Untangling Our Will From God’s

Decisions, the ones that really matter, are difficult. And no matter how hard we try to view a situation objectively, more often than not, each choice will be enmeshed in emotion and obligation, tainted by our sinful nature, and … hopefully, ultimately resting on a desire to be obedient. So how can we separate the latter from the former? Is that even possible? What are some steps we can take to surrender our will to Christ’s and zero in on His guidance? First, we need to understand that we are, by nature, sinful people, prone to pride, selfishness, and self-deception. If not dealt with, these sins have the capacity to squelch the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the first step is prayer, asking God to cleanse our hearts. Consider making Psalm 19:12-14 a daily prayer, especially during times of indecision. “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (NLT). The next step, which is an ongoing one, is to listen. Throughout Scripture, God promises to lead and guide us. Isaiah 30:21 says, “Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left” (NLT). Sometimes God will guide us by gently whispering to our heart. Many times He’ll speak...

The Battle for Your Territory

The man foamed at the mouth. His eyes were evil, lost, afraid… all at the same time. The demons had taken over a long time ago. From within his battered body, his trapped spirit had long lost the strength to cry out for help. He cut himself day and night, and not even chains could bind him anymore. A scene from a horror movie. That’s what we find as we flip the pages of our Bibles to the gospel of Mark, chapter 5. The man possessed by Legion. Not one demon, but an entire legion of them, tormented this man’s body and soul day and night. I became curious and decided to do a little research on Roman Legions. The two Latin words that form “Roman Legion” are Legio Romana –which literally means “the chosen from Rome.” In reference to the early Roman Kingdom (as opposed to the Roman Empire), Legion meant the entire Roman army. The size of the legions varied subsequently, and at the time of Jesus they were typically composed of around five thousand soldiers. Legions formed the Roman army’s elite heavy infantry, recruited exclusively from Roman citizens. As the French say: “La crème dela crème.” The elite. The strongest. The best trained, educated and knowledgeable in war tactics. That’s Legion. And that’s the army of demons that possessed that poor man when Jesus chose to take a detour to the country of the Gadarenes and pay this place a visit. Legion knew that Messiah had landed on their shore. Their territory. And they rushed the man’s body to Jesus, prostrated at His feet, and worshipped Him. “When he saw...

Me and My Stuff

We are moving. I don’t like to move, although I am pretty much a pro. When I was growing up, my dad got transferred all over the country, and that man could pack a U-Haul like a Cuban artisan can roll a cigar.  He defied every recommended safety notice and challenged the laws of physics. Volume, mass, weights, measures, space, and time were no impediment for my father when it came time to relocate. Once he accidentally packed my brother.  If it was in the driveway, it was going in the U-Haul. We moved into this house two and a half years ago in a desperate attempt to adopt two little girls out of the foster care system. They have recently been adopted by another family. Had I gotten my way, we wouldn’t have our sweet Charlie.  Nor would we be loving on the dear flower child peaceably sleeping in the nursery now.   Thank God I don’t always get what I want. Alas, it is time to move on. As I wrapped this and that in sheets of clean newsprint today, a memory of unpacking this house swept over me, and I was overcome with sadness. In our rush to get settled here two and a half years ago, all hands were on deck.  We wanted to get our child protective services inspection moving forward quickly on the two little sisters in need of a forever family.  I set a box in the living room with my most prized mementos from my dad’s mom, Grandma Mickey. My Grandma Mickey was very dear to me. I have her green eyes,...

A New Lens For Relationships

True encouragement can’t take place in isolation.” Matt Mashburn   A people person who pulls away from people. A person who has been hurt, wronged, and wounded by others’ actions or words. A person who would like hide in a cave away from everyone. What do all these things have in common? They are all at times me…and maybe even sometimes you too. No, you would probably never admit it out loud, but if you were looking deep down into your heart, you might see that it’s true. It wasn’t until church one Sunday that I discovered these things about myself. As I feverishly wrote down notes from the sermon (which you can listen to here, on 7/28/13 with the same message title) it struck me that he was talking about me…and to top it off, that “he” was actually my husband. He and I had not talked about his sermon that day, which is rare since we usually do, so the frankness of his message hit me even harder when the reality of his words started to sink in.  As a people person who has been in ministry for over ten years it was funny to me that this actually rang true in this season of my life. Let’s dig into his sermon a little bit and see what we can uncover together. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV) Chances...

Grace In The Vacuum Cleaner Aisle

 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 2 Corinthians 4:15 NLT A few weeks ago while in the vacuum cleaner aisle at Target I was given the gift of grace. She was hurt, I was hurt. It was a misunderstanding, to say the least, but months had gone by and no communication. This was a ten year friendship that went off the rails fast and in the middle of ministry, motherhood and marriage it fell off to the side. In a season of hurt and frustration it was just not something I could deal with at the time. Sounds harsh, I know and I hate that, but when you are in the middle of a storm and life feels like your ship is going to go down, the first thing you start to do is throw things overboard. Off the side went things like; the gym, friendships that were outside the day to day bubble, and pretty much anything else that might lighten the load so you don’t go under in the season of storms. I’m not proud to admit it, at all actually, but I had to share with you what God did next. After wading through that season life got busy and although I wanted to reach out it was hard to take the chance of getting hurt again. I wanted to talk to her but I was too afraid. I would look on Facebook every so often to see how she was doing, looking...

Teaching Our Kids to Listen for God’s Voice

If there’s any area we moms are heavily invested in, it’s our kids. And as each year passes, our hold on these precious lives begins to loosen, no matter how hard we try to cling to them. So we  drop to our knees and pray that God will become their everything and ever-present guide. When our daughter was young, each night before she went to sleep, I’d climb into her bed, her nestled in the crook of my arm, and I’d read from the Bible spread before us. The words of Scripture often piqued her curiosity, and she’d pepper me with questions: “Why did God choose David to be king?’ “Why did Saul want to hurt him?” “Did Esther like living in the fancy palace? Did she miss her friends?” Every time, my heart would soar as answers surged to my tongue. Because I wanted her to know everything possible about our faith. But then one night, when I opened my mouth to answer,  I sensed God saying, “Teach her to come to Me for answers.” So I responded with questions of my own, inviting her to explore God’s Word, not only with me, but on her own. I encouraged her to ask Him to show her what His Words meant and to grab hold of them as if they were her own. Years followed — almost a decade — and the other night, she came home to tell me of something she’d experienced while at college. She was walking through Lincoln’s Haymarket on a particularly cold day. As she walked, her gaze fell to the homeless men and women sitting on...

When Glory was displayed in the disgrace

Once upon a time, a young girl named Mary found favor in the eyes of God. And, on the brink of one of history’s greatest leaps of faith, this girl said simply: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Mary thus entered into the plan of God with a bowed head, willing to carry within her the presence of God in order to birth His glory into flesh. Yet, in Matthew’s gospel, we get a wider picture of the drama surrounding Mary – when she was found to be pregnant and unmarried. In these words, we start to understand the cost of Mary’s surrender. We begin to see the human heart exposed in the midst of divine work. “And her husband, Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19) Shame. Disgrace. Maybe even a touch of scandal. An unmarried girl, suddenly pregnant. What did people think? Did they jump to conclusions, whisper about her, share their disapproval? And we’re left to wonder – why would a holy, perfectly pure God choose to use this scarlet thread of disgrace while weaving His eternal plan? “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 Prophecy declared it, yes, but certainly God Almighty could have engaged a staggering variety of means, outside of such a publicly disgraceful situation, to accomplish it. Truth is, I think we are all left a bit shaky at this unfolding – broken pieces of moral standards...

Waiting For God’s Counsel

“Yet how quickly they forgot what He had done! They wouldn’t wait for His counsel!” (Psalm 106:13 NLT) It’d been a long, hard journey for the Israelites. God had led them, with a mighty hand and with great wonders, out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. His presence, manifested in a cloud, sheltered them from the intense rays of the sun during the day and, manifested in pillar of fire at night, lit up the path ahead. Never once did He fail them. Never once did He abandon them. He cared for them, provided for them, guided them, and performed miracles before them that had to make their jaws drop and their eyes bug out . But then the journey grew rough. It took longer to reach the Promised Land than they’d anticipated, and as their discontent and impatience grew, their memories of God’s hand diminished. “Yet how quickly they forgot what He had done! They wouldn’t wait for His counsel!“ Oh, how often could that verse could be said of me! I’ve seen God work again and again. I’ve heard His voice and sensed His direction. I’ve taken steps, sometimes even leaps, of faith, only to fall squarely in my Father’s hands. But then I grow impatient, and act without taking the time to seek wisdom from Christ, only to jump straight into a mess. Or else, I encounter a period of divine silence, and suddenly, I begin searching for answers elsewhere. I’ll ask a friend, a neighbor, my husband, whoever. Not that it’s bad to get advice from friends and loved ones. The Bible tells us to...

Banking Everything on Christ

Few things can completely level me like seeing my child suffer. Those have been the times when my faith has been most tested. Those are also when a fierce desire to provide and protect well up within me. My daughter calls it my Mamma Bear, and we all know what female bears are like when they feel their cubs are being threatened. It’s not pretty! I can’t imagine what it’d feel like to think your child, quite likely, would soon die of starvation. What would you do to save him? How fiercely would guard what little food you had left, making sure every last crumb made it in your sweet child’s mouth? What if God asked you to give that very last morsel away? How hard would it be to obey? These are the things that run through my head when I read the account of a poor widowed woman living in the ancient town of Zarepath. A drought had hit the land, and water sources began to dry up. Crops began to die. The land grew barren, and people grew hungry. As did Elijah, one of God’s ancient prophets. So God told him to go to the town of Zarepath. There, God said, he would find food, given to him by a widow. Elijah obeyed, and when he arrived at the village gates, he saw a poor, tired, sorrowful woman gathering sticks. He asked her, “‘Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?’ As she was going to get it, he called to her, ‘Bring me a bite of bread, too.'” (1 Kings 17:10b-11 NLT)....

Love letters to God

 I have loved you with an everlasting love. ~Jeremiah 31:3 Throughout my years of searching for God, I’ve seen Him in so many different ways. Kindly grandfather hovering in the heavens… fierce protector… intimate lover… friend who knows me… savior who redeems me… teacher who reprimands me… strict, righteous judge… compassionate forgiver… Different seasons have brought an awareness of different aspects of God. And yet, they’re all God. They’re different facets of this glorious, incomprehensible being that, as Christians, we spend our lives trying to understand. To see. To know. This year I’m starting a new tradition. I’m going to write a love letter to God. Enclose it in an envelope. Label it with the year. Wrap it in a satin ribbon and tuck it away. Every year I’ll add to this and keep my packet of love letters in a safe place. This is why: We like to think we’ll remember the things that matter, but we often forget. I thought I’d remember what it was like to be a newlywed, but as I near my 24th wedding anniversary, the memories are hazy. I thought I’d be able to recall what it felt like when my four-year-old wrapped her arms around my neck. Now she’s 21 and I still adore her hugs but I can’t really call to mind the person she was then… Until I read the words I wrote at that time. Journals, letters, baby books (back when I had time to put them together). So I’m going to write a letter to the lover of my soul. The One who loves me more than anyone...