I have seen their ways,
but I will heal them;
I will guide them and
restore comfort to
Israel’s mourners.Isaiah 57:18
In our lives we all have had instances of brokenness, despair and desolation. Those times when we feel we are on our last leg, at the end of the rope about to lose our grip and fall on our last gasping breath before we give up and begin to drown.
Where we go from that point and what we do next speaks volumes about your current state of faith.
Do we lash out and blame those around us and our circumstances for the state of our woundedness? Or do we reach down into our inner core and summon the power of God’s promise to deliver us to a better place?
What I have learned about myself from facing trials in the workplace is that my faith, when strong, protects me with an armor of perspective. When I am weak and not connected with my faith, I am vulnerable to believe false accusations and claims of harm and wrongdoing. I recognize it, I know the feeling and know the damage it can do if I accept and embrace the crushing doubt.
What my defense mechanism triggers is a quick accounting of the facts: what do I have control of and what do I not have control of? Next, I better get right with God and do it quick. I remind myself — I am not in control, He is. Then and only then can I respond and act. Any other process, for me, is futile and ineffective.
One of my favorite scripture verses I lean on in times of introspection and self-assessment is this one:
And which of you by worrying
can add a single hour to his
life’s span?Luke 12:15
And if I am on my game and thinking clearly my first response is to slow everything down and pray. Asking for discernment, clarity, and focus surprisingly works like a gem. Once we slow our racing mind, cool our sweaty brow and take control of our breathing in an effort to focus on who is in controls then the problems diminish, and the solutions come into clearer perspective.
God is that lens of clarity we all need. We are many times our own problem. But as Jesus promises, we –as in me and Jesus together– are the solution. “Don’t be afraid; just believe”- Luke 8:50
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”Mark 5:34
Time after time in scripture Jesus proved and made examples of the power of healing through faith in the Lord. Jesus was the conduit, but faith was the pathway to the healing and rebirth.
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.Isaiah 58:8
It’s a partnership of pulling together. It is not a miraculous anointment from heaven, a surprise cleansing. It takes suffering, acknowledgement, surrender and faith.
Together, bound by faith and confidence, we are everything and anything we want to be. Alone, divided and broken we are only a sum of the remaining pieces–weakened by trial and doubt.
We all can heal, but only if our belief in the Lord is strong and steadfast.
This is what the Lord says to his anointed,to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:I will go before you and will level the mountains;I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.I will give you hidden treasures,riches stored in secret places,so that you may know that I am the Lord,the God of Israel, who summons you by name.Isaiah 45:1-3
When I was 17, I moved across the country, away from my family to the Midwest for college. I was unsure what God had planned for me there, but I knew that I needed a new adventure and was excited to strike out on my own. It is difficult to describe with words that first feeling I had when my parents dropped me off at school and drove away into the distance to go back to California. I watched their car drive out of my university and eventually out of sight. For the first time, I was truly on my own. I felt my stomach drop and tears welled up in my eyes. Reality hit and I began to immediately doubt my decision.
Those first months away from home were difficult. I spent many nights deep with sadness, missing my old life at home. Other nights I would be filled with joy at the exciting new venture I had bravely took head-on. Amidst the rollercoaster of emotions, I always had one underlying questions – What did God have planned for me here?
I wasn’t really a believer at the time, but I had gone to church my whole life and *generally* knew that God had a plan for our lives. Being from San Diego, I knew it was no coincidence that I ended up in Saint Charles, Missouri. It was random and I had zero connections to the area other than being recruited to play field hockey there. Despite not proclaiming Christ as my Savior yet, something inside of me knew there was a reason God brought me to this place.
Rewind back to the initial verse I kicked off with. Isaiah 45: 1-3 discusses a prophesy of Cyrus, who is a pagan leader God chooses to deliver the Israelites from their captivity. These verses were written 200 years before Cyrus was born. Meaning, Cyrus’ life was already planned out way before he was ever a thought in his parent’s minds. God had a plan for Cyrus’ life – He has a plan for yours too.
God planned to use Cyrus in mighty ways, even though he was no mighty person. God chose him, predestined him to be the deliverer of God’s people. God wasn’t particularly favoring Cyrus, rather he was caring for His people as a whole by providing them a way out of their suffering through Cyrus.
I know that God loves me, cares for me and sees me as beautifully and wonderfully made. But just as much as he sees me as His child, He also sees me as an instrument to His Kingdom, a vessel for which he can work through me. Just as he did Cyrus.
I quickly found out that God’s plan for me in Saint Charles was to find salvation in His son Jesus Christ and to dedicate my life to serving Him – no matter where I was living, working, etc. God saved me so that He could use me on my field hockey team, amongst my roommates and in my workplace. Just as Cyrus’s plan for his life was written 200 years before he was born – so was mine, and yours.
When I look back to my years in college, I am reminded of the good and perfect plan God had for me during my time there. Every day was certainly not good and perfect, but the things He brought me through and the lessons He taught me showed me that He truly is a good and perfect God.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.Psalm 119:105
God has already prepared a way for us. This truth alleviates me from worry and stress about tomorrow – something to which I still occasionally fall victim. God wrote the story of our lives generations ago, and has every intention of carrying out His good and perfect plan for us. All we must do is surrender control and open our hands to His authority.
The Lord will march out like
a champion,like a warrior he
will stir up his zeal;with a shout
he will raise the battle cry
and will triumph over his enemies.Isaiah 42:13
Like you, I’ve dealt with a lot of difficult people throughout my life. Whether it was at work, my children’s school, youth sports, or even my church, I encountered people who just wanted to be adversarial. And I am certain I was someone’s “difficult person” at one time or another. But I think the most painful experiences surrounding adversaries are when they are part of our family.
I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day about our two families. We both struggle with difficult parent situations. One day she and her sister had a heart to heart about a disagreement from a few weeks prior. With my Christian friend’s kind and gentle approach she spurred the revelation that they had become their parents. Each sister taking on the personality and fighting style of one of their parents. That revelation started a healing process in both of them. Truly a small victory.
In my own life I have transitioned through the stages of grief when it comes to my relationship with my parents. I denied there was a real problem in my family. When I finally recognized the problems, I became angry and fought constantly with my mother – trying to change her. I even had my own way of bargaining to try and create a Hallmark-style mother-daughter relationship. I would do things for her to help her see what a good person I really was. But my expectations and hopes were always dashed. I became depressed for awhile when I realized we would never be a family that loved being together. I just wanted to untie myself from my parents and let them go adrift. All of this was before I finally surrendered. I raised my white flag. But not to any human. To God.
But thanks be to God, who in
Christ always leads us in
triumphal procession, and
through us spreads the fragrance
of the knowledge of him everywhere.2 Corinthians 2:14
Paul wrote this to the church of Corinth during a very difficult time for him and his relationship with this church. They were angry with him for changing his plans about visiting. Some had started false preaching about him behind his back. And, as Warren Wiersbe states, “When Christians misunderstand each other the wounds can be very deep.” Isn’t that true of our families as well?
During the last few years, I have experienced that Christ-given “fragrance of knowledge of Him.” And as I have done so, I finally had to experience that last stage of grief – acceptance. For us Christians that acceptance comes, more importantly, with forgiveness. I stopped trying to change the situation by myself. And I started to rely on God to handle the situation with my parents. I hold on to the truth of who loves me for all eternity. And I’m learning how to stay tied to my parents without feelings of hurt and anger. As I spoke of this with my friend she announced very boldly, “And now you have VICTORY!”
..so you should rather turn
to forgive and comfort him,
or he may be overwhelmed by
excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg
you to reaffirm your love for him.
9 For this is why I wrote,
that I might test you and know
whether you are obedient in
everything. 10 Anyone whom you
forgive, I also forgive. Indeed,
what I have forgiven, if I have
forgiven anything, has been for
your sake in the presence of Christ,
11 so that we would not be
outwitted by Satan; for we are
not ignorant of his designs.2 Corinthians 2:7-11
I forgave my parents for not being able to provide me with what I was looking for in a relationship. I realized they had never been the recipients of overwhelming love. I stopped being angry and instead became thankful for the life which God has blessed me – a loving family of my own. Had I given up at any of the other 4 steps of grief surely Satan would have won. But like Paul, I am no longer ignorant of the devil’s designs.
Thanks be to God for the triumph He has promised us. We can hold fast knowing that, not only will He have victory over those who would do us harm, but also over our own souls which get injured and hurt by the world. We can have victory because the Spirit of God rests in us.
Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.
I’m writing this post on the United States’ election day. When you read it, you’ll know much more about who may be the next U.S. president. There’s a lot of anxiety and fear swirling around the world right now because of this election. Unfortunately, so much of it is based on misinformation or downright disinformation. And a lot of it is designed to create fear and distrust. What’s so different for me this presidential election is the peace I have, which is solely due to my trust in God. I am not afraid; I just believe.
In Mark’s retelling of Jesus bringing this young girl back to life he starts out with her father, a leader in the synagogue, coming to a large gathering around Jesus. He urgently pleaded with Jesus to come and heal his sick daughter. He believed that just by touching his daughter, Jesus will heal her. As Jesus walks through the crowds towards the man’s house a woman, who had been bleeding for 12 years, reached out and touched Jesus’ clothes. She thought:
“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”
Jesus knew at once that someone had put their faith in him. He turned to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30) Of course, a lot of people had probably touched him because they were all crowding around Him. We so often want to be “fans” of Jesus, His groupies. But how often do we turn to Him in complete and total surrender and ask for His healing power, His peace? How often do we put limits on His ability to “make all things work together for our good?” (Romans 8:28). In fact, the simple act of turning to the crowd, searching for the woman who touched Him, caused the disciples and friends of the girl’s father to be almost annoyed. He was taking time away from what he “should” have been doing which was healing the girl. In other words, we think Jesus as all knowing, all powerful and yet in the same breath assume he can’t do all things.
We should not be so astonished, so amazed that Jesus can, by just being, heal us. We should not be so astonished that He also chooses to take action in His time. If we believe and have faith in the truths of the Bible, we must expect that, if Jesus can raise a little girl from the dead, if he can raise Lazarus from being many days dead, then He can handle anything else this world throws at Him.
This knowledge and trust is what has brought me through, not only this election season, but through the unrest brought on by Covid19. Each time I try and take back my fears and worries I am reminded in my Bible studies and through my amazing Christian relationships that peace can only be fully achieved by placing those fears back in God’s hands. A good friend has been completely transformed this year through this same process. My BSGs (Bible Study Girls) were reflecting today about how few times this friend speaks of “her anxiety” — which she used to wear like a favorite coat. Imagine that – with all the mess that is 2020 her anxiety has all but disappeared. Pretty amazing. Those trials and tribulations that James writes of have been hammered home this year.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Have you taken these “opportunities” of trials to grow in your faith? To grow closer to God? To grasp the promise of Jesus’s peace? Another of my BSGs, who in a difficult trial, begged for God’s help and felt that peace descend over her. She described it as a weighted blanket – warm and calming. Isn’t that more of what we want rather than living in constant disarray, discombobulation and wailing?
So, as I wait for the results of this important election, I use each time my mind wants to lean into worry to instead lean into Jesus’ words – “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” And His amazing peace never fails to come over me.
The Lord bless me and keep me; the Lord makes his face shine on me and is gracious to me; the Lord turns His face toward me and gives me PEACE.
My youngest daughter is a poster child for God’s transformation. When she was a toddler, she constantly begged me to buy her bright and shiny things she saw advertised on tv then displayed on the grocery shelves. I left the grocery store many times during one of her meltdowns. As she got older, I heard on a daily basis of her “needs.” “I need more shorts (from the expensive store).” “I need more pants.” “I need a new straightener.” “I need a new (fill in the blank).” And then there were the social status issues: “Olivia’s mom gets her those, why can’t I have that?” We started calling her the family princess. My older daughter, who to almost frustration, never asks for anything. My prayer life was filled with asking for patience. This beautiful, smart, vivacious, talented, young girl acted like a spoiled brat. Thankfully, she reserved all the negative behavior for her home life. Away from home her teachers, coaches, and friends all loved her. But they didn’t have to live with her. My husband and I decided enough was enough. He started planning frequent mission projects for the two of them to participate in. She taught vacation Bible School. She got a job. We knuckled down on all those “needs.” And then we sent her off to college, waiting for her to start begging us for money each week.
James first starts in chapter 1 that we should consider it pure joy whenever we face trials (James 1:2). I loved my daughter immensely during those younger years. I enjoyed her humor, her ability to make any situation into a song. She was a fierce, talented competitor on the field. She would burst into the house after school and shower me with love. That’s what I would thank God for, not for when things went off the rails. Without the hard stuff I might not have fully appreciated the good stuff. So, when I sent her off almost 2,000 miles away for college my house felt quiet, too quiet. And for her, she came to realize how good she had it at home. She faced terrible roommates, crazy coaches, and bored, lazy professors. But she also was led to a relationship with Jesus, thanks to being invited to attend an Athletes In Action meeting. Her “needs” became a need to live in God’s love – not the world of earthly desires. She surrendered herself fully and in turn, found what really matters in life – an eternal love plus the love and friendships that make us better. Now when she asks, she asks with the right motives. She asks for God’s will – not her’s.
This amazing, transformed, daughter of Christ has plans. But they’re God’s plans. Her creative mind and her earthly tendency to “want stuff” is still there. It’s amazing to watch her pull it back in. You can tell that peace dwells more frequently in her. Before they got married about a year ago, she and her husband went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program. Having the desire to do it in the first place showed their spiritual maturity. They both have great jobs after having graduated college. And they could have a lot of “stuff.” But they made a plan with God in mind. My little girl who demanded so much is now so incredibly disciplined. And yes, she has thanked my husband and I many times over for instilling so many morals and values in her. But it’s God’s work that fully planted those in her heart. I truly believe the trials she went through while in college gave her a choice – to go down the earthly path or to turn and surrender to God.
James 4 was a message to my daughter.
James 4 is a message to all of us who struggle day in and day out with trying to control our lives. Trying to get all our “needs and wants” satisfied. It’s a message to all of us who have put “Self” in front of God. It’s also a message of hope that when we do what we ought to do, when we submit and surrender everything to God, He will draw near to us. We have a role to play and unless we take our required steps, God cannot finish the work in us. How many of us who struggle with money are willing to spend the next few months going through Financial Peace University?”
And lest we think “those people” are the ones that need to hear this message, the work God had to do in me with my relationship with my daughter was huge. When I finally surrendered her over to him, when I finally threw up my hands and said, “Ok, I’ve failed, I’ll try it your way,” I could start mending our relationship. When I started praying His will, and not mine, great things happened. The planning of her wedding was God’s gift to both of us. Had she been the “girl before God” she would’ve demanded expensive, well, everything. Instead she and her fiancé put together a tight budget. We made decorations. We eliminated needless activities. God sent them people who would make a cake for $60, a free videographer, an inexpensive caterer. They wanted the focus to be on Jesus. It was so darn fun.
God’s gifts to me, my two beautiful daughters, are just that – His gifts. And like my finances, and my marriage, and my home, I need to be a good steward of His gifts. So, I pray for His will be done. And may the devil flee.
When my eldest was two years old (she’s now 27) I quit my career job. It was a big decision for me as I placed so much value in working. I had never planned on being married and having children so getting a good education and then a good career was my grand plan. And here I was, about 10 years after graduating college, quitting. One day, we were out for a walk. At a busy intersection, the crosswalk light turned for us and I pushed the stroller in front of a line of waiting cars. Halfway across a man yelled out of his car, “Hurry up and why don’t you get a damn job!” I was mortified. I wasn’t angry with the man for being out of line, I was ashamed. Ashamed I didn’t have a job to identify me as “worthy.” How he would know my job status could only be the work of the devil.
Sometimes we accept the word of satan much easier than the Word of God
My value, my self-worth, was wrapped up in a career. Here I had a beautiful baby, a loving husband, a nice home and yet I was unable to see these gifts from God. I had a plan and I had quit that plan. I was a failure. Each day my husband would come home and out of habit ask me what I had done that day. Boy did that get my hackles up! I started inventing things I had done or making what little I had done sound so exhausting and important. I mean a trip to the dry cleaning can really take a lot out of you. Instead of enjoying those precious moments of playing hide and go seek with my daughter I fretted over my future.
Life seems so complex and we want to control it. By making our plans we try to take the chaos out of our lives. We don’t want to be those “losers” who don’t have enough money to live on when we retire. We make grand plans for our bank accounts. We try to position ourselves so we are the ones that get that great promotion. We commit ourselves to long term goals with creating a family, losing weight, travelling, careers and so much more. And yet, we forget about today. The right here and now.
That doesn’t mean we aren’t to be good stewards of our gifts. I did a Bible study once where the entire focus was on being a good manager of what God has placed in our hands. You see it’s never about having money or not having money with God. It’s never about having a good job or not. It’s not about saving money to buy a home or not. God’s has all good things in mind for us. It’s always about our relationship with Him. When we submit to the will of God, it all starts to make sense.
I used to pray for God to bring me joy one day. That day was, of course, when I was financially secure, my kids were in good jobs and married, and I finally had the perfect lakehouse. Sounds like the perfect plan, right? I kept putting off joy. Instead of investing in my eternal life by appreciating today, I was investing in my earthly life by ignoring today. I was reading a sermon by Charles Spurgeon today called, “Waiting Only Upon God.” He tells this story about the Scottish novelist and playwright Sir Walter Scott:
“Perhaps there never was a mind more gigantic than the mind of Sir Walter Scott: a man whose soul was as fertile as the newly broken soil of the land of gold. That man was a good man I believe, a Christian; but he made a mistake in the object of his life. His object was to be a lord, to found a family, to plant the root of an ancestral tree the fruit of which should be heard of in ages to come; magnificent in his hospitality, generous in his nature, laborious in his continual strife to win the object of his life, yet after all he died a disappointed and unsuccessful man. He reared his palace, he accumulated his wealth and one sad day saw it scattered to the wind, and he had lost that for which he had lived. Had he fixed his eye upon some better object than the pleasing of the public, or the accumulation of wealth, or the founding of a family, he might have got the others, and he would not have lost the first. Oh! had he said “Now I will serve my God; this potent pen of mine, dedicated to the Most High; shall weave into my marvellous stories things that shall enlighten, convince, and lead to Jesus,” he might have died penniless, but he would have died having achieved the object of his wishes—not a disappointed man.”
In other words, God gifts us in so many ways – with different talents, with finances, with family, etc – but when we make the plan to succeed at those, without seeking His Will, we will surely be disappointed at the end. We work and we toil. We stress and we plan. And we forget this one thing.
It’s true. We all will die. We don’t know the day or the hour. Without God as our light, without God as our object of desire, we waste our days clutching and worrying. Spurgeon goes on to say that so many of us make our plans and then turn to God asking what we should do and then go do what we originally planned. Sound familiar? In fact, after researching for this post I finally realized I hadn’t prayed yet what God wanted me to say. I kept bouncing back to my notes thinking about what I wanted to write. I finally just opened my computer, put my hands to the keys and said, “Tell me what you want me to say.” I had done my research, I had quotes and verses to pull from so I was prepared. But in the end, I was also willing to do what God told me to do.
I heard a sermon the other day called “Crazy Faith.” The pastor started out talking about Noah. Here’s this guy, most likely a farmer, who the Bible called a “righteous man.” Meaning he probably honored his debts, paid his workers and did a bang-up job with taking care of his family. He had it all planned out. Toil away in the fields year after year and be a successful farmer. And then God. The great part of this story is Noah didn’t say, “But I have my own plan for my life. I’m a farmer, not a ship builder. Oh, and by the way, I don’t live by an ocean. I’m going to go out and plant some more seeds and reap my harvest. Go away.” I’m sure being a “righteous man” he prayed to God for good things to happen in his life. So, when God said, “Ok, here’s a good thing I want you to do.” He did it. Are we so willing? Or are we married, fully committed to our plan? We are so committed that we miss the God given opportunities to help and love others. We miss the doors He opens for an amazing life rather than the toiling life we have planned.
A few posts ago I mentioned the 100 Lunches Project. Each week for about a year God led me to feeding the homeless. It wasn’t about feeding the homeless really. It was about ripping that need to work and justify my daily activities out of my heart and mind. It was about not planning every single detail out. It was about going first to Him to check in on what He wanted from me. At the time I was working at a school counseling office. I worked three days a week. It made me feel worthy. And then He told me that I needed to deliver food regularly on one of those three days. When I went into the office the next day I said, “I know you are familiar with my 100 Lunches Project. Well, God told me I need to start doing it on Wednesdays so that means I can’t work that day.” Yep, I said that. And the response was, “Ok, sounds good. We are happy to have you whichever days you can give us.” My mouth might have dropped open a bit. Each and every time I went to God for direction, on money, on what to buy, on where to go, on the help I needed, He answered. And I obeyed. It was glorious.
So, you see, it’s not about trying to build up that big retirement account. It’s about asking God what you should do with that paycheck. And doing it. Charles Stanley’s Life Principles #2 & #5 say to obey God and leave all the consequences to Him – even if it seems unreasonable. EVEN IF he asks us to build an ark in the middle of the desert. He has great plans for us – we may not ever be famous or wealthy. But that plan will be good. And if He doesn’t answer right away, as Christians that live close to God, we already know to be good stewards of His gifts. We will have prepared for the day He does speak. Until then, He calls us to enjoy what we have right now. For tomorrow may never come.
Born Again By His Spirit
How can you love others
when you can't love yourself,
is it a bridge too far?
Perhaps you've been hidden
away on a shelf
unaware of just who you are.
It is time for you now
to come into view
and to stand in the place of knowing;
to allow JESUS CHRIST
to take the helm
within your own boat you're been rowing.
And as you surrender
to His loving Grace
you will find yourself hidden in Him;
with His loving Light
outshining all others
allowing your sails to be trimmed.
Once blind, now you'll see,
for GOD will release
the Wind of His Spirit to blow,
which in turn your identity,
that was foreign to you,
will thus be revealed and you'll know.....
Right in the middle of this wonderful poem by fellow blogger, Carol Congalton, you’ll see a very important word: Surrender. A few weeks ago, my Bible Study Girls took up this topic of submission/surrender. The conversation went something like this:
BSG 1: “That sounds good to surrender my problem to God but how do I actually do that?”
BSG 2: “Ya, when Christians say, ‘just give it up to God’ I think that can give us a bad name. Like it’s that easy.”
BSG 3: “I mean the actual giving up is like, boom, done. But the work up to it is what is so difficult.”
BSG 1: “But I don’t know how to do that.”
BSG 2: “A pastor once said if you don’t want to forgive, then ask God to help you want to forgive. And if you have trouble doing that, ask God to help you want to learn how to forgive. If you don’t want to do that, ask God to help you want to ask to learn how to forgive!”
Great advice. When we are stuck, we need to go back to a place we are ok with and start there. Which brings us to submission. Ewww. For many of us just that word alone brings negative connotations. Some of us (most of us) just aren’t white flag wavers, especially when it comes to closely held beliefs and baggage.
Most of the time we just want the devil to flee from us without the submission part. You know, get the creamy inside without having to work our way through the hard, outer shell. The devil wants us to keep clinging to earthly definitions of submission. But God says,
I realized there’s two types of submission when it comes to being a Christian. There’s a big “S” and a little “s.” The big “S” is the flipping of the script. It’s the big “ah ha” moment in our lives. It’s not the same as when we decided to believe in God or even that Jesus is our Savior. There’s a lot of Christians that believe both those but haven’t fully submitted to God. It may have happened to us as a child and we are fortunate to have lived our lives in submission to God. My friend Betsy is like that. She can’t remember a time without God as her commander. And you can tell she’s had a lifetime to accept that God loves her immensely. We joke and say “What would Betsy do?” because the spirit of Jesus is apparent in her life.
Others of us may be long time Christians but only recently had that light switch flipped or maybe we haven’t gotten there yet. We’ve gone to church, did all the “right” Christian things except actual, full submission to God. I was listening to a great podcast from Transformation Church the other day. They had guest pastor Tim Ross as their speaker. His sermon focus was on upsetting the world. And by that he meant like the disciples, who went throughout unfriendly lands waking the world up to the Word and the love of Jesus, we should be the conduits for change in people’s lives. His three steps were:
Upset yourself – in other words wake up and recognize the sin in ourselves. It’s time to take God’s Word to heart and as James tells us, do the actual work of God.
Upset religion – a great line in his sermon was we should not be ok to show up to church when God is not present in that church. Joyce Meyers says if you leave church not feeling convicted or energized to go out and do good then you need to change churches.
Let go of our independence – and there’s the “Boom.”
We are so afraid to loosen our grip. So afraid of losing control. And yet our grip is choking the life out of… our life.
“Let God have your life; He can do more with it than you can.”
Dwight L. Moody
And if you don’t believe that, you need to pray for God to help you believe that. I love the story of Peter walking on water.
Notice Peter didn’t see Jesus, jump out of the boat and run toward Jesus in complete and total submission? He asked Jesus to call to him. And Jesus responded, “Come.” (Matt 14:29).
That was a pretty big “S.” Imagine if you were there sitting in the boat and saw Jesus. He tells you to “come” and either you refuse or you get about halfway out and you change your mind – faceplanting on the edge of the boat. There’s no halfway. You’re either in or you’re out. It’s not magic. When I sat at the edge of my boat I pleaded with God to tell me what I was doing wrong. I was being a “good Christian” and I was miserable. He was clear. “What have you really done?” was His response. He made it clear I had yet to fully submit to Him. I needed to climb out of the boat and walk to Him. And so, for the first time, I broke down and made a full commitment to Him.
And then there’s the little “s.” Like a little snake wiggling around at our feet, it’s the everyday moments where we make that re-commitment to submitting to God. They are our daily reminders that we have chosen not to be friends of this world but instead be children of God. We must have the big “S” before the little “s” can take on their full success and meaning. It’s those times when I’m tempted to get frustrated behind slow drivers or get mad at my husband for doing “that thing, yet again.” Or when I’m tempted to take on a new, difficult task without praying first. I must choose again to surrender to God to help fortify me. When I fail, I know He loves me and holds out a helping hand.
Our little “s” moments give us opportunities to grow and pull closer to God. Those moments allow God to remove what’s hindering us from joy. We may have a lot of little “s” moments until God sees that our big “S” is fully secure and planted in our hearts. I heard this quote somewhere, “God doesn’t take us on the longest or shortest path. He takes us on the right path for us.”
And when we submit completely to Him, to be His walking buddy on that path, only then can we enjoy the creamy filling – and the devil will flee from us. Because he knows there’s no getting past a person surrounded and filled with God.
If you aren’t sure you have fully submitted to God, ask Him. Ask Him to shine a light on any area that you still have firmly in your own grasp. Tell Him to call to you — and then get all the way out of that boat.
I recently read an excerpt from author Tim LaHaye’s, “Spirit Controlled Temperament.” I love reading about different personalities and picking out which ones line up with my family members. For those that aren’t familiar with LaHaye’s temperaments there are four of them. He calls them the “real you” and they are based on names given by Hippocrates. Your temperament is the combination of inborn traits that affect all our behavior. Your temperament, combined with childhood training, education, basic attitudes, beliefs and principles forms our character. The outward appearance of that character is our personality. Depending upon how genuine a person is those two might or might not match up.
I am firmly in the “Rocky Choleric” temperament: hot, quick, active practical, and strong-willed. I’m self-sufficient and opinionated. I’m not frightened by adversity and I have a “dogged determination.” Here’s the downside. The “Rocky Choleric” doesn’t always sympathize with others and we don’t naturally express compassion. In fact, it’s the one area for me that makes me very uncomfortable. Oh, and did I forget to mention we can also be bossy? LaHaye goes on to say that the Apostle Paul was a Choleric.
“Who but a Choleric would crawl out from under a rock pile and the next day walk 12 miles to preach the gospel?”
And boy have I managed to drop a lot of rocks on myself. I’m working on crawling out.
I wore my pessimistic personality like a badge of honor. I chastised people who I felt lived behind, “rose colored glasses.” I consistently was praised for fixing other people’s problems and resolving organizational messes. But did I mention us Cholerics can be bossy and not compassionate? On the inside, I envied other people’s social lives. I wanted to be that woman that walked into a room and threw off glitter wherever she went. People adore that woman. She gets invited to Palm Springs weekend getaways with the girls and Luke Bryan concerts (with backstage passes no less). I would sit hunched over my computer scrolling through other peoples’ facebook pages seeing all the parties I wasn’t invited to. I envied the sparkly people who were at all the book clubs and Bunco parties. And every time I tried fitting in, I failed miserably. Maybe that’s what James is talking about in this verse.
I was trying to do what Tim LaHaye says is next to impossible – change my basic temperament — because I was envious. I wanted to change the person God made me to be. What I needed to do instead was align the positive parts of my temperament to Jesus and learn how to release the negative parts. The world’s greatest generals, dictators, and gangsters have predominately been Cholerics, according to LaHaye. The difference? Their alignment or lack thereof with God.
Envy is a dangerous game. It leads to anger and hatred and sometimes violence. Warren Buffett once said,
‘It’s not greed that drives the world but envy.”
Envy is the idea of wanting what others have and taking it from them if necessary. We see a lot of envy in social media, the news, and even as a basis for some of the riots going on today. Someone wants what someone else has. As Christians, even in our darkest situations we aren’t to envy others. We are to turn to God for all our needs.
Envy never finds itself in good company. I visualize envy as a black swirling, scribbly mass that’s living inside our body. Its disorganized and ravenous. It keeps us from thinking with God’s wisdom. It tears at our hearts so we fail to be compassionate. We end up living far outside the righteous life He wants for us.
So, when I announced to a Bible study group a few years ago that I, Kris Shetter the Choleric, wanted to be Sparkly, also known in LaHaye’s world as the “Sparky Sanguine,” I had to figure out how to do that while remaining true to myself. The Sparky Sanguine is warm, buoyant, lively, and fun loving. She/He is optimistic, compassionate and friendly. Ya, I bet she goes to all the best parties!
James starts us off on the right path to aligning ourselves with God’s plan:
Humbleness and envy cannot exist in the same space. When we humble ourselves, we acknowledge the One greater than ourselves. We place ourselves as servants of God. We give up all success to God. When we envy someone we think we deserve better than others. We take personal credit for success. We have selfish ambition,
I realized I was walking around thinking I knew better than everyone because I could clean up their messes. Because you know those “rose colored glasses” types aren’t paying attention to all that glitter they leave laying around! I knew without a doubt that my way was the best way. And here’s a little secret: people don’t like to be around people who think they are lesser. People don’t like to be constantly corrected or fixed by other faulty human beings. Go figure.
Lest we think the other three of LaHaye’s temperaments are not without faults he gives us their weaknesses as well. That Sparky Sanguine? Restless, undisciplined, egotistical, and emotional. Seen as the Apostle Peter. The Maestro Melancholy? Self-centered, suspicious, over-sensitive, pessimistic and moody. Epitomized by Solomon. And my husband’s Flip Phlegmatic? Slow, lazy, provocative, selfish and stubborn. And yet LaHaye calls out Abraham as a Phlegmatic. Thankfully, my husband only got the stubborn part of that one!
Every single one of us has something about us that can use some Godly tweaking. I know some people have looked at me enviously – “She’s so organized!” “She’s a good leader and can stand up and talk in front of anyone!” “She’s such an amazing problem solver!” There’s a difference between admiration and envy. Envy takes all those statements about me and turns them into something ugly, as though that other person could never attain those same outcomes. I wanted to start admiring people who were sparkly, not envy them.
The state of being viewed with such approval or delight.
en·vy | \ ˈen-vē \
Painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage
I don’t want to be envied for anything. I don’t need to envy anyone. I admire a lot of my friends. Because funny enough, I’ve surrounded myself with much more compassionate people that I am. And I’d rather just be admired for my faith in God. Because that is attainable for everyone. As for my Big, Fat, Sparkly Life? God and I are doing a lot of work bringing out my good characteristics and wiping away the bad ones. I know that only when I give to God those things about me that I’ve worked so hard to perfect over my 55 years will I find success – which to me means finding joy in as many moments as possible. Ya, that kinda sounds like “rose-colored glasses” living but who cares.
What parts of your temperament do you need to give over to God to help remove or refine? To read more about Tim LaHaye’s 4 Spiritual Temperaments click here.
As I sit here in my comfortable, middle-class, suburban home it’s hard for me to imagine living where rioting and violence have taken over cities in America. Now mind you, my neighborhood is very diverse. On my block alone live people from India, China, Philippines, Samoa, Puerto Rico, and Mexico — and there’s only 18 houses. What connects the tumultuous cities are a number of characteristics but what shocks me the most is the concept of “defunding the police.” There’s a lot of counterintuitive-ness going on in the world the last 10 years. What seems good and right, now is apparently bad and evil and vice versa. Loving your country and standing for its national anthem is evil but wanting to turn to Marxism, which only has ever brought about human suffering is good. A white woman screaming in a black police officer’s face about racism is good but a statue commemorating President Lincoln signing the emancipation proclamation is bad. Thank God I live under God’s plan which is steady and true.
Praise God that he takes the most unlikely people – ones who have created chaos and violence – and changes them. He is the “Super Cop.” He ferrets out those who hide in shadows doing evil. And he has no fear in standing in front of the powerful and saying, “you’re coming with me.”
I have a lot of respect for the police. Even though I once told my two police officer friends, “Sometimes cops are real jerks!” (and they agreed with me) I still value the difficult and varied roles they are asked to play in our society. For many years I was a security substitute in our local high schools. The role of high school security staff is many fold. We would ensure the morning drop off went smoothy in the parking lot as crazed parents cut each other off and cursed at one another. We then closed up the campus making sure the only people on campus were authorized to be there. We patrolled the campus – keeping kids in class and strangers out of the school. But we also counseled students. There’s the “always late” students who typically come from difficult homes. The student who you find weeping in the bathroom because of a romance failure or a parent who has left the family were not unusual circumstances. We were involved in altercations between students and staff which created opportunities to delve deeper into a student’s anger. I imagine a city police officer experiences these and much, much more. There are many difficult and dangerous situations they face and there are some uplifting moments in which it makes it all worthwhile. When I see a college educated, privileged person screaming in the face of a police officer who is doing their duty to protect our cities it makes me want to weep for both.
Saul was a violent and angry man. His terror and violence against followers of Jesus was legendary. He took comfort in the Law of God. He thought of Jesus as being from satan, the false prophet. So, he intended to eliminate this “dangerous sect” before it destroyed the Jewish faith. But God met him on the road to Damascus and arrested him. One of the definitions of “arrest” is “to bring to a stop.” When God’s holy light flashed on him, he fell to the ground. The men with him were speechless. Saul knew immediately it was from the holy realm and asked, “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Wow, the authority in that statement! Instead of handcuffs placed on Saul he was blinded. He had to be led into the city. For three days he sat in the jail of darkness and did not eat or drink anything (Acts 9:9).
But God sent another of his officers to release Saul from jail. The disciple Ananias was told by Jesus to go to Saul and anoint him. He hesitated at first, knowing Saul’s reputation. When he entered the house, he placed his hands on Saul and called on the name of Jesus to fill him with the Holy Spirit. Immediately Saul could see and was freed.
How many times do we need to be “arrested by God” to finally see what life He wants for us? Some of us have seen the inside of life’s jail for far too many years. We justify our actions because it’s what the world wants from us. Or we twist the meanings of God’s Word to suit our actions. Like the city cop who knows the neighborhood junkie by name, God knows our names too. That cop has given so much help and advice to the junkie but he keeps going back to what hurts him or may even kill him. Jesus keeps putting His hand out to you and me. When He shines that light on us as we stumble in the dark alleys let’s grasp Him and let Him pull us free.
Is there someone in your life you are praying for – praying they will know God and surrender to Jesus? I have a few friends and family members on my prayer list that I lift up continuously to the Lord. He is our great Harvester but as He says in Luke 10:2,
We don’t know who is on God’s list of the “elect” so it’s our job as His field workers to get on our knees and pray for those around us. For when we pray, we are then opening ourselves up to direction from the Almighty. It’s one thing to pray for ourselves – our sins, our hurts, and our needs – but those of us who have offered up ourselves to God are already saved. Our eternal place in heaven’s field of flowers is set. So, when we plead with God for those we love, it brings about something new.
When you Google the words “Harvest Celebration” you get to the Wikipedia page, “Harvest Festival.” It says, “Ample food and freedom from the necessity to work in the fields are two central features of harvest festivals: eating, merriment, games, music and romance are common features around the world.” Just think how much grander the harvest festival is in the spiritual world! God celebrates each time a new seed is planted, nurtured and brought into His ample basket. And, as His field workers we are called to play small parts in each of those steps.
I chose this topic today to send up praise of thanksgiving to our God who loves us bountifully. He answers our prayers fully that reflect His will. Here’s how I know this. This answered prayer starts with a reflection on my family. My mother is the daughter of a Baptist minister. She has a tenuous relationship with God, at best. Unfortunately, there weren’t field workers willing to nurture her through questions and feelings of mistrust. She saw Christians show up to church each week and act devout then leave the church doors and sin. My father is an atheist. He had no upbringing in the church and no friends who shared their faith. What little exposure they’ve had to God was through my mother’s sister who had many mental and family issues. In spite of this, I always believed in God. I had a friend that I occasionally attended church with but the majority of the people around me never spoke of their faith – if they had any. I married into a devout Presbyterian family. Boy, were they worried about me! Funny enough, my own parents were concerned when I told them I was going to church. Fast forward to the last few years. My parents and I never talk about my beliefs. I don’t hide them. But we just have not had another conversation centered around faith since I announced I was attending church. I asked a pastor once when I should just give up on some people – like my parents. He said, “Oh, you never give up! Just like God never gives up on you!” And so, as I have surrendered my life over to Christ, I’ve started praying more for others.
After watching the amazing movie, War Room, I set up a prayer area. On my wall I have cards filled with prayers for other people. One of those is for my parents:
“Lord, you are the only one who can break the bonds holding my parents down. With all your heavenly might break the tall and strong walls they have built around their hearts and minds. Lord, grab a hold of them and pull them from the fire!”
I’ve been praying this prayer now for about a month. The other day I added to the prayer, “Show me what part, even the smallest part, I need to do to help you accomplish this.” That very afternoon I stopped by their house to check in on them. My dad started talking about a book series he’s reading called, “The Saxon Series.” It’s an historical drama set in England. He shared that he had never understood what the “Holy Ghost” was or how the trinity worked until he read these books. Apparently, there’s a character in the book who refers to Jesus as “the nailed God” and priest who refers to the trinity as, “Father, Son and the other guy.” What ensued was a conversation about the role of the divine in each part of the trinity. I shared how when Jesus was crucified, he let the disciples know that another would come in his place to be with us always – the Holy Spirit. We talked about how much of the New Testament is written to churches who were either going astray or who needed support due to persecution. We also talked about the roles in the Old Testament of pagan gods versus The Almighty God. It. Was. Amazing.
Here’s the thing, I had written off my father as someone who would never come to know Jesus because he is an atheist. I thought my mom would possibly come around because of her faith background. But it was my father with whom I was having this conversation!
When I left the house I was stunned. I praised God for answered prayers. And, I thanked God for this: I was prepared. If this conversation had come up five or ten years ago, I would not have been able to speak so confidently and easily about these topics. God was preparing me for that day, that moment. I know the salvation of my parents is not my responsibility. I was just the field hand, who had been on my knees praying and pleading for God to help them. And if I needed to play some small role, I was ready to do the work. I will keep praying for them until either the day of their passing or the day of their surrender.
We can never know the hour God will gift us with answered prayers. Just like I really have no idea when my green tomatoes will finally turn red and be ready for harvest. Until then I get my knees dirty working in His name.