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For the broken

I believe that sin is real and rampant. I believe there is an enemy of God and His people. One that prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8). A trickster, who disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), but who is truly a murderer and a liar (John 8:44). I believe that his temptations can and do overcome even the most faithful servants of God, even beloved King David.

BUT!
I worship a God that rebuilds ruined places and plants that which is desolate (Ez 36:36), whose strength is made perfect when we are weak (2 Cor 12:9), who can restore His people and make them strong, firm and steadfast following suffering (1 Peter 5:10). I worship a God that can restore what the locusts have eaten (Joel 2).

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

If you are devastated or hurting this morning, please be encouraged that the Lord is there with you. Let me remind you of a few of His wonderful names:

El Roi (The God that Sees)
Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
El Olam (The Everlasting God)

When you are hurting, He is with you. He sees. He cares. He has peace and healing for you. You cannot do it on your own, but He can.  But maybe that isn’t quite enough to comfort you, maybe it makes you feel vulnerable and helpless because it’s out of your control. Here is what you can do: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rom 12:12). “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Ps 55:22). Know that “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning” (Ps 30:5).

 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Isaiah 57:15

 

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Can we be real?

I’ve just got to share something with you today… My friend Lee wrote a great post on being a ‘real’ Christian woman and I think it’ll really hit many of us in a tender spot… But first some back story:

In preparation for an upcoming message, speaker Lynn Bell gathered statements from some of her friends in response to this statement:  “I would have more close relationships with the women at my church if only…”

Lynn and I were in the same speaker peer evaluation group at this year’s She Speaks training conference. I had the pleasure of hearing Lynn speak twice for peer evaluation. I was impressed by her gentle delivery as a speaker, and I was not now surprised that Lynn was putting such thoughtful preparation into her upcoming message.

Lynn’s question resounded strongly in my heart, and my fingers typed and sent a message in reply to her inquiry almost before I could process my thoughts. “If only we could be real with each other, instead of being a ‘Sunday best’ version of ourselves”, I added to the exchange. And as I sat there processing my own words, and the flood of similar responses from other women across the country, I became very sad.

I’m sad that we do this, and that it makes other women feel alienated and never quite good enough. I’m sad that we feel a burden to display a facade of perfection. I wasn’t the only one feeling this way about women in the church. Our friend Lee Merrill (another She Speaks alum) felt the same grief. She posted her transparent thoughts about it on her Prayer Gifts blog and I as I read it I was  moved by her words.

“Help me to believe I can be a godly woman and flawed at the same time…
I must be real because hidden wounds miss the hands of the Healer.”

Here’s a link to Lee’s post, a great read for women in the church today. I’m grateful she shared her heart with us. And if you’d like to get to know Lynn Bell better, she’s over at The Gentle Savior.

If this strikes a chord with you as well, feel free to add to this discussion in the comments.

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I Trust You… I Trust You Not…

I lay in bed trying to close my eyes and give over to sleep. But every time I close my eyes, the fears come back and my eyes pop back open. I blink nervously for a while. My mind races with numerous scenarios of what things could go wrong when my eyes are shut. When my eyes are open again I can remind myself of all God has accomplished already, and the promises in His word that He will remain faithful. I feel soothed again, and let my heavy eyelids droop once more… Then a minute later–pop! I’m awake again, back in paranoia.

Why do I do this? Why do I think that somehow as long as I can be “on duty” in my life that my problems can be managed? I cannot keep my eyes open forever! Eventually I have a choice to make, do I trust that God will come through? Like, really trust it not just say it–there’s a big difference!

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand… For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’  Isaiah 41:10, 13

It’s natural to have an unsettled feeling after going through out of control life circumstances. After we’ve basked in the warmth of what the Lord has done in a situation we can sometimes slip back into a spirit of fear and worry that another crisis will soon arrive. And this is where our faith muscle is tested and trained; when we have to make the choice whether to trust God even though we have no certainty as to the future. But having walked with the Lord for any length of time we have experienced the loving protection of Our Father while we cowered in the dark and low places. Emerson Eggerichs has said, “Don’t doubt in the dark what God showed you in the light.”

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” Jesus, in John 14:1

My idea of how I want God to come through in a situation may be different than God’s plan for that situation. And that is scary… But it His plan is best. But in 1 Corinthians Paul refers to Isaiah 64 “As it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’”. I can’t even possibly conceive of God’s wonderful plan for my life and my problems. And the Lord has promised so much to me, and proven faithful every time I needed Him. I need only take a deep breath and relax, allowing myself to let go of what troubles me and let God handle those things.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:4

Originally published in the Fall 2012 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter
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Maintaining Your Expectations

In the film Facing the Giants Coach Grant Taylor had been praying for the Lord to touch several areas of his life and so far he couldn’t see God working. Grant’s friend encouraged him saying, “Grant, I heard a story about two farmers who desperately needed rain. And both of them prayed for rain. But only one of them went out and prepared his fields to receive it. Which one do you think trusted God to send the rain?”

When my husband, Michael, and I were newly married almost two years ago he was finishing his final semester of college. He would graduate with daunting prospects, like the rest of his graduating class. The Great Recession was in full swing, the country’s unemployment rate was nearing its high peak in the same month as graduation, and his extremely competitive field–journalism–was partially dying as it evolved with advances in digital media. To say that we prayed often for God to bring a good job for him would be a dramatic understatement!

We knew the bleak expectations the rest of the world had for anyone looking for a job during the Great Recession. But we also knew we had a big God, and we never stopped praying for God to move, we just couldn’t know how long we’d be waiting for God’s plan to play out. We trusted God to provide during the waiting time. That may come off to you as easy-peasy lip service, but it was not always easy to keep our heads up and wait on God’s timing. We took turns encouraging one another if things didn’t move as fast as we would like.

During that waiting time God proved time and again He would provide what we needed.  We weren’t eating steak and lobster, but we always had food in our bellies and a roof over our heads. Michael was able to find part-time work fairly easily and did whatever he could to keep our household running. We started taking the Financial Peace University class at church, to be ready with a plan once God provided a better salary for Michael. My husband was an excellent example to me of ‘preparing for rain’.

I think sometimes in our dry periods we pray, not expecting God will really send the rain. The waiting time can be long, and we become discouraged. The enemy whispers to us that if God was really all powerful and loving He wouldn’t put us through desperate times. Even if our expectations were high at the start, we lower them as time passes, thinking if we expect less we’ll be less disappointed. But what if we changed it up and still expected God to show His strength, despite dismal circumstances?

In Judges 7 the Lord prepares Gideon’s army for a battle with 135,000 Midianites by paring them down from 32,000 to just 300 men. Talk about bad odds, this would be 450 to 1! The Lord would show through Israel’s victory that the only strength that matters is the strength of the Lord.

Paul writes in Romans 8, “If God is for us who can be against us?”  … “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” … “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Do not lose heart in the waiting time! Do not lower your expectations of God or convince yourself that He doesn’t care about you. Expect Him to follow through on His promises, He always has! Even on the toughest days He is still in control. And in our case, after nearly 15 months of searching God brought Michael a great full time job. Expect God to bless you and that’s exactly what He will do!

 

Originally published in the Summer 2012 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter