What will you do?
Will you hold back?
If you get into the habit of doing something physically, you will do it every time you are tested until you break the habit through sheer determination. And the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will come right up to what Jesus wants, but every time you will turn back at the true point of testing, until you are determined to abandon yourself to God in total surrender…
Jesus Christ demands the same unrestrained, adventurous spirit in those who have placed their trust in Him that the natural man exhibits. If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark. In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap by faith into what He says. Once you obey, you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.
By the test of common sense, Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad, but when you test them by the trial of faith, your findings will fill your spirit with the awesome fact that they are the very words of God.
Trust completely in God, and when He brings you to a new opportunity of adventure, offering it to you, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis— only one out of an entire crowd is daring enough to invest his faith in the character of God.
~Oswald Chambers (Utmost for His Highest)
I steal a moment in the prayer closet.
More than I crave anything else today, I crave communion with my heavenly daddy. I begin to write, paraphrase really, Psalm 119: 81-170:
I am worn out waiting but I put my hope in your Word;
My eyes are straining to see your promises come true;
As pressure and stress bear down, I find joy in your commands.
When will you comfort me?
There are deep pits to trap me; but your word is my constant guide and I know everything serves your plans.
Your commands give me life…I am yours.
You are my shield, my refuge; please do not let me be crushed.
I will lift up my cup of salvation…
I will lift it high so that I may catch a drop of your grace… grace that spills forth against your palm and forever sets me free.
Suddenly, my prayer closet moment is interrupted by a tiny whimper from downstairs. I put down my tear-stained, heavily-written-in-Bible and survey the damage.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
In her little girl voice she says, “Mama my leg hurts and I can’t stand up.”
I cup her face and bend down to listen.
Her muttered words tucked in between lowly cries.
I place my hands underneath her tiny arms and set her on her feet.
Her knee bends and the shrill sharpens, “It still hurts!”
So I carry her.
I carry her like a wounded lamb into the den.
I lay her on the couch. Things seem to improve and tears subside.
My own knees buckle as I am overwhelmed by God’s presence. He nudges my heart in a way it hasn’t been nudged in a while.
I listen close and he impresses this on my heart:
“I know your voice and you know mine. I hear you crying out to me and I bend down to listen. I see your trouble and I come to you. I will wipe your tears. I will pick you up when you stumble; carry you when your wounds are too great. I see you walking along the path of my commands and I love you. I am on your side and I will protect you. Sometimes you wander away like a little lost sheep, but don’t worry… I will always come and find you.”
My own tears of joy stream as I pen these words. My cup of salvation overflows with joy that comes from KNOWING Christ died for me and a LONGING to give my whole heart, my whole life back to serving Him.
The joy that comes from hearing His small voice reassure me at the exact moment her small voice cries out for me.
I think you’ll agree with me… we are weak in our own skin. Because of this we tend to get easily taken in by the multitude of negatives in life…
Worry targets us and literally runs us down to the ground.
Discouragement seeps in like a slow leak and before we know it we are drowning in it.
Doubt dangles itself before us tempting and threatening all that we believe is true in our hearts.
And, Fear allusively edges itself in around the corners of our mind… wraps its bar-like fingers around us and holds us captive.
Yet, we are told over and over as believers in Jesus that we should not worry, that we should ignore discouraging thoughts, that if we doubt or fall prey to fear than we are not trusting Christ.
But, I object.
To continue reading head on over to Encourage24/7 where I am guest posting today!
A couple of days ago, I received an email from a precious woman. She is struggling with God’s love for her. She is struggling with darkness and a lack of God’s presence. Therefore, I felt compelled to write this post especially for her, as I am a woman just like her.
* * * * * * * *
I remember when it happened years ago.
Words whispered in the dark, beyond listening ears.
Cold words stuck like glue until I believed they were true.
Abuse from this relationship, indescribable.
Words tossed about, unimaginable.
But I walked away from God. I made mistakes. I tripped over my own sin and plummeted into darkness because his lies spoke louder than God’s love.
I believed a lie about God. I believed a lie about me.
Did God even love me?
If He did, I didn’t feel it.
God’s love seemed like a distant child-hood memory. His warmth, detached. His hand removed. Or that’s how it seemed.
One day a friend spoke truth, the piercing kind…
“You say, ‘I feel like this, I feel like that.’ Maybe replace the “feel” with “know,” she explained.
And so it is with God.
Sometimes We Don’t Feel God’s Presence but we know He loves us. We know this because the Bible tells us.
“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,” Psalm 23:6.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,” Ephesians 2:19.
“I love those who love me and those who seek me will find me,” Proverbs 8:17.
“If anyone serves me, let him hear me. For where I am there my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, Him my Father will honor,” John 12:26.
“My heart has heard you say Come and talk with me! My heart responds, Lord I am coming,” Psalm 27:8.
“I have written your name on the palm of my hand” (Isaiah 49:16); “I will never forget you, would I forget a nursing child? Never!” “He will call me by name because I am His!” (Isaiah 43:1).
Years later, I hide these verses in my heart.
So when I don’t feel God, I know He’s there.
By doing this, I allow emotion to piggy-back on truth instead of emotion dragging truth through the mud.
When the Disconnect Happens I Ask Myself a Series of Questions.
Am I in regular study of God’s Word?
Am I confessing all un-repented sin?
Am I praying and listening for God’s voice daily?
Am I intentional about sharing the Gospel, making disciples?
Am I fasting from things that stand in the way of my relationship with Christ?
Am I standing in awe of the cross?
The Answer to Knowing God’s True Feelings is found in the Message of the Cross.
Jesus walked out of heaven and announced his love for us. He lived a life we could never live. He died a death we deserved to die. He incurred the wrath of God against sin, rose from the dead to put God’s life back inside of us. If that doesn’t show radical, scandalous love, I don’t know what does!
So if today finds you feeling disconnected from God, plug into His Word ~ step into His light ~pick up your cross ~ and follow hard after Him. And keep doing it because obedience is pleasing to God.
I don’t have all the answers.
But I am a woman who has been in a dark place too.
I am a woman who has believed the worst about herself.
I am also a woman who believes God’s Word ~ a woman who believes what God thinks about me ~ a woman who fights for her joy when there is none ~ a woman who rejects the Devils ploy to make her doubt God~ a woman who has learned (the hard way) to walk daily with her Savior so she can recognize His voice…so she knows what to do and where to go.
God didn’t promise this life would be easy or that following Him would be either. What he did promise was He would be with us, never leaving, never forsaking.
Last weekend we went to minister to people at the Castaway Motel. I have a very special friend who lives in apartment 4. We’ve known each other for almost a year and his conversation never disappoints. The first time we met, I knocked on his door to share the gospel and offer a bag of groceries.
“Knockety, knock, knock…”
My fist interrupted as he swings open the door.
“Yes?” He says in good ol’ fashion inquiry.
And conversatin’ ensues.
We begin to discuss creation.
Yes ma’am, deep thoughts for an early summer afternoon.
I politely challenge his theology, if that’s what we’re calling it. Then, as he challenges me…he flings a necklace up over his collar. There suspended on a silver rope chain wobbles a satanic pentagram. Shock stops strategic words.
I blurt out, “Ummmm, does that mean you are not going to pray with me right now?” He scratches his head with a smirk and looks as lost as last year’s Easter eggs!
All he could do?
Laugh, giggle, and point at the stay-at-home-flip-flop-wearing-mama trying to share Jesus with the likes of him.
“Warlock, my darling,’” he condescends.
“That’s what I am.” Of course my high-speed mouth didn’t stop chattering and I prayed for us anyway.
We’ve been friends ever since. You can always find us in the parking lot talking about Jesus and resurrection and repentin’.
Yes sir he believes there is a Jesus and possibly even a resurrected one. But when I press, and I do, I can’t help but think he believes like the demons do. The Bible says even the demons believe Jesus was the crucified and resurrected Son of God. What makes him any different?
He’s probably not really a warlock and he’s probably not a demon either.
But long ago Paul tells Roman Christians that to believe in the saving resurrection of Christ from the dead is to confess the sovereign lordship of Jesus over their lives. It’s more than intellect. It’s more than cheap words rolling over a tongue. It’s about Jesus being Lord.
The warlock tells me repetitiously he knows the Bible. But if Paul were here today, he’d say belief in Jesus for salvation involves far more than intellectual assent. We can all profess belief in Jesus publically but still not possess him personally. Only those who know Christ relationally and are obedient to His commands will enter his kingdom.
That’s why I’m here in this parking lot serving, even when sometimes I don’t feel like it. That’s why I’m weaving gospel threads into every conversation… because I care…about his eternity.
As we gather up our tables and such, I tell him I will pray for him.
He likes to get my goat so he puts up with me. “Okay,” he says.
Hand perched on one hip I say, I am praying you come face to face with Jesus and that he reaches into the depths of your heart, gives you the spirit of revelation, and saves your soul from the clutches of sin. I’m just sayin’!
He walks away with his BBQ sandwich in disbelief. I walk away with my crusty crock-pot in belief that prayer is both powerful and effective.
I’ll let you know what God does….
The air crisp,
The sun bright,
As we enter the ancient city of the Ephesians.
Ephesus (Efes) located in Kudasai, Turkey is more than 35% uncovered. In 1st century B.C., it had a population of more than 250,000 which served to make it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world. The city served as great importance to Christianity in 50 A.D. The evidence shown in this inscription:
We bounce over B.C.-marble with our 21st century sneakers and are ushered through several gate-like structures. We pass underneath a stone gate and I see the view. The city, the wide road and I begin to think.
I am reminded of Jesus words.
Words found in Matthew 7 about narrow gates and wide roads.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”
Nobility took up residence in terrace homes along this wide Ephesian road. Cluttered with people, wealth, prostitution, and idols, many first century residents traveled the destructive wide road.
I put myself in ancient mindset for a moment.
This nice, comfortable yet crowded path was attractive and accommodating. But this isn’t the way of Jesus. This isn’t the path he designed for them, for us.
The stones cry out.
He beckons us down a hard road filled with amphitheaters of hate and walls of chains. Just like the Christians back then…
A long time ago.
I brush my fingers across divots in a stone wall.
There are too many to count. These divots held the chains of persecuted Christians. I could almost hear their cry. They hung in humiliation under a hot sun ~ overcome with sweat but soaked with determination. Determined and resolved to count the cost, to lose their life for the cause of Christ.
I kick the dirt in this spot and I think, “Why would I be so arrogant to think my road to travel would be any different…any less hard?”
I may not find myself in chains for my faith. I may not even be called to lose my life for it. But I can embrace my call as a disciple of Christ…and that is to share gospel and make disciples of all nations…and never stop.
These followers knew what it meant to walk the narrow path. They knew the narrower the path the greater the risk. But they also knew like the man who hid a treasure in a field that Jesus was worth being in chains for…because to live is Christ and to die is gain (see Philippians 1:21).
So here I stand in wonder. I wonder 2000 years later how far we as believers have wondered off this path. These devoted followers of a Jewish carpenter who was crucified show us that following Christ isn’t just praying a prayer, but a summons to lose your life.
This is the road I choose. The narrow, risky, unpopular one. The one that leads to life.
Which will you choose?
Ahhh traveling alone with the kids. Just the sound of it makes a mama cringe. Even the flight attendant began a spiel over the loud intercom, “If you’re traveling with kids, today well… we feel sorry for you!” I rolled my eyes as I handed out Hello Kitty coloring books and crayons to the three. So far things had gone quite well. No hair-pulling from in between seats, no frequent stops to the toilet, and no choking on honey roasted peanuts. Yep, had there been enough arm room, I’d of given myself a pat on the back. Yes ma’am things were going so well I decided to strike up a conversation with the gentleman seated next to me.
Interestingly, this man was from Thessaloniki, Greece. He said, “You know the Thessalonians from the Bible?” My reply, “Wow, Thessss-u-lun-iiiii-ca (imagine the southern accent)?” He corrected of course by saying, “No it’s Thessalon-ee-k-ee.” Oh okay, I say. I practice a few times.
Well, just about that time, my five year old tugs on my sleeve and says, “Mama, why are you talkin’ to him? You don’t even know his name!” She said it real loud and sassy! So… after proper introductions were made, we continued discussing how he (Michael) left his home in Greece and came to the United States, went to University, and married a Baptist preacher’s daughter in Tennessee of all places. We talked about our favorite dish at Cracker Barrel and then I asked, “Do you get homesick?” I’ll never forget his thick-accented reply. “I miss my family in Greece but God has me here and here is home.”
The conversation paused a bit and I began to think about home. On these little trips down south I usually get “home-sick.” I miss shooting hoops with my dad in the gym where he coaches. I miss my mother’s smile when I walk through the door. I miss splitting a Chick-fil-A Sandwich with oodles of mayo dripping down the side with my brother.
Where is mine really? I mean Tennessee doesn’t feel like my home but neither does Reno.
I guess missing things is a part of this life, because I can’t live in two places at once. But Jesus tells me my home isn’t in Reno nor Tennessee ~ my real home is in Him, with Him, in a place he has prepared for me.
Hebrews 13:14 says, “For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come.”
“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it,” (1 Peter 2:11 MSG).
I don’t feel cozy in this world.
I don’t always feel comfortable either.
But according to the Scriptures, that’s a good thing. Honestly, the moments I feel at home are when I am in the yoke with Christ…when I am his hands and feet, when I am denying myself, when I am following him.
With Christ, I (we) never have to wonder where home is.
We will always know. But on days we forget, our Savior is there reminding us.
And that makes me happy.
Remembering who I am in Him is half the battle sometimes.
I get caught up in all that I think I should be in Him and get distracted and frustrated and condemn myself a lot. I beat myself up a lot. After all– I should be so far by now, right?!
I try to rush Him… to push His work in me. I move to to make change on my own and then get worn out and quit in defeat.
I forget that HE is my strength.
I need to return to the basics.
To go back to when I first received Him and just be zealous for Him. Trusting Him. Seeking Him. Finding Him. Loving Him. BEING STILL. Waiting on Him.
And… THANKING Him... for all things.
What I need… is to just live rooted.
So, we are just now watching The Bible Series put on by the History Channel. Last night we watched the shepherd David — soon to be King — take down Goliath with a sling-shot and a stone. And I was quite taken by David as he confidently picked up the stone and walked fiercely out to meet the giant while reciting the 23rd Psalm.
There was so much immense power and courage in His stride to victory. He felt no doubt that the Lord, His God, was with Him.
Now, I realize there was much artistic liberty taken in the making of this series and what David actually said to Goliath that day was…
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17 45-47)
But, I imagine His courage to be very much the same as it was depicted, for indeed, he did know that the Lord God was with Him.
This scene weaved in and out of my thoughts. And the question passed through me… do I speak and claim God’s Word for me with such courage?
Often the words of Psalm 23 come out in a moment of fear. They fall from my lips in a whimper as if to beg Him for His mercy instead of being sure of His love and watch care over me.
And the conviction wells up within… Where is my courage and my confidence in His promises to me?
It’s not as if the Israelites had it easy. I know some were fortunate enough to experience God up close and personal, but still they suffered greatly. However, as God’s anointed, Noah, Abraham, David, Paul and so many others remained courageous because of their great Faith in Him.
Father, bless me with such great Faith as these — I deeply desire to walk with Courage.