“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is evidence of things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)
In the summer before my senior year of college, I felt a tug on my heart to commit to a year of full-time ministry. As I sat before God in my devotions each morning, I heard Him whisper, “Take this leap. I’ll catch you.”
My breath caught in my throat every time I thought of it. The idea was ludicrous. I was an international student. What about my plans to move on to medical school? I was an only child and from a single parent home. How would my family feel about this break in my education? It just was not reasonable. I must have gotten my wires crossed. But the gentle, insistent urging would not go away.
One morning, I went to a youth Bible study where the speaker got up and simply read Hebrews 11. I would read this chapter myself at least a dozen times, but that day I saw it through different eyes.
I saw each scene in my mind’s eye as the chapter laid out example after example of how faith played a role in a believer’s life. By faith, Abel offered a sacrifice, Enoch was translated, and Noah prepared an ark on dry land. Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. Barren Sarah was able to conceive a child, becoming an ancestor of a great nation. Abraham offered Isaac back to God, being as ready to return the promised son- his only son- as he had been to receive him. Isaac blessed his sons. Moses chose hardship with his Hebrew brothers over a life of sinful ease with the Egyptians. The Israelites walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. They marched around Jericho and saw the walls fall flat. Rahab believed in their God and was delivered from the destruction.
Gideon. Samson. Jephthah. David. Samuel.
“By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.” Hebrews 11: 33-34 (NLT)
These heroes of the faith held on to God’s promises because they trusted Him. They saw by faith what God saw, often only in part. However, they trusted the heart of the Father, that He would not lead them where He would not sustain them. Of course, this did not always mean a happy ending in this life.
“Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword… destitute…oppressed…mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:36-38 (NLT)
The apostle Paul continues that while their faith was commendable, they did not see the complete fulfillment of God’s promises. That is because this story is still being written. It continues with those of us who are still carrying on the faith, still holding the banner of Christ in a dark and troubled world. I decided to accept God’s call to dedicate a year to Him in missions and felt a peace and assurance beyond any I had ever experienced.
The next year was one of triumphs and hard lessons, close fellowship and intense conflict, numerous joys and frustrations. With a team of nine other young people, I was able to travel across the United States ministering at schools, churches, and juvenile detention centers. The year culminated with two unforgettable months in Guyana where dozens of people accepted Christ and were baptized. The experiences of that year will stay with me forever.
What is God calling you to do for Him today? Is He asking you to make a sacrifice? Abel did that, and his faith still speaks to us today. Has He placed a project on your heart that does not make sense to anyone else? Noah obeyed and his family was saved. Does He seem to be asking you to give up a cherished dream? Abraham obeyed and God provided. Is He calling you to be a voice for an oppressed group? Moses was faithful, and he led Israel out of slavery to the borders of the Promised Land. Has He brought you face to face with what appears to be an impossible obstacle? The Israelites obeyed Him and saw Jericho’s gigantic walls collapse.
If God has called you to take a leap of faith, do not deny Him the opportunity to work in and through you. Take a leap and His arms will be there to catch you.
“God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NLT)
I grew up in one town that had two faces. One face was the glossy McMansion playground fully equipped with Trader Joe’s, an outlet shopping mall, and a Starbucks on every street corner. This upmarket face is a magnet for San Francisco foreigners hoping to take their Stanford or Berkeley education and retreat a small distance from The City with their children.
However, the second face came first. It is the remnants of a railroad town established in the Gold Rush. The former shanty town’s main drag by the river was converted into a quaint tourist attraction with its brothels and trading outposts repurposed into antique shops and old timey candy stores. The dingier remains lurk in the neighborhood next door.
Both faces of this town are imprinted on my very soul, and both faces are represented in my spiritual development.
My best friend Megan attended a megachurch on the new side of town. It was a typical model of two church services where those at the nine am service never saw anyone from the 11 am service. In fact, there was not much interaction between those who attended even the same service.
Attending Megan’s church made me feel small and anonymous. I liked their children’s program because they had great snacks and so many other children to play with. The worship seemed really professional, like a concert, and the people stood and listened. Very few people raised their hands which always struck me as strange. Twice, I gave poor Megan’s mom a challenge by revealing that there is a Devil, and that we will all die. The existence of evil in the world and life’s transience seemed natural to me. Megan’s church primarily taught on the blessings of following Christ.
My childhood church was lodged in the old part of town. It was housed in an old converted warehouse sandwiched between a print and mechanic shop. The bowling alley across from us reeked of stale beer, and bums lounged in the parking lot with their paper wrapped bottles. A large sign hung at the end of the street, “Where the West Came and Stayed”. Later, city council would remove this sign, and the western boots shop beneath it would close as we increasingly wanted to forget that we’re the Wild West and instead pretend to be in the 90210.
I spent at least half of my childhood in this building. The congregation was a family in all the best and worst ways. We were brought together by the strong convictions that God not only can but will heal and perform miracles, the day of Pentecost unleashed the Holy Spirit on earth, and prophecy is not just for the people in the Bible.
Pastor Don was a square-jawed software salesman who received no salary, but still took on all the burdens of a full pastorship. Instead of taking any of the money that we occasionally scrounged up to help support his family of five, he used it to bring in guest speakers. These guest speakers were often missionaries who made me cry with stories of starving children, but they were otherwise uneventful outside the four hour sermons they gave. However, I’ll never forget my first experience with a traveling prophet.
I left with my dad as usual that Sunday morning. His idea of proper church attire was a baseball cap and 49ers sweatpants, whereas my mom always arrived a solid twenty minutes late from taking so long on her hair. Dad and I stopped for coffee beforehand because the church coffee pot was continually used but never cleaned. He let me share his orange mocha with him and read the news to me. I loved being treated like an adult. We picked up our normal box of donuts to share and lounged about in the church kitchen with everyone before service.
We started every sermon by breaking into prayer circles insuring the whole congregation was personally prayed over. After, Pastor Don announced any larger prayer requests from the pulpit. If someone was sick or struggling we took volunteers on the spot to make sure they were consistently fed and had company. People always raised their hands to chip in. Pastor never had to ask twice. He personally filled in any remaining gaps. Looking back, I wonder how he had time to do so much. I guess he didn’t have time. People don’t have time laying around, they make time for what they care about. He cared about us.
The Pastor’s wife led worship and his eldest daughter played the piano. Worship was a raucous event. We danced in the aisles, some pounding the ground as if they were trying to stomp Satan right down into Hell where he belongs. Since the spirit was particularly present, Pastor broke out the shofar. People clapped and cried. A few of the more spiritually sensitive fell to their knees, faces lifted heavenward. The last speaker taught us about flag worship, and its power to usher in spiritual breakthrough. My favorite flags to grab at the start of worship was the set depicting a lion and a lamb. They looked like trembling watercolor when you spun them around. The pastor’s youngest daughter, Lydia, my nemesis, caught on that I loved those flags and always tried to beat me to them.
Lydia wielded her considerable hierarchical power to make my life miserable. She formed her own club with one entry requirement: to be one inch taller than I was. I was the shortest kid in our age group. All the kids in her club sat together in Sunday school, but Lydia exiled me to the little kids table. I usually ended up next to TJ who liked to squirt Capri Sun in my ear. My mom told me he did this because he had a crush on me, but that seemed like a really stupid reason to make the inside of my head feel sticky. I wanted to get out of Sunday school and into service as quickly as possible.
I was particularly excited for this sermon not just because it got me out of having snacks dumped on me, but because my mom told me that at the end the prophet would do an alter call and prophesy over those who came forward. I’d told her that I was excited to have my fortune told– like some lost princess stumbling upon a crystal ball. She corrected me saying that fortune tellers use the demonic to see the future, but prophets hear from God.
I can’t recall exactly what the prophet preached on, but I remember it having a “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” tone, and my mom wincing between her Amens’. My dad fell asleep. I, on the other hand, was eager for the actual prophesying to begin.
Towards the end, the prophet started hand selecting people out of the audience and giving them words the Lord laid on his heart for them. I was envious when I wasn’t chosen. I guessed those people just needed it more than I. A few of them fell down in the aisles, and I thought this was strange, so I asked my mom about it.
“Sometimes, when a word is given, the Spirit is released and knocks a person to the ground.”
“But not everyone is falling”
“It’s different each time you’re prayed for. God knows where you’re at and what’s going to move you.”
It seemed like an awful lot of trouble to fall. There were people standing behind whoever was prayed for to ease them to the ground, so it wasn’t like the impact was doing any damage. But I had fainted before and that wasn’t fun at all. I started to feel my excitement drain out of me.
Searching her face, I asked, “Have you ever fallen before?”
She smiled and nodded.
“Does it hurt?” I whispered.
My mom stroked back my hair, “No, it doesn’t hurt. God would never hurt you.”
I nod slowly, feeling consoled but still a little uneasy about the whole thing.The altar call begins and I get in line to receive my prophecy. Lydia and her crony, Lauren, cut in front of me. I hoped the preacher wasn’t too worn out by the time he got to me, but since God doesn’t get tired I decided not to fuss about it. Turn the other cheekand all that jazz.
They were whispering to each other in line.
“Is it cool to fall?” Lauren asked.
Lydia paused, “You get more attention if you do.”
They’d taken it too far this time. Falling down shouldn’t be some cool trend like the latest Hannah Montana song. If it’s supposed to happen, it should just happen. Leave it to Lydia to be such a fake, making a joke out of the whole thing.
Sure enough, when Lauren and Lydia got prayed over they both fell down. Lauren collapsed so quickly and dramatically the poor people behind her hardly had a chance to ease her to the ground. This received a chorus of “Hallelujahs” from the church. Lydia performed her fall with a bit more grace. Lauren’s was a cannonball; Lydia’s a swan dive. I wondered if God came to them at all or if the entire thing was a fake. If it was just a big joke, shouldn’t the prophet have caught it? My uneasiness returned, and it was my turn.
The prophet wore a starchy suit which struck me as stuffy and intimidating since Pastor usually wore Hawaiian shirts and Levi’s. He smeared oil on my forehead. My mom always hated when they did that because it’s bad for your skin, but I figured if it has symbolic meaning it’s worth it. I tried to focus my thoughts on his prayer. I was finally getting my chance to know God’s plan for my future.
I don’t remember the words the prophet started to say over me, but he took the palm of his hand and started to push into my forehead. I began to lose my footing, but it was in no way related to the Holy Spirit. It had everything to do with the considerable amount of force this man was applying to my elementary school sized skull. He was trying to knock me down.
He was a fraud! But I wouldn’t let him get away with it. He spewed a bunch of generic garbage to buy himself time until he could knock me down. I was infuriated that this joke had smeared oil onto my forehead and was now pressing it in with his stupid hands. I could picture a line of acne forming underneath his palm as he pressed. But I pressed back. His pressing turned to shove, and I had to take a step backwards. The people lined up to catch me stepped forward, but I dug my heels in and regained my balance. The prophet met my eyes, and I scoffed defiantly up at him. In that moment, we recognized each other as adversaries. He kept up his show “Hallelujah” and “Thank you Jesusing” onto the next schmuck.
I fled angrily to the bathroom. A cocktail of fury and shock fogged my mind. Had he pushed everyone down? Or, like Lydia and Lauren, were they all too willing to fall, so he didn’t have to bother? Where did it end? I wished he was a fortune teller even if that’s evil. At least then, he would have been honest. This man made a joke of something I believed in, and now I did not know who else was a joke too. I stuck my forehead in the sink and scrubbed off the anointing oil.
I sulked on the car ride back to the suburbia side of town where we lived. Mom could tell something was off with me, but I didn’t want to try and talk about it over the local sports station dad played in the car. When we got inside, I fell to the ground where Shiloh was jumping at my knees, and she bounded into my lap. I petted her somberly. My mom sat down next to us.
“How’s our honey?”
“She seems good. She’s wagging.”
“And how’s my other honey?”
I paused for a long time tracing the tiles’ grout lines. “He pushed me.”
Her eyes bulged, “Who pushed you?”
“The prophet. While he was praying over me, he tried to knock me down.”
To my tremendous surprise, she laughed.
“Yeah, they’ll do that sometimes. You didn’t fall though.”
“Of course not, he was nothing but a big stupid fraud! I’m not going to let him push me around.”
She smiled widely. “Good for you. I’m proud.”
I just stared at her, confused. I had expected her to be shocked, for this to change everything.
“But he was supposed to be a prophet! Everybody said so!”
She nodded. “We thought he was going to be a prophet. God may even speak through him sometimes, but with situations like this, it’s important to be very careful. You can’t assume people are who they say they are, or even always trust what your church says.”
“So our church is a joke?”
“No, I didn’t say that. I’m just saying that churches are run by people, and people mess up sometimes even when they try their best. You always have to take everything people say with a grain of salt. That’s why it’s very important to know the Bible for yourself, so you don’t end up being pushed around.” She smiled jokingly, but it was too soon for laughter.
She kissed my cheek. “You are my smart, strong girl. You have your own discernment. Use it. Prophets are real, and they can provide insight, but never forget that Jesus speaks to everyone. You don’t need some prophet to tell you your future. In fact, relying on prophets can be dangerous.”
“Because they can be frauds?”
“They can be frauds, or they can just rely too much on their own false interpretations. People never have all the answers, and if they say they do, something is wrong.”
I felt like I understood the world a little more after that. Although, this would start me on a path of distrust in people and preachers, it never once made me question the existence of God or the Holy Spirit. It is strange to look back and consider since God’s powerful presence in my life wouldn’t become apparent for years.
Believing in God always seemed the most natural thing in the world to me, I just couldn’t believe in people. The best you could ask for seemed to be loyalty and follow through, and I had those things in the congregation of Victory Life Church to a degree I may never find again.
I saw the world’s two faces. The face of mankind aiming for God, and the face of them missing the mark. The face of an undistinguished church on the wrong side of town, and the face of a steadfast family. The face of a large congregation worshiping in a beautiful building, and the face of those isolated by a crowd. The face of pioneers who braved the west, and the face of those who civilized it. I cannot reject any of these faces, because I wear them all.
“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Exodus 3:14 (KJV)
There are multiple passages in the Bible that God is referred to as “I AM”. An english teacher may look at that sentence and say it is incomplete. But God finishes it. He is God, the Almighty, the omnipotent, the omnipresent, Jehovah, Immanuel, and so forth. God embodies all that is good. He is truly all in all.
In order to fully understand who God is, we must understand who we are. We are the opposite of good, overwhelmed by our sins and incomplete without the great “I AM.”
We live in a society that encourages us to self-promote whether for job interviews, when trying to make friends or impress family.
“I am a good person.”
“I am a successful entrepreneur.”
Yet, we are still incomplete. Until we can humble ourselves and see ourselves for what we truly are, God cannot reign in our lives.
The Psalmists realize their inabilities and worthlessness without the grace of a Savior.
“I am a worm, and no man” (Psalm 22:6).
“I am poor and needy” (Psalm 40:17).
“I am . . . a stranger unto my brethren” (Psalm 69:8).
“I am full of heaviness” (Psalm 69:20).
“I am poor and sorrowful” (Psalm 69:29).
“I . . . am as a sparrow alone upon the house top” (Psalm 102:7).
“I am withered like grass” (Psalm 102:11).
Fortunately, the Lord is the answer to any problem we have. He fills every emptiness and longing our hearts desire. Whatever we need in our life, HE IS. When we need financial provisions, God says I AM. When we are searching deep for love and happiness, God says I AM. When we need courage in the face of fear, God says I AM. When we are searching for hope and comfort in the midst of tragedy, God says I AM. He is EVERYTHING.
“After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Gen. 15:1 (KJV)
Like a shield, He protects us from harm that may face us. When we have faced our giants and have gone through tribulations for his name, He is our great reward. What greater reward is their in life than the one who created us and knows exactly what we need?
“…I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed..” Gen 26:24 (KJV)
We have no need to fear because HE IS. He will be the courage that are feeble hearts lack. When we let God be everything in our lives, He is able to bless us in mighty ways.
“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect.” Gen 17:1 (KJV)
If God is everything, we should be spending every moment serving Him. Walk every step in obedience to Him, seeking to be like Him. His ways are perfect and our only chance of being such is walking in His guidance.
No matter how our circumstances change, the Lord never changes. We can always count on Him to be everything we need.
“I am the Lord, I change not..” Malachi 3:6 (KJV)
“The Lord is my strength and my shield: my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore, my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song will I praise Him.” Psalm 28:7 (KJV)
It was day two at my new job, and frankly, I was feeling overwhelmed by all of the information my brain was trying to absorb and process at the same time.
I could remember thinking to myself, “You were not created for this extreme amount of multi-tasking. You are going to hurt yourself with information overload.”
I was feeling a little pressured by the amount of expectation that had already been placed on me with this new title.
Then, like a gentle reminder from heaven, my new boss said to me, “I like the way you walk. You walk with purpose.”
I stopped for a moment and turned to thank him with a smile. I imagined God’s voice whispering these words to me and felt my anxious spirit soften. I had only heard this phrase said one other time when my Pastor told a story a few weeks earlier. I had in no way imagined hearing it here, in my new work space. However, I needed to hear those words more than anything. I needed the refreshing reminder that my life is not mine. It is not working or living for the simple act of happiness. I am alive because God created great purpose within me. It was not earned, gained, or learned, but wired inside of my DNA.
Jeremiah 29:11 says that God knows the plans He has for us-to prosper us and give us hope and a future.
John 10:10 says that the enemies purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy, but that Jesus’ purpose is to give us a rich and satisfying life.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says that there is a season for everything under heaven.
When I read these verses, I hear the word PURPOSE. God has created a purpose for us. Jesus’s purpose was to give us life. Everything under heaven has a purpose. You, me, the animals, the plants, the galaxies, we all have a purpose in life.
I used to believe that we only had one purpose. Each person was granted one purpose that they had to fulfill. However, I do not know how correct that is anymore. If we are in one season of our life, there is a particular kind of purpose that goes with that season. And as we change seasons, so do our purposes. Of course, we all have a giant purpose that is exactly the same – the great commission from Jesus to make disciples.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” -Matthew 28:19 (NLT)
However, I believe we each are destined to fulfill temporary purposes as we achieve the great big one. I believe they intertwine and connect us to the greater one. Whether we are studying for our future professions, working full time, taking care of sweet babies, or creating a home, somehow, someway our “smaller” purposes will set us up for the bigger one.
We are not walking just to get to study hall, just to finish our shift, just to pick up the crying baby, and just to make sure the house is clean. We are walking because there is a purpose to our lives. There is a purpose in our steps, and each one of us is walking into the bigger picture of God’s glory, something that we could never get closer to by sitting still.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
A lot of us are walking to fulfill an unsatisfied happiness that could never be accomplished because happiness is based on feelings. I believe that if we walk because we know there is great purpose in where we are going, who we are around and what we are doing, then great joy will begin to flow from our lives. Not happiness that is fleeting, but great joy because we are fulfilling that which has been wired inside of us.
Maybe your boots were made for walking, but you, you were made for something bigger than you could ever imagine. And each step, each act, each encounter sets you up to fulfill that. Keep walking, friends. You are getting there.
“Then he walked a short distance away, and overcome with grief, he threw himself face down on the ground and prayed, ’My Father, if there is any way you can deliver me from this suffering, please take it from me. Yet what I want is not important, for I only desire to fulfill your plan for me.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared to strengthen him.” Matthew 26:39 (TPT)
This scripture has great significance because it shows that even though He did not want to, Jesus still surrendered to God and His will.
I used to struggle in the area of surrender because my circumstances may not have been perfect, and I wanted to take control. I would always wind up letting my emotions take over, which lead to bad decisions and eventually to condemnation from the enemy. It was a vicious cycle. I was a woman with one foot in the world and one in the church.
Eventually, I knew something had to give. One day, I was scrolling through YouTube, and I found this song that caught my eye. Something told me to click on it so I decided to give it a listen. The second verse really grabbed a hold of me.
It said: “I confess I still get scared sometimes, but perfect love comes rushing in. And all the lies that screamed inside go silent the moment you begin.”
Then I wondered to myself, “I don’t understand. When fear gets a hold of me, all that comes in is more fear. How do I get the lies to go silent?”
The next lyrics were “I’m letting go.”
That was the sign I needed at that exact moment. That was the answer. I needed to let go of my problems. I needed to surrender my life to Jesus. I needed to give my whole heart, all my desires, all my wants and needs, all of it.
So in that moment, I lifted my hands with tears rolling down my cheeks as I cried out to God. I told Him I was sorry that I had not done this sooner, and that I was making a decision from there on out that I was surrendering my whole life to Him.
Some wonder why they should surrender. Some believe they are doing everything right. They go to church on Sunday then go home and live life how they want, not surrendered. Some are happy and content on the outside, but on the inside, they suffer with torment from the enemy.
“Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.” Romans 12:1 (TPT)
The Bible tells us to surrender ourselves as living sacrifices for that is what genuine, real worship is. Surrender is not easy. In fact, it may be pretty hard sometimes. It may be hard to give up some things in life. I recently surrendered something to God that was very hard, but now that I have done it, I am a much happier person. One thing about surrender is that it lifts a huge burden off of our backs.
“So then, surrender to God. Stand up to the devil and resist him and he will turn and run away from you.” James 4:7 (TPT)
I would like to conclude with this thought: Let’s say I have a half-filled bottle of coke, but I want water. What do I have to do before I fill the bottle with water? If I leave the coke in the bottle, and pour water in it, it will just be a nasty mess, right? We first have to get rid of the coke, so when the water goes in, it will be pure and will taste good and refreshing.
In order to receive the fullness of God, we must first surrender our worldly desires, so when we do receive the fullness of God, that is all we are consumed with. The enemy gets a “no vacancy” sign, and there is no room for him to torment us.
There is more than likely one of two responses people have to this word. They either feel peace in it, or cringe at the thought of what religion has done to their lives.
Now half-way through my 20s, my success of moving into adulthood has come down to finding freedom from religion. Yes, I am no longer bound to religion.
Do not get me wrong. I am a Christian. I have not turned my back on God or Christianity. I have just learned to let go of all the legalism and rules that hindered me from walking free alongside my loving Father.
I have found Christianity is not a set of rules to follow. It is a love story with your Heavenly Father. It requires knowing and understanding the mind of the Lord through intimate conversations. It is not about man, it is about THE man, Jesus Christ.
The love of God has given me more happiness and peace than religion ever did for me.
In the book of Jeremiah, a man by the name of Jehonadab ordered his descendants to not drink wine. For generations to follow, all of his descendants upheld this rule. They continued to be a family of morality.
However, morality does not equal holiness.
God sent Jeremiah to Jehonadab’s descendants expressing his displeasure in their ability to obey His words while continuing to uphold the laws man had created.
“But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me. Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, ‘Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have give to you and your ancestors.’ But you have not paid attention or listened to me. The descendants of Jehonadab son of Rekab have carried out the commands their forefathers gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.” Jeremiah 35:15-16
Growing up in the church, it was so easy for me to see Christianity as merely the teachings of the pastor or the congregation. It was so easy to just accept what was taught rather than seeking God for what my Christian walk should look like.
If we get so caught up in man-made ideas of religion, it will drown out the voice of what God is telling us to do. Just as Jehonadab’s descendants, we have not “paid attention or listened” to all that God is trying to reveal to us.
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?” – Jeremiah 23:16-18
I encourage you to soak in the presence of the Lord and listen to what he has to say. There are so many things I was raised to believe growing up that I no longer stand for. I will not express what my views are because I want to encourage you to search the scriptures and seek the Lord for yourself. Maybe everything we have been taught in the church growing up is the thing that is keeping us from experiencing Christianity to its fullest. Stop clinging to religion and cling to the Father.
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
Throughout my life, I have come against some mighty adversities. I have learned that no matter the battle, the outcome is determined by fighting on my knees in prayer. When I began to come before the Lord with boldness and confidence in prayer, I saw mighty things changing in my life.
As Christians, I think we sometimes take prayer for granted. It is something we do from the moment we are saved, but sometimes it so easily becomes a chore. We begin to recite typical Christian phrases to sound “holy” in our prayers and feel good about our prayer quality. It can so easily become a rehearsed speech rather than a conversation with our loving father.
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Matthew 6:7
As a young child, I would pray fervently – believing all my prayers would come to pass. However, as some prayers over the years went unanswered, I began to doubt the importance of my prayers. Instead of believing what I was praying, I slipped into a routine of praying passively. I would only pray for the things that seemed attainable – mostly things that I could control the outcome of.
Although I did not suffer from deferred hope with this method of prayer, I also did not see the hand of God in my life. It was not until into my early marriage that I truly began to see the power of my prayers. I am sure you’re thinking my mind was changed when God miraculously answered one of my prayers. Actually, no. I realized the power of my prayers when I saw that the devil was threatened by them.
Early in my marriage, God placed on my heart to pray for my husband and our marriage. At first, I did not understand why. We had no specific marital problems and were still basically in that newlywed stage. Nonetheless, I listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit and prayed over my marriage and truly believed every word I spoke over my husband and I.
Later that evening, something broke loose between the two of us. I do not remember the exact circumstances, but both of us became edgy with one another. Sitting up that night, frustrated at my husband, God revealed to me that this very thing happened because of my prayers.
The devil, seeing how powerful my faith was during that prayer time earlier that morning, decided to shake my faith and put a stop to my prayers.
If the devil becomes threatened by your faith, he will do everything in his power to remove the source of your faith. He wants to leave you hopeless. Your faith and your prayers will stop him right in his tracks and leave him powerless.
Once I realized this, I knew the devil, not my husband, was the real enemy. In that moment, I rebuked the devil and began to pray even harder. If my one little prayer that morning intimidated him, I would pray several more times a day until he was powerless. Never had my faith in prayer been stronger.
Today, not only have I seen the benefits of praying for my marriage, but as well as other areas of my life. When I turned my prayers from praying passively to praying with boldness and confidence that God can accomplish the impossible, I began to see chains break and things restored.
“…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” James 5:16
At the head of 2019, I am proclaiming this the “year of prayer”. I encourage you to join me in praying with boldness and faith as we see strongholds break and lives made new this year. I pray over each of you proclaiming freedom, peace, abundance, joy, success, and unending love.
“Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.’ If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’’ Matthew 21:21-22
“Just give up on me. I am not worth it any longer,” I told, or basically yelled, toward God.
My guilt had overwhelmed me, and I felt as if I would never be good enough to be loved by a perfect Savior. Even though I knew God gives us forgiveness, I could not quite forgive myself enough to accept God’s love again. I kept failing Him time and time again. I did not feel deserving of His love. All I felt was shame.
But Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) tells us differently.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?
36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)
37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The love of God is something we could never earn, and if we cannot earn it, how could we lose access to it?
One of the most impactful books of the Bible for me is the book of Hosea. A prophet of God, Hosea was given instructions to take Gomer, a prostitute, as his wife. Yet, over the course of their marriage, she remained unfaithful and went chasing after her lovers.
Eventually, she became used up and worthless to the point no man wanted her. However, Hosea bought her back for a costly price.
“She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'” Hosea 2:7 (NIV)
“When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.’” Hosea 1:2 (NIV)
This story is a representation of God’s love for us. We have chased after our lovers whether that be a person, money, or success to fulfill us. God knew before we were even born that we would rebel and be unfaithful to him. Yet, He willingly chose to go to the cross and pay the highest price for our souls.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Yes, there will be consequences to our decisions, but God is always waiting with open arms to forgive and shower us in love. “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.” Hosea 6:1 (NIV)
The Devil will fill your heart with shame. But God will shower it in forgiveness. The Enemy will make you feel hatred for yourself. But God will reign down His love upon you. No matter how broken you return, God just wants you back in His arms so He can mend you.
If you are dealing with guilt over mistakes you have made, God is calling you to return to him. He is waiting with open arms and unending love for you. Nothing can separate you from that love, and no love of this world can compare to the love of a Savior.
Marriage is one of those things that’s beautiful and ugly all in one. It has a way of exposing your true character and teaching you lessons you never realized you needed. Marriage is a representation of the covenant we share with God and just about every struggle and every victory can be related back to our walk with God.
This is something I have found true in my own marriage.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only wife who has been guilty of being upset because their husband was not listening to them or was not taking part in conversation.
Our minds are wired to relate intimacy to the emotional connections that happen through conversation. We want our husband to listen to our long story or allow us to vent about our days while responding in a way that shows he is genuinely interested. Words are our intimacy, and when we do not get it, we feel alone and less than as if we are no longer interesting to our husband.
How does this relate to our relationship with Jesus? EVERYTHING!
As I was upset over this very thing one day, God showed me this is exactly how I treat Him. When I neglect to talk with Him and listen to what He is trying to say to me, He feels neglected. It causes my relationship with Him to become disconnected.
A relationship with both man and God requires spiritual and emotional intimacy. This is why prayer life is so important.
Matthew 7:22-23 says “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
In our marriage, it takes work and intimacy to know one another. Saying you are married is one thing and knowing your spouse is another. Have you ever told your husband, “Do you even know me anymore?”
As I sat sulking to myself over this very question, God reached down to me and said “Do you even know ME?”
Sadly, my answer was not one to be proud of.
You see, God doesn’t want us to just claim to be a Christian, but wants us to pursue an intimate relationship with Him.
God is begging for your attention and wants you to seek intimacy with him through your prayer life. Just as you desire that intimacy with your husband.
Think back to when you and your husband or significant other had first met. All you both wanted to do was get to know one another. Me and my husband spent hours on the phone talking about anything and everything.
The same thing happens when we first become saved. But just as a romantic relationship requires us to continue to work at communicating and igniting that spark, our relationship with God must be pursued daily.
I challenge you to dig deeper into a relationship with God and truly desire to know Him and his love in a fuller capacity.
“I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.” Hosea 2:19-20
“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace;” Isaiah 55:12
Joy. It is a feeling that seems so simple, yet the pressures of life somehow seem to complicate it.
How many times have you begun a day with the intention of having a joyful attitude? But then, you get stuck in traffic, arrive late at work, deal with an angry customer, spill food on your brand new blouse, forget an appointment you have, and anything else to spoil your day. Now joy is the last word in your vocabulary, and your attitude is stuck sour.
When me and my husband were dating, I went through a rough time in my life. Being happy did not come easy with the hussle and bussle of college, a full-time job, and the dwindling relationships I was dealing with. However, one day he said something that stuck with me.
“God has given you joy. Refuse to let the Devil take it.”
In that moment, I realized that joy is gift. And just like Christmas or birthday gifts, this gift is free regardless of where my life is at the time.
Our joy should not be dependent upon our surroundings because our source of joy is God, not the world and certainly not the Devil. However, the Devil will try to use the things of this world to steal this great gift we have been given. He knows that nothing can stand in our way if we learn to have joy in tribulation.
God’s word says to “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice” (Phil 4:4 ESV).
It does not say rejoice when life is splendid. It says to rejoice ALWAYS. Even when it seems as if life is completely against you.
There’s a song we use to sing at my church until we could not sing anymore. The lyrics state “I refuse, I won’t let nobody steal my joy!”
So I challenge you. Don’t let anybody or any circumstance steal the joy that Jesus has given to you as a free gift. You wouldn’t take your most treasured Christmas gift and throw it in the trash just because you had a string of bad “gifts”. So why throw away the precious gift of joy God has for you? Remember, although sorrow lasts for the night, joy comes in the morning.