Going Through

My family went to Church for communion service on Good Friday. After they handed out the elements the power went out, and everyone had to get on the floor under our pews. A police officer told the pastor the storm was already upon us and there was no time to exit to the underground tunnel. I was not aware of the severity of the storm until we left. Right across the street there were several emergency vehicles, and down the road was a building with all the windows blown out. At no time was there any fear as thousands of people sat in the dark. Instead people kept singing, and on our knees the worship service went on. It was beautiful reminder that in the presence of a holy and awesome God there is perfect peace in the midst of the storm! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (Isaiah 43:2).  As we left the realization of God’s protection set in.

We are living in crazy times, and the weather alone testifies to that. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Romans 8:19-22). Today we see natural disasters with increased frequency and intensity just as birth pains progress. As a part of creation we long for Christ’s return and his glorious reign on earth. Chances are in the days in which we live we will eventually have to walk through some things. But praise God we will NEVER walk through anything alone, because God is with us and will not leave us. For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him (Psalm 34:7).

God shut Noah and his family in the ark, sealing them from the destruction poured out on the earth. God himself led the Hebrews out of Egypt. He passed with them through the Red Sea on dry ground. They didn’t even have to get muddy. On the other side was freedom, and the complete destruction of the enemy that wished to enslave them. Jesus met Joshua prior to the battle against Jericho when the Hebrews stepped into the promised land and rid it entirely of their enemies. Shadrach, Meshach and Abendigo were bound and thrown into the fiery furnace, but when the king looked-  He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25) Jesus went through the flames with them. Furthermore they came through not even smelling like smoke. The only thing burned were the ropes that bound them. God not only went through with these people, but he led them to victory and set them free in the process. What an awesome God we serve! That is our peace, not the absence of storms but his presence in the midst. God makes a way where there seems to be no way!

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A Humble Heart

The importance of humility can not be overstated. The Bible tells us God gives grace to the humble, he sustains the humble, he lifts them up, he guides them in what is right, he saves them, he exalts them and they are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Yet he opposes the proud, he mocks them, he brings them low, and he detests them. Humility sets us free. Pride causes us to fight constantly with others and God. There is nothing more exhausting than struggling against an all powerful ever present God every day of our lives. There is freedom in submitting to his ways even when there is pain in the surrender. The following scriptures have helped me to understand what it means to have a humble heart.

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
1. Humility seeks God’s way. Pride thinks it knows everything. Humility knows God’s ways are higher.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Is. 55:9″

2. Humility turns from my way. Pride wants my way. Humility is teachable.
3. Humility submits to God’s ways. Pride stands firm. Humility is willing to yield to another.

2 Chron. 34:27 “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord.”
1. Humility responds to conviction. Pride stands its ground, and ignores the voice of God.
2. Humility is grieved by its sin. Pride mocks righteousness.

Isaiah 8:21 “There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.”
1. Humility sacrifices to depend on God.

Proverbs 6:3  “Then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor!”
1. Humility admits when its wrong not only to God, but to the people it concerns.

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
1. Humility does not exalt itself. It only exalts God and in return is raised up by Him.

1 Peter 5:6 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
1. Humility stays under God’s hand. It does not seek to make its own way or trust its own timing. Instead it depends on God to provide, and waits for his timing.

John 1:23 “John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”
1. Humility knows who it is. As children of God we have the righteousness of christ. False humility is under condemnation. When we depend on our own works to condemn us then we must also rely on our own works to save us. Self-righteousness fosters pride, but receiving Christ’s righteousness is humbling.

John 1:20 “He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.”
1. Humility knows who it is NOT. No one really claims to be Christ, but do we try to act like someone’s christ in a relationship? Do we try to save others? This is called enabling, and often keeps the very person we are trying to save to ever find the true savior.
2. Humility knows who it is. We have been adopted by God, grafted into his family. We have received Christ’s righteousness. We have been set apart, made holy and blameless in his sight. All of this not of ourselves. We were helpless to save ourselves. Our righteousness was like filthy rags. But Jesus paid it all, and all to him we owe. Receiving this gracious gift from God humbles us.

These scriptures give us a better understanding of how to be humble. In doing so we position ourselves to be blessed by God, have more fulfilling relationships, and destines us for greatness. The way up is down. God has called us not to be above others, but to be beneath them. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great. Luke 9:48

The Greatest Enemy of the Best

What do you think is the greatest enemy of God’s best for your life? Is it Satan? Is it some evil plan for your life that you just can’t break free from? What keeps you from embracing and running with God’s ultimate purpose for your life?

Let me share an experience in my life. I was in a bad car accident 14 years ago which resulted in neck and back pain. I went to an Orthopedic Dr., Physical Therapy, chiropractor, Pain Center, had acupuncture and got massages regularly. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. So I gave up and accepted my fate. I took ibuprofen most days and was okay with it.

Five years ago I started having migraines frequently. I was a stay at home mom with a two-year old. At one point I had a migraine for three months straight. Medication would numb it but I could not kick it. My Dr. said it was either my sinuses or a brain tumor. I had a scan on my skull to see if it was sinus problems and they were fine. Time to start including God in the situation. Up till now I believed God healed people through modern technology, but when that wasn’t working and the pain was too much I changed my belief and started praying for a miracle. Next was the neurologist. It wasn’t a brain tumor much to my relief!! He gave me a medication to take everyday to prevent migraines and one to take when they came. By this point I was tired of taking pills all the time and did not want to depend on medicine to keep me from migraines. So I started memorizing and standing on healing scriptures and getting my belief system in line with the word.

We figured out that the migraines were caused my a hormone I was on, so I quit taking that. I started working out at the gym, and after a few months my neck and back stopped hurting. Now I am virtually pain-free unless I do something stupid like ride a rollercoaster or carry my toddler on my shoulders. I do still have migraines a particular time of the month, and am believing for healing even from that.

I wrote all this to say. The pain probably was caused by Satan, or at least the accident which caused the downward spiral. However, I allowed it to remain as long as I could dull the pain through medication. As long as I could get comfortable it was good enough. It wasn’t until I was consistently uncomfortable, and medication was not helping that my life was disrupted enough to cry out to God. When I prayed, it wasn’t just to get back to the chronic neck pain I could tolerate. I asked for complete healing in my entire body.

The truth is Satan is defeated, and he has no power over us except what we give him. This doesn’t mean life as a Christian is a bed of roses. We will all face trials. We still live in a world where Satan does have authority, just not over the children of God. But in all these things we are more than conquerors, and God works all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. So if evil is not the greatest enemy of the best, what is?

Good enough is the greatest enemy of the best. For nine years I tolerated neck and back pain because as long as ibuprofen took the pain away it was good enough for me. It wasn’t until my life was completely disrupted and the pain unbearable that I threw away good enough to embrace God’s best for my life. His plan is to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a future filled with hope. There is no hope in a future filled with pain and suffering, this is not his plan.

The enemy takes us all into murky waters in life. Are we content to stay confined in the boat as long as he doesn’t rock it too hard? I was content to stay in unchartered waters far from God’s plan for my life until I was drowning in a sea of despair. I hope you will embrace God’s plan much sooner, and defeat your greatest enemy – settling for good enough.

A Sure Foundation

We started seriously tithing in the last year. It was an easy decision to make because we didn’t have any income to tithe on. Tithing became top priority because I was too afraid not to tithe when we only made a quarter of what we’ve been accustomed to the past ten years. Even though our income last year was only 25% we are in a better financial situation than we were before.

Before we were living the American way, buy now based on your expected income and pay later. However, the reduced income caused us do finances God’s way. We have paid off more debt this year than we ever would have with a steady income. The lack of income changed our perspective. Before we were willing to tolerate debt. Now we hate it because we have seen the stress it causes. Living God’s way brings peace. His plan for us is freedom. Being in debt is not freedom.

My two year old loves Mickey Mouse and I really wanted to take him to disney while he’s so into it. I never even mentioned it to my husband because it was so far fetched, but I did mention it to God. A couple weeks ago my mom got some inheritance money and she decided to take me and the kids to Disney. We just up and went over spring break last week. The attached picture shows my kids getting to meet Mickey.

Right now we don’t have a financial foundation, but God is the sure foundation for our times. He has a plan for my family to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a future filled with hope. We just have to surrender our plan and embrace his.

He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. – Isaiah 33:6

Trusting God rather than men

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 1 Samuel 17:50

David used what he was skilled in to defeat his enemy. King Saul tried to arm David with his armor, and encouraged David to fight like a soldier. Often people with expertise in a certain area will try to get us to do things their way. Just because someone else has had success doing it their way does not mean that is God’s way for us. We need to use our specific talents and skills to serve God in the area he calls us. It is wise to see how those who have gone before us have done things. It is not wise to try to be like someone else. Often we look only to the lessons from others rather than following God. Under no normal circumstance could a shepherd boy defeat an experienced soldier with a sling. This would be foolishness to anyone experienced with fighting battles. But God is always doing new things. We need not to limit ourselves to the knowledge of men. Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” Mark 10:27.

Disciplined Thinking

Most days I wake up in the morning and think of all the things I did wrong the previous day. I look at all the improvements I need to make to be a better mom and wife. I focus on my failure with others- things I said when I should have kept my mouth shut. I set my resolve to change myself and not do those things again.

I spend time in the Bible. I beg God to change me. I cannot accept myself with these failures. I have to change! Daily I reject myself because I focus on everything that’s wrong with me, and I wonder why fear of rejection haunts me.

…Fix your thoughts on whatever is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me- everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. -Philippians 4:8

This verse tells me to focus on what is true, honorable, right, pure etc. because what I focus on I will gravitate toward. If my focus is on everything I do wrong I will gravitate toward failure. If I focus on what is excellent and praiseworthy I will gravitate toward that type of behavior.

Paul is inspiring those addressed in his letter to practice disciplined thinking. I have a choice what I think about. I need to take every thought captive obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I will not rise above myself until my thought life rises to a godly standard.

Establishing a disciplined thought life is especially challenging in the technologically advanced day in which we live. Silence is a rare commodity. We are bombarded by media which is overwhelmingly negative in its reporting. A minuscule percentage of television and radio shows broadcast what is pure, lovely, excellent or praiseworthy. If we spend 30 minutes in the Word each morning, yet four hours taking in secular radio or television, that is a 1:8 ratio of truth to secularism. Is this ratio showing up in our thought life? Do we have only one godly thought to every eight worldly thoughts?

No- we can’t sit and read our Bible all day. We are however instructed to meditate on the word day and night (Joshua 1:8). Our Bible study does not have to end when we close the book and dive into our daily routine. We can write a scripture down in a note card or post it to reread and meditate on throughout the day. Then peace will come and guard our hearts.

Lord guard our hearts against the bombardment of negativity in our society. Give us a hunger for your word. Help us to search out truth and meditate on it day and night. Help us to be disciplined in our thought lives. Draw us toward character which is Christ like. In Jesus name. Amen

Bed of Freedom

Two years ago today my aunt passed away. This is the poem I wrote after her death.

For some freedom comes with
a missed breath and a stilled heart.
Laboring is finally over.
Life was too unkind to them distorting its meaning.
They were blinded by rejection,
and peace was always out of reach.
You watch them suffer endlessly;
ever pursuing them with your unfailing love.
But they cannot recognize it.
They are to broken to receive it.
You wait with infinite patience for them
to stop fighting and surrender the pain.
They struggle with you their entire life
until they are driven to you out of fear.
Then you lay them down on a bed of freedom,
and pick them up with your everlasting arms.

Foundation

1 Samuel 20:3 …”But truly as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me (David) and death.”

These were the words spoken by David when he visited Jonathan after Saul pursued him to Naioth. David’s situation was dire. The weight of his circumstances were weighed on his shoulders. No doubt he was praying for God to change Saul’s heart so David would not have to live on the run. David likely longed to return home to be with his family, live in his own home, and have the security of his job. Imagine him sitting behind the rock pile all alone in the field. His life hung in the balance as he waited for the verdict. Then it came. The news he dreaded most. He again had to flee for his life. Think of the rejection, the loss, uncertainty, the pain. He wept embracing his best friend in a final good-bye.

We all want security, stability, a sure foundation. Some of us may know, as David did, what its like to have our world shaken and no foundation to stand on. Sometimes life is a terrifying free fall. When it hits bottom we may wonder if the pieces are even big enough to rebuild. God did not deliver David from his circumstances, but he delivered him through. In the end God was David’s rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, shield, salvation, stronghold, and savior (2 Samuel 22:2-3). When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (Isaiah 43:1-2).

Thank you Lord that you are my sure foundation. I am completely secure in your arms. Help me to hold my peace when the tide of trials sweeps in. Help me to keep trusting you in the fire of adversity. Thank you that you work all things together for good and you give me a crown of beauty instead of ashes.

Humility

Humility. What exactly is it? It is certainly to be desired much, because God promises to give grace to the humble and lift them up in honor. However, God himself opposes the proud. What does it look like to be humble?

It is humble to serve and expect nothing, including recognition, in return. Pride looks at who I am and what I deserve. Humility looks at who God is and what he deserves. David was anointed king over Israel. He was a mighty warrior and a great leader. Yet he still considered himself unworthy to be the King’s son-in-law. There was no one more worthy. David did not evaluate himself based on his accomplishments, but attributed them to God’s grace and favor. That is true humility-getting to a place of success and not thinking I earned it but instead looking at what God has done.

Pride thinks of what I deserve. It considers itself more worthy than others. It always thinks about its rights and what it’s entitled to. It is by God’s grace we can do anything. We are nothing on our own. Yet pride wants recognition for everything it does. God is the one who deserves the glory. We are his humble servants. We should live our life as an offering to him, to do his work.

I must serve God out of appreciation for the eternal life which he has freely given me. I am only one cross away from eternal damnation. I must cling to that cross and give him all the glory. I must live with a fresh revelation of grace which will inspire me to give grace to others. I must live out of the spirit of generosity and daily bring my pride to its knees before the cross.

Recently I discovered the Amplified Version of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 which I believe defines humility, because a humble heart is a heart that beats out of love for God and others.

Love endures long is patient and kind, love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. it is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is never ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to and end].

Shine

Precious blood cleansed my soul
A healing flood made me whole
Righteousness not of my own
Now I stand faultless before your throne
Help me bring more to be redeemed
And through salvation be set free
Draw them, Lord, into your arms
Where eternal souls are free from harm
Make me transparent so they see your light
Like a beacon of hope in the dark of night