Standing Firm in the Heat of Battle

As Jesus stood firm amongst the crowd who vehemently accused Him and wished to see Him put to death He did not open His mouth. Instead, Jesus let God defend Him. Jesus still had to face suffering, but ultimately, in the end, as Jesus stood firm in the midst of great persecution, God brought the victory.
Unknown-13
I don’t know what you’re facing in life right now that you’re having trouble standing firm in, but know that as you do, God’s grace meets you there. I get it, that’s not an easy thing to do. In my own will I wish to flee the trying circumstances instead of staying in it to watch God bring about victory. Jesus only did one thing as He stood before the crowd who wrongfully accused Him. He stood firm. That’s it He didn’t even defend himself, even though He was an innocent man. He let His Father do that.

Watch your heart in the battle and know that as you continually give things over to God you are met with more of His grace. It’s not even really about you at this point, it never has been. It’s really all about your need for further sanctification. God is always using trying circumstances to take our faith to a new level. If we are willing to trust Him and not give into anger, fear, bitterness and resentment we’ll see our hearts burst forth with a deeper love for God, a heart that trusts more and a will that is further surrendered to the plans of our Father. As you actively STAND FIRM in the heat of the battle God’s grace steadies your heart and fills your heart and mind with a peace that goes beyond understanding. The hope is that others might watch and wonder how you could be so at peace in the midst of such a great storm. As they watch, let them see the power of God on display in your life, for God’s great glory.

Lord, help us in the heat of the battle to stand firm for your namesake. We are weak people. We do not like to walk through storms, but on the other side is great victory if we are willing to trust you in the midst of it. Lord, I give you my life today, standing firm in your grace, not giving way to fear, anger or pride. I need you for each breath that I take, because without your grace I’ll give into the crowd. I’ll feel the need to defend myself and give up on standing firm. I am weak, but you are strong. Fill me with more of your grace and bring about great victory in my life in Jesus name, amen.

 

The Devastation of Disappointment

What we do with disappointment determines the course our life will take, I said to my high school students yesterday in Sunday school as we wrestled with God about the life altering affects of our responses to disappointment.

1. My friends betrayed me; therefore, I can’t trust anyone.
2. My parents got a divorce; therefore, there’s no one in this life I can count on.
3. I failed; therefore, I am a failure
4. I don’t meet my parent’s expectations; so, I’ll never be good enough for anyone.
5. I’ve been abused; therefore, I’m worthless.
6. I’ve been hurt; so, I have to shut people out to protect myself from being hurt again.
7. I’ve been abandoned; so, I’m not worthy of love.

As we discussed the reality of dealing with disappointment I challenged the students to deal seriously with whatever it was in their life that has caused them the greatest amount of pain. If they don’t, it will deal with them and it will never be in a healthy way, but certainly in a way that will seek to destroy their own lives, their purpose in the kingdom of God and their deepest relationships in life.

Unhealthy ways of dealing with disappointment only distance ourselves from greater freedom and isolate us from deeper relationships with people. They build up walls in our hearts of distrust. They create caverns of deep hurt, with the hopes of keeping people out, so we don’t experience the same pain again.

This is a miserable place to be. I know this to be true, because for a long time, I lived there. I had been betrayed by people I thought were my friends, therefore, the message I told myself was Heather, you can’t trust anyone, all people are the same, so hide yourself from them and don’t let any future friends get too close. It took me years to break down those walls of mistrust that I had placed in my heart over the deep betrayal I had experienced as a teenager.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus”…. (Hebrews 12:1)

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to THROW OFF everything that hinders and keep our eyes steadied on the Lord Jesus Christ. As we do this, our mind begins to transform and God takes our distrust and fills it with His certainty. He rewrites the messages of our hearts, taking our deception and filling it with His truth.

Trust me, this is not an easy thing to do. As I told the students yesterday, we must begin to daily tear down the walls we have placed up in our hearts. Unfortunately, God doesn’t often work the way we want Him to, blasting dynamite into our lives, destroying our walls of protection in one fail swoop. Instead, He asks us to join Him in the process of tearing down and rebuilding, one slow brick at a time.

Maybe you’ve walked for 30 years believing the same old lie about your greatest disappointment. Don’t fear, God gives you the daily grace to begin the slow, but life transforming process of tearing down and rebuilding.

Today, start with just one brick, then tomorrow another and the next day, another, just don’t give up on the process. Let God transform your mind into a new being. Its there, in His grace that we find freedom. Its there, in His hope where our past is set free by His transformative love.

Abba, thank you that you don’t leave us as we are, you restore what the locusts have eaten. You redeem our lives from a places of anger, fear, frustration and despair. You don’t leave us as we once were. You, who began a good work in us, will carry it out until the day of completion in Christ Jesus. Lord, today, I give you a brick of fear, because I know that you can take my fear and turn it into fear, in Jesus name. Amen.

brick-wall

Blinded by the Light

Paul’s calling did not begin until there was a great conversion in his heart. There on the Damascus road, as Paul was traveling, he had a full blown encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.
blinded-by-light

“…suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him” (Acts 9:3)

 
God confronted Paul in an intense, life-changing way. It was there on the Damascus road, where Paul was headed to go and persecute Christians that Jesus met with Him.
 
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
 
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” (vs. 5)
 
Immediately, Paul was unable to see for three days and his entire purpose for going to Damascus was turned upside-down.
 

There is something about the call of God that changes a person.

 
However, until we are ready to be blind before God, we will see with our own strength. It is only when we are leaning into the grace and power of God when we can begin to see and experience our calling. Men and women who see well with their own eyes may lack the influence of God’s fortitude, for their own good ideas might be what is guiding them, instead of the power of God.
 
What is it to have such an experience of God? For the believer, it is the word of God that is the life-altering force of God’s power that thrusts us into our calling. It is there, submitted to His word, where we can boast in Christ alone. For when we do, God brings forth vision as we walk in personal blindness until He opens our eyes to His calling.
 
Lord, make me like one of your servants. I want to be the one’s who are considered low in the world’s eyes if it means that I might be found worthy in Christ alone. Let not my calling come from my own vision, but Lord, let your vision be my guide. Father, we are puffed up and prideful people. We want to be great in the world’s eyes and in doing so, we often miss parts of our calling that if we would but only submit, we could see the power of God on display. Lord, I want others to see that power in me, but I know that in order for that to happen, I must walk with blinders on until you open my eyes to your vision. Today, Abba, I want to walk by faith and not by sight. Be my vision Lord Jesus! Amen!

Looking Past Winter

You know…I hate winter. I mean, I really despise it. As soon as winter weather sets in I transform into 80-year-old grandma mode and go reaching for my slippers, blankets and extra thick indestructible winter socks.

I love it when spring comes. There’s something about it that offers me hope in the midst of my despondency. I know that soon, I’ll no longer need to fire up the space heater in my office to melt my frozen extremities.

It’s easy to focus on winter, isn’t it? Not looking for spring. It’s much too easy to focus on the bad, instead of believing that anything good could be coming. It’s difficult, in the midst of winter to see the turning of spring.

I love what Jesus says in Luke 21, as he is speaking to his disciples about what will come at the end of the age. All of it, quite frankly, seems a bit grim. Yet, if we’re willing to look for it, we find that there is indeed good coming. As Jesus speaks about the terrible times that are to come, sandwiched between his address to the disciples are these simple words, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.” (Luke 21:29-30)

Watch, be ready and on your guard, because you know, that by God’s grace, summer is near. I don’t know about you, but often times in the midst of wintery experiences in life whether its financial, relational, work or personal struggle it’s easy to focus winter, curl up in my ball of disdain and hide under blankets of anger, hopelessness and unbelief that any of this could get better. Yet, summer is coming, if we are willing to look, watch and wait for it.

I know I can too easily focus on all the bad instead of holding fast to what is good. Doing this only keeps us in winter. We never quite make it out of those places of our turmoil, because all we can think about is our difficult lot in life, instead of coming to the understanding that maybe God is using this difficulty to remind us that even in the darkest places of winter, joy can be found as we trust in His mercies that are new every morning.

Isn’t it true that even in winter, the sun is out? The sun is still shining; it’s just harder to see. The light of the sun, even in the darkest places of winter still remains. Will we look for it and find joy and hope or will we focus on the blustery cold of darkness and despair never quite reaching the point of true hope, joy and transformation?

Do we believe someone or some-thing to be all bad? Do we view our health, marriage, children, work, family member, or situation to be only dreadful or will we look for the light of the sun, even in the despair of winter? Soon, beloved, spring is coming, if we choose to hold fast to the sun that is still shining, even in the darkest of winter.

“And the ransomed of the LORD will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.”- Isaiah 35:10

Lord, pride runs deep in my heart and so does an unbelieving, critical spirit. Yet, there is a healer who has made me new and His mercies are new every morning. He shines bright even in the darkest of winter. His love is a lighthouse that radiates in the darkness leading me to the shore of deliverance. Lord, today I choose to see the sun that shines, no matter what my circumstances. Abba, I need you to illuminate truth in my heart and for you to lead me to the rock that is higher that I. In Jesus name, amen!

Unknown-9

Jesus: Acquaintance or Friend?

He was known to them…. (Luke 24:35)

As two men were on their way to Emmaus, they had an encounter with the risen Christ, although they did not recognize Him, at least, not until they broke bread and ate with Him.

In the ancient world to share a meal with someone was to become bonded together in friendship. Enjoying a meal with someone for the first time took the relationship from acquaintance to friend. It was a form of commitment to the other. It was lasting, not temporal.

The scripture tells us that Jesus acted as if He was going to walk on a little further, but these two men insisted that Jesus stay with them and have a meal together. For Jesus to deny such a request would have been extremely offensive, so He ends His journey for the day and sits down with these two men to break bread in fellowship.

The bible tells us that as soon as He, “took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them,” their eyes were opened and they were able to see that the man they were sitting with was indeed the risen Christ.

There was a different level these men went to with Jesus that day. Before this they only knew Him from a distance, but now, they knew Him as a friend. They were bonded together with Him, through deep fellowship and the breaking of bread.

Unknown-15

What about you? Do you only know Him from a distance or have you invited the risen Savior to dine with you at your table? Have you entered into a deep, abiding friendship with Him? Does He know you, do you want Him to know you or would you rather He be more of an acquaintance than a friend?

In the ancient eastern world sharing a meal together was like entering into a covenantal commitment with one another. Have you entered into such a relationship with Jesus Christ? Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come and dine with him and He with me.”

It is the sharing and breaking of bread with the Lord Jesus Christ where our relationship with Him goes to the next level. Do not misunderstand, it is not the bread that saves, nor the meal, but it is what our response to the invitation says about the commitment we are making. Saying yes to His invitation to dine with Him is to say, I am committed to you, permanently, in deep abiding fellowship. This is why communion is such a sacred ordinance within the Christian faith. It reminds us of our bonding to Christ. It is His body that was broken for us and our response is to say, yes Lord, although I am a wretched sinner, your grace covers me and through your love you and I can share in the blessing of an unbreakable covenant with one another.

Lord, thank you that although I am a sinner, who was once far from you, I have been brought near to you through your blood. In your love, I can be forgiven. You Lord, are the grace of my heart. You see me; you know me and you still wish to have a relationship with me. You invite me to dine at your table, to enter into an unbreakable covenant with you through the forgiveness of sins. Abba, I am forever grateful for your sacrifice for me. I love you, thank you for inviting me to dine at your table, in Jesus name, amen.

Dealing With Disappointment

“But we had hoped”… (Luke 24:32)

Disappointment in life can be crippling. Go ahead, fill in the blank, “but we had hoped for; children, good health, more time with a loved one, a happy marriage, job security, financial stability, a good life, or friends we could count on.” I’m not sure what has caused you to become disappointed in life, but we all face disappointments

images-3

Here’s the problem with disappointment, it can run and ruin our lives if we let it.

Everyone is going to face disappointments in life. What matters is what we do with what we had hoped for. Do we dwell on the fact that life seems unfair? That we didn’t get what we wanted and now we have to deal with the pain of an unmet expectation?

Are we able to see Christ in the midst of disappointment? In Luke 24 two men were walking along the road and Jesus, having just risen from the dead, joins them. Surprisingly, they did not recognize Him. Could it be they were focusing too much on what they had “hoped for,” instead of seeing the bigger picture of God’s sovereignty amidst their disappointment that they were unable to recognize the risen Christ among them?

Our problem is not in our dilemma, it is in our unwillingness to accept our predicament and trust in the grace of God through it. As Jesus walked along the road with these two men, He opened the scriptures to them. Later on as these two men are talking and say to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he opened the scriptures to us?” (Vs. 32) I believe that was the fire of the Holy Spirit awakening truth in their hearts as God’s light burst forth to help them see Christ in the midst of what they had hoped for.

After all, as Christians, is He not what we have hoped for? Why then do we allow other things to become where our source of contentment or satisfaction is found? Is He not Lord of all even in the midst of strife and disappointment? The only way to move past disappointment is to move into deep abiding trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is to see Him, His purposes and His truth even in life’s darkest hours.

Oh Lord, you are enough. I know Lord that I am quick to dwell on disappointing circumstances. I am unable, because of my own stubborn will to see Christ, walking with me, providing joy and peace in my heart amidst disappointment. Father, forgive me for not counting it all joy, for not keeping my eyes fixed upon the risen Savior and for not turning to your word to find my hope in life. Holy Spirit, burn within my heart through your word, in Jesus name, amen!

 

Get Out of Captivity!

When I was in East Asia sound asleep one night the fire alarm started blaring in the hotel I was staying in. It was no question what I should do next. I threw my coat on and in a haze of confusion and still half-asleep I stumbled out of the hotel towards safety. There was no time for thinking through the issue. The only thing I could do was act and if there was a actually fire in the hotel, I needed to move very quickly to get myself to safety. Thankfully, there was no fire, some old guy, doing his morning tai-chi must have set off the alarm by accident, but I didn’t know that and I wasn’t going to take any chances.

Unknown-10

Some things in the bible happen very quickly. One of those things happens to be deliverance. God delivers Israel from slavery in Egypt almost overnight, God gives deliverance to His people through the death and resurrection of Jesus, all which happened very quickly once Jesus was arrested. Then, a day will soon come when God will bring ultimate deliverance for His people when Christ returns. The bible says that Christ will be like a thief in the night. We do not know the day or the hour, we are simply called to be ready.

I can’t help but think that maybe some of us have missed God’s deliverance, because we weren’t ready or willing. Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”(Luke 9:52). Could it be that maybe God is speedily pulling us out of captivity, but we want to stay angry. We cannot forgive those who have hurt us, so we stay stuck in captivity, when all God wants to do is pull us out?

We keep looking back. We do not focus on what is ahead, so we keep our eyes on what was. God has work for us to do for His kingdom, but we cannot fully know that work until we follow God out of captivity and into His freedom. Many of us stay stuck in fear, anger, un-forgiveness, pride and rebellion for years, not because there is no deliverance for us, truth be told, God is always ready to deliver if we are willing to run with Him out of captivity. The problem is not God’s willingness to deliver. The problem is our unwillingness to let go and follow. We cannot seem to let go of things like; control, hurt, anger, betrayal, fear, past mistakes or something or someone that has hurt us deeply.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we’ll be healed in an instant from something in our lives that might be causing us strife, but it does mean that we no longer allow ourselves to be held captive by thoughts and actions that only throw us into a pit of despair and unbelief. It may be that God chooses not to heal us of some infirmity or release us from some hardship in our lives, but you see, I don’t think the point of deliverance is from the thing that is causing us difficulty. I think our deliverance comes from our negative responses to that difficulty where we grow angry, bitter and resentful. The deliverance is found in letting go, embracing our struggle and believing in God’s goodness through it.

God, no matter what comes about in my life, I long to sing your praises. It is not a thing, circumstance or a person I need deliverance from. It is my own self-righteous, sinful, unbelieving attitude that I need deliverance from. Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast Spirit in me. Show me where I have kept myself in captivity through thoughts I have embraced as truth that are a smoke screen of pure deception from the pit of hell. Lord, I want your joy in my heart. Today, I choose to walk in the freedom that only Christ can bring. Today, I choose to run with you towards my freedom and deliverance in Jesus name, amen!