What We Really Need

The world is a loud place right now. Opinions are flying quick, defenses are up, and everyone is out to get their point across to everyone else. People are mourning, people are hurting, violence continues because of hatred– and, in the midst of it all, the Body of Christ in our nation seems to be awakening to what it means to be in but not of this world. It has been a change-in-the-making for generations but we have been slow to understand the reality of it: what we believe does not align with the actions of our government and culture around us.

And in the realm of personal circumstances…I woke up last week with a scratch on my cornea. My eyeball was bright red and sensitive to movement, light, and being closed. My eyelid was swollen and pain radiated all around my eye. According to the doctor, the scratch was small and the responding inflammation was causing most of the pain.

Oddly enough, even though it causes discomfort – acute inflammation is meant to be a good thing. It’s part of our innate immunity, the body’s reaction to injury or infection. It’s the “body’s attempt at self-protection; the aim being to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens, and begin the healing process.[i]” Without inflammation, our tissue would not heal but continue in distress until dying.

It’s an immediate response – whatever the injury might be, the body responds with redness, swelling, heat, and sensitivity to touch. “Inflammation primarily causes pain because the swelling pushes against the sensitive nerve endings, which send pain signals to the brain. Nerve endings send pain signals to the brain all day long; however, it learns to ignore most of them, unless pressure against the nerve endings increases.”

So inflammation is recognition of a problem and an immediate reaction to fix it.

On the other hand, inflammation can also become the problem. If the root cause not fixed, the inflammation itself can turn into a chronic issue that can bring serious problems to the entire body.

It seems, to me, like we – as a whole – have learned to ignore the pain signals our world has been sending our way for a long time. The violence, the fear, the suffering, the abortions, the sex trafficking, division, the hatred, the pornography, the ‘increase of wickedness[ii]’…it has been happening all along, but – for the most part – we have co-existed with it all.

But we felt the decision of the Supreme Court. This was the scratch that brought a reaction. This was pressure on sensitive nerve-endings…this was the church’s realization that our government does not have to base their decisions upon God’s definitions for mankind. We have learned to ignore much of what has slowly changed around us, but this moment was one we could not tune out. And voices are swooping in loud…the church is standing guard over this injury to examine how it happened, sensitive to every word and every touch, hoping to push out the irritant.

But let us be so careful to understand what the irritant actually is…let us be so careful to recognize where our healing is found….

Because the Church is not here to be represented by a government or by our culture – no, we are here to represent the reigning, unshakeable, eternal Kingdom of God.

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Here’s what I know for sure and this is where we find our hope: “…the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11)

This is not the first time the church has been in an age of darkness…and hasn’t lighting up that darkness been the reason we are here all along?

When Jesus returned to heaven after His resurrection, the disciples were living in a place and a time that condemned and despised them. Rome was a nation that reveled in open sexuality, the worship of many gods, and violent entertainment. The Jewish leaders, too, persecuted Christians – they were told to be quiet, they were put in prison, they were killed.

Yet – the disciples knew that Jesus was alive. They knew the Holy Spirit was guiding and empowering them to obey the commands of Christ – even in that kind of oppression….even when they had no ‘rights’ in the land.

They were commissioned to speak the gospel of Jesus Christ.

They were empowered to build the Kingdom of God. They were loving as they had first been loved, sharing the truth that Jesus had died on the cross to forgive sins and to bring about a new, holy life.

They were not offended when called offensive. They were not surprised to suffer. They did not feel betrayed by a worldly kingdom that did not support them and they did not lash out at those who hated them. As they lived, so should we live as a people “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer…blessing those who persecute us… not overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good.[iii]

Our battle is not with people who are bound by sin…therefore arguing our point and calling out what we see as ‘unfair’ attitudes toward the church is not our calling here…for “the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.”(Gal. 5:17)

Can we remember how we were once living to “gratify the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts[iv]”? We cannot expect a people who have not been transformed by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit to live as though they are…for “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

There is a Righteous Judge. And, one day, He will set things right…and one day, every knee shall bow and every tongue proclaim that He is Lord. (Isaiah 45:23)

And in the mean-time, before that day comes? “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.[v]

No matter our differences, no matter our own emotions, whatever the circumstances are – we can’t make it about ‘us.’ We cannot turn our message into ‘us’ versus ‘them’ because “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.[vi]” The cry of our hearts, motivated by the purposes of God, will be: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.[vii]

We have the opportunity to hold out the same hope we have been given – “because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.[viii]

So, having the mind of Christ, we humble ourselves. We love even when we are not loved in return – and love does not mean condoning sin, but speaking the truth of repentance and forgiveness. “Opponents must be gently instructed,” Paul says, “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.[ix]

When dealing with events that are hostile to the church and contrary to the Word of God, we must see clearly that “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” If we put our eyes only on the events and the people around us, getting caught up in debate, we lose sight of what we need to do – which is live daily in the armor of God and with prayer[x]. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…[xi]

If this ‘injury’ – if this ‘scratch’ and the resulting ‘inflammation’ in the body of Christ results in an awakening to our calling to pray and intercede – fighting with the ‘weapons of God’ against the darkness so that people will be set free from sin – then what was meant for evil will be used for good.

In this vein, I think it pretty interesting that the term inflammation comes from the latin word “inflammo”, which means ‘I set alight. I ignite.’

This makes me think of the One who refines His people, the One who brings us through the fire of testing and trial to produce endurance, patience, character, and hope.

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I have to wonder – are we, as the people of God, in a pivotal moment between inflammation as a healing process – a time of awakening and refining — or allowing the inflammation to continue and become a harmful condition?

We have a choice. We can settle into this inflammation….we can focus on the pain, the indignation, and coming to our own defense in our own power…we can try revising the Word in order to appease and pacify…but not one of those options leads to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Not one of those options aligns with our knowledge that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus Christ or our commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.[xii]

In this place and in this moment, I can hear the words of Jesus – once spoken to a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years…–“Will you be made whole? …Do you want to get well?[xiii]

Will we choose to say yes? Will we turn our attention from the symptoms and allow God to examine our hearts?

Here is where healing begins: at the throne of God, remembering who He is and who we are. It begins with us – honestly asking God to search within…have we loved like He first loved us? Have we been numbed to the sin in our own lives? Have compromise and complacency found a place in our hearts and in our churches?

Healing is repentance and returning to our first love…we cannot forget that it is His love and mercy that have changed us. We cannot forget that His sacrifice on the cross saved us. We cannot forget that the death and resurrection of Jesus brings salvation and life for all who will believe. “He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.” (2 Tim.1:9)

Healing comes with our surrender to God. Healing comes with our obedience. Healing comes when we know our purpose as a follower of Jesus and, together, as the body of Christ…putting our trust in Him.

Isn’t this the moment? Isn’t now the time to wake up and ask for this healing?

For such a time as this, may we rise, take up our beds, and walk![xiv]

We are here to be the Kingdom of God, to be His people and His body. We do not find our security in the laws of the land. We do not place our trust in man. We do not expect to be lauded by culture. We are not frantic or anxious, because we place our confidence in Him.

We are here to be the salt and the light – we are not to hide away because of fear. We are peacemakers.

We are here to declare the hope of the nations is Jesus Christ…we are here to work in a ministry of reconciliation, to feed the hungry, to care for those in need, to shine into the darkness, to reach out to the lonely, to love one another.

We are here to stand and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who will believe[xv] – and because our foundation is the Rock that is Higher, we will not be moved. For Jesus Himself established this body – “upon this rock,” He said in Matthew 16, “I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

No matter what happens, His Word endures. No matter what happens – in life, in death, in tribulation — we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

Through it all, we will not be separated from the love of Jesus. Through it all, He is with us. There is an eternal purpose unfolding and through it all, He is God.

“…now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” -Romans 13:12


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[i] Quotes from Medical News Today [ii] Matt. 24:12 [iii] Romans 12:12, 14, 21 [iv] Eph. 2:3 [v] Gal. 5:20 [vi] 2 Cor. 4:4-5 [vii] 2 Cor. 5:20 [viii] Eph. 2:4-5 [ix] 2 Tim.2:25-26 [x] Eph. 6 [xi] 2 Cor. 10: 3-6 [xii] Matt. 28:18-20 [xiii] John 5:5-6 [xiv] John 5:8    [xv] Romans 1:16

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Against All Hope

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Everything we see, everything we hear, everything we feel – it can all tell us that it’s time to quit trying, to give up our dream and our calling, to give into despair.

And, sometimes, it would be easier to slide right into believing all of these things that are right in front of us. It would be easier to stop expecting better things. It would be less disappointing and less heart-breaking to just accept what is and to throw away that vision of what could be.

If this is where you are right now,  pleasehold on. Don’t give up.

If your heart is breaking, if your faith is fragile, if you are afraid – don’t give up.

It may be an outright battle to keep hope in your hands, but it is a fight you can win through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We have an enemy and he is going to fight you to the finish – John 10:10 tells us plainly that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. He wants to devour your God-given purpose and your calling to speak out the name of Jesus into this world. He wants to take your faith and your hope in the promises of our Father.

When everything seems to be going wrong, when things don’t work out – there’s his voice, bearer of hopelessness. It might sound a little like Job’s wife – why don’t you just curse God and die? It might sound like the voice of the Israelites – did God bring us here to hunger, to thirst, to fall by the sword? We would have been better off as slaves in Egypt! It might sound like the voice of a giant – Are you fighting me with little sticks? Come here and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals! It might sound like the voice of a king ready to attack – on what are you basing your confidence, that you remain under siege? Who of all the gods of these nations that my predecessors destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your God deliver you from my hand?

It might sound like the voices of the elders, scornful at the foot of the cross – He saved others, but He can’t save Himself!

It sounds like a stone is rolling into place – like it is pushing your purpose, your relationship, your hope of a life full and free into an airless and dark tomb.

It sounds like all is lost. It sounds like you have failed – maybe it even sounds like God has failed.

But listen –your expectations…your promises…your hope is in “the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. “

Romans 4 goes on to say that “against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead- since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.”

Abraham saw the facts and it looked hopeless. That voice was loud and clear – it was over.

There was no reason to think that he and Sarah could have a child, not when their youth was gone and the spark of life taken from their bodies. There was no reason to think that they’d ever have the joy they’d wanted for so long.

No reason – but God. God had promised. God had spoken to Abraham and said – Yes, this is going to be your blessing and through it all men shall be blessed. Yes, you will be the father of nations and Sarah will be their mother.

Yes- the years, they passed. The perfect timing and the perfect circumstances passed.

But still Abraham in hope believed, against all hope – against all the facts and all the fears – that God had the power to do what He had promised.

When he least expected it, when the odds were fully against it – a baby boy came kicking and laughing into this world. God fulfilled His promise in the better way, in the miraculous way that no other could accomplish.

It’s His way, to bring salvation in the strangest of ways. It’s His way to show up in the can’t-be-done and the it’s-too-late now. It’s His way to leave no doubt that He and He alone is Lord over all – because who else could do what our God has done?

Who else could part a sea to make way for escape from an enemy? Who else could bring down a city with a march and a shout? Who else could knock down a giant with a single stone? Who else could shut the lion’s mouth? Who else could bring men out of a fire, without the slightest singe? Who else could make an army flee from Jerusalem without a single man of Israel lifting a sword against them? Who else could use a giant fish to save a drowning man? Who else could feed thousands with one basket of food?  Who else could speak to the days-dead in their grave and watch life walk out?

Who else could defeat death by sacrificing His own life?

No, your facts might not be what you want them to be. Your situation may be far from the promise for which you’ve been waiting.

But, friend, dig your heels in. Raise your hands in victory. Because your hope is in the God of the impossible. Nothing is too hard for our God and He will not abandon you to that dark tomb. The thief may be trying to steal, kill, and destroy you but here’s the end of that verse in John 10 – Jesus came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.

He knows exactly where you are. He knows exactly what is going on. He knows your need. He knows how long you have waited.

He also knows the best way, the better way – the glory-only-to-the-God-of-the-Impossible way to fulfill His promises for you.

I love what He says in Isaiah 55: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn-bush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”

We can’t always understand how He is working. We usually don’t understand why we are in a season of waiting.

But trust in Him because you know who He is: mighty, merciful, faithful to His every Word. He will accomplish what He desires for your life – He will bring you that beautiful place of peace and so much joy that creation itself cannot help but burst into song!

He has saved you and called you because of His unending love for you – and He is not going to leave you alone. Even as you wait, even as you hold onto your hope – His divine power has given us everything we need for a Godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3).

Never, ever give up your hope that is in His name.

When you hear the voice of the enemy telling you to abandon your purpose, that your prayers are pointless – do not be discouraged and do not be afraid. Instead, ‘be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Pick up your sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and stand your ground. ‘Press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus too hold of’ for you. Hope in His promises!

I am confident – because He never changes! – that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. This (all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-gracious!) God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end.   (from Phil. 1:6 & Psalm 48:14)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. –Hebrews 10:23

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. –Romans 5:5

…but He will bind up our wounds…He will revive us, He will restore us that we may live in His presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth. -from Hosea 6

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.-Psalm 138:8

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You Matter

Yes, you. 

I know that it’s sometimes hard to hold to, this truth that you are important. 

But it is true. You have been chosen by God for this place and this time in this world.

Your heart matters to Him, so much that He would not allow sin to hold power over you and keep you from His presence. He sent Jesus to redeem you, because He loved you and He wanted your heart for His own. Your heart, created by His non-erring hand, is valuable to Him…

..and you are valuable to the rest of us, to your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to the people in your life who don’t know Him.

You have a story to tell. Whether it’s through your actions or through your words…maybe through music or painting…maybe through the food you take to those who are hurt or hungry…perhaps in the phone call you make when someone crosses your mind…perhaps in the faithful way you do your job and speak kindly to those around you…however you tell it, your story is important because it is the truth of a God who loves us, who reaches into our lives and sets us free. This is a treasure in your hands, my friend…the fact that He has made you new, has called you Son or Daughter, has filled you with His Spirit. We bear witness to His grace…and when we all tell our piece of the Great Story, His Good News, we reveal Him to the people around us. 

When we all tell our stories, I believe He is revealed to the entire world. 

But here’s what can happen – Satan, our enemy who seeks to destroy and to devour any image-bearer of God, sneaks in and tells you that no one notices you. You might as well be invisible, whether you’re sitting at home or on a church pew or walking around at work. You don’t have anything to offer…everybody else says it better. Everybody else knows more. Everybody else…well, they have it covered. Who needs you? 

If he can persuade you to believe that you are insignificant, he silences your testimony. He silences your story…because he wants to silence the Gospel. 

Do not believe his lies. Do not be silenced. 

God has chosen you. He has called you to be a witness of His mercy. He has created you with all of those gifts and personality-quirks that make you you

and we need you. 

There are particular writers that teach me something in every book they pen…writers like John Eldredge, Madeleine L’Engle, and Donald Miller. I was looking over my shelves and kind of talking to myself about how much this or that particular book means to me…and I said this – “they just speak my language.”  What do I mean? These particular writers use the idea of ‘story’ and mythic language to tell how the Gospel has changed their lives…they use character and narrative, poetry and other great books that have been written over the years as examples. This way of communicating Biblical ideas may not be a way that would reach everyone…but it reaches me, because I have loved big beautiful books since I was a little girl. The language of metaphor and the symbolism of fantasy…these are things that I understand. This is a big part of my own language. I am beyond grateful to have writers who are speaking to my specific needs…God has used their hearts to draw mine closer to Him. 

But they had to be willing to speak their story. They had to believe that God had given their hearts value. 

Someone needs your story. Someone is waiting to have somebody else understand where they are coming from — ‘to speak their language’. Someone is wondering if anybody out there has been through what they are going through. Someone is in desperate need to hear that this kind of storm will pass, that God makes a way…that, even in their despair, they are loved.

Paul puts it this way in 2nd Corinthians 1: “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (The MSG)

So, yes – you matter. What you have been through matters. Your walk with the Lord matters. Your trials and your victories – every piece of your life – in the Master Artist’s hands, it all matters.

You were created and redeemed to give glory to God in everything that you do – to shine like a star, to hold out the Word of life. (Phil. 2:15)

God calls you His own. When those creeping lies of worthlessness, insignificance, and invisibility try to attack, I know that it can be so hard to hold your head up. I think that the enemy knows our weak moments, when our emotions are already vulnerable, and strikes when we are susceptible to agreeing with his accusations. So be alert in those times and, whenever you feel those emotions stirring – hold out your Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God and stand firm in His truth. James 4:7 assures us that when we resist the devil, he will flee from us. So resist – as Webster defines it – withstand the action or effect of.  Don’t allow his lies to devour your emotions, your moment, your day…your testimony.  I’ve been there. If we dwell on those false ideas, our whole day…or worse, a whole season of our lives…can be swallowed up by despair. But in our armor that God gives and empowers, we can “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.’ (Ephesians 5:15)  

Extinguish the lies!  The enemy has no place in defining your heart – your heart belongs to the kingdom of light, made new in the grace of God, a ‘treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)

Polish up your Sword, friends. Hold up your head and know His truth. He sees you. He knows you. You are loved. Your testimony has worth. Your life gives Him glory…so yes, always yes – you matter.  

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”~Ephesians 1:11

“We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” ~Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

 

 

 

Water in the Desert

Hungry. Tired. Lonely.

Maybe these aren’t words we usually associate with the King of Kings, but His divinity was wrapped in the same flesh we wear….

So imagine yourself there, alone in the desert for forty days.

Worn out by the weather. Desperate for comfortable rest. Aching for sustenance.

This is where the Spirit of God led Jesus after His baptism, after that wonderful moment when God’s voice spoke out of Heaven and said ‘This is My Son and with Him I am well pleased.” 

From a moment of confirmation and peace to long, trying days that test us…it seems like that is the way it often goes. 

Most of us haven’t spent forty days alone in a physical desert, but we all travel through emotional and spiritual deserts.  Times when we feel stranded in the wilderness, with hollow hearts needing to be filled…these are the deserted spaces of tired motivations, fears, worn-out hope, loneliness.

And just as Jesus was tested by satan during His desert-days (Matthew 4), so are we often plagued with doubts and fears while we make our way through the day with a desert-heart. Satan will take advantage of what he sees as weakness.

What he doesn’t take into account is that when we are at our weakest, God has more room to work on our behalf.

Satan presented Jesus with half-truths and shiny, pretty offers of food, power, and authority. Maybe, since Jesus was in need of every human comfort, satan thought He could be persuaded to take the easy road.

But Jesus responded with the power of God’s Word.  It didn’t matter how tired He was. The Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God!) does not grow weary or faint. God is sovereign no matter how we feel.

So in His exhaustion, with the power of God, Jesus told satan to get lost.  And he did. 

You see, even in the most desolate of dry lands, the Living Water bubbles up and over and mightily moves…ask the Holy Spirit to so deeply plant His truth in your heart that it will spring forth when you need it most.  No matter the circumstance, no matter the test, no matter the storm…His Words are our lifeline.  In His power and authority, we can tell satan to get lost when he presents us with solutions of compromise, false promises, and opportunities he lines with gasoline and a live wire. 

Once Jesus left that desert, tried and unshaken in His purpose, He began His ministry. As hard as it can be to see when you’re in the middle of nowhere, God has a purpose in allowing you to walk the land you’re traveling. When we surrender our journey to Him, He will bring good out of it. He will teach us, strengthen us, and use us to help others…our trials can become stepping stones in His kingdom…

So wait on the Lord to guide you through your wilderness and your heart will be nourished by the only One who truly satisfies…if you are in a time of desert days, stay faithful. He has been there, too. And He is there with you now, every step of the way. 

“Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what.” (from Hebrews 13)

The Bully & the Hero

My mama-heart is hurting today.

My oldest son, who is 7 and in second grade, has had trouble this year with a few of the kids in his class. For whatever reason, they’ve chosen Sean as a target…he’s had to deal with name-calling and intentional rough-housing. Once he finally told me what was going on, I’ve had on-going talks with his teacher. She has done a great job at keeping things in hand and I felt confident that things had gotten better.

However, she wasn’t at school today. And when I went to pick him up to take him to a physical earlier today, I was surprised to find out that he was already in the office….specifically, the principal’s office. Although Sean gets into plenty of trouble at home, he has never gotten into much trouble at school…so my stomach immediately dropped. I was completely unsure of what to expect.

He came out of her office all teary-eyed and with his head hanging low. The principal quickly explained that he had punched another kid in the nose…and although Sean explained that the other kid had hit first and called him a loser, the punch-in-the-nose response was not the route he needed to take.

I assured her that we’d definitely discuss the behavior and I walked Sean out to the car, where he promptly burst into tears. I asked him if he was upset because he had gotten into trouble.

“No,” he responded through sniffles. “I just don’t understand why he wants to be mean to me.”

Cue mother’s heart breaking.

Because I don’t understand, either. And I can’t stand hearing my child question himself as he has been doing these past few months (am I really smart, Mom? are you sure? maybe I’m really a loser. maybe I’m terrible at running. I’m just a slow-poke…etc…) because of a bully.

I try to be strong for him. I tell him the truth where he is being fed lies. I build him up and love him, love him, love him. I intercede when I can. But it breaks my heart to see him hurting.

As I was driving over to the doctor’s office, trying to not burst into tears myself, I was struck by this thought: If my heart aches this much over my son’s pain, how much more does God’s heart ache for us?

The only reason I can love my kids with this passionate, unconditional love is because God placed that love within me. His love is unfathomably bigger than mine…

It takes all of my self-control to not just pull Sean right out of that school, because I don’t want him to face these hardships. But I know that I can’t remove every problem from his path. To grow into a functioning, healthy adult, he needs to learn how to handle difficult situations. However, I am there every step of the way to hold his hand, to remind him of who he is, to be a safe refuge in a world that is not always kind.

Maybe your heart is hurting and you think that God isn’t there with you in your pain. Maybe you think He doesn’t understand what’s going on or maybe He just isn’t all that interested…but He is.  He hears your cries and He aches for you…Psalm 56: 8 says He keeps track of all your sorrows and collects all your tears in His bottle….another version says “You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.”

He is looking at you with that great big all-compassing love and He’s waiting for you to run into His arms…Psalm 34:18 tells us that the LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. If you let Him, He will be the strength you need in your weakness. He will calm the storms in your heart, if not the storms in your world. He is your safe place.

If He didn’t care so much, then He never would have sent His Son to bear our sins and to be wounded for our healing….to die so that we might have the life He intended for us to have.  (John 3:16)  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  ”

  Yes, He knows your pain. Yes, He sees every tear. Yes, He is there. Yes, He loves you- loves you – loves you.  

This bully in your life? His name is satan and he is a liar. He wants to make you doubt every good thing in yourself and in your life. He is out to hurt you. He does not care if you cry. He does not care if you spiral into despair. That is his goal.

Go to God. Please be a tattle-tale. Tell Him every single lie that satan has told you and let Him fill you back up with the truth! 

Yes, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, you are redeemed. Yes, you are a new creation in Christ. Yes, you are the child of the Almighty God and King. Yes, you are loved  with an unshakable, everlasting love!

My husband’s advice to Sean has been this: stand up to them. Tell them they’re wrong. Don’t be afraid and they will leave you alone.

The advice of James to you: RESIST the devil and he will flee!   (James 3:7) Paul tells you to put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes! (Ephesians 6:11)…but before that, he says “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” (Eph. 6:10)

You are NOT in this alone. Let me repeat: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1st John 4:4)…..But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57).

This fight —these heart aches — these moments of please help me….we have a faithful Father longing to hold our lives through it all. Take it ALL to Him. He will, in His time and for His glory…because He loves you…He will give you 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. (Isaiah 61:3)

(Matt. 11:28) Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

 (1 Peter 5:7 ) Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.

Pick up Your Sword (and know how to use it!)

Review time! We’ve covered a lot of ground in a few weeks, so I’d like to share a little summary for anyone just joining in…(click the links for more information about each topic!)

You are the priceless, cherished, beloved child of God. From the time of creation, He has wanted a relationship with humanity and has pursued us with the only love that can fulfill our hearts…sin separated us from Him, but Jesus made a way for us to reach Him. Who is this God? He is the glorious King, your Creator , your Provider , your Compassionate Savior and friend. He is holy, just, and merciful. He is true and faithful, mighty and able to do so much more than we can even imagine. He gives us freedom from sin, strength to get through our problems, and the hope of eternity in Heaven…and He has a purpose for every single one of us. We’re all called to go out into our world, to love others in word and action, to make sure that everyone knows about the love of our God.  But in this mission to live in obedience to God’s Word, we have an enemy.

Satan is constantly at work to draw us away from God…he wants dominion over this world and each person in it. In Ephesians chapter six, we learn about the “armor of God” — we do not face Satan in our own power. Paul tells us to “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of HIS might.” We wear the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, and shoes that are the preparation of the gospel of peace. We are protected from satan’s attacks by our shield of faith.

Which brings us to this: “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” ~Ephesians 6:17

It just makes me want to do a little jig to think about the amazing gift we have right in our hands. The Word of God is not some meaningless, powerless book…”For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  (Hebrews 4:12) It is alive because He is alive! The words of the Bible are His words…the Bible is a way for God to speak directly into our lives. And if you know what a glorious, magnificent God He is, then you know that every word that comes from Him is enough to transform your life…to transform the world and everything in it.  His words slice through temptation and trouble…they comfort us when we’re in sorrow. When we’re under attack, the Word of God is stronger than any enemy. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world! (1 John 4:4) 

But!  Would you get onto a battlefield, even with the best weapon, if you haven’t trained with that weapon?  Of course not!  You wouldn’t even consider facing a skilled enemy without first preparing yourself. You’d need technique, stamina…you’d need to know your weapon before using it.

If you ever really hear anything I say here, please hear this:  study God’s Word.  The battle we fight is not an easy one…every day, we have to deal with internal and external problems…every day, we have to decide to stand firm in our faith.  If you’ve been training with your weapon, then the Word of God will rise up in your memory and your heart and get you through the tough moment. 

If  the Word isn’t a part of your heart and your mind, then you’re vulnerable to emotions that try to sway you and situations that try to pull you down. How can we obey God if we don’t know what He asks of us?  And maybe you’re thinking that you don’t like to read or that it’s too hard to understand…but do not let that keep you from the Bible.  I know from experience that the Bible isn’t like studying a regular book, which you might read and forget. If you study God’s word and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you, the words of God — words of life and love and victory! — will be there for you when you need them.  If you know Him — His character and what He’s done and the promises He’s made to you — then you can trust Him when times get hard.  Believe me, He has given us this book to help us! 

So I challenge you: get into training!  Spend time studying your Bible!  Consider yourself on a mission…revolutionize your life with the knowledge of this amazing God you serve!  Take up your sword with confidence!

Paul goes on to say that we should be “…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel…that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”  (Eph. 6: 18-20)

 With this armor, with the Word of God in our hearts, we can speak boldly of the gospel. We can be a light in the darkness. Let’s share this love that has transformed our lives!