Being Brave

This has been a tumultuous summer for a number of reasons, and the list just keeps growing. I found out some more news yesterday that was…difficult to hear.

There have been many times over the years where I’ve had to carry our family for different reasons. Every one of those times has been difficult. And so, yesterday, when I got this news, I was overwhelmed.  Last night, when I was driving to Target, I was having a conversation with God. I said, “God, I don’t think I can be brave again. It’s been one thing after another, and when each thing has happened, thoughts of being abandoned enter my head. I’m not sure I can go on or be brave anymore.”

Well, God, being God, had this to say. “It is not you being brave, my daughter. It is me being brave for you. It is me giving you courage and giving you strength.” He reminded me of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 12:9 – 10

“But he (God) 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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 4:8 – 9

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

After these verses came to mind, God also said something else. “This is why I have also given you a family, my daughter. A family that can be brave for you when you can’t. A family that loves you and won’t abandon you. Take heart, you are stronger than you think you are.”

I came back home from that conversation with peace and reassurance in my heart knowing my God is bigger and braver than whatever the world throws at me and that I don’t have to be brave at all as long as He is with me.

God’s blessings on you today!

 

 

That Pesky Serpent

Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Living like I have confidence and assurance. It is my utmost desire as a Christian believer. I want to live a life that reflects my Lord and Savior to others. But, while I still live in this imperfect world, there is something that gets in the way of doing this. What is it, you ask? It’s that pesky serpent, of course. Satan doesn’t want me or anyone else, for that matter, to live with confidence and assurance. In fact, he would prefer to keep us emasculated and bottled up in our own fears. To make us impotent even when we’re sitting in church, even when we’re worshiping our Lord and Savior.

What makes it worse is that Satan can be present in the good things. Things like worship, the Holy Spirit, community, family, marriage, church, work, sexuality….the list could go on and on. The serpent, which is how Satan is portrayed in Genesis 3, sits on our shoulders and whispers things in our ears that make us dissatisfied  with what God has given us.  I’m sure you’ve heard some of these messages before.

“You know that convertible would be a much better car than the Toyota you’re looking at. And it would impress more girls too.”

“What about the house in that great neighborhood? You’re not worth anything if you don’t buy a house.”

Here’s another one. “You know, the worship service couldn’t have been that good if they didn’t sing all of your favorite songs.”

And finally, “How can you contribute if you’re sick? Having faith is about what you do and what you give, not about who you are. You’re not good enough for the grace God says He’s given you.”

I’m sure you can come up with more deceitful messages that Satan has whispered in your ear. The one pertinent word in that previous sentence is deceitful. All of those messages are deceitful and not what God intends for His children.

You might wonder why I’m writing about this today. It was inspired by the sermon my pastor preached yesterday. He spoke of that pesky serpent in Genesis 3 and the influence it had on Adam and Eve and how their sin changed God’s creation forever. He also talked about how Satan will always whisper in our ear, and how that won’t change until we are with Jesus.

I was thinking this morning of how this related to me. This past week has been a wild ride for me and my family. My husband has been having some health difficulties, and he had to spend a day in the hospital because of concern that his heart was involved. It wasn’t, but the symptoms were still there. Because of the unknown diagnosis, fear grabbed my heart and took up residence. I realize now that Satan was also whispering in my ear. I stuffed everything inside and didn’t feel like I could share because of the unknown diagnosis. After he had more lab work done the following day, a voice told me I was being stupid and that I needed to share. I know that voice was God. After posting a prayer request on our church’s Facebook page, I felt better and lighter, like a tremendous burden had been lifted. The following day he received a diagnosis, and he is now being treated.

This whole situation has taught me something. God uses community to make our burdens lighter and to help us live for Him. He didn’t mean for us to go through life alone. We shouldn’t have to pretend with each other. We should be able to share, to become unglued, to be authentic with our fellow Christians without fear of rejection. My prayer request today is for God to help me be better with that–on the giving end and on the receiving end. And that the whispers of the pesky serpent go unheard over the chorus of believers doing what they’re supposed to do.

God’s blessings on you today!

Taking Thoughts Captive

Many of the topics I have written about in this blog are things I’m struggling with in my own life. Today’s topic is no exception. All of us who are Christians have our own thought lives. We can think of ways we can serve Christ and act on them. We can also think of things that can discourage us in our Christian walk. Those thoughts come from Satan. Since we are still living in this world and we are imperfect, our thoughts come from both places.

So, how do Christians defeat the thoughts that come from Satan? There is a specific verse about this topic in 2 Corinthians, specifically in chapter 10, verse 5.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.”

Paul doesn’t pull any punches, does he? What exactly does this mean? Our thought lives are where Christ does His best work in us. If they’re not focused on Him, He doesn’t have the opportunity to work, and Satan has the opportunity to get in and discourage us and then encourage us to sin. God does have some ways to prevent this though, but it takes effort on our part, and it’s an effort we should be willing to make if we truly want Him in our lives.

The first of these ways is prayer. If we’re not talking to God, how are we supposed to know what He wants us to do? Psalm 61:1 says, “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.”  Romans 12:12 says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Jesus says this about prayer in John 17:20. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” So, prayer is important in our relationship with God. It’s how we talk to Him.

Are there any other ways God can communicate with us? Yes, through our study of Scripture.  2 Timothy 3:16 – 17 aptly demonstrate this. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching , rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God wants us to know how He wants us to live, and Scripture will tell us if we take the time to read it.

There is one additional way God can communicate with us, and it’s through other believers. Believers who are steeped in prayer and the study of Scripture often have insights that God can use in our lives if we take the time to listen. That can be a hard thing though as Christians, especially those in the United States, deal often with the sin of pride and thinking they can do it all alone when God did not mean us to be alone by any stretch of the imagination. We, who are Christians, are supposed to live in community and be able to trust our fellow believers enough to be authentic with them.

I say all this like it’s easy, but I know it’s not. I know it’s something I will have to pray about every day for the rest of my life.  God wants us to talk to Him about everything though–our victories and our struggles. He knows we will struggle because we are still living in an imperfect world where sin resides, and He knows our thoughts are the first place we will struggle. I am so thankful that my God is with me through it all!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The End of the Prayer Project

When I say this is the end of the Prayer Project, I don’t mean this is the end of my praying. Not by a long shot! I just mean that this project of praying for every family in my church was finished yesterday morning when I prayed for the last set of names. It’s kind of surreal. During this time of being on my knees, I prayed for many families and for many people who I knew personally, and then I prayed for people who I didn’t know besides seeing their name on a list. But God does. God knows all of  us, and each of those people deserved to be prayed for.

I was thinking about where I needed to go next when I was writing in my journal earlier. We had a time of prayer last night at my church, and I realized something. God is leading me to be more intentional about prayer. I wrote last week about courage, and I think praying and courage are all wrapped up together.  I do understand that people are uncomfortable praying out loud. If I were to be honest, I would count myself in that group. But, God is wanting me to reach beyond my comfort zones in asking for prayer and in volunteering to pray. Praying is how we talk to God, and praying is how we understand how God wants us to share His love with the world around us. There are so many verses in Scripture about prayer. I would make this post impossibly long if I tried to share all of them so I will only quote two. The first is in the Old Testament from 2 Chronicles.

2 Chronicles 7:14

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The second is from the book of Philippians in the New Testament.

Philippians 4:6

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

The second verse, in particular, is one I have to remember every single day, and I think God is pointing out to me that I do have to be intentional and consistent with my prayer time. I look forward to seeing where this focus will go in the future.

God’s blessings on all of you today!