Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Consider the raven

Have you ever had a day when you struggle with feeling 'less than perfect'? That was my day.It wasn't one thing-it was everything. I'm sure it's a combination of factors but, nonetheless, it was a rough day. When those days happen, I feel like the enemy whispers into my ear all sorts of ideas regarding value and worth. As in the opposite of what my God tells me in His Word. My Father tells me I am valuable; the enemy tells me that what I do doesn't make a difference. The Father tells me I have a calling to be a light in the darkness; the enemy tells me 'it is what it is and it will never change'. It is ironic that I went to bed last night knowing what verse I was going to focus on today and today was a struggle. Isn't that how it goes? So, here is the verse:
"Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than the birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?" Luke 12:24-26
When I think about a raven, I don't conjure up an image of a pretty little song bird with beautiful feathers and a gorgeous voice. I mean, look it at. What value does it add to my life? But here's the thing, God loves that raven and cares for it simply because He made it. How much more does He love us-who are made in His image! I have immeasurable value. You have immeasurable value. Thank God my view of myself doesn't determine God's view of me. And about the worry (you knew I would get there, right?): God's will is going to prevail regardless of whether I consume myself with anxiety or just come to peace with the fact that He is on the throne and I am not. He is sovereign and I am loved. He is my Father and I am His child. Some days He just knows we need to curl up in His lap and try to rest. May we all rest today in Him.



I would love for these posts to include any discussion. You can comment here or on my facebook page. Love to you all. I am praying for anyone reading these verses-that God would use them to shape our lives.




**this was the song playing on Pandora as I was finishing this blog up. Perfect!


"We will overcome. By the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. "

Listen to the song "Overcome" here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJvqQjaz87I

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Difficult questions with no easy answers

"Then Jesus said to his disciples: 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.' " Luke 12:22

As I prayed today about the verse for tonight, I wasn't sure where He would bring me and this verse came to my attention in my reading. Jesus had a lot to say on the subject of worry and a bulk of it was said directly to his disciples. This is one that I've heard many times before; in fact, I could have probably written it from memory as I am writing this. How can we possibly live out this type of directive? How can we not worry about our life, what we will eat, our body or what we will wear?!? :) We have been talking about all-consuming anxiety these past few days and Jesus covers all of the areas of fear and anxiety in this one verse.
He goes on to say in verse 13 that "life is more than food, the body more than clothes". Jesus obviously knew that the disciples needed to eat and clothe themselves. Again, was their worry about food and clothing taking their eyes off of their true purpose? I wonder, when he refers to worry, does he mean that we shouldn't focus on these things in an unbalanced way? An unhealthy fixation on any of these areas would take our focus off of God-who knows our needs even before we know them.
But, as I sit in my warm house on a very cold night (I even see some snow falling outside my window!), I wonder how this pertains to families that don't have a warm place tonight. I'll be honest with you. I don't have a satisfying answer for that. I know there are students in my middle school tonight that do not have a warm bed to sleep in. How do we make sense of God telling us not to worry while acknowledging at the same time that there are people whose lives are a mess and they truly do not have enough food or clothes to care for basic needs?
We live in a messy, fallen world that is hurting. The only way that I can be a servant to that hurting world is if I take my eyes off of my circumstances and put them on Christ. When I am consumed with worry and fear about my own life and daily (often significant) needs, I can't see beyond my stress to see the pain in front of me. Perhaps this was Jesus' way of telling us to look past our own hardships so that we can minister to others. Life is truly not about these things (food, clothes, etc). We are here to love God and ultimately love others unselfishly and unconditionally.

Oh, Lord, take my eyes off of my stress and put them on the world. I want to see the hurting the way that You do so that You are glorified through me. I want to be a light for you in so much darkness.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Proud to praise God

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose words I praise-in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" Psalm 56:3-4

Ok, that is the NIV version which is my normal go-to bible but I LOVE the Message for my study time as well. Here are those same verses in it:

"When I get really afraid I come to you in trust. I'm proud to praise God; fearless now, I trust in God. What can mere mortals do?"

Apparently David wrote this when he was captured by the Philistines. If you go back and read the entire chapter of Psalm 56, you can see that David really struggled during this time. He is angry, he feels defeated, he feels victimized. But at the end of the chapter he thanks God for delivering him from death (not from being captured, mind you) and says that God did everything He promised He would do. All he can offer God in that moment is his "thank offerings". Sheesh. I've been in many situations, none of them even close to being taken prisoner, and I don't know that I have ever thanked God in the exact moment of stress and anxiety. He is thanking God FROM prison, not when he has been delivered. But, even David had to work through a lot of emotions to get there.

Is it hard to praise God when we feel defeated? Have we ever sat in church and wanted to feel the 'right' emotions but we are just struggling? I think we have all been there. So,what do we do when we feel this way? We want to trust but we are not sure how. I think that is where this verse and many of the others that we will study come into actual practice. Sometimes when we do not know the words to say to God, we can take a verse like this and pray it to Him. This verse works perfectly because it is a prayer being called out to God in the middle of a fearful situation.

When I start feeling fearful, I often have to consciously stop myself and focus on one verse and pray it over and over. I promise you, there will be an unexplainable peace that falls on you when you do this. He wants us to rest in Him.
My presence will go with you and I will give you rest (Exodus 33:14) **thanks, Suze :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A way out of anxiety

Ok, this day is a tough one. Well, it's two-sided. The verse is one of the most encouraging ones in the bible that I have latched on to but it is also, I believe, one of the hardest commandments to keep. Here goes...
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

Ok, deep breath. Here we go...
Before I had truly meditated and prayed over this verse, I thought that God probably didn't want us to worry because it's not good for us but I certainly didn't view it as an actual commandment. As in not an option. But if something big is going on in my life, isn't it my right to worry myself to pieces over it? Who exactly am I affecting if I am feeling anxious? I mean, it's human nature right? What if it is my personality to be a worrier?
These are all of the things I've struggled with as life happens and fear and anxiety creep in. But here's the deal as I see it. When I worry, it is my (really terrible) attempt to control the situation. And when I am trying to control the situation, who am I not giving control over to? You know the answer...God. He is in control regardless of whether we hand it to Him or not. It is a matter of whether we are going to walk through the difficulty with God or without Him. We either accept His peace or live with our anxiety.
Ok, second part of the verse is just as difficult in many ways. The Message sums it up like this: "...Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good , will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."
Anytime I put this into practice and choose to go my God, my Father, in prayer, I get this sense of peace. Has the situation been resolved? No. Can the worst case scenario still happen? Yes. But, when I center myself with my Christ, He eases my fears. He clearly tells me that I am His and He is mine. He is my portion-exactly what I need.
So, sometimes I do this the right way and bring my fears to God immediately. More often, I do things the hard way and put my emotions, my family, and my body through unnecessary troubles. Back to our default switch, making a conscious choice to approach God with our worries. He knows them anyway and it builds our relationship with Him when we trust Him enough to say "I can't do this without You".
Much love and more tomorrow.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Do not fear-easier said than done!

"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

Isaiah is one of my favorite books in the bible. This love was prompted by an indepth Beth Moore bible study I did with a precious group of ladies in which Isaiah was one of the main books used. It has such rich nuggets of truth throughout the book. How many times (more than I can count) do I feel so weak and beaten down just from walking through every day stuff? Don't we have days where we just feel like we really can't handle one more thing? Sometimes it's a bunch of built up aggravations, while other times these feelings are based on something catastrophic. Regardless of why I feel this way, I end up feeling week, insufficient, and useless to anyone. It is at this moment that I have a choice to make. Will I default to fearing the unknown or resting in Christ? Too often, I choose to fear.
Recently, we had a ton of unexpected bills that hit all at one time-medical bills, a speeding ticket (me-grrr), car tags, etc. Just life. My gut reaction (and my reason for starting this verse search) was to fear the worst. Now, I KNOW that God has always carried us and provided what we need (not what I want, mind you) and I KNOW that he holds us but my emotional response was fear. Why? Because even though I trust God, the reality is that I feel like I have to have a handle on things to have peace.
I found this verse recently in Psalms.
"I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago" (Psalm 77:1).

So, I will choose to remember how God has upheld me in the past and I will choose to be helped and strengthened by God because I clearly can't do it on my own.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fear, love, and punishment

I have never felt prompted to start a blog before but God has been impressing on me the stronghold that fear has in my life and so many others, particularly women. I had heard recently that there are 365 forms of "fear nots" in the bible. I decided to find one for every day of the next year. I think it will be easy at first but will become more challenging as the weeks and months move along. My first thought was to do an internet search (I'm fairly sure that someone has compiled some sort of list at some point) but I know the digging in the Word will be to my growth and benefit. I would like to challenge some readers to dig and discover along with me, the hope being that fear will no longer be my default reaction to difficulties in life. I would love to see this become a place of encouragement and hope. I will post verses and a short commentary, thought, or prayer. Please join in and share your thoughts. I'll put the coffee on :)

The first verse I came upon was in 1 John 4:18
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

I am familiar with a similar verse to this but the part about fear and punishment intrigues me. When something difficult happens in life, my default switch is almost always fear. The thought of that being associated with punishment really makes me think. I'm not sure I have a handle on it yet but I think it goes back to my old way of thinking which is this: If I do good things, God will love me more ('bless me' may be a more comfortable "churchy" phrasing) but when I neglect something or mess up, he will love (read:bless) me a little less. It has taken me until just a few years ago to have to forcefully change that way of thinking. I wonder if the two are related? A performance-based relationship with Christ and fear. I always have to remind myself that nothing I do can make God love me more and nothing I do can make God love me less. I think that's all my little head can take in for today. But I will end with this: my desire is to be made perfect in love, isn't yours?