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Jesus Intercedes

“The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. We do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God’s own people in God’s own way.” Romans 8:26-27 (NEB)

My husband I went through a season of life that lasted approximately four and a half years. It stared when my father developed a throat-clearing cough. Ten months later he passed away from complications associated with lung cancer. Fast forward another ten months and my husband’s mother was diagnosed with bronchitis. Except it wasn’t really bronchitis. It was lung cancer. Following six months of treatment, one week before Easter, she passed away as well. We spent the following Easter with Craig’s grandmother, his mother’s mother. Within a few weeks of the visit, the next call came. They had found a cancerous lump on her shoulder. The original source? Lung cancer. Six months later, three years after my father went in to the hospital, we buried her in her home town.

It was during the six months of his grandmother’s illness that the full weight of these verses hit me. We had been making the five hour trek to see her regularly and visit while her condition changed and eventually landed her in hospice. I had been reading Come Thirsty by Max Lucado and during one of these road trips, I read out loud to my husband while he drove. As I read, a lump rose in my throat. I struggled to get the words out as the tears began to well. (I am a cryer so it’s not surprising. However, at this point in my walk, Scripture didn’t always move me to tears. I was just learning to grasp the truth of it all and so much of it was still difficult for me to understand.)

My husband didn’t quite get what was going on inside of me as I continued to read.

“It’s not up to you to pray your prayers. None of us pray as much as we should, but all of us pray more than we think, because the Holy Spirit turns our sighs into petitions and tears in entreaties. He speaks for you and protects you. He makes sure you get heard. He makes sure you get home.” Max Lucado, Come Thirsty

After three years of wanting “normal” back, of feeling frustrated and tired, hopeful and sad, encouraged and defeated all at the same time, I realized that even though I didn’t know what to do with all that was going on inside me, God did. He knew exactly what I was thinking and feeling, what I needed in order to keep going and not only that, but what I need so that I could come out of it all in a better place. The normal I thought I wanted wasn’t God’s best for me. My new normal was going to bring me to a place of greater dependence on and a deeper intimacy with Jesus.

When I cried because I didn’t have words, the Spirit of Jesus turned my words into the perfect prayers. I still get choked up when I think of it. Not because He does or can, but because He wants to. In His great love of me, for each of us, He takes our uncertainty, confusion and questions and places them before the throne of God, the One who knows completely, understands thoroughly and has every answer. And there is a gratitude beyond words.

While everything on the outside seemed to be falling apart, everything on the inside was being made whole. I’m not happy that my family members are gone, but I am glad that He worked out the difficulties I was having for my good. And while He was using these for my good, He was working in the way each of them needed as well. Every seemingly good or bad situation has a multitude of purposes. Every individual touched by a single event has the opportunity to experience the overwhelming love of Jesus as He knows exactly what and how to plead for us personally.

When you don’t have the words, Jesus does. When you’re not sure, He’s positive. And it’s all for the good of those who love Him. It’s all in accordance with His good and perfect purpose and will: That though our circumstances, we would be transformed into His image as we continue to draw near to Him.

Something to Consider:

In what situations do words fail you? Are you sad, angry, hurting? As you come before Jesus, be honest with your emotions – He knows them anyway – and trust Him with your needs. He knows who’s involved and what’s happened, even the things you don’t know.

Is something eating at you, but you think it shouldn’t be a big deal? Is it something you should be able to let go of or “get over”, and yet you find yourself dwelling on it time and time again? As you lay it before Him, as His Spirit intercedes on your behalf, even in the small things, be open to what He reveals to you.

As we come to Him without words, without a full understanding of why something is happening, His prayers are complete. His prayers may have less to do with what you think is wrong around you and more to do with what needs to change inside of you. Your answers may only come through your own transformation.

Peace Like a River

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.'” Isaiah 48:17-18

Ebro River passing trhough Miravet, Spain

© DepositPhotos/ nito103

I know many people who want peace, more peace, deeper peace. And yet, they go about life doing the same things they always have. They react and respond the same as every other day. They point the finger, play the blame game, and justify their actions. All the while their insides are turning upside down, tossed like waves of the sea.

They say, “God, give me peace!”

The truth is they don’t really need more peace. They need to learn to grow and mature in the peace they already have. And so do I.

We can choose to operate in agreement with the Spirit of God living inside of us or we can do things our own way. As I was writing in my journal this morning I prayed that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

God can make that happen all on His own. He doesn’t need anyone to do it for Him or help Him in order for it to happen. But, one way it happens is through His people. He uses His people to show the world His will by living His way according to His Spirit in us.

So, if I want God’s will done on earth then I need to be in alignment with His Spirit. And this doesn’t just mean in agreement with my thoughts. It can be really easy to simply say, “Yes, God, change this world. I want your will to be displayed in this world and I want those who don’t know you to start acting like they do.” Because often, this is really what we want. We want everyone else to start acting the way we think they should according to how we understand God and then we will experience true peace.

It’s really easy to quarterback from the cheap seats and tell others what they should be doing. But peace doesn’t come through the actions of others; peace comes through our own actions. If I’m going to be in alignment with God, then not only my thoughts, but my own actions and words need to be in alignment with God as well.

Peace comes from obedience, personal obedience. Peace doesn’t come when we are satisfied that others are being obedient. Peace comes from us seeking God, His kingdom and righteousness, and willingly doing what His Spirit prompts us to do.

God warned Cain that He had the option to do what was right in his relationship with God or he would end up doing what was wrong in his relationship with his brother, Abel. We are no different.

Our ability to pay close attention to God, to listen to God first doing what He says, will go along way in our ability to love others and have peace in this world. And when we do, God will restore us. He will refresh us with living water. Our own well-being will no longer be subjected to the external circumstances around us, but will be secure and steadfast in the power and sovereignty of our Redeemer and our Lord.

Something to Consider…

What is your definition of peace? Where does yours come from? Nothing in this world will satisfy completely. Everyone will fall short and everything will fade, decay or perish at some point. You will always run out of what you need when you rely on this world.

Rivers move, they are not sedentary. They navigate the terrain with ease and grace. The water gives to the bumps in the riverbed, but it keeps on moving.

What “bumps” keep you from being obedient to God? Fear, pride, or complacency? Only God can completely satisfy. When we trust in Jesus, He gives us His Spirit to help us know God’s will AND DO IT. Be obedient and experience His peace fully.

Quiet and Still

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.'” Psalm 46:10

DSC06926As I’ve gone through the different seasons of my life, there is always a word or phrase that God gives me to help me understand what He wants to teach me.

A few weeks ago my prayer request was that I would be able to relax in Jesus. I want to cast my cares, unload my burdens and stop trying so hard. I want to let Him have His way rather than me try to do it all correctly…whatever that means. I want to trust where He leads me, the understanding He gives and just do what He says rather than question and weigh everything.

It seems like I’m always at war with someone; sometimes God, at times myself.  My flesh screams for its own way. I want others to acknowledge me. Others want me to give my allegiance to them, not God. All the while, ultimately, I just want to know the right way to go.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you experience any of these same feelings?

God wants me to stop fighting and trust Him. God wants you to stop fighting and trust Him. So how do we do that?

Be still. To be still is to be free from turmoil and commotion. It means we are to relax, let our shoulders down, our hands fall and stop struggling and striving. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to sit and not move since this is something we can and should experience at all times. But it does mean that when we want to fight the battle, we can choose to stop and let God take over. I try so hard to make so many things happen, but God will accomplish His purpose regardless of what I, of what we try to do.

“Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3

Know He is God. This sounds easy enough but really, do I know God? Do you know God? He made us and cares for us. He is our good shepherd. He comes after us and brings us back to Him. If we really believe God, then we know He really does care about and is in the details of our lives. When we trust what God says, we will stop trying to earn His favor and feeling the need to prove ourselves. He sees and knows exactly who I am and what mask I’m using to cover my shortcomings and failures. He is willing, and really the only one able, to help me take down that mask and He will still love me unconditionally. He loves you unconditionally when you trust Him as well.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

Cut others some slack. Fear of judgment is one of the main reasons I struggle. I’m always sure some will think I’m not holy enough. Others will think I think I’m “holier than thou.” No one will ever be satisfied. But really what this says is that I am always comparing myself to others which means I’m judging my holiness against another. I judge their holiness in order to understand and be comfortable with my own. But we are each a work in progress. I’ve seen some people be transformed quickly in their relationship with Christ while others have taken some time. I myself am at the slow end according to my own time table. What I’ve come to understand though, is that the less I worry about others, the less I’ll worry about myself. The more I assume good of others, the more I will believe others assume good of me. As people who know God, our desire should be that others know Him as well. Jesus came to reconcile us to God and in this, we can be reconciled to each other as well. We can stop fighting God and we can stop fighting each other.

Something to Consider…

Do you feel like you most often fight God, yourself, or others? What would those relationships, even how you see yourself, be changed if you stopped fighting? For this to happen, what would need to be different about the way you think? As you practice being still, let God have space to move and speak in your life, your day and your relationships.

Do you feel like you know about God or really know God? There is a difference. Jesus came to make God known and it’s through our relationship with Him that we are reconciled to the God who loves us, the God we too often fight against. To whom would you like to be reconciled? As you learn to live reconciled to God, He will help understand and experience what it means to be reconciled to others. Ask God to help you know Him so you can reflect Him in your relationships with others.

I am (fill in the blank)

2015-03-01 NGChurch (80)2

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God –” John 1:12

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. I have some understanding of the issue, at least as it pertains to my circumstances. Everyone’s issues are different so what I’ve learned can’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it will apply to some. My hope is that for those “some”, they will find hope in what I have to say.

I recently read an article in which the author states, “I am depression,” over and over again.

What I’ve found through my experience is that in stating it this way, you take on the reality of it. It actually does become who you are. You’ve given it permission to be you and for you to be it.

For a long time I let myself be a worrier. I let myself be consumed with a negative view of the world, of people and of myself. But in Christ, there is no reason to worry because He is good, does good, gives good things and brings good of every situation for those who love Him.

Even though I suffered from depression, I am not depression. Rather, I am a child of God.

I am loved by the Creator of the universe and have at my disposal every blessing possible according to His will and who He is. When I look at myself, I can become depressed because I am flawed, at times I don’t measure up and I will always find someone else who is just a bit better than me at something. But when I turn to God and receive His love, I have reason to rejoice and be glad. I am who HE says I am. I am precious. I am loved. I am a delight. I am worthy of His love. I am able to do all that He has created me to do. I am protected by His grace and mercy. I am able to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patience, faithful, gentle, kind, good and exhibit self-control because this is who He is in me. I am free, healed, redeemed, restored, content, and new because this is what He came to do for me, and for you.

I am not depression. And for at least some of you, you don’t have to be either. You do get to choose. God lets you have that freedom.

Jesus came to heal you and set you free from the things that weigh you down. Will you choose to accept that freedom? The sad reality is that sometimes it’s easier to live as a prisoner. I’ve considered it. As a prisoner we’re free from responsibility and accountability. We’re able to excuse, justify and blame – we just can’t do anything about it. Freedom requires action. And the strength to step into that freedom and action, responsibility and accountability is part of the blessing we receive in Jesus.

Who will you choose to be? What will you choose to accept as your foundation in this uncertain world?

Today I choose to be who God says I am. Today I choose Jesus and the gift of freedom He offers.

Why I Don’t Like Fast Food Restaurants

© Depositphotos.com/menz11

© Depositphotos.com/menz11

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary,who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!'” Luke 10:38-40

My husband, daughter and I were out to eat the other week at a fast food restaurant. We were almost done with our meal and my husband could tell I was a bit dissatisfied. As I wrinkled my nose, he knew my issue. He said it before I could. “You don’t like how fast everything is going and wish we had talked more.”

YES! Of course I do. That’s why I go out to eat!

I don’t go out to eat to get out of cooking. I love to cook. I love the event of cooking and serving my family a meal they will enjoy.

I go out to eat to spend time with my family: intentional, uninterrupted, undistracted time connecting with those I care about. We are going different directions all day, maybe all night and once in a while we have time to be together. The last thing I want to do is rush through any of it.

Truth be told, I love fast food restaurants. I enjoy the food, the convenience and the price. If you want to win my heart, give me the perfectly prepared French fry and a thick, creamy ice cream treat.

So with all of this said, what’s the real point of this post? What does this have to do with my faith?

As I think about my dissatisfaction with our recent dining experience, I realize that it applies to how I spend time with God as well. Am I rushing at convenient times to get my quick fix of prayer or worship music just so I can check it off my list and get on to the next thing, the next distraction? Or do I take time to sit down with God and wait, savoring every minute with Him?

As I enter my time with Him, here are two things I want to consider in my time with Him.

  1. Am I making an effort to unplug and rest?

Just like my family relationships, I need to take time to unplug from the world and settle into my time with God. If I approach God with a timer so I can easily check Him of a to-do list, I’ve missed the point of my time with Him. In Christ, I find rest.

Do you get run-down and weary from your busy schedule? Do you create space in your schedule to refocus your mind on Christ? The more time we spend distracted by the world, the less time we have to simply rest in the presence of God.

  1. Am I making an effort to connect and invest?

So once I settle in God’s presence with the distractions of the world somewhere in the distance, I can let Him fill the places left by those distractions and offer me something of true value. He may bring to mind something He’s placed on my heart and He wants to encourage me to move forward in it. He may show me an area of struggle or sin in my life and He wants to help me get rid of it. He also wants to hear about my cares and concerns and comfort me through the challenges I’m facing. This all takes a bit of time.

Can it be done here and there throughout your day? Yes, God is always available and we are to be praying, in communication with God, without ceasing. But something happens when we take time to not just acknowledge a relationship but savor it. Do you feel like you’re an acquaintance of God or are you in a deeply committed relationship with Him? How do you know? Do you do all the talking or do you take time to listen? Do you simply agree with God or do you want to understand why it matters to Him? Do you like to see and hear about what He’s doing or do you want to participate in what He’s doing?

“’Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'” Luke 10:41-42

He can’t be a quick stop on the way to the next thing. He has to be the focus. He is the only One who matters.

It’s Saturday. Now what?

SCAN0104“It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and watched how Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb. Then they went to prepare some sweet-smelling spices for his burial. But on the Sabbath they rested, as the Law of Moses commands. Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices that they had prepared. When they found the stone rolled away from the entrance, they went in. But they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus, and they did not know what to think. Suddenly two men in shining white clothes stood beside them. The women were afraid and bowed to the ground. But the men said, ‘Why are you looking in the place of the dead for someone who is alive? Jesus isn’t here! He has been raised from death.'” Luke 23:54-24:6a (CEV)

What happened on Saturday?

None of the Gospels address the activities of the disciples on Saturday except to say it was the Sabbath and they rested. Jesus Christ, the King of kings, Messiah, the Christ, Son of God is dead. And we have no idea what they did except that they rested.

How? Why? Because God commanded it? Really?

He was supposed to redeem His people, conquer the enemy and set up a new kingdom. Peace is supposed to reign and justice prevail. Everything they had put their hope in was gone. And not just gone, but dead and gone. In the ground … dead, buried and gone. Behind a rock and sealed gone. What happened?

The unexpected happened.

We’ve all been there at some point at some time. Everything is moving forward, life is good, and your best laid plans are coming to fruition.

And then?

The unexpected.

Everything just … stops.

We do get a glimpse of what those who didn’t follow Jesus were doing.

“The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, ‘Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.’ Pilate replied, ‘Take guards and secure it the best you can.’ So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.”  Matthew 27:62-66 (NLT)

Those who wanted Jesus dead also wanted to make sure He stayed dead. The disciples rested and the religious leaders continued to plot.

We must each decide what to do when Saturday comes because you can’t get to Sunday without Saturday. You can’t have victory without a battle. You can’t overcome without being under; without being down-and-out. Your response on Saturday will depend on what you believe, who you follow and in what or who you put your hope.

Something to Consider…

It’s Friday: This is the day of preparation. Everything had been going well up to this point. How could things go so wrong? Are you doing what you need to today so you  can be ready for tomorrow? Are you prepared for the One who was, is and is to come? Friday’s happen. Turning points come. And as hard as it is to believe, Friday’s end and it may not be how you expect. Will you be ready? Jesus is available now to help you prepare for tomorrow.

It’s Saturday: The unexpected has come. You wake up and it’s still true. You can’t believe it. What now? What’s next? In this time of uncertainty, confusion, and pain – rest. Worship and praise your Father in heaven. He knows what has been and what will be. Trust Him now.

It’s Sunday: The sun has risen and so has our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A new day has come and Jesus has redeemed. He makes all things new bringing life and hope to our seemingly dead dreams. His light makes a shadow out of all that was before. Expect Sunday to come! Jesus is risen!

Fight or Flight? (Part 3)

This is the third part in a four-part series.

Two Empty Chairs in a Field“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I can’t speak to how anxiety manifests in any other person or why others struggle. I only know my story and if there is anything anyone can relate to and learn from then it’s worth telling.

This has been by far the most difficult post to write. I have anguished over how to describe my anxiety: what caused it, how I reacted, what it turned into, how it affected me, how it affected others and finally realizing that everything I thought I knew about it was wrong.

Flight, n.: The act of fleeing; the act of running away, to escape danger or expected evil; hasty departure.

I grew up believing lies about myself, about others and about God.

It’s funny how the smallest thing can change your perspective of yourself. I have spent my entire life trying to hide and keep myself safe. I have feared the opinions of others, their judgment, their rejection and my own failure. I avoided and ran from anything that put me in the spotlight. As long as I was left alone to do my work I was fine. No challenges, no confrontations, and no humiliation. To even consider the thought of making a mistake and being found out was paralyzing. Running and hiding was my way of taking control, but you can’t out run God and nothing is hidden from His sight.

The stress associated with my fears manifested physically and the anxiety grew with each incident. My internal flight instinct grew. I was trying to escape a perceived danger.

There came a point when I truly began to understand the lengths I was going to trying to protect myself. All these years, I was hoping that someone would step up and protect me. I needed to believe I was worth protecting; that somehow I was worth more than the pain and suffering they would endure.

And then God reminded me of Jesus, the pain and suffering He endured on my behalf to protect me from death, to set me free and to give me a place in this world for Him.

See, God was calling me out of the shadows and He wasn’t giving up on me. The more He worked, the more I fought and the more I ran from the very situations and people He was using to grow me, change me, and transform me. I questioned His authority and control over my situation. I struggled with the reality of who He was making me and who everyone else expected me to be.

When my knowledge was challenged, I assumed I didn’t really understand. When I wasn’t perfect, I assumed I’d never really be good enough. And when I gave in to pressure, I assumed I’d never really be different so why bother.

What I had forgotten was that Christ is not only with me, He’s in me. When I am uncertain, He knows. When I think I’m not enough, He is more. When I don’t trust myself, He is faithful. I didn’t need to rely on my own understanding or strength, but turn to Him in every situation and His peace would be my guard and my protection.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

There was a time when I didn’t know better. But that’s all changed. And in my knowing better I have decisions to make. I can rely on my fears and worries to keep me safe or I can turn to God, relying on and trusting in Him completely.

Something to Consider…

Jesus tells us to not let our hearts be troubled. We are to trust in God and in Him. (John 14:1)

In what areas do you worry or doubt the most? What is your ultimate need in the moment? Give this worry to Him and tell Him about your need. Trust that He not only knows, but he is faithful and more than enough to meet your every need.

Into what lie does God want to speak His truth? As you give Him your fears, He will tell you the truth about who He is, who you are in Him and what that means for you going forward. Peace is found when we rest in His truth.