pity into her heart.  She recognized the baby as a Hebrew and pitied him.  She had him “drawn out” of the water and brought to her.  Some scholars have speculated that she was actually down at the river performing a fertility ritual and that Moses was seen as the fulfillment to her desire to have a child.  Fawning over the baby and declaring that she will take him as her own was overheard by Miriam.  As this scene unfolded before her Miriam, using the same resourcefulness and courage as her mother, and quickly approached the princess and arranges for a wet-nurse.  Who should it be but Moses’ own mother.  But that’s not all!  Not only did the princess consent for Moses to be taken back home and nursed by his own mother, she was going to PAY her to do it!  Only God can take our deepest point of fear, turn it around and make it a place of blessing!  To be paid to nurse your own son? Only God does things like this.

God has taken Moses and his entire family to the brink and saved him in a miraculous way.  No one in Moses’ family could imagine the grander story that God was weaving  or where this would end.  Each day with their son became precious and a time of preparation for his life in the palace.   We have the benefit of Scripture and know the entire story. However, his family was walking by faith with great uncertainty.  Each day brought them closer to saying goodbye to him again, but at least he was alive.  Each day provided another opportunity to tell him of his true lineage and heritage.  He was of God’s chosen people.

Rest assured, even when we cannot see, God is weaving a greater story.  Our darkest places of fear and doubt will become the place where God does mighty things!

Philippians 4:5-7 (NASB)

The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

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.”

Patience, Personal Growth, Redemption, Reflections

Weather Alert! Storm Approaching!

Storm_cloudsSevere thunderstorms have been rolling across our state the last few days.  With high winds, blinding rain and even hail, they have been treacherous to say the least.  Yesterday, as I drove to work, traffic crawled at a snail’s pace because visibility was only about 2 feet!  I clinched the steering wheel with white knuckles and was exhausted by the time I arrived at my job.  I collapsed in my desk chair, thankful that I had made it.

Honestly, these storms have mirrored my insides.  A few days ago, while I was out-of-town, an emotional storm started rolling in and ravaged me in very familiar ways.  Old triggers were being set off and I felt out of control and like a wounded animal.  My mind and emotions could not seem to settle or find any peaceful calm place.  After an entire day of being in inner turmoil, I prayed, cried, yelled, and finally retreated to my bed thankful that I had made it.

I don’t understand days like these and I wish with every fiber of my being not to have any more of them.  Sadly, I know that I probably will and I am trying to gain as much insight as possible.  Here’s what I have come up with so far:

  • Being in unfamiliar settings can put me off kilter
  • Fears are opportunistic
  • I do not think in reasonable ways when I am off kilter
  • It’s ok to retreat to my room!
  • As I get older, my body handles stress in different and lesser ways
  • Nothing can snatch me out of the Father’s hand!
  • God does not love a future version of me, He loves me NOW!
  • Feelings do not always reflect the truth
  • God, like the good father He is, pities my broken and weak state

I am going to try to remember these truths for the next time.  I also want to remember that times of dysregulation and being out of kilter are a normal part of living in a fallen world.  I will also remember the words of Corrie Ten Boom:

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

 

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!

 

 

Personal Growth, Redemption, Reflections

Redemption

sunrise

Redemption is not simply being fixed or all wrongs righted or the erasing of mistakes.  It is far more glorious than that.  God’s redeeming of a life is taking the brokenness, the mess, the wrong of it all, and making it beautiful.  He does not replace; He transforms. As miraculous as changing water into wine,  He gives beauty for ashes.

Isaiah 61:3

(I have come) To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

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, 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.

Living in Freedom, Patience, Personal Growth, Redemption, Reflections

With Great Patience

ear

2 Timothy 4:2

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Do you want to share more?  Do you want to be heard more?  Then focus on the phrase, “With great patience”.  How often do I ignore this important tidbit?  How often do I wrongly wield the Word of God too quickly with little or no understanding?  What does “Great Patience” look like? Or, more importantly, sound like?  I think great patience looks and sounds like a LOT of listening.

I find that most people are genuinely interested and inquisitive about spiritual matters.  After all, we are spiritual creatures.  Our innate sense of mortality and relationship to the spiritual realm compels us to ask questions and to find out more.  I also find that ALL people desire someone to be genuinely interested in THEM!  The number one way to demonstrate interest and give validation to another person is by listening more and saying less.  This approach allows us to then be intentional with what we do say.  We can then speak to what they have shared from their heart. By gaining trust and providing respect thru active listening, we then are often afforded more privileges to speak.  Active listening allows you to hear with the heart and speak with compassion.

Before we ‘preach the Word’, let us be slow to speak and quick to hear with GREAT PATIENCE.