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.

 

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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.

Cherish

IMG_4880My little bird is leaving the nest. Not my son, my new daughter, Bethanie. She’s only been here six months but our bond is like superglue… we stuck together on contact. My little Rhema student is going back home to Maui and leaving a crater in my life.

As I type this, she’s baking cupcakes. All those mothers of daughters already know what this is like. Mothers of sons, on the other hand, might not be so accustomed to this phenomenon.

Teenage boys generally don’t bake. Mine doesn’t, anyway. Kill animals? Yes. Track mud all over the house? Yes. Play incessant war games? Yes. Prepare delicious food on a whim without ever being asked? No.

So this week (actually last month, I just couldn’t find the emotional strength to post this,) she is packing and cleaning and preparing  to go home to her family and her sweet fiancé, and I am dreading and pouting. This gives me just the tiniest glimpse of what I will face when Jaxon leaves home. Gulp.

Let’s just not and say we did.

I didn’t have a daughter; I wish I had. But let me say this. I’m asking God and believing Him now that my future daughter-in-law and I will have the same kind of sweet relationship Bethanie and I have had while she’s been here.

I love you, hunny bunny, and I thank God for this precious time we had together. See you at your wedding.

Celebrate life

Celebrate lifeSo, I found a new show to watch on Netflix and it has rocked my world. No, it’s not Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy; nothing that gritty, nothing that would get tweeted about or invent new words. This show is about something more precious and less celebrated… life.

Call the Midwife is a BBC production based in London’s poor East End in the 1950s. It chronicles the lives of young nurse midwives and the women and families they tirelessly served. Never have I seen a show more full of love and committed to life. These young women were so passionate about helping babies into the world, and they had such high regard for life. Sad to say, I don’t imagine a show like that taking off in this country where we are obsessed with making things as convenient and hassle-free as possible.

But these midwives cared deeply. They cared about the new babies and the frightened mamas and the freaked-out husbands and the overbearing mothers-in-law. They held the hands and wiped the brow of all involved. And they did it in love and in expectant honor of the life that was coming into the world, no matter the circumstances.

I imagine that’s how God looks at us… each one precious, each one worth saving, each one loved, no matter what. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Oh, to demonstrate just a fraction of that love. He died for us and we didn’t deserve it. He honors us with His love, even when we are jerks. He lifts us out of our troubles, even when the mess is entirely of our own making. God loves each and every one of us… for no other reason than we are His children, created by Him, and worth loving.

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.

Reentry

ReentryReentry can be rough. I have no room to complain, I was just on a super fun trip with my family, but getting back to life, back to reality, back to work, school? Ugh. Take me back to the beach.

Plus I think I caught a cold from that questionable bathroom I visited in the wee hours of the morning. (See what I did there?)

But seriously, why is getting back into the swing of things so hard? It’s not like I didn’t know what was coming. I mean we go back to school in mid-August EVERY YEAR. This is not new. And I’ve had a job since I was 18 so that’s not new either. What gives?

I think it might be a feeling of hopelessness or sadness that tends to come against us after we do something very special, something memorable. Am I the only one that experiences this?

I don’t know why it happens, but I know what to do when it does.

First of all, I recognize that it’s the devil. He’s the one who comes and lies to us and tells us we suck and nothing will ever be good again. He’s the one who makes us feel hopeless. He’s the one that brings sadness and dread.

Next, I fight back.

The world goes to drugs, alcohol, food, sleep, etc. The children of God go to His Word.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm;  though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
The Word of God is the bottom line defense against hopelessness, sadness, and general funk. It’s just a matter of picking up your weapon and using it.

Jesus hacks

Jesus hacksLife hacks seem to be all the rage nowadays… you know, little shortcuts and “aha” tidbits that make life easier. These ingenious things always make me go, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Someone needs to make a website of Jesus hacks, because sometimes being a believer in this crazy, messed up world is just too dang complicated. And I’m a preacher’s kid… you know we have all the answers… ha ha ha ha ha. (To infinity)

Thankfully, I’ve had some help along the way.

Something Jackie Mize taught me that has really stuck with me over the years is, “God will meet me where my faith level is.” That’s one of the best hacks I’ve ever heard. Faith.

Terry Mize taught me that the Word of God is a book of laws and principles that work when you work them and don’t work when you don’t work them. Word.

Oral Roberts taught me to expect a miracle. Believe.

Richard Roberts taught me the love of a father. And knowing the pure, unchanging love of my earthly father leaves me in awe of the love of my Heavenly Father, which can only be infinitely more. Love.

Faith, Word, Believe, and Love. Those hacks will take you far.

I’ve been very blessed to grow and learn under the wisdom of men and women of God. But before you think I’ve had it so easy, I think you’ll agree that those men and women of God were not always with me in the dark moments. They couldn’t possibly be. We alone have the choice to follow the Spirit of God… that still, small voice on the inside of us. We choose. We are not robots; we are free moral agents with minds, wills, and emotions. And those entities make us or break us.

We all have been given the same stuff. And we have God’s Word… the biggest and most life-changing hack in the universe. It’s up to us to decide if we’re going to let it change our lives or not.

Cool your jets

Cool your jetsI am not known for my patience. I am known to get agitated waiting on my Keurig. If someone doesn’t answer my text message immediately, I tend to FREAK OUT. I think I may have a problem.

What’s new? I seem to discover things I need to work on quite often… daily, if I’m really being honest.

Today was no different.

I was praying this morning, actually praying and fretting, and it occurred to me; I cannot do both. Fret is fear. It sounds nicer, but it’s just fear.

It all worked out and I realized my fretting was for naught, but I continued to think about my little conundrum for the rest of the day. I had two forces working against each other, essentially canceling the other out. I’ve heard many sermons and I know it to be truth, that faith and fear are opposites sides of the same force, but sometimes it’s difficult to see when we’re in fear. We say softer words like fret and try to convince ourselves that we’re in faith. And I wanted to be. I tried to be! But I knew in my heart I wasn’t.

Now it’s night-time and I’m still thinking about it.

I don’t have an answer except, “Cool Your Jets.” Yes, that’s what He said to me. That was His response to my fretting. I prayed, I put the Blood of Jesus on the situation, I cast my care on Him, and that’s where it should have ended.

Cool your jets, Juli.

Next time, I’m going to start with that.

Bull shark faith

Bull sharkSome sharks will take a little nibble and decide you don’t taste good and spit you out. Bull sharks will have a bite and then come back for more. Some sharks will circle you and test the water and sniff around to see if you smell good. Bull sharks will go straight for their prey and eat it without stopping for a sniff. Some sharks will only eat fish. Bull sharks will eat license plates.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

If you’ve read my blog much, you know I usually bring things back around to the subject of faith. And Shark Week has me all stirred up.

I don’t want to settle for anything less than what God has provided for me in His Word and through Jesus Christ. I don’t want to be held back by the cares of this world and the attacks of the devil. That doesn’t mean that things aren’t going to happen, because I know they are. I also know how to deal with them when they do. And when there’s something out there I want, I learned a few things from the bull shark.

Grab on, and don’t let go. Don’t quit. Don’t throw away the blessings that are all around you. If you don’t get it done on the first pass, hit ’em again. And most importantly, stay in the game.

And if I can keep myself in the game, I know Almighty God is right there, backing me up.