Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mount Up

"Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'? 
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. 
His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength  to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." - Isaiah 40:27-31

How often do we think God is not for us when life throws us a curve ball that He doesn't notice us in the midst of our pain and suffering. Notice the beginning of this verse, "Why do you say, O Jacob and assert, O Israel, My way is hidden from the LORD and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God." 

I have to admit, I used to think that God was a God of vengeance. That a certain sin from my past wasn't completely paid for on the cross. I thought that because of this particular sin from my past that God was going to pay me back and take something from me as some form of retribution. This lie eventually reached it's pinnacle when it turned into full blown depression.  Thinking that my depression was some form of punishment because of my past sin I began to think that my desperation and depression escaped the notice of my God. I believed that my depression was a form of punishment from God. That I deserved to feel this way because of what I did. 

What I didn't realize at the time was that all the vengeance that I believed that I deserved because of  MY sin was placed on HIS Son. Yes, my SIN, that horrible SIN that I committed did deserve retribution. It did deserve vengeance but CHRIST took it on my behalf. He took the consequence of death on His behalf. It was through wrestling through the depression that He revealed to me His character and His intimacy in the moment of my weakness. Here is what I learned back then and what I am continuing to learn.

God's  sovereign hand orchestrates circumstances to conform me into the image of His Son. 

God allows circumstances to shine a light on the wrong thinking and sin within me that He desires to change".

You see, God allows us to experience tough times and trials to reveal to us the sickness of sin that resides below the surface. This sin resides in our heart and when pressed due to our circumstances allows things within us to be revealed. 

Why revealed? Because He wants to change us, to conform us, to free us, from the bondage of sin. He desires to reveal things within us because He loves us too much to leave us in our current condition. 

He also allows our circumstances to reveal our wrong thinking about Him. According to Nancy Leigh DeMoss, What we believe about God is the most important thing about us. A lot of times our circumstances reveal to us what we really believe about Him. It is only when life throws us a curve ball that what we truly believe about Him will be revealed.

God also allows trails and sufferings so that He can reveal Himself  MIGTHY and more than able to meet every need in the midst of the storm. He allows us to experience intimacy and power in the midst of the fiery furnace. He is All Powerful, All Knowing, From Everlasting and to Everlasting. I know this and have experienced His intimacy and at times long for it no matter what it takes. If it takes depression,  so be it.

Did you notice the wording in Isaiah 40:31, yet those who WAIT on the LORD. To wait is not always easy. We want Him to fix our problems to take away the pain to change our circumstances and yet He tells us to WAIT. It is only through waiting on Him that we can be made more like Him. It is a transforming work that takes place while we are waiting and so often we want to rush the process.

Mount UP! Only when we view our momentary struggles in light of ETERNITY will we be able to mount up. It is only when we get past our present temporal perspective and view our suffering from an eternal perspective will we gain a renewed strength to finish the race marked out for us. 

This life is but a breath, a vapor, a mist; in light of eternity. When we mount up and look at our life as just a fleeting mist then our struggles become less about us and more about Him and His conforming work within us. Oftentimes, it is the struggle that forces our focus off of ourselves and onto Him. It forces us to look up and view our struggles from an eternal perspective and our life as He would view it from His Heavenly throne. He is sovereign over all of eternity. He knew my first day from my last day. He is in complete control of all things and in Him all things are held together.

The picture above was taken by me while riding in a boat near the Nanahala National Forest. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mighty Warrior

Do not let your hearts be troubled trust in God; trust also in me. John 14:1

We as women are so in tune with our feelings and emotions that at times we fall into the trap of believing that our feelings and emotions are truth. How we feel about something becomes our reality. We rely so much on how we “feel” about a situation that our feelings often override God’s truths. 

For instance, when we say things like, "that just doesn’t “feel” right to me", "I don’t “feel” like God loves me", "I don’t “feel” like I love my husband anymore", "I’m “feeling” a little off today", "I “feel” like I’m about to lose it!”  We are allowing how we feel at that particular moment to define our actions and our reality. It is at these moments that we must remember that God's truths override our feelings.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  The Greek word for trouble in this verse is the word Tarasso, which means to agitate, to cause one inward commotion; to take away one’s calmness of mind. It goes on to use words like to disquiet, to strike with fear and dread; to suggest scruples and doubts.

When I read this definition I picture someone who is restless, who doubts, someone who is unfocused. Henceforth, the word Tarasso distracts us from God’s truths and causes our minds to be filled with lies and confusion. I will talk more about this tomorrow. But first, I want to address Gideon because I think we can learn a powerful lesson from observing his life. 

When we are feeling fearful but acting in faith, are we fearful or full of faith? 

I know you are thinking "whaT?!"  Where are you going with this, Liz?

Let me explain, Gideon "felt" fearful but acted in faith. He didn't bow down to his feelings of fear instead he asked God for a sign and he trusted Him with the outcome. He surrendered his fear to a mighty God.  He obeyed God. He didn't allow his "feelings of fear" to override God's truths. He might have been feeling fear during those times of battle but he didn't allow his fear to keep him from what God had called him to do. 

So let me ask again, was Gideon fearful or full of faith?

 Oftentimes, we allow how we are feeling to describe who we are. We feel guilty for "feeling" fearful even when we are acting in faith. Can I tell you Dear One, that often times when we act in faith despite how we feel we are trusting God. I believe it's much more honoring to Him when we trust Him despite how we feel.

"The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." 

Picture above is of Gracyn at Rosemary Beach.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Life of Focus?

I struggle to live a life of focus. I allow anxiety and worry to penetrate my life and distract me from living a life of purpose. I become distracted and consumed with every day worries that I allow the little things of this world to distract me from walking the path the Lord has prepared for me. 

If you can relate to these then I pray this blog finds you and encourages you. It is my prayer that through my struggles I can encourage you to press on toward the goal and a life of freedom and focus. 

The picture above was taken by me in Italy. I thought it captured perfectly what it means to have a long term vision for your life. Notice that the focus of the picture is on a far away house. For me, it captures living life with an eternal perspective. Keeping my mind focused on eternal things. Things that will make an eternal difference.  

In Michael Youssef’s book, Discover the Power of One, He states that Worry comes from a German word that means to strangle. He goes on to say that worry is a form of fear. It is a fear that things are not going to turn out as you expect. It is a fear that you are going to be hurt or rejected in the future or that something shameful from your past is going to come to light. It is a fear that God is not going to come through for you to protect you, provide for you or nurture you as you desperately long for him to do. Discover the Power of One.

Dr. Youssef goes on to give us these statistics. 40% of what we worry about never happens, 30% is in the past and we can’t change it. 12% worry needlessly about their health, 10% petty anxieties and 8% light worries. Discover the Power of One

Simply put, Worry strangles our faith and yields us powerless to make any real eternal difference. We miss out on so many amazing blessings and opportunities when we spend all our energy worrying about the future.
Therefore, I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 7:25-27

Now let’s jump down to verse 32-34; For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We see Jesus telling us not to worry about what we will eat or the clothes we will wear. Not to worry about the simple provisions of life and yet in our western material culture that is not our worry is it? And yet we are stilled worried. We aren’t worried about getting our basic survival needs met. We are worried about other things. Things like, will my child make the traveling team? Will I get invited to that party or why didn’t I get invited to that party? Or what should I wear to that party? If I could only lose 10 pounds I would look amazing in that dress? What if my kids don’t get into that school? My head has hurt for a couple of days, do I have a brain tumor? These are the things that infiltrate our mind and distract us. Now let me say here that I am stating the worries that can enter into my mind. I know all too way what it means to be distracted. So I'm speaking for myself in this matter but if these thoughts penetrate my mind I think it is safe to assume that I'm not the only one who struggles with distraction.

What would our lives look like if we lived a life of focus? 

Jesus, tells us to live one day at a time. Focus on today! Do not worry about tomorrow. Do not worry about the things you have no control over. I believe when we live a focused life we will be able to live our life with an eternal perspective. We will not be bogged down with the worries of the world and distracted by earthly things. I believe he is challenging us to live life with an eternal perspective; our minds focused entirely on eternal things. 

You know what my greatest fear is? It is that I will miss out on what God has created me to do because I am so focus and distracted on temporal things, things that in light of eternity are insignificant. 

When I focus on heavenly things and live my life with an eternal perspective my life takes on a whole new level of excitement and adventure. The worries of the day no longer matter. A life of focus.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fear of Things Unseen

I can't sleep. I know for most of you bloggers 11:30 isn't late. But, yours truly, is an early bird. I'm usually fast asleep by 10:30 so because of my unexpected insomnia I have finally decided to get up and blog whatever it is the Lord wishes for me to write. I will let you in on these thoughts running through my mind as I am and was desperately trying to fall asleep. The thought that keeps running through my mind is Fear is a form of worship. 
As most of you know, I struggle with fear. I don't struggle so much with fear of the things that I can see but rather fear of the things I can't see. 
For the longest time I had a hard time explaining why I was afraid. I would repeat over and over again to well meaning friends, "Yes, I know I have an alarm.' Yes, I know I can call my closest friends at midnight or later.' 'Yes, I know how improbable it is for someone to break into my house the one night my husband is away." But that is not what I'm afraid of, I'm afraid of the things I can't see. This admission has always surprised them and it has always been hard for me to admit. 
As a child,  I was afraid of monsters, ghosts and evil. I hated sleeping alone in my room. Most nights I would crawl into my parents room right after they fell asleep. I would sleep on the floor with no pillow and one blanket. I was desperate not to be left alone to fight the battle of fear, fear of that which I could not see but somehow knew existed.
Why do I tell you this? It is because it wasn't until the Lord reprimanded me that I was able to overcome my fear. Well, I did sleep at my parent's house last night due to being afraid but at least I was able to repent of my sin and ask for a fresh perspective.
So what was the Lord's reprimand? Fear of Satan and of evil is in essence a form of worship. When you fear evil you are in fact worshiping it. Fear the LORD your God and serve Him only. Fear is a form of worship. 
For instance, if I fear rejection I am worshiping man. If I fear pain, I am worshiping self. If I fear losing the things that I own, I am worship that which my hands have made. If I fear war or rumors of wars, I'm worshiping man.
And if I'm fearing all the evil in the world than I am in fact denying that, He who lives in me is greater than he who is in the world and I am worshiping and giving power to the enemy of the Living God. Power that is not due him. 
Notice the wording in these verses.
You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. Deuteronomy 6:13. 
Notice in the verse the key word only. Why does God tell us to fear Him only? I believe He tells us this because He knows that what we fear is what we will bow down to. Ultimately, fear will determine our actions. Fear will hold us hostage and keep us from doing what God has called us to do. 
Fear sets itself up against faith and renders us useless to the kingdom of God. In a later post, I want to address Gideon because He felt fear but acted in faith. There is a big difference between feeling fearful and reacting out of fear.
For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, " You are not to say, 'It is a conspiracy!' In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. "It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And he shall be your dread. "Then He shall become your sanctuary." Isaiah 8:12-14
I could spend an entire entry on this one verse but for now, I will let this powerful verse speak for itself.
He will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is upheld, he will not fear. Psalm 112:7
The fear of the Lord keeps all my other fears in check.