No Longer a Victim

heartsContinued from here.

I cannot remember who said this (probably Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore): we live what we believe, not what we know. I knew that I had on the Armor of God, but I believed I was a victim. Thus, I behaved as a victim rather than a warrior, metaphorically cowering in my church’s parking lot like a wounded child rather than standing up and fighting, using the Armor of God.

My problem was believing that God is distant, with the Holy Spirit being my “walkie talkie” lifeline to Him. I saw the world as an unsafe place, with God always with me in more of a long distance way … like a Skype relationship rather than a face-to-face one. Through His book The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, Williard has blown this lie to smithereens!

Willard points out that God is located everywhere, viewing the most beautiful places and hearing the most beautiful sounds of the world while also surrounding me. Because of this reality, I have complete access to unbounding love, joy, and peace at all times. This is the truth that Jesus knew, enabling Him to be joyful despite also being a man of suffering and pain.

To help me process this reality, I have been seeking to view the world through spiritual eyes, recognizing that no matter where my eyes look, the God who created the universe is there. Whether I look up to the cloud or stars, down into a valley, or as far as I can see over the ocean, He is there. This means there’s nowhere I can go without being surrounded by boundless love, joy, and peace. This makes this world a safe place, regardless of what my past experience has been.

This also means that the vast majority of this world is filled with God. There are only pockets of places that aren’t, which are inhabited by people who choose to reject God. They are the masters of their own space, and when they congregate, they create a bigger bubble of rebellion against God. However, compared to the enormity of the earth – the mountains, oceans, and everything in between, they are a small percentage of this world. Even when I am in their presence, the God who created the heavens and earth is both around me and in me, so I am never in an “unsafe” place. Where there is God, there is limitless love, joy, and peace for the asking.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace surrounded by hearts. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

How Do You Know that God Will Show Up?

im_waitingContinued from here.

One of the more challenging aspects of God’s character for me is His tendency to show up at what I perceive as the 11th hour. My preference is for Him to show up early so I can rest assured that He is going to take care of my problem. However, God wants me to grow my faith, trusting that He is going to show up despite seeing no evidence of Him doing so beyond His promise to work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I know that I love Him, and I actively seek to fulfill His purpose by doing His will, so I know that He will work even this (whatever “this” is) for good.

Oftentimes, I find myself in a position of submitting to God’s authority but still having to wait … and wait … and wait for Him to show up. This passage from the Psalms is the one I lean on when I am in a holding pattern and waiting on God:

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. ~ Ps. 91:4

Because God has been faithful before, I find it easier to believe that He will be faithful again. Whenever I am tempted to doubt that God will show up, I remind myself that the story is not over yet. If we ended the story on Friday, Jesus would still be in the tomb. We had to get to Sunday before God showed up. We are often tempted to give up on God on Friday or Saturday, ending the story in defeat. We must hold on to the hope the God WILL show up and not give up until He does.

The bottom line is that you either trust God or you don’t. You either believe that He loves you and will take care of you, or you don’t. Beth Moore hit me right between the eyes at one of her Living Proof Live events when she said that dread is advertising God’s unfaithfulness. In other words, when I tell people that I fear God won’t show up, my life becomes a billboard advertising God’s unfaithfulness. However, when I trust and truly BELIEVE that God will show up and work EVEN THIS for good, I advertise the faithfulness of God.

Of course, we have to do our part as well. There’s no promise for God to work all situations for good for those who do not love Him or those who are willfully disobedient to Him. As long as you love God and are intentionally trying to live out His will, He will show up. If He hasn’t, that means your story isn’t over yet.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hand on her hip, standing next to an hourglass and saying, “I’m waiting.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Do You Have Good Reason to be Angry?

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Priscilla Shirer’s Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted Bible Study talks about making sure you have good reason to be angry. For those of you who don’t know Jonah’s story beyond him spending three nights in the belly of a large fish, Jonah was a prophet who ran in the opposite direction when God told him to go to Ninevah. Ninevah was the capitol of Assyria, which was Israel’s enemy, and Jonah did not want God to show those people mercy. After the fish incident, Jonah did what God told him to do, resulting in the entire city repenting, which angered Jonah.

God’s response to Jonah was to ask whether he had good reason to be angry. Shirer put much emphasis on this question and said she now asks herself this question whenever she feels angry. Before allowing herself to indulge in her anger, she stops and thinks about whether she has good reason to be angry.

What might be a good reason to be angry? The Bible records Jesus driving out people involved in buying and selling in the temple and overturning their tables. While the word “angry” does not appear in the passage, one could surmise that he was angry as he did this. Assuming that is the case, he had “good reason:”

And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” ~ Mark 11:17

So, a good reason to be angry might be when God is being dishonored. Jesus’ focus was clearly on God, not on himself, and I think that might be the key to whether we have “good reason” to be angry.

In her Bible study, To Live Is Christ: The Life and Ministry of Paul, Beth Moore contrasts Paul with Jonah and points out that even though Jonah accomplished God’s will, he did so with the complete absence of joy. Perhaps one reason we should ensure we have “good reason” to be angry is that we pay a heavy price when we choose anger – the absence of joy.

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[Graphic: Cover of Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted (Bible Study Book). Courtesy Amazon.com.]

Perseverance: God the Healer

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In my last blog entry, I addressed two of three truths from the Bible that helped me choose God in my trials: (1) God was with me all through the child abuse; and (2) I will have trouble in this world, but Jesus has overcome the world. Today, I’ll address the third concept that helped me make peace with my past and trust God as I faced new trials. Here’s the passage:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor. ~ Is. 61:1-3

I learned about this passage of scripture through Beth Moore’s Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender, which I cannot recommend highly enough, particularly if you have been emotionally shattered by life as I was. I learned that Jesus’ first “job description” was binding up broken hearts. There would be no need to bind up hearts that have not been broken, so this must mean that God doesn’t prevent our hearts from breaking, but He does heal them … and I am living proof of this. So, I don’t need to fear heartbreak, despite its pain, because God is bigger than my broken heart and can give me a new heart that is no longer shattered.

Some Christians try to gloss of over the heavy issues in life, but I didn’t have that luxury. I came to God with a heart shattered by severe childhood abuse, grief over my father’s passing, infertility, and parenting a special needs child. That’s a quadruple heavy load, but God healed all of it.

Perhaps you know what it’s like to have a heart shattered by the death of a loved one, child abuse, rape, infertility, divorce, physical or emotional disability, job loss, or one of the many other types of traumas that life can throw our way. Your God is bigger than your pain. I know this seems impossible, but He is the God of the impossible.

Before trying to persevere through the next trial, I recommend spending some quality time with God, inviting Him to heal your brokenness. Beth Moore’s book, Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender, will walk you through this process. I had to work through her book four times before I fully “broke free” from all of my issues, but it was well worth the investment of time and effort. I am now FREE from all of that pain, and God has given me a new heart. He can do the same for you.

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[Graphic: Cover of Beth Moore’s book, Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender. Courtesy Amazon.com.]

Digesting God’s Word: “Do Not Give Up”

struggle_is_realContinued from here.

Congratulations! You made it to the end of the verse! While this process can seem tedious, I hope you can also see the value of meditating on God’s Word – of truly “chewing” it and digesting it until it becomes a part of who you are. Only one more phrase to go!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.” ~ Galatians 6:9

In my last blog entry, I talked about the importance of the word if. If we don’t allow ourselves to become weary in doing good, God promises to send us a blessing at a future time. That promise is conditional on us not giving up. If we allow ourselves to grow weary enough that we give up doing good, then we’ll miss out on the harvest that our seeds have sown. Once we give up doing good, we remove the trigger that releases the promised blessing, so we never receive it. What a shame to have built up a huge harvest that you never get to enjoy because you gave up.

James 1:2-4 sheds some light on why we miss out on harvests that we have accrued when we give up before the harvest comes “at the proper time:”

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

God wants us to grow up! Jesus did not die on the cross for you to stay a baby Christian for your entire life on earth. He wants you to mature! The Bible tells us that we become mature through perseverance. How does perseverance finish its work? You can only persevere by having to wait for your blessings to come. The key to developing perseverance is never, ever giving up, NO MATTER WHAT!

Perseverance is a choice that (sadly) most people don’t choose. They do good for a while, but when they don’t see the harvest coming, they become weary and give up. Because they give up, the blessing never comes, and they grow angry toward God, never seeing that it was their own choice of not persevering that stopped the harvest.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace closing her eyes and clenching her fist, saying, “The struggle is real.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Promised Land Living: Helmet of Salvation Example

Let me give you a personal example of how to use the Helmet of Salvation to hold every thought captive to Christ. Because of the childhood abuse, I grew up believing that I was fundamentally unlovable. I thought that if anyone ever saw the “real me,” he or she would run screaming from the room. I viewed myself as loathsome, so I could not fathom anyone else finding anything lovable about me. I built much of my identity around this lie.

God’s Word says the complete opposite of what I believed about myself. It says that God loves me lavishly, that His love is unfailing, and that Jesus found me worth dying for, even while I was still mired in my sin.

I had to decide which to believe – the lies that seemed to be supported by many years of child abuse or God’s Word. Once I chose to believe God’s Word (even though I really didn’t believe it), I put on the Helmet of Salvation and chose to believe God’s Word over my own feelings and past experiences. Whenever Satan tried to push another “I’m unlovable” thought, I fought back with God’s Word. As I persisted in rejecting thoughts that ran counter to God’s Word, the unholy energy stopped poisoning my soul, and I grew to believe God. I began living like someone who is loved.

In her book Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds, Beth Moore has already done the work for you of locating numerous Bible verses that address common lies and turning them into prayers. This book includes a chapter entitled Overcoming the Insecurity of Feeling Unloved, which you can use to fight the lie that you are unlovable. The book also includes other very helpful topics, such as overcoming unbelief, feelings of rejection, addiction, food-related strongholds, feelings of guilt, despair resulting from loss, depression, and sexual strongholds. I have found her format to be helpful in doing the same work for topics that she did not include, such as overcoming anxiety.

God’s Word is truth, so whatever you believe that runs contrary to what the Bible says is a lie. As you choose to meditate on truth and reject any thought that runs contrary to that truth, you put on the Helmet of Salvation and protect your soul from Satan’s poison. This is one of the keys to Promised Land Living.

[Graphic: Cover of Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds. Courtesy Amazon.com.]

Seven Fundamental Practices: Praise & Worship

amenContinued from here.

I went through a season in which I did not engage much in praise and worship. I didn’t realize how thirsty I was until I attended a Beth Moore Living Proof Live event. I couldn’t get enough of the singing! I soaked in praise & worship like a parched woman who could finally drink in as much as I wanted.

Praise (focusing on what God has done) and worship (focusing on who God is) are powerful ways to get your focus off Why? and How? and onto Who? Brian Johnson of Bethel Music put it best. I was unable to locate the quote online, but when I heard him speak live at a conference, he said that praise & worship are the anesthesia for the Word’s surgery.

Think about the implications of praise & worship being anesthesia. Why do people drink alcohol, take drugs, overeat, overspend, and overindulge in numerous other ways? They are seeking to anesthetize themselves from pain. That’s why I binged on food for so many years. Binge eating enabled me to “stuff down” the pain so I didn’t have to feel it for a little while. Unfortunately, the pain would always come back, and then I also had to deal with the aftermath of having abused my body

Praise & worship provide us with anesthesia for our pain without the drawbacks! There’s no “downside” to praising & worshiping God. As we choose to focus our thoughts on what God has done and on who He is, we pull our focus off our problems and pain, giving us relief as we draw near to God.

Whenever I am feeling depressed or frustrated, I force myself to engage in praise & worship. While this does not require music, I am musical by nature, so singing praise & worship songs is the best anesthesia for me. I previously shared some of the songs I turn to when I am struggling emotionally. Those songs help me take my mind off my problems and focus on God, which always makes me feel better – not always in the moment, but soon. Remember that we reap what we sow, so planting seeds of praise & worship helps us sow a harvest of joy and peace.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up her hands and saying, ”Amen.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]