Lifter of my Head

My life makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble and afflicted hear and be glad. ~ Psalm 34:2

Day 2 of my Cookie Girl being sick with what appears to be the flu (update, she has strep)…I read some scripture, and then began to peruse through my bible study notebook, and came across something I wrote a while back but hadn’t shared. It seems pretty fitting for the moment.

I’ve been reading through the book of Psalm for a while now. The verse above had me asking, “what does this mean?” It means that my life–everything that I do, everything that I have–declares His glory. Even those of us who feel like we have, and/or are, very little, have much to boast about in the Lord.

Here are some examples of things we may have been blessed with: life, health, love, a home, peace, family, hope, grace, food, redemption, salvation, life-everlasting, a job, clothing, freedom…

Ther Word goes on to state that when we need and seek the Lord He hears us and delivers us from our fears (Psalm 34:4). I’d like to note, however, that is not always the situation that He delivers us from, but our fear and anxiety.

I know it’s easy to boast in the Lord when all is well, and all our needs are met, but what about when we’re in need? The humble and afflicted need to see that even when things don’t go as we wish, when we’re struggling– physically, emotionally, financially–we still have so much to boast in.

He walks beside us. He never leaves us. He strengthens us when we are weak. He’s the lifter of our head; our strong tower of refuge. He envelopes us with peace and love during the most trying of circumstances, but only when we call upon His name, and allow Him to take those burdens from us.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. ~ Matthew 11:28-30

What will you give up to Him today? I know one thing I’m constantly asking Him to take away is fear regarding my children’s health. It’s practically a daily struggle; but they are His and I have to trust Him.

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For All to Hear

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT)

The words above were spoken to the prophet Samuel, after he took one look at Jesse’s son, Eliab, and immediately assumed he would be the next king of Israel. God gently chided Samuel by telling him not to judge a man by his outward appearance and reminded him that He (God) sees the parts that truly matter. This weekend, as I was praying during one of our church’s worship and prayer services, I heard the following words spoken to my spirit: How dare we pick and choose who we will share the message of the gospel of Christ with! His spilt blood and broken body are far too precious for us to keep to ourselves.

Now, for most of us this may seem common sense and we’re thinking to ourselves, “I don’t judge anybody by their outward appearance!” But honestly…how do we usually decide who we share the gospel with? Do we only share the truth with those we think will be most receptive to hear it? Do we only share the message with strangers and overlook our friends because we’re afraid of changing the status of our relationship? Or perhaps we only share the gospel with our friends and ignore strangers or people who seem different from us? I know I’ve been guilty of all of these at one point or another.Until the Whole World Hears

Whatever the case may be, the truth remains the same. Christ died for all. And our responsibility as believers is to share the good news with everybody; not just those we believe might accept it, or just with our friends and family, or only with strangers. I hear you asking, “But what if they don’t accept it?” Our job is simply to share it, not to force people to believe. And here’s where we need to be reminded that no one has been, or ever will be, won over by the gospel of Christ if we’re rude, pushy, judgmental, or hateful. We’re called to speak in love and truth, to live what we believe, and plant the seed, whether or not we ever see any fruit firsthand.

How many people will miss out on the saving knowledge of Christ because we’re afraid of being rejected, mocked, or persecuted? How many people will miss out on the single most important relationship they’ll ever need or want—with Christ—because we’re afraid to modify the status of our relationship with that person?

You know, when Jesus said in Luke 14:26 that if we wanted to be His disciples we must hate everybody else, He didn’t mean that we actually were to hate them; He meant it in comparison to Him. The whole point is that we are to love God so passionately that everything else we love pales in comparison. He should be our everything and the only One we should be worried about displeasing. Therefore, when we put relationships with others before Him, we’re actually being disobedient. Furthermore, don’t we want the people we come into contact with every day to have that opportunity to receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior!? What’s more important, the relationship, or their eternal soul?

Lastly, since fear is the obstacle I face most often when it comes to sharing the gospel, I like to keep Hebrews 13:6 posted in my cubicle at work (and continually in the back of my mind) to constantly remind me that God is always with me, just as He’s always with you. Now…”go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” and remember He is with us always…”even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? (Hebrews 13:6, NLT)

So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6, AMP)

Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, “God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?” (Hebrews 13:6, The Message)

The Power of Presence

This week has been a little rough…Hahaha, that’s putting it a little lightly. Let’s face it I’ve been an emotional wreck this week. What started it? Oh, I don’t know, I suppose I started taking stock of my financial situation (as I began working on my taxes), which turned my attention towards my job, and then I started feeling a bit left out of certain discussions and decisions that were being made, and frustrated regarding some ministries I’m involved in. So, it’s just been a tough week.

Friday morning, I didn’t even want to get out of bed to go to work, I was feeling so low. I messaged my boyfriend in the morning, about how I was having a “my life doesn’t matter and I don’t make a difference in the world” type of week, and he did his best to tell me that that’s not true. Now, I know this isn’t true, but sometimes I really need to be reminded, which is what happened as the day progressed…

Last night, while meeting with a few young women for a Bible study (we’ve been working on the final half of Multiply, by Francis Chan; check out my previous posts for the first half of the book), we were talking about Moses and Israel’s exodus from Egypt; and our host/leader commented on how as Israel crossed the desert towards Canaan, they complained about how good they had it back in Egypt—where they were slaves! She asked us, what things are we holding on to back in Egypt that are preventing us from taking over our Canaan? I had to think long and hard, and ultimately decided that it’s my fear. Fear of failing, fear of not meeting my own expectations, fear of being left out and not fitting in, fear of never accomplishing the visions God’s given me, and never making any sort of impact on the world.

Which brought to mind a message I heard this week, by Judah Smith, titled Jesus is With You Always (yes, I was doing a lot of thinking this week and last night about how all of this fit together). Judah actually talks about how one of his chores growing up was taking out the garbage and how afraid he was of going outside in the dark alone to do this. However, when a friend went with him to throw out the garbage, his fears went away. Judah called this “the power of presence,” and referenced 1 John 4:15 which states that “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

Bam! The power of God’s presence. I suddenly recognized that if we could truly grasp the fact that God is with us in every circumstance and every situation, and recognize that we are never alone, what a difference that would make in our lives, and how different our perspective of the world would be.

“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 28:19-20)

The Multiply study is based on the Great Commission, which is our calling, as believers, to share the love of Christ with the world; Judah calls this missionary living. Basically, we’re called to be missionaries to our neighbors! And let me tell you something; the enemy doesn’t like that! Judah tells a story about a seasoned pastor taking a younger pastor hunting, and the younger pastor asks the age-old question: why do bad things happen to good people? The seasoned pastor points to a dead animal in the field and says, “Do we shoot that animal? No, because it’s dead; only the living are hunted.” We have a target on our back (and this week I felt like this season’s game).

Next week, our new Young Adult ministry, The Gathering, will kick off, and I feel like the next point explains my week. I know that there are times when I feel like I’m not making any type of headway or difference in the world, but then God reminds me that I have a very unique perspective of the world and have experienced some situations that not many are willing to share or understand. For instance, because I often feel like an outcast, I never want others to feel like an outcast, so I make every effort to make everyone feel included, heard, and loved. It’s not wrong to feel different, but as another friend of mine recently wrote in her blog (Fire and Refinement) don’t let your differences isolate you, but let them be used for God’s glory, because it’s our uniqueness that opens doors to reach those in our life that others couldn’t connect with. God will use me (and you) to reach a specific audience and as scared and uncomfortable as I am, I know that God is with me.

Perfection in Weakness

The young women in my Wednesday night Bible study have been working through Priscilla Shirer’s study of Gideon for the last few weeks. We’re down to the last two weeks of the Bible study and last night we discussed week four of the study, which is about Gideon’s offering of food to the Angel of the Lord. (If you didn’t already know…The title used to describe the Angel of the Lord, “Malak Yahweh,” is used to describe the “eternal, pre-existant Christ.” This is why I’ve capitalized it here, in case you were wondering.)

Gideon goes through tremendous work to prepare this meal of goat meat, broth, and bread for the Angel and when he offers it to Him, He tells Gideon to place it on a rock, and to pour out the broth over the meat and bread. Then the Angel touches the rock with His staff and the meal is consumed in flames (Judges 6:19-21). It’s been a while since I’ve studied this portion of text, but I recognize that this was a sacrificial offering to God, on Gideon’s part. He slaved over this meal, only to pour it out before God, and have it used in a manner that he probably didn’t expect or, perhaps, desire.

Priscilla goes on to talk about 4 things we must do in offering our gifts to God: 1) Prepare it, 2) Present it, 3) Put it down, and 4) Pour it out.

Yesterday, while I was driving to church I started thinking about how often I pray that God use me in whatever capacity that He chooses and I even spend time preparing my gifts/talents to be used by Him, but then when I feel like He’s asking too much of me, I pull back. I brought this up during our Bible study, as well. How often do you do this? We ask God to use us and fill us with His Holy Spirit, but then the moment the task seems to large, we pull back because we’re afraid we won’t be able to complete the task He’s calling us towards!

But isn’t that the point?!

The point is that the task IS too large for us…if we try to do it on our own! But when we become completely vulnerable, walking in faith, and trusting the calling God’s placed on our lives, no matter how large (or small), that’s when we reach the point of no return. We then have no choice but to allow—expect and desire—the Holy Spirit to give us the strength, courage, and tools we need to complete our calling, because we CAN’T DO IT ON OUR OWN. When it seems we can’t go on, and the task is too large, and seemingly, impossible, that’s when God is most visibly seen and His power magnified. Just like Gideon’s army of 300 against the abundant Midianite army, the Holy Spirit can use us to accomplish the goals God has in store for us, but always in a manner that glorifies Christ and points the world in His direction.Captain America

What I’ve realized in my own life is that I must go beyond simply preparing my offerings/talents, to presenting it, putting it down, and pouring it out. I can’t continue to prepare my offerings/talents, presenting it before God and then pulling it back in fear when God says He’s got bigger plans. I can just picture myself in Gideon’s position…the Angel asks me to place the meal on the rock and pour out the broth over the meal and I ask “you want me to do what?!” (Lol)

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who questions God’s plans and becomes afraid of the seemingly insurmountable tasks He’s called us to. However, I truly desire, and plan on, changing my response; stepping out on the promises of God and relying on His strength and power, when I am deficient and weak.  What about you?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I Dreamed a Dream

I don’t dream very often, and if I do, I certainly don’t remember it, but within the past two weeks I’ve had two very interesting dreams that have really spoken to me. They’re the kind of dreams you wake up from, thinking, “Wow! That was a weird dream,” and then you can’t stop thinking about them throughout the day.

Yesterday, I was feeling frustrated, anxious, and really tense about my financial situation. I have so much money going out and what seems like not enough coming in, and I’m not the type of person to spend money on frivolous things, either! After talking things over with God, I went to bed repeating to myself “My God is bigger than my problems.” And it’s true! I’ve always been able to make ends meet. There’s never been a day that I’ve gone hungry or that I wasn’t taken care of; but sometimes I really need to be reminded of this.

Well, in my dream last night, I was being accused of being someone that I wasn’t, and someone was chasing me down and trying to kill me. They attached an explosive device to my cell phone, and when that failed, they hunted me down while I slept. I kept yelling “I am not this person that you think I am!”

As I thought about this dream on my way into work, I realized how like the accuser to attempt to steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our future, by accusing us of being someone that we’re not—or, perhaps once were. We try to walk our lives alongside Christ, but the accuser throws everything at us in attempt to make us unhappy, anxious, or fearful, because it’s during these times that we are so focused on our situation and self-absorbed by our circumstances that our eyes aren’t where they should be—on Christ.

John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus came that we would have life, and life at its fullest! Therefore, we need to take our eyes off our circumstances, trusting that God will see us through as He always has. In the words of King & Psalmist, David, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). 1 Peter 5:7 reiterates this statement with, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” He cares for us!

Our joy and hope are found in Christ, and our future is in His hands. We shouldn’t let the accuser steal this truth from us.

Hypocrisy

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, but of all the things flying around in there, the term “hypocrisy” has been popping up more and more. And I thought to myself, “Most people don’t really know the definition of this word, although, they like to throw it around quite a bit.”

I’ve been slapped in the face with it a lot recently; I think it’s because of all the recent political discussion, and because the devil’s really been accusing me the last couple days (if not years…smh). Funny thing is, what he says…is all a lie.

What hypocrisy is, is when someone living a sinful lifestyle tries to tell others to turn away from their sinful lifestyle…A “do as I say, not as I do” approach. That’s why Jesus told people…”Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that [is] in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that [is] in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye (Luke 6:42).

What hypocrisy is not, is when someone has made their mistakes (because no one is perfect and we all fall short, Romans 3:23), turns away from their sinful lifestyle, and then encourages others to do the same. Therefore, just because we’ve made mistakes in our pasts—perhaps we still struggle with such things—that doesn’t make us hypocrites. It’s only our refusal to acknowledge our mistakes, repent, and turn away from them that creates hypocrisy.

“But it’s so hard!” You’re probably thinking. You’re right, it is hard; that’s why we were never meant to do it on our own. That’s why when we turn from our sinful lifestyle we must turn toward something else…Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2).

King David is one of my most favorite men of the Bible. Why? Because David, fell…HARD. But what did he do? He repented, turned away from his sin, and turned towards God. However, even King David, a man after God’s own heart, couldn’t confront his son Amnon, before/when he fell because David was ashamed of his own past (2 Samuel 13).

I don’t want to be that person. Yes, I’ve made poor choices, and not a day goes by that I don’t regret those choices;  but I don’t want to believe the lie that I’m a hypocrite just because I want to discourage others from making the same mistakes. I don’t want my own fear and shame to keep me from sharing the wisdom I’ve gained over the years.

I REFUSE to let my own fear and shame keep me from sharing with others (and neither should you!). So, call me a hypocrite if you want, but I know the truth. God uses my mistakes and failures for His glory and purpose.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. (Isaiah 61:3)