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That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.”  This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

~Romans 4:17 NLT~

I used to watch the popular television series, Star Trek:  The Next Generation and in each episode, Captain Picard would say to his second in command, “Make it so, Number 2.”  Before you begin to think that Picard was somehow insulting his beloved Commander Riker, please understand that Number 2 was a term of endearment.  The point of sharing this tidbit with you is not necessarily to shed light on the importance of putting ourselves second, but to lead into a discussion about how God prepares us for something and then ever so confidently places the reigns in our hands and tells us; sometimes clearly, sometimes not so clearly, to “Make it so.”

God’s gentle guidance sometimes seems overwhelming no matter how long He babies us.  The idea that He will trust us to take bold steps seems far fetched when we consider how often we’ve been instructed to simply listen and obey.  For some reason, we tend to think that means that none of the gifts He has given us are meant to be put into action unless we see it laid out in Step 1, Step 2, Step 3…fashion.  When those steps aren’t laid out for us, we stall.  We rest on verses  like Psalm 27:14 that says, “Wait patiently for the Lord,” but sometimes the greatest tests He gives us have more to do with our ability to trust what we know about God and keep moving forward until He says to do something else.  He doesn’t always mean for us to sit by idly while we wait for Him to move.  Sometimes we have to actually do something.

I’ve been hanging back for a while, trying to figure out what it is He really wants me to focus on.  In all of my seeking and straining to hear Him, I’ve managed to remain frozen in place while my faith has been slowly melting into a puddle at my feet.  Not my faith in Him, but my faith in my ability to hear Him…or in His desire to speak to me.  It’s amazing how we effectively can put the brakes on our ability to carry out His plan simply by spending too much time wondering when He’s going to tell us what to do next.  Sometimes, you just need to keep swimming.  Eventually, He’ll shift the current to ensure that you reach the destination He wants you to reach.

When you realize that you’ve just been standing around like an idiot, sometimes you begin to doubt whether or not God should even allow you to make any progress.  As I said before, it isn’t as much a matter of our faith in Him but a matter of our faith in ourselves.  Like Gideon, we may doubt that we are strong enough or capable enough to be trusted with the task He’s placed in front of us.  But God is patient with us whether we’ve moved in the wrong direction or failed to move at all.  He waits for us to “get it” and when He sees that we have finally caught on, He gives us a push and out of the nest we fall.  Thankfully, if we can’t figure out how to use our wings He will also catch us or somehow cushion our landing.  But His hope for us is that we remember who we are and that we spread our wings and allow ourselves to take flight.  And when we do, His glory shines through every time.  So go ahead and use what the Good Lord gave you.  When your actions are rooted in obedience and reverence for the Almighty, even if you heard Him wrong you’ll be okay.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
~Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT~
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Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.

~Proverbs 25:28 NKJV~

I used to carry myself like a tough girl…always cussing people out and daring anyone to call me out of my name.  I was angry about everything and I wanted to make sure that everyone knew it.  Keep your distance; don’t even think about trying to hurt me.  This was the attitude I had and it was born mainly out of a fear of abandonment.  I was scared to death that someone was going to pretend to love me and then end up leaving me.  The funny thing is that throughout that time, I couldn’t seem to get people to leave me alone.  There were always people who wanted to be close to me and who wanted to show me that I was worth being cared for.  I just wouldn’t believe them and I really wanted them to just back off because the fear of being hurt was more compelling at the point in my life than my need to make a connection.

Over the years, things happen.  You build walls, you tear them down, you put them back up and others knock them down.  You reinforce them and still others come to take them apart; brick by brick.  Sometimes it’s the same people who come back over and over, testing you and looking for the weak spots in your fortress.  And there really is nothing you can do to prevent it.  But there is something you can do to overcome it.  You can pray.  You can come to understand once and for all that the only foundations that stay strong are those built in Christ.  Without faith and trust in His power, anything we try to build will crumble.  Sometimes we’ll see it as clearly as if someone had taken a wrecking ball to us; sometimes it’s like they’re digging through those walls with a teaspoon.  No matter how obvious the damage, you can be sure that it is actually happening.  Even when we are walking with Christ, the enemy never stops trying to destroy what He’s built in us.  The difference lies in how we respond.

So now, some twenty years later, I look back on my reactions to the attacks I’ve suffered.  When I reacted from a place of anger, I got back more anger.  When I reacted from a place of hate, I only bred more hate.  When I reacted in fear, which wasn’t as often as it probably should have been given the situations I found myself in; the end result was something more to fear.  It was only when I began to respond with grace, mercy and a peaceful heart that I began to reap a sweeter harvest in my life.  Yes, I still have problems.  I still run into opposition and difficult times.  I’m still challenged at every turn on most days.  The difference is that now I turn to Jesus and ask Him to guide my steps.  I ask Him what I need to do to bring about the fruit that He has promised.  These things that happen aren’t an opportunity for me to lash out and prove that I can be just as hateful as the next person.  This is not the time for me to sucker-punch someone with my sharp wit.  This is the time for me to prove that God’s way works every time.  It’s time for me to show that I have no fear because my heart belongs to the one who wins every battle.

I look at my daughter and I can see that she doesn’t have a hateful bone in her body.  Her presence makes the world a better place.  I can’t say that my presence always has.  In fact, I know at least a handful of people who might say they wish they’d never known me.  I can’t go back and fix the damage that I’ve done to those relationships, but I can put forth the effort and the energy needed to make all of my future interactions something that will make a positive difference in a world that is so quick to offer up the very worst that it has on any given day.

This means that I don’t present myself as someone you don’t want to mess with.  It means I don’t think it’s cool to tell everyone all of the awful things I’ve convinced myself that I’m proud of doing to myself and others.  It means that I don’t look for any and every way possible to sabotage myself and others.  It means that I don’t take pride in running away from the plan God has for my life.  It means I surrender.  I give my life to the One who made me.  I ask Him which way is up and I avoid looking down.  I move forward with the knowledge that I am covered by His grace and mercy and that no one can take that away from me.  No one has to take it from me because He offers it to all without prejudice; without requirement, without limits.  I don’t have to defend the grace He extends to me by building walls to keep you from seeing what I’ve got.  On the contrary, I want you to know what He’s given me because I want the same for you.

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

~Revelation 22:17 NKJV~

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

~John 10:10 NKJV~

The devil is a sneaky guy. Literally. When all of his attempts to pull your love away from God fail, he tries even harder to bring you to a place where everything you associate with God begins to hurt you. Hence the many individuals who have been hurt by churches and congregations that aren’t focused on the message of Jesus, but on gossip and backbiting and judging.  But that’s another post.  In this particular case, he caught me off guard by presenting me with what I thought might be my Boaz. For a long time, I had prayed to God that He would send me a good man. A man who loved Him first so that he could love me as a man is supposed to love his woman. Well, it took nearly three months of hell, but I finally figured out that this was just another one of the evil one’s tricks meant to sway me from my love for my God. Even what I thought God had sent had been used against me to draw me out of His love and toward the bitterness and anger that often accompanies a bad breakup.

Luckily, I look at failed relationships as successful research. If I didn’t, by now I would have sworn off men altogether. I’m not making light of this situation. My time with this man has caused me innumerable problems; many that I can’t even discuss here at this point in time. I’ll be cleaning up after this mess for a long time. In reflecting on things today, it occurred to me that just as the devil was able to sway Judas to betray his friend Jesus, he is able to persuade a desperate man to take advantage of a compassionate and loving woman. After being lured into relationship by a man who was willing to watch Bible programs and pray with me, how can I ever trust another man who claims to be a good Christian? I had never figured that this man would begin playing the very same games that other men had played in my past relationships. I never would have guessed that he would deceive me in the way that he did. But in my enthusiasm for what I thought God had sent me, I forgot what I’ve learned so many times in one Bible study after another; man will ALWAYS disappoint us. God is the only one who will never fail us.

So, even though this one didn’t end well…all IS well. I have not forgotten where my help comes from and I have faith that when it is time, He will send me the man who can appreciate the woman He has made in me. He will provide all that I need at the exact time that I need it and I will not have to wonder whether or not this one will break my heart or try to manipulate me or use me. As for this guy, I’ll pray for him. And I’m not angry. I’m not the least bit upset with him. I’m more upset with myself for allowing the devil to use my love for my God to almost get one over on me. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…well…you know the rest. For now, with my faith still intact, I must believe that God wants my focus to be on something better than a pseudo-relationship. And so, I press on.

“And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

~Luke 9:5 NKJV~

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

 ~Matthew 5:13 NIV~

There are those who cannot function in our society unless they are looking at things from one side or the other. Neither side wants to learn about or understand the other; they both just want to be right. Sadly, this is a large portion of the population. Many Christians would have you believe that we are called to be vigilant about one side or the other, but the reality is that the only way we can be vigilant against evil is to be very balanced in our treatment and understanding of one another. In order to choose life, we must understand and be compassionate about death. In order to be light, we must know why the darkness exists. We must seek to understand what we don’t want to be. And in that understanding, we find grace, mercy and compassion for one another which brings about the very kind of love that Christ walked the earth to teach so very long ago.

I was thinking yesterday morning that the thing which most often comes between us in our relationships is our need to be right. Our need to dominate one another on whichever side of an issue we choose to stand. But the key to truly loving each other is to meet in the middle, with God at the center, and allow the heart to absorb what it is about each other that is light. And in doing so, we sometimes have to be the salt that gets into the wounds and burns away the contaminants. Sometimes, we have to say things to each other to shake one another back into reality. Sometimes, when we see someone we love suffering through a problem that they are having trouble overcoming, the most loving thing we can do is to throw a little salt into it and help them get rid of whatever is causing the pain. Of course, we encourage them to pray. But we can also pray with them and for them; that God would give them the strength to bear up under the weight of whatever has been pressing them down.

Part of achieving that balance lies in not being afraid to confront sin. Sometimes, it isn’t necessarily sin that is weighing someone down, but just a lack of direction or courage. Which, technically could translate into sin if we’re trying to pick it apart. The point is that when a loved one is suffering, we should not be afraid to talk to them about it and try to direct them to God so that He can help them fix it. I read somewhere that salt creates a “hostile environment” for bacteria. And so, when we are afraid to say the things God puts on our hearts to say, we allow things to continue to attack those we love. If we think that it is none of our business or that maybe they will leave us if we tell them the truth, then we are doing them a disservice. Sometimes, you just have to break a few eggs to make an omelet…or something like that. I’m not much in the kitchen, so my cooking analogies may not be spot on. But you get the point, I’m sure. Sometimes people just get into a rut of unhappiness and they don’t even see that they have a problem. What you bring to their attention may be the exact thing they need to hear in order to begin breaking free from a stronghold.

The other part of achieving the balance, however; is to realize that the salt we throw is only useful if it is infused with light. The light of God’s love, working through us to get to those who need it. If we are just criticizing people and telling everyone what is wrong with them in the name of Jesus, then the reflection of Jesus that they are seeing is that He was critical and mean and basically unsatisfied with everyone He created. That is why it is so very important that when we attack sin through our posts on social media and elsewhere we take into consideration the balance of salt and light that we are putting out there. Sometimes what I see posted is simply salt. All hate…based on hating sin…but sadly misguided in its attempts to help people overcome the burdens this world is placing on them as they stumble along trying to find God’s hands to grab onto. Pictures of unborn babies, hateful speech and other tacky displays of Pharisaical standards of Godliness are not going to win any souls. Instead, these things just push the broken even further away and place obstacles in their path. There is a reason why we are told to love one another in John 13:34-35, for it is love that heals all wounds. And when we don’t have love for others, it is a sad reflection of the depth of our love and acceptance of Christ as our Savior. You may claim Him, but do you really love Him? If you are not loving your neighbor, then you are not loving Christ.

We all fall short of the glory of God, without a doubt. And we may never be able to be an accurate reflection of who He truly is. But He knows the hearts of those who are out to make a point versus those who truly want others to love Him for being their Almighty Savior, their Great Rock, their Awesome Redeemer, the Prince of Peace, our Strong Tower, our Healer, our Provider, our Protector, and our loving Father. He knows when the salt of our words is just salt. He knows when our aim is to hurt and not to heal. And He knows the depth of our brokenness when we can’t be light to others. Lucky for us, He loves us anyway. He is, as the verse goes in 1 Corinthians 13:4, patient and kind. The point of our salvation was not to bring us to stand a vigilant post on one side or the other, but to help us achieve the balance that lies in knowing God and living in His promises, receiving His love, and being able to give freely to others the gift that He freely gives us. No, we are not called to embrace evil, but we are called to understand how good evil can be once it allows God to heal it. For we are all evil at some level. We all have the sin nature and we all will sin. We are called to love the person and hate the sin; but we must understand that sin is part of the person and that we cannot effectively love the person if we are so focused on the sin that will fall away when the blood of Jesus is applied, that we spend all of our energy beating the person down to get them to receive the love. I realize that part might be a little confusing. Just let it sink in a minute. It makes sense.

We must accept that in order to love one another, we will need to understand that the sin nature is always present and that there is no one who lacks the capacity to sin. We can all fall down. Even the ones who seem to be standing the strongest. And we all deserve each other’s love and mercy. And not the watered down version we reserve for those who don’t quite meet our personal standards of a good person. God is the final judge and He calls us to love. When He calls you, will you be able to say that you’ve done as He asked?

Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

~James 4:11 NKJV~

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

~John 8:17 NKJV~

 Holding onto opinions about a person based on something they did in the past is not walking in love. Yet, there are so many who would rather continue to hate someone based on who they once were than to begin to love them based on what God has done in them. Would you consider yourself to be the kind of person who truly understands what it means to forgive others? What if God’s will for your life put you right in the middle of an issue that was not what others perceived it to be? Do you walk away from it because others don’t understand? Or do you continue to listen for God’s voice in the storm and persevere? This is where I find myself today.

Most of my life has been spent trying to live up to the expectations of others. Only in the last few years have I begun to question why it was always so important that I be the person they want me to be, even if what they want for me seems to conflict with what God wants for me. If I hear from God and He is guiding me, then why should I allow others to deter me from what I know He has asked me or told me to do? Life is confusing enough without having the people who are supposed to love you tell you to ignore what God is saying to you.

When I love someone, I try not to place conditions on that love. Even if you have wronged me, if I ever loved you, chances are that I will still love you even though I may not give you the opportunity to hurt me again. Love means being able to forgive someone who hasn’t yet figured out how to love. It means being able to forgive those who don’t seem interested in learning how to love. It means being able to forgive those who cannot forgive themselves or anyone else. It isn’t about doing what everyone else thinks you should do. Those who claim to love you while at the same time doubting every move you make or giving you grief because they do not understand the path God has you on have no idea what love means.

If I say that I love, that means I understand that people will always fall short of my expectations. The only one who will never disappoint me is God and He is also the only one who will ever love me without the condition that I impress Him or do exactly as He wants me to do. Even when I go in the wrong direction, His love for me is perfect and unfailing. Even though He is fully aware of the person I have been, He still loves me as though He can only see where I am headed as I walk alongside Him.

It is so important not to pass judgment on those who are attempting to emerge from their trials. Only when you are in the process of breaking free from your own strongholds can you fully understand how much He loves you. No matter how much I think I know about your situation or about your capacity to change and grow, I will never know you the way God knows you. I have no justification in directing your life. I can only share with you what God has done for me and hope that you will allow Him to work in you. When I do that, I’m showing the most love I can possibly show.

 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

 ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV~

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.

~Luke 7:37 NIV~

I used to wonder sometimes, will there ever be a time when I don’t feel like this woman?  Having come through a long period of self-destructive behavior and found grace at the feet of the Savior, it would seem that I would be able to let go of the guilt and the shame that once defined my life.  For the most part, I am.  But the devil is sneaky.  There are still some days when I’m haunted by things that I’ve not completely reconciled and though much healing has taken place, I’m just not where I need to be yet.  Today, has been one of those days.  Thankfully, the grace of my God makes the knowledge of my former brokenness bearable.

Our pastor mentioned something in a recent sermon that stirred a memory.  When I had a quiet moment today, I went back through my notes to find a passage that I had written a couple of years ago.  The pastor had re-written a passage of Scripture to capture the reality of today’s church.  It wasn’t exactly the same subject, but the thought process was similar to some therapeutic writing I had done a while back when I was struggling with grief and trying to make sense of loss.  In any case, I had the idea that if I were to write a story about myself for the Bible, it would look something like this:

1 And there was a woman named Rebecca who had lived a sinful life. 2 Once taught the word of God by false teachers, her knowledge of the Savior held no real understanding of the love He had shown by sacrificing His Son on the cross. 3 She wandered away from her faith and for a period of twenty years lived in darkness. 4 God placed in her life a man who became her husband, and the two lived in darkness together.  5 Having been blessed with one child, they tried in vain to have another, but in that time lost five children before they ever saw the light of day. 6 For ten years, she remained in that place before her brokenness became so unbearable that she called on Him. 7 “God, why have you allowed me to hurt in this way?” she cried out. 8 And she was consumed with sadness. 9 He answered her, saying, “Come home, daughter,” 10 And she found her way to Him, walking away from all that had constrained her. 11 Yielding to His love, she found truth and healing and finally received the beauty He had promised for her ashes.

The purpose of this writing was to help me figure out why I was still experiencing periods of grief when my life had been so completely restored.  What I found was that my tendency is to reject God’s love because I feel so unworthy.  And we are…unworthy…but not in the sense that we cannot and should not accept His grace and mercy.  We will never be perfect and He didn’t create us to be perfect.  He created us to love Him and to love one another with the same perfect love that He shows us.

Having been through a great deal of trauma in my life, some of which was self-inflicted and some the result of another’s brokenness, at times it has been difficult to see through the tears.  But through forgiveness, prayer and faith, I have been learning that my purpose is to accept His love and to then give that love as a gift to others who are broken so that we each become a reflection of the Savior’s unchanging love for all of us.

The farther I walk with Him, the more the devil pursues and attempts to turn me around so that all I’m looking at is what lies behind.  If I still feel like the woman with the alabaster jar, it is not God who is bringing about this condemnation.  It is Satan’s attempt to keep me from receiving the great gift that he once rejected and continues to reject.  So, with eyes forward, I take my steps confidently and with the knowledge that my future will not be like my past.  He has made me new and what the devil doesn’t realize is that now, even if I turn to look back, I’m doing so through new eyes and with a new vision.  And so, he cannot win.

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

~Luke 7:48 NIV~

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.

~Acts 16:13 (NIV)~
This is my first major post of the new year for this blog and I have prayed long and hard about what to say.  Even as I sit here typing this, I have a lump in my throat.  I’m learning to trust God more and more these days and as I sit here scrolling through my Facebook feed, seeing friends bashing God and the Bible, I’m compelled to present a different side of my God to those who may not know Him in hopes that they will seek the actual truth of Him and not just these misinterpreted perpetuations of who He is not.  One of the biggest reasons why God is misunderstood, in my opinion, is that as humans we tend to desire a Savior.  We desire a Savior, but we don’t look to THE SAVIOR to be that Savior.  We put our hopes in each other and when they are unable to live up to what we believe our Savior should be, we automatically assume that God is the same way.  Let me clear up a huge myth for you here; HE IS THE ONE AND ONLY SAVIOR AND NO HUMAN BEING CAN EVER HOPE TO LIVE UP TO THAT STANDARD.  When we put our hopes in each other, we might as well prepare to be gravely disappointed.  The only one who can truly fill you with peace, love, and strength is God Almighty and there is NO substitute.  There is NO close second.  There is NO alternative that will be able to provide for you what God can.
That said, I’d like to share something that I’ve recently experienced.  This is very personal and I would not share it unless I felt that what I had just experienced might resonate with some who might be reading this blog.  I am a single woman.  I’ve had rotten luck with relationships and up to this point, have never really had the kind of relationship that provided a safe, peaceful, loving atmosphere from which I could say that I felt truly loved by a man.  It’s unfortunate, but that is just the way it is.  I’m naturally somewhat distrustful when it comes to dating and I generally don’t jump too quickly when a guy claims to be everything I’m looking for in a partner.  A few days ago, I started talking with a man online who represented himself as a single, Christian man.  Here is an excerpt from an e-mail he sent:
 I don’t want to scare you off but feel I need to tell you that I have not been able to get you off of my mind. I am looking forward to getting to know you better, who you are, more about your family, Etc. I too am very cautious about who I talk to. I got burnt in the past, I am not bitter nor do I dwell on it, the past is the past but I will never understand how a person can be a cheat.
There are a number of red flags here that I didn’t actually see until I started really listening to that still, small voice that kept saying to me, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”  I had declared earlier in that same day to a close friend that I wasn’t looking for a relationship and that I was quite happy with my single status for now.  Of course, everyone says that when you make that kind of statement, that is when your dream guy will appear.  Oh, so magically.  Well, instead of hearing God on this, I heard the voices of all those who had said to me, “When you least expect it, there he’ll be.”  So, I almost let myself get a little excited over the idea that I might have finally found my Boaz.
Several days passed and we exchanged several e-mails.  I wanted to do some research online to make sure the person I was dealing with was legitimate.  This was difficult because he didn’t divulge his full name to me until yesterday.  At that point, I was almost to a place where I didn’t feel the need to check up on him.  He was charming and claimed to be a God-fearing, Christian man who was looking for someone who would treat him better than his ex-spouse supposedly had.  I felt many things; sympathy, curiosity, hope, fear, and even a twinge of compassion for this man that I had not yet met.  Thankfully, one of the things I hadn’t yet developed for him was trust.  And being the investigator that I am, I set about the task of finding his truth.
It didn’t take long, once I got down to business, to find that he was not, as he had claimed, divorced.  In fact, his wife has a very nice, detailed profile on a social networking site that allowed me to view the very same photographs of him that he sent me.  He had claimed that he didn’t have any pictures of himself online and that he didn’t get on social networking because she had cheated on him and it was a long story and blah, blah, blah…well, how awful for him.  As I looked through the photos and read her most recent updates, it was very clear that they were still very much together and that he was very much a liar and a cheat.  Immediately, my feelings of compassion, my sympathy, and my curiosity about this man pretty much vanished and it was obvious that there was only one thing left to do; confront the sin.  But how?
As I lay in bed thinking about how angry this man had made me and how I had almost let him into my life, God reminded me that He had given me exactly what I needed to navigate this whole situation in a way that would bring Him glory.  Years ago, my response would have been to rip into this man and threaten his life, effectively glorifying no one.  Today, I know that what I need to do is to find a way to help others protect themselves from this very thing by helping them to understand how these kinds of people thrive.  Obviously, this man is sin-sick.  He has no real roots in his own faith and that is sad and pathetic.  The word that he has been given has been planted in the thorny, rocky soil of his heart and its seed lies among whatever pain and hurt that has prevented him from letting it into his soul in the way it was intended.  I feel sorry for him, but most of all, I feel sorry for this man’s wife.
To think, he knew from what I had told him that I am a women’s advocate, a strong believer and follower of Christ, and that I’m intelligent enough to figure things out.  Yet, he went ahead with his game.  That’s how strong a hold Satan has over us at times.  He can make even the most seemingly devout act like complete heathen idiots.  He does this by brainwashing us into believing the lie that our flesh tells us; that God is failing us because of the way other people treat us.  Well, he didn’t win this round with me.  I’ve been stupid before about things and I allowed myself to fall into the trap of infidelity.  This wasn’t during my marriage, but I was convinced at one time that my affair with a man I knew was somehow justified.  By the time God got finished with me, I knew that I had done this man and myself a grave disservice and I swore that it would never happen again.  And to date, I’ve stood by that.  I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t want to be.  And while God wants us to want to be like Him; He understands that we cannot and thankfully for this man’s soul, He allows us to make mistakes and grow from them if we are willing.
The long and short of this story is that while this man tried to pull me into something that served his own need to hurt someone else, God alerted me to it and I was able to make the right choice.  He has healed me to the point that I could not be convinced of the value of this man’s admiration and that I recognized him as a false Boaz.  Today, I pray for his wife.  I pray for him as well.  I pray that God will deal with him and I know that He will.  Last night, as I made these discoveries, I was very angry.  But it was clear even then that while the man had destroyed my feelings of compassion and sympathy for him, he was not able to destroy my hope and my faith that somewhere, God is preparing the right man for me.  I don’t need him to show up right now, but when he does I can be sure that I will recognize him because deep in my heart I recognized that this guy just wasn’t the real deal.  That’s how my God works.  That’s why I trust Him completely.  That’s how I know that He has done a work in me that no man can reverse and no devil in hell can overcome.
Praise God, He gave me wisdom and discernment.  My Redeemer lives!  My ONE AND ONLY SAVIOR is Christ, the Lord.
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
~Psalm 62:8 NIV~

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

~1 John 5:14 NIV~
I didn’t write much throughout the month of November because I was struggling with the notion that I had nothing to say.  I was caught up in a process of trying very hard to hear God and wanting to be quiet so that when He did finally speak, I would be paying attention.  I have a tendency to talk too much at times and I was in dire need of a word from Him to tell me what to do with this next phase of my life.  That word finally came to me in the form of a request from our women’s Bible study group at church.  We had just finished up Beth Moore’s James and we were trying to figure out what would be the best way to spend a few weeks in a study during the holidays.  I had suggested we do The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson earlier in the year, but it hadn’t been the right time then.  Finally, we all agreed that it was time to draw some prayer circles and I was asked to lead this study.
We are currently in our second week of The Circle Maker and the concepts that I’ve been reading about are finally starting to make sense.  I understood them on the surface, but it wasn’t until I put them into practice that I began seeing the true value of what we have been learning.  My ministry, Higher Ground Ministries has been a small ministry at best.  I’ve not known what to do, what direction to take next, or how to achieve the goals I’d set for myself.  Not sure why I was having this difficulty; the only excuse I can offer is that the devil really didn’t want me to kick things into high gear with this ministry and so, he confused me with reminders of every single inadequacy I possess.  He had me convinced that I could never make things work.
After watching the second video for this Bible study, I made the decision to begin praying for direction for the ministry again and this time, I targeted specific things I wanted to do to get things moving while I’m getting our application for 501 (c) (3) status together.  I asked God what He would like me to do for the women I wish to serve in our community.  He answered and He even told me what I needed to do next.  And so, last night I sent out e-mails to about sixty of my female friends and family members asking for donations of new underwear, socks and bras to be given as Christmas gifts to women and girls who are currently in shelters.  Within about an hour, I had fifteen responses and commitments from all of those ladies to donate items for this project.  I was absolutely thrilled!  Today, I received an instant message from a friend asking if I wanted to go on her radio show and talk about the project.  Of course, I said yes and I’m scheduled to be on this Thursday at 5 p.m.  I’m so blessed to have a great bunch of friends and family to support the things that God is calling me to do.
So, the point of this post is to tell you that I’m stepping out in faith, praying big circles around my dreams and following God’s direction so that I may glorify the One who has made me new.  Even when I begin to doubt myself, He remains faithful and gives me time to come back to my senses and do what He has created me to do.  When you are struggling with not having enough confidence to follow through on your dreams, remember that God put those dreams in your heart for a reason.  He never gives us more than we can handle and He has created us for our own unique purpose to bring glory to His name.  His glory is our strength and His love never fails.  Let Him guide you down the path you must go.  Let Him light the way with His marvelous light.
All that said, if you have donations you would like to send, please e-mail me for details.  I’m collecting these items through December 15th and all donations of new items are appreciated.  Or if you would like to donate cash to help cover gift wrapping supply costs, that would be wonderful as well.  More information is available at the Higher Ground Ministries blog.
In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
~Exodus 15:13~

The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

~Luke 18:34 NIV~

It’s funny how pain brings out the absolute worst in people.  At a time when the commonality of our suffering should bring us together, the pain of loss sometimes can cause a bigger rift between loved ones than many are prepared to deal with.  And so, on top of that pain we experience bitterness, anger, shame, guilt and a whole host of other emotions that effectively prevent us from healing.  And the longer we carry that pain around, the longer it takes to come to terms with our loss.  But God did not intend for us to carry around our burdens.  In 1 Peter 5:6-7, He plainly tells us to cast our cares on Him.

So, why is it so difficult to do that?  What is so hard about taking the things that hurt us and laying them at the feet of our Father?  Why do we hang onto our misery as though it were a trophy?  God allows us to go through trials as a means of advancing us toward the greater blessing.  Why then, are we so short-sighted as to claim the lesser victory and settle for our own idea of blessing when what He is preparing us to accept is so much greater?  And why am I asking so many questions if it’s all as simple as handing my problems over to Him?  The answer is simple; because at some level I lack faith.  Yes, I admit that in spite of all my efforts to believe and to hope and to follow my God, I still have moments of doubt.

These moments of doubt aren’t the result of my witnessing what I would consider failures on God’s part, they are from witnessing successes on the part of the devil.  Successes that I allow each and every time I fail to seek God’s advice in every situation.  Successes that I allow each time I permit myself to be overtaken by feelings of guilt, shame or unworthiness.  God has already fought these battles for me through the sacrifice of His Son.  And something that I heard on Creflo Dollar’s broadcast the other day captures the very reason why I should never let the devil have the satisfaction of seeing me sad or feeling like less than a conqueror.  Dr. Dollar said that every time he thought about Jesus being beaten by the guards, he couldn’t understand why Jesus just kept getting back up.  He said that the very fact that Jesus would not stay down is symbolic of His willingness to bear the entire burden of sin that was on each and every one of God’s children.  And through His suffering, He took away any requirement that ever existed for any person to live in defeat.  Yet even among those who know this truth, many Christian believers still live their lives bogged down in worry and fear.

The devil especially loves to make us think that maybe we aren’t really okay.  Long after we’ve dealt with something, prayed about it, and handed it over to God, he loves to see us reconsider and decide that we aren’t finished holding onto that pain.  Satan loves to see God’s children in a state of doubt and confusion.  And so, like a fish that finds itself trapped in a glass bowl, our souls inhabit our flesh confined by its limitations and all of the vulnerabilities that come with living out a great purpose in a package that was never meant to fit.  We are only here for a few moments in the greater scheme of things and so, it appears that God must have great faith in us to trust us to do all that He knows we can do while under constant attack from the enemy.  The very least we can do is to have that kind of faith in Him.  He knows what we are made of and how He designed us.  And He’s even given us the instructions to operate at optimum levels while slogging around down here in our earthly bodies.  So, when He says to cast our cares on Him, He truly means it.  In spite of our tendency toward going the wrong way, He remains our light on a very dark path.

  Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

~John 8:12 NKJV~

 

 

And Moses said to them, “Stand still, that I may hear what the Lord will command concerning you.”

~Numbers 9:8 NKJ~

Lately, I have been so caught up in finding my way that I’ve let the continuous search interfere with the probability of reaching my destination. The need to know that I was heading down the right road overrode my desire to just go ahead and serve God. And so, I noticed after a period of time that my joy was quickly evaporating under the stress of not being certain that my efforts were going to lead to the kind of life that He wants me to have. I forgot somewhere along the way that He already knew that I was going to encounter this particular dilemma. He knew that I was going to be so sidetracked by my own insecurities that for a time, I’d be paralyzed into a state of inactivity. This was not a period of quiet reflection. It was a period of utter confusion brought on by my failure to place my trust in His leading and just do the thing.

From what I understand, everyone goes through something like this at one point or another. It’s the times when we get stuck in them that become our defining moments as Christians. Do we wait to hear from Him even when it seems like our whole life has passed us by without a good word? Or do we go ahead in our own power, keeping our fingers crossed that what we are doing is close enough to what He would have told us to do? Is there any middle ground that is safe or even makes sense for a believer? There would almost have to be.

It probably isn’t so much that He isn’t speaking to us or leading us, but more that we just aren’t hearing Him. It took a long period of trial and error before it dawned on me that He had told me more than enough about what He wanted me to do; I just hadn’t done it. Sign after sign passed in front of my face until one day I started to think, “Maybe He really has no purpose for me. Maybe I’m just not someone He can use.” I considered all of the projects I had been working on and what had motivated me to start them in the first place. Some things were the product of necessity; like working. Some things I had started because they were therapeutic; like writing. Some things I had taken up for health reasons; like walking. Some things I had done for my sanity; like getting more involved in church. But there were a few things that I couldn’t explain. Like going back to school after I had already finished my degree.

The things that were now haunting my to-do list were all the product of projects I had started to accomplish what I once thought would be good for me. As I began to reap the benefits of those activities, I started to doubt whether or not I should still be doing them. It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that these things might be stepping stones to some other projects that God wanted me to work on when I was ready. The steps I needed to take to get to what God knew was good for me. So when the truth of things started to reveal itself to me, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I found. I had always thought I was in control of what was going on until I entered into this relationship with Christ and then I had thought I was doing the right thing by standing down and waiting for His signal. The only problem with that was that I had my own ideas about what His signal looked like and what I wanted to hear Him say rather than what I needed to hear in what He was telling me.

So when people I had once trusted started to betray me, I didn’t hear Him saying, “It’s time to see things as they really are.” And when doors began to close on things I’d started to lean on, I didn’t hear Him telling me that I had learned enough to do something with that experience and my time there was finished. And when significant relationships began to deteriorate, I let the sound of my heart breaking keep me from hearing Him say, “It’s time to move on.” In all these things, He was speaking loudly and clearly. I just hadn’t wanted to hear Him.

After a time of reflection, many things began to make sense and the idea that I could do more than what I’d been doing quickly began to take root. He had been working on me for a long time and He had faith in me. All the time that I’d spent saying how much faith I had in Him wasn’t reflecting that I actually did. In fact, my actions had been saying quite the opposite. The reflection I’d been giving of my relationship with Christ was one that showed others I didn’t have much faith in what He’d promised me. And that was unacceptable. For as much as I love my God, He certainly deserves better than that. And so, my next steps are these: Pray, do something, pray some more, do some more, wait, pray, do. And when I don’t know what to do next, I need to keep doing the thing He’s told me to do until it is no longer able to be done. That’s how I’ll know it’s time to hear Him. That’s how He’ll know I’m finally listening.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.

~Habakkuk 2:3 NKJV~

Introduction

My name is Rebecca Benston. I'm an author, speaker, and advocate for women and children. My spiritual journey has led me to many questions about what is right and how to live out the purpose that God has set for me.

I am finding that after considering all other possibilities, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that without living a life that acknowledges the blood of Jesus we are lost. Yet, there are many who claim to know Him and understand His teachings who spew hatred and look for any and all opportunities to judge others instead of seeking them out to lead them to Christ. The goal of this blog is to work towards removing the animosity that exists between followers of Christ who subscribe to different doctrinal approaches and beliefs about what is expected of a "good" Christian. Also to draw the unbeliever closer to Christ through practicing His love and patience and to help all followers understand that love and true faith cannot co-exist where hate, intolerance and a sense of superiority live.

I also hope to open a dialogue with people from many different religious backgrounds and to work together with followers of this blog to break down some of the barriers to harmony that exist in our society. I hope you will join in the conversation!

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