Strong and Courageous

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria, nor because of all the army that is with him; for the One with us is greater than the one with him. With him there is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.”

-2 Chronicles 32: 7-8 AMP

Being strong and courageous is only easy when you’re not face to face with you’re threat! As I study God’s Word, I’m often in awe of the courage it took for David not to run and hide as Goliath locked sights on him… or for Shadrach (Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael), and Abednego (Azariah) to not bow down as they felt the heat of the flames.

Although the enemies in question were very real threats, they were merely the “cast and shadows” of our true enemy! For understanding purposes, know that whenever I use the terms “cast and shadows”, I am referring to an earthly representation of our spiritual enemy. The Bible is full of examples but there is one that God has greatly pressed upon my heart this week… the story of King Hezekiah of Israel and King Sennacherib of Assyria… Read their story below or in your own Bible…

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria, nor because of all the army that is with him; for the One with us is greater than the one with him. With him there is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people relied on the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

After this, Sennacherib king of Assyria, while he was at Lachish [besieging it] with all his forces, sent his servants to Jerusalem, to Hezekiah king of Judah, and to all Judah who were at Jerusalem, saying,“Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, ‘In what do you trust that you are remaining in Jerusalem under siege? Is not Hezekiah misleading you in order to let you die by famine and thirst, while saying, “The Lord our God will rescue us from the hand of the king of Assyria?” Has the same Hezekiah not taken away his [Baal’s] high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, “You shall worship before [only] one altar and burn incense on it”? Do you not know what I and my fathers (ancestors) have done to all the peoples of the [other] lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands able to rescue their lands from my hand at all? Who [was there] among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed who was able to rescue his people from my hand, that your God should be able to rescue you from my hand? So now, do not let Hezekiah deceive or mislead you like this, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to rescue his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God rescue you from my hand!’”

And his servants said even more against the Lord God and against His servant Hezekiah. The Assyrian king also wrote letters insulting and taunting the Lord God of Israel, and speaking against Him, saying, “As the gods of the nations of other lands have not rescued their people from my hand, so the God of Hezekiah will not rescue His people from my hand.” They shouted it loudly in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, so that they might take the city [without a long siege]. They spoke of the God of Jerusalem as [they spoke of] the gods of the peoples of the earth, [which are only] the work of the hands of men.

But Hezekiah the king and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz prayed about this and cried out to heaven [for help]. And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed every brave warrior, commander, and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria. So the king returned to his own land in shame. And when he entered the house (temple) of his god, some of his own children killed him there with the sword. Thus the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria and from the hand of all others, and He gave them rest on every side.’– 2 Chronicles 32:7-22 AMP

The enemy’s first goal is always to cast doubt on what we believe about God and His character… but sometimes initially, the enemy comes masked as a friend and comforter. The Assyrians did just that prior to their invasion (2 Kings 20:13)… but we are wise to deny the enemy access to our lives! Hezekiah made the mistake of giving his enemy a grand tour of his kingdom’s treasures. The enemy’s ultimate goal is to steal, kill, and destroy! We must protect the treasure that God has placed in us… among the most important, our freedom from sin and bondage! He desires to steal our freedom above all things because he knows that without it, we are unable to do what God has called us to do. We need freedom in Christ as much as our lungs need air to breath!

Unfortunately, the enemy quickly moves from whispering lies to shouting loud mouthed threats! Suddenly, being strong and courageous takes on a whole new meaning as the threat stands right in front of you, a taunting reminder of all your shortcomings, failings, sins, inabilities, and frailties! With the help of this “cast and shadow” example, we see the enemy’s battle plan revealed and exposed… verses 17-18 tell us that the enemy’s threats were meant to, “… frighten and terrify them, so that they might take the city without a long siege.”

The enemy may be defeated but he’s not stupid… he knows that if he can make his threats and lies convincing enough, we will surrender to him without much of a fight! And let’s be honest, sometimes we do just that… but we shouldn’t! Jesus Christ won us the war so that we could stand strong in the midst of the battle! We are not called to surrender to our enemy! No more running at the sight of a giant, an evil army, or the heat of engulfing flames because our God is bigger than anything we could ever face… He already faced and defeated those things in our place! Trust me, I know that’s easier to say than it is to do… but so were all of those amazing stories in God’s Word! We still put our trust and faith in the same God of the Bible!

Surrendering to the enemy cannot be an option for us! Take your surrender to Jesus! Because this isn’t the type of “enemy” we see in a lot of movies now-a-days where the villain is only kind of bad and still likable to a degree. We’re talking about an inherently evil enemy where our surrender doesn’t ease the struggle, it just makes it worse. There’s a scene in one of my favorite movies “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” where Aragorn tells his warriors as their enemy approaches to, “Show no mercy, for you will receive none!” That is the type of enemy we face… one where there is no good-side or likability… its an enemy without compassion, empathy, or mercy!

We are warriors in Christ Jesus but if we are going to stand up to our enemy, we must be equipped for the battle! We need the armor of God because let me tell you what, we are going to take some punches this side of Heaven; and the funny thing about armor is, that it doesn’t serve it’s purpose if we’re just carrying it in our hand… we have to put it on!

I’m always in awe of how God speaks to His children… a couple of weeks ago, I was wrestling with some strongholds of fear in my life (not fully free yet, but I’m on my way- lol)! In the process of taking this issue to God, I asked Him to please just show me that I was not the only one that wrestled with this issue… deep down, I totally know that there are others who struggle with fear but let’s be honest… we’re not all that quick to confess our fears to others, especially in the Church… we are usually too afraid of the consequences! God’s Word tells us in Proverbs 18:21 that “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue,” although you wouldn’t think we were aware of that by watching us sometimes! We’ve been entrusted with a sharp two edged sword and yet we wield it around like toddlers playing pirates! We allow the enemy to benefit from our mouths far too often… it saddens me that we end up giving him the opportunity to heap condemnation, judgment, and isolation on others… what’s even sadder is that its usually unintentional… but as good-intentioned as we might be, we really need to take care in how we respond to the struggles of others. So if fear is not your struggle, ask God to give you His eyes to see because speaking from experience, Jesus deals so tenderly with us in our weaknesses and always meets us where we are, gently leading us from strength to strength… and if He, who has every right to be harsh with us, isn’t… how can we have any right to be… so be gentle- lol!

I love when Beth Moore wrote this in one of her Bible studies: “We can be faithful to God and centered in His will and still be attacked by the enemy. Sometimes our enemy attacks the weak and wandering believers because they are easy prey. Other times he attacks competent, fully surrendered servants of God for the challenge and the possible effect of a fall. Let’s not be fooled into thinking we can somehow avoid all Satan’s attempts to take us captive. We are wise never to consider ourselves invulnerable, so that we stay alert and aware at all times. Satan cannot force us to go where he leads, but he can certainly choose a scenic route for a lure.” I think we are wise to remember this as we prayerfully respond to people in hardship… just because someone is struggling doesn’t mean it’s a result of sin… we should always let the Holy Spirit do the talking for even if it is sin, we are not above the ability to stumble in our own walks! It’s not always our words that need to change, sometimes it’s just the delivery.

Okay, sorry for the very long tangent, but sometimes the LORD just takes me somewhere and I need to be obedient and follow- lol… But I’ll get back to my story… so after I asked God to show me that I was not the only one that struggled with fear, I headed to my church Life Group (aka… Small Group). As the nightly conversation kicked off, one gentleman raised his hand to ask for prayer and confessed that he had been struggling with fear in recent weeks… in that moment, God answered my prayer of showing me I wasn’t alone… not to mention many others confessed their own fears at group! What amazed me was that God not only showed me that I didn’t suffer from anything uncommon… but He also showed me how tender and understanding He is to His children by speaking so personally to me that night as I’m sure He did many others. He never wants us to feel isolated or alone because we’re not… but how awesome to know that He understands why we often do.

What blessed me even more is that God didn’t just confirm it to me in that moment, He continued speaking to me throughout the week! I’ve been doing a Bible Study by Beth Moore called “Breaking Free” (her studies are great for anyone who’s never done one btw)… and one of the day’s homework lessons was all about fear and how we deal with it. I loved when she said, “Sometimes faith is the absence of fear. Other times faith may be choosing to believe God even when your heart is melting with fear. Perhaps, then, faith is tested by what we do with fear, not whether or not we have it.” So true!!

Fear wears many masks, but again, the goal is always the same… to steal, kill, and destroy! So whether it’s fear of financial struggle, failure, sin, failing health, or even a fear of fear (yes it’s an actual thing)… stand firm on the promises of Jesus and pick up your sword (the Word of God)! Make them your fighting words; I’ll make them mine too! If His Word was powerful enough to call forth creation from nothing, then it is powerful enough to bring victory in your situation!

One day, on the other side of glory, I believe that our Father will give us a glimpse into what was really going on in the spirit-realm during some of our most trying times! We will get to see the swords wielded and battles waged on our behalf! Our King fights for us and so do the angel armies that stand at His command! I believe it probably looks like something out of “Lord Of The Rings” or “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”! So in the words of Isaiah and to the glory of the Father, “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS” for your GOD IS WITH YOU!!!

I’m Back!

Hi friends, I’m so sorry that its been a while since I shared anything with you… it’s been one hectic and crazy year! I plan to start writing again and I wanted to give y’all a heads up so you’d know to watch for my blog posts! I’ve missed sharing what God lays on my heart and look forward to doing so again… it probably won’t be every week or even every month… but you will hear from me more often! Love you all!

A Safe Place

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves.”- Philippians 2:3 AMP

The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.‘”- Matthew 25:40 AMP

Have you ever encountered or spent time with someone you felt wasn’t genuine or you could tell wasn’t being their true self around you? Not sure about you, but I find it difficult to engage with people who just seem to be wearing a mask. It’s interesting to me that many, if not most, non-Christians feel that most believers walk through life this way… unfortunately, they’re right for the most part. But I also think that the issue goes much deeper than believers just trying to pull one over on each other and the world.

We can’t blame the world for what they’ve observed in and out of the Church as far as Christians are concerned and we can’t blame them for not reacting to it the way Jesus would because it’s impossible to truly imitate someone that you’ve never known. That being said, I confess that I too have struggled with the fact that most Christians find it easier to wear a mask than they do to be honest about their sin and struggles; but God in His goodness, made it a point to reveal to me that honesty alone isn’t the answer. Honesty void of love accomplishes little if anything! I have heard many pastors preach the importance of being real and honest but I’ve heard far fewer preach the importance of choosing to be a safe place for that type of honesty to take place… and those that have, usually fail to provide the proper training within their church to see it accomplished. It’s like two halves of a puzzle… we need both sides.

Now, granted, there will always be those who for the sake of their own pride, still choose to wear the mask of perfection regardless of how well their honesty would be received! Even then however, we should be filled with mercy for those who struggle with pride because I know from personal experience that it is really just the go-to mask for insecurity!

I have known people on both sides of the coin and I’m sad to say that I’ve found myself on both sides of the coin numerous times. I have worn the mask of perfection more times than I can count and I have been an unsafe place for honesty and failure more times than I would ever want to admit!

If there is one thing that I’ve learned through experience, it is this: that Truth without Love destroys and Love without Truth fails! We must find a way to build each other up with honesty. We must learn when to speak and when not to speak. We must follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and choose words that heal, instead of words that wound.

I have also learned that there are few things more comforting than knowing that you are safe to be honest in the presence of a friend or family member that genuinely loves you. I understand that sometimes it’s hard to not let feelings control our reactions to someone’s honesty, especially when it involves sin. This is why it’s so important to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit; He has eyes to see things that we can’t and is willing and able to reveal those things to us. He knows the whole story and sees the whole picture! We must view everyone as human and prone to mistakes; but first, we must also agree to see ourselves as those who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) because it humbles us, filling us with compassion instead of self-righteousness, and enables us to show love and mercy to those around us.

Life is painful for Christians and non-Christians alike (Matthew 5:45)! Unfortunately, pain can give birth to sin… that is why it is never our place to condemn someone for where they’ve ended up, or else we could find ourselves passing judgment on their pain! We must take all of this into consideration when providing a safe place for a friend! As I said before, pain is usually the back-drop for someone’s sin-story. Extend the Father’s grace and mercy to them; love them genuinely; commit to pray for them and with them; encourage them in wise-decision making; be encouraging and speak words of life to them; give them a hug and let them cry it out; confirm God’s love for them; be truthful, gentle, and kind; and most of all, point them to the arms of Jesus Christ because He is enough for their every need and there is no other remedy that will suffice!

Try loving others this way, and watch what God does with it! He will amaze you! I would love to hear your own stories of how you apply this truth and how you have seen God move through it, whether you have been on the giving end or the receiving end! May God Bless you all!!

The Missionary

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:16-20

A dear friend of mine and I were talking a few months ago about God’s innate ability to use everything to His glory. I know that I’ve mentioned God’s desire to use our suffering for good numerous times, but I have yet to paint it in the light that I’m about to.

When we think of the mission field, we usually think of foreign lands and continents; and though it certainly is part of the “mission”, it isn’t the mission in its entirety.

The missionary’s purpose is to proclaim the Truth that sets the captives free and to care for the needs of the people! Therefore, by definition, the mission field is everywhere! There are spiritual and physical needs all around us right where we are! We don’t have to get on a plane to participate in the “Great Commission”, though for some, it is God’s will.

Back to the conversation that I had with my friend; we were discussing how hard it can be to face a physical disability, disorder, and/or illness. Her and I, as well as some other dear friends of ours have unfortunately walked that road. After sharing about the feelings of uselessness that come with physical ailments, my sweet friend shared something from her Bible study by Beth Moore. She said this:

Every time we’ve been broken and then allowed God to repair us, that mending becomes part of our equipping. All of the pain we’ve endured. All the abuse and misuse. Every betrayal. Every wound. Where God mends, He equips. We embrace a hurting woman (or man) with far greater empathy because we’ve been one. We’re equipped to minister to her (or him) precisely because God has sewn up our similar wounds. Do you see it? If we still have life and breath, God can re-purpose every shred of havoc the devil wreaks.”

So very true!! Everybody knows that physical ailments are often painful or uncomfortable physically. Something that people don’t expect though, is that its often painful emotionally as well. Though her statement can apply to any and every hardship; I feel specifically led to speak to the issue of physical struggle… especially when the healing doesn’t come and it becomes hard to see how it can be used for good! We may find it easy to feel like our illnesses are pointless and useless, but I assure you that they are not.

A few years ago, I watched one of the sweetest; most godly; and unfortunately, youngest women I have ever known succumb to illness after a failed heart and lung transplant. She wasn’t yet 30 years old… only one year older than me in fact. We couldn’t understand why this was her fate. She loved God and people like no one I had ever seen. From a human perspective, we all felt like God had made a mistake. Then the day of her funeral came; the sanctuary was packed full to overflowing. Her life was celebrated with joy and God was glorified! It didn’t feel like a funeral at all, it felt like a worship service. At the end, a large number of people gave their hearts to Christ for the first time. At that moment, everything became a little clearer… although, we missed her terribly, God reminded us that our love for her would never be greater than His own love for her… He loves us all the same way. He had simply called her home to a life free of suffering and saved many others in the process!

You see, we know that God allows missionaries to travel to foreign countries, to dangerous lands, to prisons, and even to their death for His glory and the good of the world but do we realize that He often allows us to walk through suffering for the same reason? Although God cares deeply about the here and now, He is Heaven minded and cares more about keeping us from an eternity of suffering than He does keeping us safe from temporary ones.

What if He can make even our illnesses and hardships part of His mission? Now I’m not at all proposing that God is pleasured by our pain and suffering because He’s not! We must never forget the truth that it wasn’t part of His original design and that He has promised to return and restore earth back to its perfect state, absent of all suffering! However, the fact that He has chosen to allow it to take place without allowing for it to be wasted speaks volumes to His power and sovereignty! He is good and only allows what can be used for your good and the good of others. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Just like the missionaries locked behind bars in foreign countries, there are missionaries who are locked up in the prisons of their own bodies. God is the Healer, but there are times when eternal blessings are best accomplished through suffering. My dear friend Brooke who’s story I just shared, embraced her mission of speaking to those who were suffering physically. She did so by being an example of grace and compassion. Those who have suffered great pain are usually the first to recognize it in others and the first to reach out to the hurting. You can test this out in yourself. You will find that our hearts are usually tender towards our own experiences. Being able to relate opens the door for empathy and compassion.

What are your experiences? What are your sufferings? Have you made them part of your mission? If not, wouldn’t it be a good use of our alone time with God to surrender our sufferings to Him in such a way that makes them usable to Him… to use for good what Satan means for evil? Talk about disarming the enemy… let us slay him with his own weapon… and not just in our own lives but in the lives of others as well!

There are those around you who are suffering and who feel alone, counted out, and lost. You’ve been where they are! There’s the need, now go counter the lies of the enemy with the Truth that God loves them and is well acquainted with every kind of suffering. Hebrews 53:3 (Amplified Version) says this: “Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are ill-treated, since you also are liable to bodily sufferings.”

Maybe you don’t feel adequate enough to make it a “Mission”… You don’t have to because the truth is that you aren’t and neither am I! We are called to let the Holy Spirit have His way in us and depend solely upon Him and His adequacy. Our only responsibility is to obey. If we just let God be God, He will do the rest! Embrace your mission field because whether it’s to those hurting physically, emotionally, or spiritually… it is for a purpose that He has chosen to send you! God Bless You All!!

Sucker Punched By God??

Genesis 32:22-31

‘So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying,

It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”’

Not long ago, I listened to James Robinson interview a woman by the name of Kasey Van Norman on his show “Life Today”. She spoke about her book titled “Raw Faith.” She describes her amazing battle with cancer and how her diagnoses initially felt like a “sucker punch from God”. Now there may be some that cringe at that statement but as I continued listening to her story; I found myself able to relate to how she felt. Its hard to receive a devastating diagnosis or any other type of life-altering news that comes suddenly! I was drawn by God to read Genesis 32:22-31. Some of you may be familiar with this passage, while some of you may not be so here it is in context:

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?”’

‘“Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.’

I bet Jacob would have described it as a sucker punch as well. God didn’t choose to challenge Jacob in the midst of his worst sin, instead he chose to do it in the midst of an already repentant heart. You see, Jacob was finally on his way to make amends for stealing his brother’s inheritance by deceiving his father and pretending to be Esau. I’m sure God’s timing didn’t make sense to Jacob either. It certainly didn’t to Kasey Van Norman… Kasey had been serving in full time ministry with her husband, rescuing orphans off the street and out of abusive homes; you know, changing the world for Jesus- lol! She confessed to struggling with the “why now” question.

Isn’t it so like us in our human tendency to think that we’ve arrived at a place in life where we are no longer in need of God’s molding and just need to be let be to “Do God’s Will.” I noticed with myself, that I sometimes know the perspective that I’m supposed to have; but then I’m faced with a crisis and what I really believe suddenly surfaces. Out comes the “But God?” and the “Why Now?” Thankfully, as much as that is an accurate depiction of us; it is also so like God to give us a healthy dose of reality! God has a purpose for everything that He allows, even the difficult things!

Make no mistake, God met Jacob therefrustrating. He knows that its hard, painful, scary, frustrating, and even confusing to walk through hardship. But if we are willing to open the eyes of our hearts and participate in the struggle, we will most assuredly meet our Savior! Sometimes, although we think we are wrestling with the enemy, we’re actually wrestling with our Heavenly Father. We tend to think that we are the ones that desire and seek out deeper relationship with Christ; but perhaps we’ve forgotten who was the first to seek who out? God has always been the initiator of intimate relationship with us and He will do whatever it takes, even if it means allowing pain, discomfort, and even failure! Sometimes, its the limp that we need in order to draw closer to God. Our woundings require nothing of us except to be utterly dependent upon God! It is both the most dangerous and safest place to be! That’s not to say that God is out to beat us up, because He’s not! We live in a fallen world and experience its results daily, but God is good and transforms our ashes into something beautiful! The enemy may have plans to destroy us, but God has plans to redeem us and every situation that touches our lives!!!

Jacob may have experienced fear, pain, discomfort, and even regret during his struggle; but he walked away forever changed and marked by His God. Hang on in the midst of your struggle and persevere to the very end! It may “FEEL” as though God just wanted to “Sucker Punch” you, but that’s impossible because there’s no purpose in it… only the enemy desires to sucker punch us. Hang onto God, draw closer to Him, and expect to be blessed by your Father who loves you and only does and allows things concerning you to take place if they serve a Kingdom Purpose! God Bless you all!!

The God Who Sees… Me?

‘So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are ‘God who sees,’ because I have truly seen the One who looks after me.”‘– Genesis 16:13 ISV

Do you ever feel invisible? I don’t mean literally of course… but mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually? I sure have and must confess to you that I still do at times. Sometimes, its easy to start believing that we are walking through our struggles alone; and maybe we are to an extent… many of us hide our struggles from those around us out of fear… fear of judgment, fear of rejection, fear of pity, fear of weakness, fear of failure. On top of that, most of us also fail to surrender our problems to God. Then of course, there’s people like me who have to surrender his/her problems repeatedly because we have the habit of picking them back up again!!! Sigh… Some things aren’t an instant fix. There are certain issues, trials, tribulations, relationships, hurts, health issues, etc. that have to be laid down daily… or maybe you’re like me and have something that you have to lay down many times a day! Sigh again… Life is hard, can I get an Amen- lol?

I’ve often wrestled with feeling like no one truly understands my pain. The truth is, when it comes to people, that’s partially true; mainly because I tend to hide it but also because it seems impossible to fully understand the depth of another person’s experience. Even two people who experience the same thing have different genetic filters (physical and mental) that can affect how an experience will impact them. I share this truth, not because I want to make one person feel stronger than the other or make one person feel weaker than the other, but because I want us to realize that if someone we know is struggling in an area that happens to be our strength, we still have no right to tell them that its not hard. There is someone out there who’s strength is our worst weakness… it would crush us to hear them tell us that it’s not hard when it is. No one person is the same, though God has given us the ability to relate to and sympathize with one another… but only when we are willing to see each other through the eyes of God because only He sees what truly is!

The other day, I was having one of those hard days, the kind where you question if God really understands and if He truly sees you. So, I got honest with God and confessed that I was feeling as though my struggle had gone unseen! The key word there by the way is “Feeling”… few things have a greater tendency to lie to us than our feelings! We don’t always “feel” the truth!

In response to my confession, God spoke a Word of Encouragement straight to my heart! He said, “I see you Sarah when no one else does!” He then reminded me of Genesis 16:13 which says, “‘So she (Hagar) called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are ‘God who sees,’ because I have truly seen the one who looks after me.”‘– Genesis 16:13

Later on in Genesis 21:8-21, we see Hagar in a very different frame of mind after being rejected and cast out into the desert with her only son. She was no longer looking for the “One Who Sees”, instead, she had lost all hope; placing her son far enough away from her so that she wouldn’t have to see him die; in tears, she closed her eyes and turned her head away. But the “The One Who Sees” didn’t… He never does! You see, God doesn’t just see us the way other people do. He sees us for WHO we really are, and WHERE we really are– the good, the bad, and the ugly! He saw Hagar’s misery in the desert in the same way that He sees us in the midst of our struggles… and it moves Him to compassion!

He sees the struggling mother or father who just can’t seem to measure up to their own expectations; He sees the spouse trying to hold their marriage together; He sees the man or woman struggling to find a job; He sees the man or woman trying to forgive infidelity; He sees the one who is bound up in the chains of addictive sin; He sees the man or woman suffering a physical illness, disease, or disorder; He sees the man or woman forced to make the choice to end an un-godly pre-marital relationship; He sees the one grieving the loss of a loved one; He sees the parent struggling to repair broken relationships; He sees the child struggling to forgive abuse, lack of love, or feelings of rejection; He sees the person struggling with fear and anxiety; He sees the person struggling with mental illness and/or the label of it; He sees the starving and the thirsty; He sees the persecuted and the enslaved; and He see’s the one striving to earn God’s approval and grace, which can’t be done. I pray that I didn’t leave anything out, but if I did, please know that God sees you too! He sees every suffering! He not only has created purpose for it, but one glorious day, He will also avenge our sorrows… every last one of them!

The enemy loves our hardships because he knows that he can use them to tell us lies! One thing I know for certain, if Satan’s mouth is moving, he’s lying. He loves to condemn those in the body of Christ because that condemnation sets itself up like a wall between us and Jesus! You see it’s not the sin that separates us from Him anymore… Jesus took care of that on the cross… the only thing that can separate us from God now is when we decide to give the enemy our ear and agree with him and his condemnation! The enemy is constantly talking… and talking loudly too… He will lie to you about every area of your life… your salvation, your health, your marriage, your kids, your friendships, your finances, and most of all… he will tell you that God doesn’t care and that He’s not with you… but I am here to tell you and myself that in the Name of Jesus… HE IS WITH YOU! He is the “God Who Sees” us… but He not only sees our sufferings, He also carries us through them! He will neither leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5); in fact, He goes before us, making a way… even into suffering (Deuteronomy 31:8)!

If you’re facing a tough time right now regardless of what it is, trust that God sees you intimately; in fact, He sees things that even you can’t, including how it all turns out- lol! Don’t lose hope… Trust Him! Find your rest in knowing that even if the entire world forgets about you and your pain… God never will! God Bless You Friends!

Repentance

When he came to his senses…”- Luke 15:17a

(Read the Parable of the Lost Son in Context in- Luke 15:11-32)

Anyone who has walked in sin for any length of time can testify that it’s truly only fun for a season- lol! It will always take you farther from God than you ever intended (v.13), it will demand of you more than you could ever hope to pay (v.13), and it will imprison you in chains that are harder to break off than they are to put on (v.14-16)! We see this in the “Parable of the Lost Son” found in Luke 15:11-32.

It’s safe to say that the younger son never intended to fall a far as he did. Being forced to eat with pigs may just seem like gross imagery to us but to the Jews, this was beyond detestable. Pigs were considered the most ritually unclean of all of the unclean animals.

Jesus was giving His Jewish listeners a very graphic picture of the reality of sin! From a reader’s perspective, it seems astonishing to us that it’s not until verses 16 and 17, when he has been degraded to dining in the filth of swine, that he realizes that he has fallen further than intended! However, we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and are guilty of not returning home as soon as we should have, let alone guilty of leaving home in the first place!

Of all of the things that prove themselves hard in the Christian walk, perhaps there is none more difficult than “Repentance”. Many of us “Christians” find it easier to define “repentance” than we do to actually live it out. However, its definition is even more complex than many of us realize. The Hebrew versions of “Repent” mean “to return” and to “feel sorrow”. This was the old testament understanding of repentance but with the coming of our Savior, we realize that it means that and so much more! The Greek word for “Repent” in the New Testament is “Metanoia”, which literally means a change of mind and thought process. In other words, a transformation!

We see this in verses 17-20 of our parable. The prodigal son gives us a model of what “True Repentance” looks like. The Repentance Process starts with revelation. You see when we walk into sin, it is ALWAYS because we believed a lie that led us there (one we have failed to recognize and rebuke)… oddly enough, it is that same lie that tends to keep us there!

Accepting the revelation of a countering truth is the first step towards freedom! We must recognize and call the lies for what they are, and then set our minds to believing God’s Word about our sin, about who He says we are, and about who God is! You see, it’s not enough to just try and change our own minds about sin because sin itself alters and distorts our mind in that it changes our beliefs about God and ourselves; which also becomes sin. To be truly repentant, we need a transformed mind and right theology given to us by the Holy Spirit, not just righteous actions. We need to take God at His Word and lay every lie at His feet!

I have noticed that there is a prevalent tendency among us “Christians” (including myself) to automatically assume that the story of the Prodigal Son doesn’t apply to us. In fact, we often do it with every sermon that we hear or read- lol. Instead of listening to our own benefit, we usually start thinking to ourselves, ‘I wish “So and So” was here because they really need to hear this message!’ Or, ‘I sure hope “So and So” is getting this!’ LOL!! As funny and silly as that is, the truth is, we all need to hear this message, as well as every other message from God’s Word! I would even go so far as to say that no one ever needed to hear a sermon more than the one who foolishly believes that they don’t!

There is only ONE type of person whom Jesus won’t set free, and it’s those who won’t admit that they are in bondage! You see, maybe you don’t see yourself in the younger brother but then you could probably find yourself in the older “righteous” brother. Even though he claimed differently, he was not without sin. The exact opposite actually, he was guilty of the sin who’s root is always the deepest… PRIDE! He was self-righteous, jealous, envious, and bitter. If he was truly without sin and not in need of repentance, His Father (whom represents God) wouldn’t have had to speak truth to him in an attempt to “TURN HIS MIND AROUND”! Confess your sin; confess it to the LORD and confess it to your brothers and sisters in Christ (v.18, v.21). And if you are on the receiving end of that confession, accept it without condemnation or judgment, lest you be caught with a stone in our hand!

Everything in our nature desires to hide in our sin as Adam and Eve did in the Garden (Gen. 3); but that’s part of the lie of Satan and opposite of the will of God! Nothing gets healed in the dark because that is where the enemy thrives. We are wise to not believe that we are above falling for the the enemy’s lies; God’s Word tells us that even a strong man can be bound up in sin (Matt. 12:29) and when that happens, all that we posses spiritually can be stolen from us! Though painful, bring your sin into the light through your confession and let God set you free in the mighty name of Jesus (Matt. 5:15, 24)!

Don’t deny your need for a changed mind (Matt. 11:20-24)! Be sorry, confess, accept the revelations of God, accept grace, be of a changed mind, rebuke the lies, claim and pro-claim the Truth, change course, and do differently… and do it in that order! Allowing the grace of God to change your mind will not only help set you free, it will open up the flood gates of blessing on your heart, mind, and life! The symbols used in the parable speak of the blessings that come from True Repentance. It tells us that we will receive the Father’s grace and forgiveness (the Robe- Isaiah 61:10, Luke 15:20-24), receive authority over the enemy (the Ring- Luke 10:19), receive the power of the Holy Spirit (Shoes- Acts 1:8), and that we can receive it all in the mighty name of Jesus! AMEN!

An Honest Portrait

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled (ranked below others who are honored or rewarded), and he who humbles himself (keeps a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly) will be exalted (elevated in rank).”- Luke 14:11 (Amplified Version)

This verse speaks “Truth” into so many areas of our lives: the work place, the family, the Church, etc. We tend to think that we are being humble as long as we aren’t shouting our own praises from the roof-top with a megaphone. But sometimes, it’s not just the things we’re doing and saying that are motivated by pride, it’s the things that we aren’t doing and saying. For instance: it’s when we refrain from sharing Christ with others because we worry more about their opinion of us than we do about their salvation; it’s when we choose to not be honest about our short-comings and failings with those that we mentor because we have bought into the lie that we must be perfect to make a difference; it’s when we refuse to apologize to someone we’ve hurt because in our eyes, we are never wrong.

We all fall short, but thankfully we have a Savior who doesn’t! He is the very definition of perfection and in His grace, He has made it possible for us to walk in righteousness by clothing us in His own! Halleluiah! How wonderful it is that nothing is wasted, not even our failures! In fact, it’s our lack of perfection that God uses to reveal to us our need for a Savior. The fact that, given time, Christians eventually try to hide that need is actually rather comical if you think about it! It’s the foundation of our faith! What man/woman couldn’t do on their own, God did for them once and for all! God doesn’t need you to be perfect, He just needs you to know you’re not!

Like me, you have someone in your life that needs to know that you’re not perfect (a child, a grand-child, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a co-worker, an employee, a student, an in-law, etc.)… or maybe they themselves already know that you’re not perfect but could still benefit from hearing you say that you know you’re not- lol!

It will amaze you at how much this one step accomplishes regardless of the situation! As a parent of two young girls myself, I want to take a quick moment to address a couple of common problems among parent-child relationships: as parents, we often buy into the lie that if we share the mistakes we’ve made with our children, then we will be tempting them to make those same mistakes! That is a lie straight from the enemy’s mouth! He wants you to hide it because he knows that a testimony to God’s grace and a cautionary tale will do much to prevent others from following suit! Be aware however, that there is a difference between “sharing” and “bragging”. Don’t ever make the mistake of bragging about your sin to others (especially your children) because doing so may encourage them to make the same mistakes; instead, be honest about your mistakes but do so with a repentant heart. Another problem I’ve noticed among parents is the tendency to avoid apologizing to their children when they’ve done or said something hurtful. The good news is that no matter how much time has passed, if they’re still living, it’s never too late to humble yourself and apologize for those woundings. We can show our children no better example of what it means to be humble than when we model it in our own personal relationships with them and our spouses.

This life should be lived to the glory of the Father! Who cares if the people around you know you’re not perfect? Let your testimony (short-comings and all) point them to the One that is! I once heard someone say that if you truly want to mean something to someone, then let them know your faults. I personally know that there’s truth in that statement because it hasn’t been my successes and triumphs that God has been able to use most in my life to witness to others, its been my failures and short-comings! It’s my testimony of how God has stayed with me in the midst of all of my failure that seems to speak grace and life into the hearts of those I witness to.

So, let’s stop exalting ourselves by pretending to be something we’re not, and let’s start exalting God by loving others in Truth! Let us humbly paint an honest portrait of ourselves and thus a better picture of Christ and His Grace!!!!

Grace

 

Matthew 5:38-48

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons/daughters of your Father in heaven.”

I’ve spent enough time with Christians and been one myself long enough to know that most of us, if not all of us wrestle with the topic of grace. There’s a tendency within myself to strive for goodness and approval; sometimes to the point of forgetting that perfection actually isn’t possible. I used to cling to the notion that grace demanded right behavior as tribute but I’m learning that grace in its truest form doesn’t demand right behavior, but instead initiates and produces it! When we receive grace, something miraculous takes place in our spirit-man! Truth’s seed can be planted in our hearts but without grace, it will never grow! Grace is like living water, breathing new life into all it touches.

We can often gauge our own understanding of grace by how we treat those who don’t deserve it, including ourselves. You see grace isn’t complete without mercy. It’s not just giving someone something that they don’t deserve like forgiveness, its also not giving them something that they deserve like judgment or condemnation. It was interesting for me as I began to discover my own tendency to deny even myself the grace offered to me in the Word of God. You see, for how ever much I denied others grace, I was usually even harder on myself for my own shortcomings. The sad part about that tendency is that we as Christians can’t bestow grace until we understand it, and we can’t understand it until we’ve fully received it! In other words, when we fail to receive it, we also fail to give it because we don’t understand its value and we lack the compassion that grace and mercy both produce and require! Christ offered us forgiveness and redemption when we didn’t deserve it. I don’t know about you, but I still don’t deserve it. Well, okay I lied, I do know about you… you don’t deserve it either but I only know that because God’s Word says so in Romans 3:23… “

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Although most Christians would never admit it, we have the tendency to want to view grace as an injustice because it seems to take the place of justice. Make no mistake, God is both full of Grace and Truth. It is Truth that makes Him just; He sees things for what they are and although He loves and meets us where we are, He doesn’t ignore what needs to be dealt with. Grace forgives sin, but grace also deals with it! God desires to prosper His people and to give them a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Instead of ignoring sin, He deals with it, transforming us into who He’s called us to be; all the while lovingly and patiently meeting us where we are! God hates sin, but He does NOT hate people; His heart overflows with compassion and love for us! This is the model that He has given to teach us how to love others, even those who don’t deserve it. We are called to love and meet people where they are.

I had someone once ask me what I thought about Matthew 5:38-48 and what it meant, as if maybe it had an alternate meaning of some kind. My response was that this scripture passage means exactly what it says, without exception! Don’t worry if you have struggled with this verse though because so have I! In fact, I have often caught myself ignoring and avoiding it because of the mere inconvenience! But no more! It is the way of Jesus, and therefore, Christians must follow! It’s not about what we do or even don’t do, it’s about what He’s already done and is doing! By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to rise above sin, find freedom, and fulfill God’s calling on our lives! God promises us spiritual victory if only we will trust Him! I love that even though this is a promise of God, His love for us doesn’t depend on what we do! Praise God, because we are not the least bit dependable and we fail! This quote from a prayer by A.W. Tozer sums it up:

If nothing in us can win Thy love, nothing in the universe can prevent Thee from loving us. Thy love is uncaused and undeserved!

People will hurt you, disappoint you, offend you, persecute you, violate you, and break your heart. These are the people that we are called to love. In fact, Matthew 5:38-48 makes it clear that we can’t call it love if we only show it to those that make loving them easy! So love well! Forgive and accept forgiveness! Give grace to those who don’t deserve it and actively choose to love those who deserve the opposite, those who’ve earned judgment. Show mercy to the guilty, even the mean-spirited; Jesus did and aren’t you thankful?! I know I am! May God Bless You All!

In Christ,

Sarah

Made For Heaven

‘Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world….. my kingdom is from another place.”’

John 18:36

Several months ago, I found myself verbally voicing my grievances to God concerning the harshness of life and our human longing for something more. I’ve been alive long enough to realize that suffering is a human reality, Christian or not; and I also notice that no matter how good things are in life, I will always long for a perfect world.

This longing has always caused me to wrestle with what seems on the surface to be a contradiction of truth. It brings me to ask, “Why do I long so deeply for perfect health, a fearless mind, a risk-less love, a life where death doesn’t exist, and for my impact on this world to matter and transcend generations when Jesus supposedly came here to set us free from the world?”

You see, it’s not a contradiction at all. We long for a different version of our world simply because we were not made for this one (John 18:36). The fact that the very thought of death makes us shudder is proof that our spirits were not made for it! I don’t know about you but sometimes I want so deeply for a perfect world that I’m brought to weeping. My spirit is constantly crying out for it. Every person was created with this longing engrained inside of them fueled by the truth that we were made for more! Sadly, many of us (Christians included) have believed those longings to be lies and have succumbed to the thought that this is as good at it gets!

Jesus came to set us free from the lies of our enemy and this world! Those deep longings aren’t lies, but rather they testify to the truth, if only we’d have faith enough to believe! I love the works of C.S. Lewis, especially when addressing the topic of Heaven. His most famous work, “The Chronicles of Narnia” (recently made famous again through cinema) has much to tell us about the subject. In chapter 15 of the final book titled “The Last Battle”, Lewis paints an important picture for us as evil has forever been defeated in Narnia…

“Listen, Peter. When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, He Meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures have been drawn into the real Narnia through the door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.” ….

‘It was the unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.”

The same is true for our world; if you have ever loved parts of this world, it is because they were shadows of the real versions yet to come! Everything that makes our hearts jump only does so because it shadows the Truth and mirrors God’s story! Numerous times, I have found myself filling with excitement in the middle of an action movie as it reaches its pivotal climax (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Chronicle of Narnia, Captain America, The Avengers, Thor– just to name a few- haha) where the heroes are caught up fighting for truth, justice, mercy, love, and most of all– Humanity! God showed me that the reason my heart excites at those moments is because it’s a shadow of the real story; and even though it pales in comparison to the real one, my spirit still sings at even a hint of it!

Every desire of a man or woman’s heart has a real and counterfeit version of fulfillment. The world’s versions are filled with sin, lead to disappointment, don’t last, and always fall short! God’s versions however, are real and will last for eternity! Spiritually and emotionally, we can experience portions of the real versions, but only portions until we are given heavenly bodies to handle the fullness of its glory! As humans, we eventually reach a point where we can no longer deny the frailty of our mortal bodies. Healing is real and certainly still takes place this side of Heaven to the glory of God; but let’s be honest, none of us make it out of this thing called life with our current bodies still breathing (unless we’re here when Christ returns of course… we can only hope); instead He gives us new ones worthy of the Kingdom of God!

If you’re tired of pain, know that there is a place where it doesn’t exist! If you are anxious, fearful, and scared, know that there is a place where the light outshines the darkness and the only thing terrorized is fear itself! If you mourn, know that there is a place where tears of sorrow never fall again! If you are wounded, know that there is a place where even scars are healed! If you are tempted, know that God delivers now and that there is also a place where the battle doesn’t even exist. If you are nearing the end of life (aren’t we all), know that there is a place where death will be the only and last thing to ever pass away! These frail shells that we wear are like that of a cocoon, a preparation chamber for the lives that we were meant for; the lives that we will eventually spend eternity in! Death is a black veil, shielding us from the everlasting light that is to come. It is the enemy’s final lie– so don’t be deceived!

Be encouraged dear ones! If you know Jesus, this is your hope, to one day see your longings fulfilled and grasp a perfect world, made that way by the one who fills it with His presence! But if you don’t know Christ and you’re still breathing, it’s never too late to know Him now! God Bless you!