Time’s Up

I was cleaning the kitchen the other day, grumbling under my breath at the state of it. We installed a dishwasher, but the dirty dishes remain on the counter just above it. We have a garbage can right at the end of the counter, but the garbage stays piled up on top. It is so close to the garbage can that if you blew on it, it would fall in. And yet, there it is! I was lamenting about all of the effort we had put into all of the conveniences that we have and still, no one uses them. It was then that the Lord spoke to me:

“You do the same thing. I have provided My Word to show you My heart for you. A source where you can learn about Me, but you don’t read it. I have provided My Son to die for you so that you could have direct access to Me, but you don’t take advantage of it. I have provided My Spirit so that you could have the power you need to impact this world, but you don’t tap into it. What more must I do?”

“What is holding you back? Do you still not trust Me? Have I not proven Myself enough?”

“You are entering, and presently are, in a season that requires mature faith. No longer will you be able to get by on the meager morsels that you have been sampling. There is no time left for casual introductions and feel-good stories. You need Me.”

“You must choose – now – right now – whom you will serve (Josh 24:15). If it is Me, then get out of the boat (Matt 14:29). This is the time. If you remain in the boat, you may go down with it. If you get out of the boat you may be afraid that your faith is not strong enough to allow you to walk on the water, but walk or sink, I have your hand! I won’t let you drown! You must overcome your fears and doubts (Rev 12:11). It has nothing to do with you. You must trust Me. I will walk with you, but you must reach for Me. You must call out for Me. You must tap into My source of strength and power.”

“Come. I have so much to tell you. Come. I have so much to show you. Come. I have so much to give you. Just come. Jump in with both feet. I am waiting.”

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He Is

Over the last few months my body has been under attack. The constant assault beat me down and strained all the other areas of my life. All I wanted to do was sleep. It has been similar to getting a physical beating. Imagine being beaten and kicked by a gang of people. Down on the ground in a fetal position, arms covering your head. There is a point when the will to survive gives in to the will to let go. There is a moment when you think that if only you could pass out. When you become totally defeated and escape is the only option left.That is the way I have been feeling.

A couple of weeks ago I went to an evening praise service at the church. Even getting there was a feat.But while I sat listening to the others praise God (I didn’t feel like it), He spoke to me, “Don’t I deserve your praise?” I was stunned. He knows all about the way things have been and how I was feeling. That didn’t matter. The circumstances of my life did not change who He is.And He is worthy of praise. I realized that from the time that this began I had stopped praising Him. I would pray and beg for something to change.I would read my Bible hoping for something profound. But I stopped praising. I stopped looking at Him for who He is.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “…, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, …” And we know who He is: out provider, deliverer, healer, ruler, redeemer, Lord, and King. And we know as it says in Ps 22:3 , “But You are holy; Enthroned in the praises of Isreal.” If we know that God is present in the praises of His people and that He is all that we need, doesn’t it make sense that what we need must begin in praise? Is it any surprise that Jesus taught us to pray by first praising the Father? If I really recognize who He is, then my first response will be the same as the elders around the throne in Revelation (4:11a) declaring, “You are worthy Oh Lord, to receive glory and honor and power…”  Isn’t it here, in the presence of God that we find our healing and deliverance and provision?

I found myself repenting of the sin of holding back praise from the One who is worthy. I recognized Him as God. My God. I lifted my hands and cried out in praise. Not because He had healed me, but because He is the healer; not because He had delivered me, but because He is the deliverer. He is worthy. And in the process of giving honor where it is due, healing and deliverance came.

Praise the Lord!

The Bear

The Honeymoon Stage. You know it. You remember. Back in the beginning of your relationship with your husband when everything was easy. Love flowed just from looking at each other. The passion was written on your faces and expressed regularly without effort. Joy overflowed by the mere mention of his name.

The same thing happened when you came to Christ. The realization that He loves you – that He has always loved you was overwhelming. Joy was new every morning. You spoke of Him to everyone you met. You longed to know Him more.

The same thing happened when you started that diet. Those first ten pounds just came flying off. You really didn’t have to do much of anything. It was easy. You start to believe that you are on your way.

Then it happens. The honeymoon ends.

Children come and work gets stressful. Trying to juggle bills and playdates and sports leaves you tired. Passion is now about sleep. The physical part of your relationship dissolves into decisions of whether you should even bother to take your clothes off or just leave them on as you need to get up soon anyway.

You go to church on Sundays and the worship which used to bring you to new heights with the Lord now just seems to bounce off of your forehead. Reading the Word becomes a chore. Knowing that Christ loves you is understood, but the joy is gone.

You hit that plateau in your weight loss. You did the same things you did the last few weeks and now you not only didn’t lose anymore, but you gained back a couple.

Everything suddenly seems so hard.

It is at this moment, like when Jesus was in the wilderness, that the enemy arrives. He smells your feelings of weakness and doubt. He is ready for his assault.

He asks you the questions: if the passion is gone from your marriage, then maybe he was not the right guy? Shouldn’t it be easy? If your husband really loved you, he would know that you are needing him right now. Clearly this was a mistake. It’s time to pull back and start guarding your heart against the hurt that he will bring you.

He continues: Church isn’t doing anything for you anymore. Maybe it really didn’t do anything in the first place. Maybe you just got caught up in the hype. It was just a feeling and nothing of substance. Why don’t you just sleep in today? It will do you so much more good than pushing yourself to go to church, wasting two hours and then being so far behind in the things you need to do.

And finally: Of course you aren’t losing any weight. You are not meant to be healthy. You don’t have it in you to look good and feel good. Isn’t this good enough? You’ve been like this forever. Why change now? Just accept it. You are fat and ugly and nobody loves you.

And there in the background you feel it. That heavy blanket of self-loathing and doubt. Depression. Fear. All of the characteristics of your old man. Right there, pouring in to smother you in darkness. You find it hard to breathe. Your body aches. Nothing is good anymore. The habits of your old man are there too. I should just lay down here and accept my fate. I am alone. In the dark. There is no hope. I will just close my eyes and sleep. Maybe then I won’t have to face it.

Is that the end?

My father used to tell me about a dream he had as a child. Many nights he would dream that he was being chased by a bear. Just as the bear was about to overtake him, he would wake up. Over and over again he spent his nights running from this bear. Finally, one night in his dream, he stopped running. This time he turned around to face the bear. He beat the tar out of it and never had the dream again.

This story taught me that I do have the power to change things. I could spend my life in despair or I can say, “Wait a second devil! Just hold on here. I belong to God. You don’t have any hold on me anymore!” I can push back against the darkness and see the light.

Paul tells us in Hebrews 5:12-14 that we can’t continue living on spiritual milk. We need the meat. We need to mature. We need to search for the Lord with all of our hearts (Jer 29:13) and seek Him like silver and gold (Matt 13:44-46). The most precious gems are not on the surface, they must be mined. It takes a mountain of effort to uncover one precious stone, but once you have found it – how precious it is!

It is after the honeymoon stage that marriage moves into something much more precious. When love goes so much deeper than the surface stuff and can grow roots into each other. When “oneness” really begins to flourish.

It is in the search for the Lord that we begin to understand that love is more than a feeling. We learn His heart for us and that in turn changes our hearts toward others.

It is in the work that is required to lose weight that new healthy habits that can last a lifetime are born.

Everything requires work, persistence and the unwavering belief that what I am working for is worth it. Your marriage is worth it. Your health is worth it. Knowing Christ is worth it.

It is time to face the bear. Time to stand up, roll up your sleeves and say “no more!” When you stop running and hiding, when you look the enemy in the eye, when you realize that you are not alone in your fight as the Lord’s armies are with you, you will see, the bear is not as big and scary as you thought. In fact, it is nothing more than a flea with a big growl.

Remember who you are, and fight!

Resolutions

It’s that time of year again – when we resolve to do things differently. This year’s resolutions are much the same as every other year: save more money, eat healthier, exercise more, stress less. And the year started out well. At least for the first week or so, then the wagon ride started to get a little bumpy. And by now I have not only fallen off of the wagon, but gotten run over by it as well. You would think I would learn. Every year I do the same thing, and every year I fail.

Each year I resolve to change something about myself or my life and I plan and I prepare and I do what I can to solidify my willpower to make these changes. But isn’t it this same will of mine that doesn’t want to cook supper, so I go out and buy it instead? Isn’t it this same will that wants to eat the cupcakes and sleep just a little longer instead of exercise? How can I expect to be successful when I am empowering the very thing that causes me to do the actions in the first place? Didn’t Jesus Himself say that a house divided can not stand (Mark 3:25)? It makes no sense to ask my will to go against itself to affect change. I can no more change my will than I can change my skin color. So do I just give up then?

I may not be able to change myself, but there is One who can. He has already miraculously changed many parts of my life. I know that. He has saved me from destruction and set my feet on a straight path. He has given me access to His mighty power. And He has instructed me that if I am faithful in the little things, then I will be faithful with much (Luke 16:10). Is it possible that God has given me access to His resurrection power and asked me to use it in these little things? Wouldn’t we all like to see someone raised from the dead? God has given us this power, but we must practice using it. In every other area of my life I am trying to become less so that Christ can become greater (John 3:30). I surrender my will to Him. But here in this part of my life I am still holding on tightly to my will. My way. I have not surrendered it to Him. It is still dead in sin. It is like this part of my life is Lazarus, buried in the tomb, and I can hear the voice of Jesus calling me out, but instead of heading to the light I am stuffing the cracks at the door with cupcakes. I am happy here in the dark, with my cupcakes. But while I may be afraid of leaving my cupcakes behind, I must remember that God has never taken me from something that He hasn’t replaced with something so much better.

And isn’t it just like the enemy to keep us down in these little areas? After all, he makes us think that they don’t matter. God didn’t really say that I could never eat a cupcake did He? But perhaps he works so hard at keeping us from accessing God’s power to see miracles in these areas of our lives because he knows that if we would be faithful here, he wouldn’t be able to stop us when we access God’s power in the bigger things!

Perhaps then I must change my resolutions. I resolve to know Christ and the power of His resurrection (Phil 3:10a). I will press on because He has so much more ahead for me. I will surrender to Him in this area too and experience His power changing my life again. I will meditate on His word for encouragement:

Phil 3:7-14: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

 

Joy Killer

I am sure that we are all familiar with those situations when something bad is taking place and we hit our knees in desperation, crying out to God, and then He answers and the situation is solved and we go back to our happy lives. But what about those situations that linger? God may be working, but the answer is not immediate. How do we feel then? When our loved one takes another bad turn in their illness, when our child comes home only to clean us out for their next fix, when our own pain makes us question all aspects of our lives – how do we feel then? Don’t we have the right to be upset? Angry? Discouraged? Depressed? Our complete lack of control in these circumstances sends our emotions into chaos. Maybe life has dealt us a nasty hand – it would only be natural to harden our hearts and pile on the layers of self pity and cry, “whoa is me!”

That is the natural reaction of our flesh to these situations. But we are not alone – we have God. Does knowing God mean that I am going to feel happy instead? Wouldn’t that seem like I am saying that I am happy that my loved one is sick, or my child is lost into the world of drugs, or that I am in pain (emotional or physical)? Perhaps I am not using the right words here. I don’t know that anyone could feel “happy” in any of these situations. But must we be defeated? It doesn’t make sense that the God who promised us “abundant life” would want these circumstances to leave us wallowing in the mire. What is the answer then? It is found in who we believe God to be. If God is not capable of intervening in your life, and allows the world to evolve without His influence or purpose, then perhaps you are out of luck. But since we know that God is powerful and present and purposeful and passionate about His people, then we have hope. We can trust Him in these situations to bring about His greater purposes. We can experience joy even in the worst of it.

Psalm 33 speaks of the works of God. How He created the world and watches over His people. It reminds us to praise Him. And to trust. Verses 20-22 state, “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” We hope, we trust and our hearts find joy. Doubt and fear and despair are joy killers. They all come when we take our eyes off of the Lord. But when we place our hope in Him, we have joy – even in the ugliest circumstances.

Joy is not feeling “happy.” Rick Warren defines joy this way: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all of the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” Even though we may want to just stop and bury our heads in the sand, we can go on living. We can trust God. We can choose to keep our eyes on the One that is in control. Today I will praise Him for what He has done for me, and what He will do. My story will be about Him and His kindness, not about me.

 

The Buzz

I get included in group chats fairly regularly on social media. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to leave a  group chat. This means that every response from every person results in a “buzz” on my phone. This can become really annoying after a while! I have grown to dislike being included in these conversations for this reason.

Recently, I was included in another group chat that was a prayer request. The phone was “buzzing” so much it nearly fell off of the counter. I was shaking my head at it when I realized something: each “buzz” represented someone who believed that God could intervene! Each one had had at least one experience with God that proved His power and His love! What a testimony! And it would include more than just those responding, as there are some, like me, who don’t respond but do actually pray. All of a sudden the “buzz” which a minute ago I was finding annoying, was now a beautiful song of praise to our Almighty God! As I marveled at the realization, I began to praise God for all of the ways He has impacted those respondents; thankful that He is so generous with His mercy and grace and miraculous power. God is good!

It underscored again the simplicity of our faith. We are in a relationship with a living, caring, powerful Being. Our faith is not based on rules and religion, but on experiencing the love of God through a relationship with Him. If knowing God results in a “buzz” praise song, then religion would be a “buzz” kill. Jesus came because He loved us. He died because He loved us. And He lives because He loves us! It need not be any more complicated than that.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

The Storm

It has always been my experience that as soon as I step out to do something for the Lord, I seem to suffer negative consequences. This week has been no exception. Not long ago I shared a part of my story and what God has done for me with a large crowd. This past week I have experienced issues with my health, my extended family have been affected and even my dog!

Sometimes I wonder if it is like those prophets and preachers of old that would go to a city to proclaim Christ and be dragged out and stoned for it. Now, my battle is not against flesh and blood though – it is definitely a spiritual assault. While I can feel the sting of the storm as it sprays in my face and the darkness can give the illusion of being alone, my feet are still firmly placed on the Rock. I couldn’t imagine walking through this without the peace and strength that comes from knowing Jesus. And I am so grateful that I don’t have to! God is bigger and more powerful than any storm that comes my way. And no matter what happens, the storm cannot move me from my Foundation. The fact that this happens at all makes me think that I must have done something right! Otherwise the enemy wouldn’t feel the need to bother me. So, I can also take refuge in that.

I am not sure that I would say I am joyful though as the following passage states:

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”(James 1:2-4)
It is funny how I automatically think of “lacking nothing” as being wealthy. But worldly wealth runs out and does not automatically come with wisdom. However, having a firm and clear connection to God Almighty will grant me endless access to everything and anything I could possibly need, including power, wisdom, peace, strength and provision. It seems that in these storms I am more likely to access these things from my Heavenly Father. Perhaps if I were more proactive in the calm, I would experience less storms? Just a thought.
No matter where you are today, know that God is all you need. Reach for Him. Hold on tight. He is your anchor in the storm.

The Mustard Seed

I spent some time praying with and for some wonderful women the other night. But it wasn’t long before I was overwhelmed by the idea that my prayers weren’t good enough. I remember those thoughts from before: I am not a good enough wife; I am not a good enough mother; I am not a good enough friend. And here I am with the words ringing in my ears: I am not a good enough Christian to be helping anyone. My prayers aren’t powerful; they aren’t eloquent; they aren’t very “fervent.” All I could do was give a little love and call on the name of Jesus.

While I was berated by these thoughts the Lord broke through. He reminded me of the mustard seed. You remember it from Matt 17:20 when Jesus tells them, “if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” So then I say, “But God! What if my faith isn’t enough to move the mountain?” Then He said, it is not your faith (and the size of it) that moves the mountain. It is that little speck of faith that brings you to Me. I move the mountain!

When I am faithful to bring others to Jesus, it is Him who moves in them to heal and to deliver and to save. It is not my awesomeness that does it. It is His. I am only an extension of His hands and feet. I demonstrate His love, and He does the rest. Thank God! If peoples deliverance and salvation was dependent on me, we would all be in trouble! But it is not. I do not save. The Saviour saves. If I can do nothing other than cry out the name of Jesus,  I have still opened access to the Almighty God!

There is power in the name of Jesus. There is no more eloquent, powerful or fervent prayer than to simply call on His name.

 

 

Unfinished

I have been facing a new challenge these days. Over the last few months there have been hints of its presence but this past week it reared its ugly head. There was no more denying it. My reaction was typical: “Why me?” I went through the usual emotions – anger, grief, depression, desperation. And then it occurred to me that clearly I was not getting anywhere on my own. I headed to my room and bowed my head. I laid it all before the Lord and cried. I prayed that God would help me to accept what was happening. Almost immediately I was surrounded with an immense sense of peace and was assured that this was not happening TO me, as if I were being punished. Instead, it was simply happening. And God was going to use it to make my life better. He said that even though it seems bad, He is in it. He has a greater purpose. It was weird to go from crying about something to joy, but I did. God loves me enough to keep making my life better! He isn’t done with me yet! I am so grateful for His hand!

He encouraged me with His words:

Romans 8:28

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Phil 1:6
“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”
and sealed it with a song,

Contentment

I own a 2007 Nissan Altima. I have had it a couple of years because we needed a second car to get us to the places we need to go. My primary car is a 2005 Toyota Corolla. I bought it new in 2005 and have never had an issue with it. Occasionally, we look at the website for a new car thinking that soon we will likely need to replace the old one, but have always postponed the decision. Recently the Altima has started to act up. It has automatic windows (one of which has never worked) and one night two of the windows spontaneously put themselves down (including the broken one). We had an awful time trying to get the broken one back up as it doesn’t work. But thank God for duct tape! We started to wonder if now is the time to look for a new car. We looked over the new Corollas online and even planned to go see some in person. But we didn’t. The issue is that because of our current financial priorities, we can’t afford a car payment right now. And I knew that if we went, we would buy. Instead, we presented the situation to the Lord and have asked Him to keep these cars working until our commitments are completed.

God reminded me of Paul’s statements about contentment in Phil chapter 4:

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (11-13 NKJV)

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (11-13 NIV)

I looked this up in both versions to understand verse 13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I have often used that verse for strength in difficult circumstances, but never really connected it to contentment. Here Paul tell us that I can be content because Christ gives me strength. Usually I am begging God to change my circumstances and fighting against them. I pray for strength to endure. I don’t generally pray for strength to be content in it.

God most certainly has the power to change my circumstances. But perhaps He delays for a reason. How would my perspective change if I asked Him for the strength to be content? How then could He use me in this present situation? The money that I am saving from not having a car payment I plan to use to God’s glory. But what about everyday things? What if I were content at my job? What if when that guy pulls out in front of me on Salisbury Road and then proceeds to drive 48km/hr, I take this extra time that I have to pray for him instead of curse him? Maybe God put him there for a reason.

Where do I need strength today to be content? This is the place and the day that God has given to me. There is a reason. God is always at work. If perhaps I could get my mind off of all the ways I am unsatisfied, God might be able to start to use me. God promises to supply all my needs. I don’t need to be anxious about anything. So today I ask for strength to be content exactly where I am. I will rejoice in the Lord, my heart will be thankful and I will be willing to be used for His glory. Let His will be done!