Soul Resistance

I have learned more about the faithfulness of God from my enemies than from my friends.~ Lisa Bevere

It is through the fire that we are refined. I don’t like this reality, but God is vastly smarter than I am, so I trust the refiner. I’m not in the thick of enemy fire at present time but over the course of my 43 years have experienced it more than I would like. Yet, I appreciate this perspective….what if we thank Jesus for our enemies? For it is through them that we press into Jesus, finding out what we are really made of and determining our source of strength.

Resistance makes the soul grow stronger. It likens working out at the gym. We won’t grow in strength, muscle mass, or endurance if we don’t push ourselves a little more than we are comfortable with. It’s the resistance that forms/maintains muscle and develops endurance.  What if we see our enemies as resistance training for the soul?  They push us to trust Jesus more, pressing into His promises, and applying His truth to our circumstances.  God will take what was meant for evil and bring something  good out of it, as revealed in Genesis 50:20.  Enemies are muscle makers for the soul.

At the same time, I want to resist becoming an enemy to my enemies. Others may choose to find flaws and fractures in me, not a difficult task, but my desire is to reflect His light. I hope He shines through all of my flaws. Defending ourselves is unnecessary when we know Jesus. He alone is our judge, jury and justifier. If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed! Resist the temptation to justify and defend yourself.   If you offer no defense, it takes the wind out of their fiery sails and they will be left to deal with Jesus in the matter. You, on the other hand, will have grater soul strength, enabling you to accomplish far more than you ever thought possible for Jesus. Choosing forgiveness is where freedom is found.

Who are you villainizing in your mind this week? Stop stewing over the offense, letting it simmer in your mind.  There is zero resistance in that kind of thinking.  Trust that God is going to do something amazing in you, as you persevere and praise Him through the pain.  The soul resistance is making you stronger.

Is there someone that once was a friend or family member that has suddenly started to accuse and betray you? It hurts. I know my friend. I’ve been there, but so has Jesus. He empathizes with you. Find strength in Him. He’s going to make you stronger through the fire. Resist the urge to defend yourself and don’t drag their name through the mud. Imagine taking them to Jesus and leaving them at His feet. Remember the guys in Luke 5 that lowered a paralyzed man through the roof of a house so he could be healed by Jesus? Think about your accusers that way. Maybe they are spiritually sick and paralyzed, but unaware of how infected their souls have become. Leave them before Jesus and move forward. He will attend to them. You will be free and your soul will be a whole lot stronger.

Prayer: Jesus, you understand betrayal and accusations. You were perfect and yet people chose to reject, insult, beat and murder You. In return, you offer grace, forgiveness, faithfulness, love and the hope of heaven. It makes no earthly sense and yet we are so thankful. Thank you for being our defender and loving us unconditionally. Help us to surrender our accusers to You, laying them at Your feet and trusting You to deal justly with them. Help us experience freedom in You and strengthen us through the resistance we encounter in this world, especially when we experience it from family and “church people”. Radiate through our weaknesses, Jesus, so that others will see You. Thank you that we can do ALL things through You! In Jesus name, Amen

Advertisements

Faith Through Fog

Foggy days are fun as long as I don’t have to drive in them. There’s something mysterious and quiet when the clouds enfold us. It makes me want to slow down, have coffee, read a book and rest. We have few days like this in Southern California, so I make the most of it when we do.

But extreme fog while driving is stressful. It’s unnerving to drive when you can’t see what is coming. Wise drivers will slow down, inching their way through the unknown, keeping their eyes on the lines so as not to cross into oncoming traffic.

I’ve found much of life to be foggy days, the not knowing how situations will turn out. When will we meet the “right one”, get married, have babies, figure out career goals, buy a house…and all of the how’s? How will we overcome the obstacles…marital strife, financial challenges, health issues, family dynamics, relationship tensions, employment disappointments? So many questions and so few certainties. We have little control, really none, outside of our own choices. Life is foggy.

We can choose how we approach the fog. Either plow ahead, taking chances, and trying to control the unforeseen in our way and our timing, or maintain a posture of surrender, trusting God for the unknown, moving in His timing and His way.

I remember the fog being thick as pea soup through my infertility days. It seemed endless; an abyss of heartache. Nothing seemed certain except my relentless desire to have what I couldn’t. How could that be God’s plan?

The fog settled long, dark and suffocating. I stopped seeking God’s will and went my own way…getting lost, causing injury to my marriage and even my own body. It was only in my surrender that I began to believe God could see what I couldn’t. He required that I let go of my own pursuit, pick up my cross and follow Him. There was great pain in letting it go, trusting the Lord for what my future would look like, possibly far different than my hopes and dreams. Still, inching along with Jesus through the fog was safer than my own instincts and choices.

As I began trusting again and moving forward with Jesus, the fog lifted and I could see new plans on the horizon. My husband and I made plans to birth a new church. It was exhilarating, scary, and purpose-filled. We couldn’t birth a baby, but we could birth and build a church. (Want to grow your faith, plant a church!😉) While on this new path, a week before our first church service, God provided for my hearts desire. We were pregnant! Doctors had said it would never happen, but I know someone that makes the impossible possible.

We only see in part what God sees fully, and that is probably better. It forces us to trust the One that sees it all, made it all, and knows it all. There are no obstacles for God. He sees with perfect clarity.

I’m sure of one thing, what we see as impossible in our lives, is actually completely possible through God. Our inability to see it just makes us human and Him God.

What are your how’s, when’s or why’s? Do not be discouraged or dismayed my friends. Slow down and seek Him through the fog. Rest in Him knowing He will make a way where there seems to be no way, but don’t stop moving! (Uncertainties and depression can cause us to stop altogether.) Move forward, drawing closer to Jesus. He’s always the right direction. He has a plan for you through the foggy uncertainties. While you are living and breathing there is purpose for your life…don’t get stuck in the muck of unknowns. Pain can propel us into His purposes….like church planting.😉

There is great freedom in surrender; accepting we are not in control. Breathe in His presence, grab hold of His hand and let Him walk you through the fog. He knows where He is going. He’s got great things in store. You just can’t see it yet.

Prayer: Lord, so much of life is uncertain for us, but You are certain. You are our constant, even when we lose sight of You. Help us trust You through foggy days. Increase our faith as we walk through the valleys without visibility. You can make the impossible possible. Help us trust You as we inch along the road of life with our poor visibility. Allow us to enjoy the journey, finding strength and rest in You alone. Your will be done, not ours. In Jesus name, Amen

Envision Hope

I have vision problems.  How about you?  I’m not talking about nearsightedness, but I have that too, with a stigmatism.  Genetics.  Thanks Dad.🤓 Thank God for the invention of glasses and contacts.  I can’t imagine how much I would miss out on if it weren’t for corrective lenses.

In a spiritual sense, we can miss out on so much, if we aren’t fixing our eyes upon Jesus.  We can be spiritually nearsighted and farsighted.  Either we are worried about the future or overwhelmed by what is right in front of us.  We fear what we can’t see, seems impossible, or look so far ahead that we miss what’s right in front of us.  I’m convinced a lot of us, even Jesus believers, are walking around in a state of spiritual blindness….me included.

I looooove the words penned in Romans 4:18 where Paul says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him.”  Abraham in HOPE believed and so BECAME.  His hope was bigger than his obstacles.  God had called him, he believed, and so miraculously, he became.  This passage floored me this morning.  It was a drop the mic moment.   God literally meant these words for me today, as I sit in the McDonalds, reading my Bible, praying for people that are hurting and feeling hopeless.  But, ahhhhhh, there is HOPE!

Abraham became not because he got all the things he wanted, the way he wanted it, in his timing.  Nor was it because of his education, his upbringing, or his status.  He just wore the correct lenses.  His vision was better than his circumstances and so his hope remained…and he became.  

We are all in the process of becoming who God wants us to be, or not, depending on what we choose.  It’s easy to get short sighted and me-focused.  If only we choose to fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen.  You can’t see hope anymore than you can see love or air, but it’s there, because He is. No matter how lost, alone, afraid, unsure we might feel, He is ever present and longs for us to “only have eyes for him”.  See beyond your circumstance.  What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  

What if today we just do our best to love like Jesus?  Look beyond your circumstances.  You are only seeing in part what He sees perfectly.  Trust Him for what you can’t see and grab hold of hope.  With hope, you can become…or circumstances will change…or people will become…you get the point.  

What if nothing needs to change for you to have hope?  Hope is present because Jesus is hope.  Let’s make Him the focal point.

Prayer: Jesus, we don’t see well.  What we see is blurry, deficient, often self centered, uncertain and even frightening.  But You see perfectly, the beginning, middle and end.  Help us remain in You and fix our eyes upon You alone.  Infuse us all with Your hope today so that we can become all You want us to be.  Lord, above all let love and grace be the lenses we see through.  Correct our vision today.  In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen

Alabaster Offering

The woman came to Jesus repentant, broken as her alabaster jar. Luke, chapter 7, reveals that she had lead a “sinful life”…haven’t we all? She came to Jesus weeping, bringing what was likely her most expensive possession, her alabaster jar of perfume, seeking compassion and forgiveness. She came to the right One.

She poured the fragrant contents of her broken jar upon Jesus head and fell to His feet weeping. The scent must have overwhelmed the room. It certainly got the attention of many at the table. Mark, chapter 14, tells of the crowds indignant chatter as they questioned her wastefulness…”why this waste of perfume?”. False assumptions and shame followed…“It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” She must not care about the poor…you can almost hear the pride swelling behind these statements, as if they would NEVER have done such an irresponsible thing. The final punch…”they rebuked her harshly.” Talk about some serious bullies. These bullies didn’t even care that the Teacher was in the room. They did all of this in front of Jesus! Can you imagine? Unfortunately, I can.

There have been times I’ve poured myself out for God, sharing vulnerably, encouraging people, giving of myself until I had nothing left, only to be falsely accused, misunderstood and taken for granted. Such is the life of a Jesus follower. There’s nothing quite like having a brother or sister in the faith emotionally wound you, especially when they group together. Yes, bullies are in the church too, BUT so is Jesus.

Jesus, with His lazer beam focus, looks straight at the heart of the alabaster lady and looks at the crowd gathered. He cuts through all of their pretense, manipulation, greed and what I perceive as jealousy of this humble woman. Maybe they were jealous that they didn’t think of doing something so thoughtful and heart felt for Jesus? Maybe they were annoyed at the ease with which Jesus accepted her….shouldn’t she be ashamed of herself? Who does she think she is….I mean, she’s not part of their “inner circle”, yet she was exactly where Jesus wanted her.

Jesus quiets the room. “Leave her alone.” She is with Him and nobody is going to talk smack about His daughter. He calls out their hidden agendas. “”Why are you bothering her?” And by the way, you do know you can help the poor anytime you want, right? While helping the poor is a good thing, what this woman does is more urgent. “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” I love that He says, “she did what she could.” She had a jar of perfume and in that moment what she could do was sacrifice it for the One that would sacrifice everything for her, for you, for me and for all. Her action demonstrated the condition of her heart. Yes, she was broken, but that brokenness lead her to Jesus.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.~Psalm 147:3

She did what she could do in her brokenness, despite the judgmental murmurs of those present. It was a risk and I’m sure it hurt her feelings, but it was worth it. Approaching Jesus will always lead to grace, forgiveness and restoration. He’s in the healing business and He’s masterful at mending broken hearts…they are the easiest to reshape. A prideful heart becomes like stone, un-moldable. Remember, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, not our pride. What’s the condition of your heart?

2 Cor.12:9~But he 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.

She brought her perfume. What can you do, or what can you bring to Jesus today? Maybe your offering is just a broken heart, wounded by people and trials of life. He alone can restore what people have broken in you. Maybe, like her, you feel judged, accused and exposed…He sees you as blemish free, beautiful and whole in Him. Keep going to Him to find rest and renewal. He will quiet the bullies and strengthen you to rise above.

Do what you can to love God and love people, regardless if people love you back. You and I have been given gifts to be used for Him. Use them for His glory. You can expect people will challenge your motives, make assumptions, and even accuse. That’s ok. Pour out what you have for Jesus and He will defend You. Remember His words to this crowd and know He is saying them for you too, “Leave her/him alone.” He’s got your back and one day there will be an account for all things. If God is for you, who can be against you?

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for how graciously you receive us, even when we are at our worst. Your love restores us to wholeness as we put our trust in You. Help us seek You first in every situation so that we are empowered by You, not being lead by our feelings. Emotions ebb and flow, but You are consistent in love, grace and forgiveness. Help us speak and behave in ways that reflect Your goodness. You are so good to us. In Jesus name, Amen

Reconciled

 

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—”Colossians‬ ‭1:21-22‬ ‭

Ever been estranged from someone? It’s defined as “no longer close or affectionate to someone; alienated.” Its a tearing, a breaking apart of a relationship. What once brought comfort and companionship now leaves an ache, disillusionment and scars. I’ve experienced my share of estrangement from people…good people, that I called friends. Rejection stinks. The pain can be intense, as though someone has died, only they didn’t. They chose to be removed, alienated, from me….ouch. That leaves a deep mark, but I know a healer that restores all wounds, making right what has been wronged and so hope remains.

Jesus came to restore, reconciling us to the Father. Before our surrender to Him, we are estranged, whether we know it or not. Somewhere deep down we know. There’s something missing; a deep hole, unfillable and unquenchable. We are driven to fill it, to ease the ache it causes.

What have you struggled with all of your life? Those struggles are inevitably related to the ache, the separation…the alienation. The longing becomes a bottomless crater of chaos…alcohol, drugs, sex, pride, unhealthy relationships, gossip, materialism, people pleasing, self centeredness, anger…the pit gets darker and deeper depending on the person.

The chasm that alienated us from our Heavenly Father was so overwhelming it required a sacrifice. God willingly paid it in the form of His son. There’s nothing He wouldn’t do to be reconciled to His children.

He didn’t want heaven without us. So Jesus, You brought heaven down.” (Hillsong United)

From the moment His blood was shed to His triumphant resurrection, reconciliation became possible for all people. As we receive and invite Him into the caverns of chaos we create, He delivers us from all of it. Imagine Him lighting a match and burning the infectious treasures, refining us so that we are blemish free. That is how He sees us. There are no longer empty craters and caverns in the heart because His love becomes a fountain of life, filling us again and again, continually replenishing and restoring.

We will never be perfect. He alone has that right, but we are whole, fully loved, reconciled, forgiven, and free.
No one, not even you, determine your worth friends. Jesus bought you at the ultimate price. He considers you priceless. If people have told you you’re worthless, He begs to differ. If you’ve believed you’re not good enough, He disagrees. If you’ve been estranged by others, and you’re left with wounds of rejection, He heals the broken hearted. Pray for those that left you and even those that persecuted you. They have their own deep caverns of chaos that only Jesus can heal…we are not responsible for other people’s sin, but while on this earth, we suffer its consequences. If you are entrenched in sinful patterns trying to alleviate the ache of emptiness, invite Jesus in. Only He can restore the deepest, darkest pain. Let Him clean out the wounds, so He can fill them with His love and grace. Nothing and no one else can complete You like He can. Invite Him in to the chaos. He won’t be shocked by what He already sees. Instead He will love You fully, until you are mended and free.

It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming. He is RISEN and we have been reconciled. There is hope!

Prayer: Father God, You are so incredibly good to us. Thank You for the gift of Jesus, which restores and reconciles us to You. Search our hearts. Enter into any places that we’ve tried to keep hidden, holding on to infectious ways, believing it helps us feel better, while it secretly destroys. You are the source of everything good and all that we need. May we grab hold of that truth today and begin the process of “cleaning house” and restoration. Help our hearts to be attuned to You so that we understand our value in You and walk in confidence as heirs to a King. Thank You for seeing us blemish free. Your grace astounds us…help us walk in it and offer it to all we encounter. In Jesus name, Amen

Grace Extensions

His grace is sufficient for….you….him….her…them. You don’t need to get even. Let God keep score.

My son was sharing his frustration with me about a girl at school. Eighth graders can be brutal in their assessments. She, for no apparent reason, said something extremely unkind to him…I will leave out the details for his sake. His volume increased as he told me of her cruel words, followed by what he wanted to say in return….his words were less than gracious.😉

In a moment of divine inspiration I said, “Son, God’s grace is sufficient for her and sufficient for you….maybe you could just extend grace to her and let it go.” He didn’t appreciate my mini-sermon. I mean this was a serious offense and he was ready to unleash. Clearly this was not a moment for reason. So, I in my divine wisdom went on to say that his “teenage brain” was not responding the way Jesus would….yeah that was helpful!😂 (I could have focused on the fact he hadn’t actually said or done any of the things he wanted too…my little lecture would have been better saved for a less heated moment.🤭)

His response was something along the lines of…”don’t stereotype Mom! This isn’t a teenage problem. Everyone wants to respond this way.”

He’s right. We all want to have the last word, get even, retaliate, and set the wrongs right. I could think of a few people I wrestle with internally that I’d like to send long letters to, letting them know just how wrong they were, how they discouraged me, offended me and were just plain mean. They deserve it. Their responses weren’t God honoring, were hurtful and don’t reflect the heart of Jesus in a way, shape or form….and every inclination in me wants to verbal judo them…but then in my weakest moments I remember His grace.

His grace changes me because it’s so undeserved, unwarranted, and unconditional. It humbles me to think that even when I’m at my worst, He sees me through a grace lense because Jesus didn’t retaliate against me…He took on the penalty of all the things I’ve done and will do wrong, and He makes it right. There’s so much He could say about me and to me. He knows every thought, word and deed I’ve done. There would be a laundry list of offenses, but He just says “My grace is sufficient for you”. That’s all. Just grace.

How are you doing at receiving and extending God’s grace? You have to see your need for it in order to offer it. Instead of dwelling on how others have wronged you, remember the complete forgiveness and grace you have in Jesus. It’s endless and freely given. Seek Him and you will find grace…then extend it to everyone you can. Retaliation comes instinctively but only creates more division, anger and bitterness, keeping God’s power from resting on us. Grace extensions cover over weaknesses, offering comfort and creating climates necessary for restoration. Where grace flows freely, His power is released. Amazing grace how sweet the sound…💕🙌

Prayer:  Father, thank you for the endless grace You cover us in so that when You look at us, we are blemish free. You chose to love us rather than retaliate. Help us do what we can’t do apart from You, and offer unwarranted grace to others. When we feel weakened by the pain of what we have experienced or what others have done to hurt us, make us strong in You. That is where our real power lies. Empower us for today. Thank you for your amazing grace which saved a wretch like me. In Jesus name, Amen

 

The other side of the “but”

 

There are “buts” in life that are out of our control. We wanted to have a baby way sooner than we did BUT God had other plans for us. We finally had babies BUT we had major complications in all 3 pregnancies and nearly lost one child. My hubby and I have tried our best to lead people to Jesus, though imperfectly, BUT some people have still found reasons to focus on our flaws, missing the whole point. We have loved “the church” BUT have been deeply hurt by it at times. I’ve tried to be a good friend BUT I’ve still lost friends along the way. I’m passionate about dance and exercise, BUT I got injured many years ago, forcing me to lay down my passion for a season and modify it for life. These are just a few of my “buts”…what are yours?

Some buts can’t be helped, they are just a part of life. Others, we choose, out of pride, fear and pain; those times we don’t want to go God’s way or wait on His timing. I have a laundry list of those buts too, but that’s a subject for another time.

Joseph and Mary had to deal with some major unexpected buts. They were pledged to be married, BUT before they “came together, she was found to be with child.” (Matt. 2) Yikes, Houston we have a problem! Imagine the shock they both felt, the initial shame, and the dreaded rumors they would face. I wonder if they had thoughts of, “what did we do to deserve this?” They were trying to do things the right way, BUT here they were dealing with pregnancy before marriage and Joseph knew he wasn’t involved. I’m sure that was a pain in the….gut! 😉 Joseph, being the righteous dude that he was, decided he would break things off quietly, so Mary wouldn’t be publicly disgraced, BUT “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” and told him not to be afraid of marrying her. God had WAY bigger plans for Joseph than he could have ever dreamed…it was just on the other side of the but.

The truth is Joseph and Mary had a good plan for their lives, but God had something way bigger in mind for them. I’m sure there were days they wondered “why them”, maybe they even secretly wished God would have chosen someone else. Parenting Jesus required a lifetime of sacrifice and we all know sacrifice isn’t easy.

When we follow Jesus, sacrifice is required. We will make big plans and God might send us a big BUT, altering our course, but it will be gloriously better. Joseph probably never would have chosen the path God had for him, but he would have missed out on the honor of knowing Jesus as his son…and his Lord! Talk about the perfect kid! God knew Joseph would handle the challenge like a champ. Instead of doing what seemed natural, breaking up with Mary, He trusted God. His obedience helped usher in God’s precense, not only to their family, but to the world. It only takes one to do the right thing. Be that one.

Don’t trip over the but you’re dealing with. When you encounter the trial, remember it is likely the perfect place for Jesus to enter into. If You persevere, He will. Trust Him with what you don’t understand. His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours. He works ALL things to the good, even the buts that others meant to hurt us with…He makes everything beautiful in His time. Pray, persevere, and patiently proceed with God’s plan.

Are you struggling with the unexpected buts of life? Maybe you’re not where you hoped you would be; happily married, in the career of your choice, with the “perfect” kids, loved by many, in the “perfect church”. (PSA, there isn’t one.) Or maybe you have physical limitations you never dreamed you would deal with, but it’s now your reality. Do not be discouraged or dismayed my friends for God is with you through it all. Don’t give in to negative thinking and behaving. It will only make things worse. Choose to trust Him. He’s got great plans for you…just beyond the buts.😉

Prayer:  Lord, thank you that you are with us wherever we go. You are in every moment we face, the triumphs, the trials, the unexpected, the failures. You see us through loving lenses, not critical ones. Help us trust you through the buts in life, those you designed for our growth and those that are thrust upon us because of other people’s sin. Make each of us fully dependent upon You so that we can persevere through this race of life, growing in our endurance and hope. This life is not the end. We thank You for the future You have in store for us. In Jesus name, Amen