Stormy weather

stormy-weatherIf you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know I write a lot about the storms of life. I have moments when my heart hurts and I think that surely my life has been stormier than most, but I know that it has not. Most of us keep our storms hidden… or at least we find a way to mitigate their appearance.

But however well we hide them, the storms come to us all. Some of us cry in public, others in private. Some of us rage while others medicate. But the common denominator in each of these responses is pain.

The storms of life are painful, even devastating, but every phase is covered in God’s Word. For every moment, there is a promise that He made to us that we can stand on and believe in and draw strength from.

He bore our griefs. (Isaiah 53:4) He healed our broken hearts. (Psalm 147:3) He brings new life and joy. (Psalm 30:11) He fights our battles. (2 Chronicles 20:17) He closes the mouths of the lions. (Daniel 6:22) He restores our souls. (Psalm 23:2)

Whatever we’re facing, we serve a God who is faithful in the storm if we humble ourselves and run to Him. His salvation does not come to those who stand with arms folded. His salvation comes to the heart that is flayed open before Him, the heart that says, “Oh God, please help me. I need you. I cannot do this in my own strength. Save me.” God responds to the softened heart that comes to Him in humility. He responds to the prayer of faith and expectancy. He responds to His children who run to Him, not from Him.

Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me. Psalm 23:4 AMP

Run to Him. Drop your baggage and run to Him. He is waiting for you.

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Don’t sit and quit

dogtreatsDon’t sit and quit. Stay engaged. Stay in the game. Stay in the fight. Press on toward the mark. Philippians 3:14 says in a lofty and strangely religious way, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

It’s a mouthful. But it just means we’re trying, we’re not quitting, we’re staying engaged in the fight to make this life of faith work and serve God with our whole heart.

The Message translation says it this way: I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

As for me, I’m not turning back. I’ve come way too far to ditch it all now.

The state of your union

Hot and coldWhat’s the state of your union? I’m not talking about your relationships, I mean what’s the state of your insides? Is there peace? War? Personally, mine have recently been engaged in a skirmish. On one side there is faith… on the other, fear. Only one of them can win.

The Bible says a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25), so there has to be a winner. There will be a winner; whether I like it or not.

So, how do I tip the scale in favor of faith?

The Word of God in my mouth is the only way. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

The Message translation says it this way: “We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.”

Every loose thought and emotion and impulse… How many of those do I have in a day?

The power lies in recognizing them when they come, and then forcing them to align with a life shaped by Christ. In other words, forcing my thoughts, emotions, and impulses to line up with the Word of God… the Word of God that is hidden in my heart so that I might not sin against Him. (Psalm 119:11)

It’s a battle, make no mistake. The very fact that I’m human and I was born on planet Earth, a sin-filled, fallen world means that there are forces working against me, against my peace, against my fulfillment and my destiny. But I know how to overcome them. God’s Word and His Holy Spirit have given me the power and the tools to calm the state of my union, and declare a winner.

 

What to do when God won’t tell you what to do

SOSWhat do you do when God won’t tell you what to do? I mean, if you’re not getting answers from God, what then?

Do what you know to do.

The Bible says in Ephesians 6:13, “… having done all, stand.” Have you done all? Have you really and truly done all? What does all entail?

More than I’d like to accept.

At the risk of making myself look a fool, which really isn’t that new for me, I have to admit that sometimes I find myself a little mad at God. I mean, why has He left me in this mess? Where is He? Why are things so difficult sometimes? And then I remember that He never said living a life of faith would be easy. He tells us more than once that in this life there will be storms, but He also assures us of our deliverance.

But sometimes deliverance takes a while.

We have to remember that we’re not the center of the universe. There are other factors in play, there are other people involved. And God is busy “Working all things together for my good.” Right?

So I ask myself, ‘Have I done all?” I’ve prayed and asked God to move in my situation. I’ve spoken His Word over my situation. I’ve applied the Blood of Jesus. I’ve prayed in the Spirit. And then I have to get down and dirty and ask God, “Is there something in my life that is keeping me from getting an answer? Am I doing something wrong? Is there a hidden, or maybe a not so hidden pocket of unforgiveness lurking in the dark recesses of my heart?” Am I holding on to something that God wants me to let go of?

These are painful but necessary questions. We have to be willing to lay our hearts open before the Lord if we want His answers. If we need His presence, His protection, and the miracle that only He can perform,  we have to be willing to do what it takes. And then we have to be willing to trust God to work in His way and in His timing, which is perfect and never ever not exactly what we need.

He made me this way

Juli baby pics4 (2)Let’s skip over the fact that I haven’t written in ages and focus on the fact that I’m writing now, okay?

Last night my bible app led me to a simple scripture, one I’ve read a thousand times and heard a thousand times sung in an old Sunday School song. It’s amazing how you can hear something in a song over and over but not really hear it. A song from the past, like Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya, kind of memory. (Lynn thought that “Montserrat mystique” was “mounds of rotten steak, ha.”)

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

Hallelujah, glory hallelujah. Can you hear it?

He made me. That means He made my mind and the way it operates. He made my emotions and the way they operate. He designed my goofy personality. He made my body, my face. He made my hair. He made my teeth. He made my bones. He even made my hips. And then He made them spread in childbirth and not go all the way back. He did that. Not me.

I am the way I am because He made me that way. And He made everybody different. He made all kinds. Thinkers and dreamers and planners and list-makers and risk-takers and everything in between.

When we get upset that someone doesn’t do things like we would, whose fault is that? They don’t do things the way we would because they’re not made like us. And they didn’t make themselves… God did.

You don’t like that? Take it up with Him!

Take it with you

imageIt’s easy to find peace sitting on a balcony in Maui overlooking the ocean and hearing the soft waves and humming doves. Anyone can do that. But I go home tomorrow. I go home to bills and decisions and stressors… I go home to real life. What do I do?

I take this peace with me.

Jesus gave this peace to me. He tells me so in John 14:27. And He didn’t say I’d only have it on Maui. He gave it to me wholesale… no caveats. He gave it to you just the same.

Here it is four different ways. Pick one.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (NKJV)

Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.] (AMP)

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (NLT)

That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. (MSG)

They all say Jesus gave me peace and no matter where my feet step, I’m taking it with me.

Open your eyes

Open your eyesSo, Jaxon and I were flying to South Carolina to meet up with Lynn who had been preaching there for two weeks. We were on a regional jet, one of those smaller planes which bounce you around and vibrate you a bit, but safely convey you to your destination. I had paid the extra money to get a “preferred” seat and yet still found myself wedged between the aisle and a very devoted and heavyset religious woman who vigorously crossed herself the entire flight.

It was warm and stuffy and a bit odorous in my little area. My tailbone was numb and my knees ached. I got up to visit the lavatory and turned around to face the back of the plane for the first time since boarding. IT  WAS VIRTUALLY EMPTY.

I could have gone back there any time I wanted and had a whole row to myself! It was cooler, more spacious, more inviting and more wonderful in every way possible and I missed it! All because I thought I had scored myself a “preferred” seat near the front of the cabin, thus just knowing I must be in the most accommodating place in the airplane.

Wow, was I mistaken.

People, we perish for lack of knowledge. Had I opened my eyes, I would have had a much more enjoyable flight.

Don’t miss out on what God has for you by being sure you’ve got it all figured out. Don’t be like me. Open your eyes to all the possibilities, and never settle for what someone tells you is best. God’s plan might not be the most obvious option in front of you, and more times than not it is obscured by our over-active, problem-solving brains, but His plan is ALWAYS better. And if we get out of our own way and seek Him, He will show it to us.

Be a warrior

Woman warriorMy sister Christi really scared me a few months ago. She went to the hospital thinking she had a bad case of the flu and narrowly avoided the intensive care unit by about two points on the blood pressure cuff. A large kidney stone had produced a massive infection that spread throughout her body and threatened her life.

Of course, I love my sister. I love her dearly… even when she makes me nuts. But when faced with the fragility of her life, and the pain and fear that came in waves, I found myself somewhere new.

When she was weak, I had to be strong. I’m a fairly strong woman but I had to go to another level; there was absolutely no choice.

That’s what you do for people you love. When they are in the fight of their life, you don armor and pick up your sword. You pray God’s Word over them. The doctors and nurses used the weapons of their warfare, and I used mine. It was war.

Christi is the healed of the Lord. (Psalm 103:3)

She is His beloved child and He gives her rest. (Psalm 127:2)

Greater is He Who is in her than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Christi is more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:37)

And then you open the valve of Holy Spirit peace and let it flow… drowning out beeps and needle pokes and scary numbers. That’s how we win. No matter the battle, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit make us win.

Christi is well and whole, and my faith is stronger for it.

The devil is a liar

LiarHas anyone ever said to you, “You’re a loser?” Do you know that those words are intended to wound you, upset you, break you down, and pull you off track? Do you also know that those words come straight from the pit of Hell?

The devil is a liar. There’s no truth in him. And all he has to spread his evil around this planet is people; the same people who God created in His image and loved enough to send His Son to the cross… the same people who God uses to spread the Good News of His love and salvation.

That’s why it’s so difficult to not believe the lies when they come at you… because they can come from anywhere, straight out of the blue: friends, co-workers, loved ones, even family… people who you care about and that you know care about you.

So how do you fight back?

2 Corinthians 10:4 in the NLT says, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.”

This is why it is so critically important to know when the devil is using someone’s words to hurt you. And we must know how to fight back.

It’s not worldly weapons. It’s not screaming back at that person, however much we want to and think that will make us feel better. It won’t. It’s a spiritual battle and it must be fought with spiritual weapons.

The Word of God is our spiritual weapon.

What  does God say about me? What does God think about me? What has God done for me? What has God promised me? Those are the questions we have to ask ourselves. Those are the things we have to remind ourselves. And as we do, the lies will sting less and less and eventually, we will rise above them, forgive that person, and move on. It’s the only way to fly.

Trouble, trouble, trouble

TroubleI knew you were trouble when you walked in. What a great line. This girl is on to something. And yes; I am going to turn a pop song into a devotional. I’m weird like that.

Take a look at John 14:26-27 where Jesus is giving instructions and encouragement to His disciples before He goes to the cross.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

The disciples are naturally freaking out at what He’s telling them, but Jesus says, Let not your hearts be troubled. If you ask me, they had every reason for their hearts to be troubled. They had laid down their lives to follow Him and now He was leaving. I would have been ticked!

Why did Jesus tell them that, and what does it mean for us? Jesus knew our hearts would face trouble. He knew what was coming for Himself, for His disciples, and for all of us, both in those days as well as the future. He was preparing us for what He knew we would encounter in this life.

He’s saying, don’t let your heart be troubled, even though you’re going to want to. You’re going to feel trouble in your heart, but don’t let it camp out there. Don’t allow it to take root and fester. Don’t let fear build a home where it doesn’t belong.

The Amplified translation makes it even plainer: Peace I leave with you; My own peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled. (John 14:27 AMP)

I want you to read that last line again.

Do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.

That’s quite an admonishment.

Don’t let it happen. Don’t let fear and trouble stay and make a comfortable nest in your life. It will knock at the door, you can count on that; but send it packing. Stand up in the power of the Holy Spirit on the inside of you, rebuke fear in the name of Jesus, and move on. God’s got your back. And through Him, you can be fearless, unflinching, courageous, and immovable.