Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pressed But Not Crushed

I spent much of this last week feeling completely and utterly defeated. I felt like a failure as a mom, a wife and as a believer. I was discouraged at every turn and I was quickly sinking into despair. I cried out to the Lord. I told Him exactly how I felt. I even told Him that I didn't want to feel this way. Still it persisted... Now I am free once again and the Lord showed me what had happened. Just in case you want to learn this lesson with me...

The enemy cannot read our minds but he has spent thousands of years studying the human race and a life time spying on me. He knows my fears better than I do and he does everything within his power to convince me that my worst fears are becoming a reality. Everything that happens to me must first pass through the Lord's hands, however, He wants me to grow in knowledge and strength so He allows certain tests to come my way so that I can overcome them. "When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing... God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." (James 1:2-4, 12)

So how do we pass the testing of our faith? How do we patiently endure without falling into despair? Beth Moore, in "Believing God", suggests that our shield of faith has five points. When we are tested, which key of faith is being tried?

  1. God IS who He says He is!
  2. God CAN DO what He says He can do!
  3. I AM who God says that I am!
  4. I can do ALL things through Christ!
  5. God's Word is alive and active in me!

I seem to believe statements 1 and 2 readily, however, I struggle with statements 3 and 4. Somehow, I seem to buy into the lie that I am the exception to God's rules. I am the project that is too big for God. The devil whispers lies to me and instead of instantly rejecting them, I let them rule my feelings. Once my emotions are involved, the battle is harder BUT I CAN STILL BE VICTORIOUS!

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, "We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed." The Greek word translated as crushed can also be translated as to be cramped in distress or a narrow space. Now this caught my attention! You'll notice my theme verse for this blog is found in Psalm 18:19. The Lord brought me out into a spacious place and I am not willing to surrender that!

2 Corinthians 4 continues to say that we experience constant opportunities to die to our self nature so that we can experience Christ's resurrection power. My feelings were telling me that I was being wronged. Robbed of something I deserved. Who am I to tell the God of the Universe that I know better than He does what I need? It's hard to set aside pride - to acknowledge that He knows best when what's best is learning a lesson. Verses such as Psalm 84:11, Matthew 7:11 and Luke 11:13 tell us that God loves to give us what's best! If He's withholding something good from me, I must be supposed to learn something better in the midst of it.

2 Corinthians 4:13 says, "I have believed and therefore have I spoken. We too believe, and therefore we speak." For reasons that I don't understand, spoken words have power. I was speaking the content of my emotions rather than what I believed as my rights as a child of God. I was telling myself, others and even God how I felt rather than putting my feelings aside and telling myself the Truth of God's Word - outloud!! Put the key verses on cue cards! Read them out loud. Ask friends to pray these verses for you. Pray them for yourself! Lift that shield of faith up high! The devil recognizes the authority of God's Word and he must flee! If Christ responded to him by quoting scripture, how much more should we!

"For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18)

"For we walk by faith [we regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, with trust and holy fervor; thus we walk] not by sight or appearance." (2 Corinthians 5:7)

So, instead of being rash and complaining against the Lord my God as the people of Israel did in the book of Habakkuk, I desire to face troubles, suffering and testing by proclaiming aloud the words of Habakkuk 3:18-19 "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation! The Lord is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds' feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!" And guess what! It works! "Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God!" (Romans 10:17) Once again, I'm free!

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Pair of Pants

Did you know that the God of the Universe concerns Himself with my details? No detail of my life - no need, no desire - is too small that it escapes His notice!

The other day, we were out finishing the Christmas shopping. I was tired and on the verge of a cold. Despite our frugalness, money seemed to be going out hand over fist, with all of the Christmas activities... a $5 gift here, a $10 one there... Carter had just informed us that he needed a brown sweater and a pair of brown pants for his reindeer costume in the school pageant. We had managed to find a beautiful brown sweater for a reasonable price but the brown pants had illuded us. By the time we were in our third store looking, I had had enough. I had seen a few pairs for $35 but the way Carter is growing, I didn't want to spend that much for him to wear for the Christmas celebrations - never to be worn again!

In wearied desperation, I asked the Lord to supply a suitable pair of pants. I literally turned and spotted a clearance rack in the boys' section of a department store. I walked right up to the rack where I spotted ONE pair of brown boy's pants! I looked at the color... perfect match! The size... "Oh, Lord, it's a 12. That's a tight fit for my son." I held it up. I wondered where we could have him try it on. The Lord said to me, "you asked me for a pair of pants. Are you going to trust me on this?" I quietly decided to trust Him. "Yes, Lord."

The pants fit perfect! They look like they could have been custom made for Carter. Usually, if the waist fits, the legs need shortening or if they length fits, he complains they are too tight. Not these pants! The perfect color, the perfect size, the perfect price! $7.99! And go figure... we got up to the check out and they were 20% off the sale price! Praise You, Lord!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Playing With Daddy

"Teach me to play, Abba!"

I don't know about you but I am a perfectionist. If I can't do something well - by my standards - then I don't want to try it at all. This spills over into my relationship with God. As you can see from my last entry, God is really working on me in this area. He wants to free me up from my striving - the constant rule following - so that I learn to have fun with Him! So this morning, while I sat there, He gave me a little insight into Karrie, one of His precious children.

Karrie is a very conscientious child. She trusts cautiously. She is fiercely loyal. She comes into her Father's house quietly. She doesn't want to bother Him. Karrie tries very hard to not bring messes into His house. After all, she doesn't want to make more work for her Father. Her Father is always glad to see her but often she misses His hearty "Come on in, Babe!" because she is preoccuppied with entering carefully and respectfully. She's a quietly happy child but so serious! She's in such a hurry to grow up that she's missing out on the joys of the journey. She sees others playing but hesitates to join in the fun. What if she got sidetracked from her responsibilities?

So, this morning, Karrie sat down with the Father and they opened His Great Book. She wanted to read one complete story this morning. She was eager to really learn. To hear a "word". He asked her if she wanted to crawl up on His lap to read the Book rather than sit at His feet. That sounded like a comfortable place to sit! The story came from Galatians. How Christ came to atone for her sins and to save her and make her more like Him. It said that He did this to deliver Karrie from this present wicked age. It said that there were enemies who slipped in to spy on our freedom in Christ so that they could again subject us to the bondage of rules. The Father told her that He loved all of His children equally. He didn't love the older ones more. He didn't love the boisterous ones less than the quiet ones. He finds great delight in each and every one of His kids. He even assured Karrie that just like He had done for Peter and Paul, He would always motivate her and fit her for her life's mission. He would ensure she worked efficiently because His Firstborn, Christ, would be working through her.

Then Father did something unexpected... He put the Book down. What was He doing? They weren't finished reading the "story". He asked Karrie if she wanted to play now. Play? Now? Weren't they going to finish reading? He told her that they could put a bookmark in where they had left off. He knew exactly where to pick up from later. Wouldn't it be fun to be tossed up in the air by her Daddy and spun around? There may not seem to be some deep, intellectual lesson in it, but even He delights in playing sometimes. He delights in hearing, "again, Daddy! Do it again! Again!"

Karrie, she - I slowly hopped down off His knee and took hold of His Hand. I followed in the edge of His shadow as He led me away from our "spot" to a place with room to play. "So, what do you want to play?" How could I answer that? I really don't know how to "play". But, I love to sing! I love to dance - but it's been a long time since I've done that. Wouldn't you know it? The Father God of all the Universe loves to dance too! We turned the Ipod up really loud! And what started as cautious steps soon became wild, exuberant dancing! There was no thought to what might be "right" steps. I spun around in circles until I was dizzy! I sang along to the songs not worrying about words as Daddy clapped and kept time. It was such fun!

Suddenly, I realized that my son was standing there watching his mommy - spinning and dancing - babbling! I told him that everyone enjoys a little praise dancing now and then! I didn't even stop at that point. It had been so long since I had really played! Besides, I delight in watching my own kids play. I want them to know by experience that life with God is full of play and fun! I want them to know no greater delight than to be sitting on His knee one minute and tossed up into the air the next! To be caught by His strong arms only to say, "Again, Daddy! Do it again!" Perhaps, my son thinks I'm strange - probably not. He knows what it is to play. He may even start to see me as a fun parent - if I play often enough :)!