For me, it is the story of the paralyzed man in the gospels.
“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” Mark 2:1-5 (NIV)
Most recently, after hearing this story for what seemed like the millionth time in service, I could hear Jesus ask me, “How desperate are you? How far are you willing to go?”
It was kind of like a “what would you do for a Klondike bar” moment.
What would I do to meet with Jesus? How far would I go to see His glory? How desperate am I for His presence?
I was baffled, and honestly, I wanted to say “Lord, I would do anything, go anywhere just to be with you.”
That was my heart’s intentions and cries because of how much I love Jesus, but as I have looked at my life, I have seen where I have fallen short. It has made me reevaluate my desperation for Christ.
You see the level of our desperation depends on the level of our want. How bad do we want it?
If a drug addict can sell everything they own for something that ultimately destroys their body, then why are we not more desperate for Christ who is good and ultimately the giver of life?
Maybe our problem as Christians is not that we are addicted to Christ’s goodness and the work of His glory, (it is very easy for most of us to pray about things we need or want), but maybe it is that we have not spent enough time with Jesus to have developed an addiction for more of Him. Just more of what He can give us.
Just as the four friends who carried their friend on a mat showed Jesus their faith, we must also be willing to go the extra mile in our actions. They could have spoken their desperation and later brought Jesus to their friend, but that was not good enough for them. They needed Jesus to see him, to see their hunger, to feel the intensity of how badly they wanted their friend healed. When our actions match the intent of our heart, we have stepped into pure desperation.
Those friends could have seen the crowd and the impossibility to get through, but they reasoned in their minds that turning back seemed more impossible than getting to Jesus. We have to come to a point when we are so utterly desperate for the presence and glory of Jesus that the impossible seems logical.
We have to be willing to climb those mountains, dig those openings, and lay ourselves paralyzed by the world, but desperate to sit at the feet of Jesus.
“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.
Here’s a confession: I am a girl who loves a hot shower – rain or shine, summer or winter, springtime or harvest. I need my water pressure high and my shower just short of boiling. As the water flows, I think of the events of the day or plan for the day ahead.
I will stand under my shower head replaying conversations, analyzing interactions, deciding what I could have done or should have said. I feel free to share all of my feelings without biting my tongue.The timid girl from the office is free to have an attitude, to tell off that coworker, to yell out the car window at that inconsiderate driver. And sometimes, this version of myself that lives in my daydream rears her ugly head in the real world.
Do you ever struggle with the tension that exists between saying the right thing versus saying what feels good in the moment?
I certainly have, and too often, I have allowed myself to give in to the temptation to “put someone in their place.” Angry, vicious words have a way of making their way into a room and infecting the air with their invisible influence. Spreading like a sneaky virus, it can almost be impossible to stop those words. This does not only apply to angry words. Criticism, judgement, gossip, slander, sarcasm, cruel jokes, and complaining all have a way of making their way through a room.
It is especially easy to use words as weapons against the people we spend the most time with such as our family, friends, and coworkers. However, in this age of constant interaction via the internet and the ability to hide behind a computer screen, even strangers and people in authority are not exempt. It is a toxic culture where everyone seems to take an offensive posture, because anyone can be a victim.
Though times have changed, human nature has remained the same. Scripture describes this phenomenon in James 3:2, 3:5-6:
“Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” James 3:2 (NLT)
“In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” James 3:5-6 (NLT)
Can you see it? The mean-spirited comment that changes the atmosphere in a room, spreading like wildfire? And just like a fire, once negative words are spoken, the initiator no longer has the power to stop the series of conversations and events that follow.
The gossip or mean-spirited comment has taken on a life of its own. When a person cools down, the comment rages on in another form, on another’s lips. Words said in the heat of the moment can break down friendships that were once solid.
Gossip cannot only destroy a person’s self-image but can ruin a hard-earned good reputation and lead to that person isolating themselves. Because words once spoken cannot be unsaid, this is a situation where an ounce of prevention is better than curing after the situation.
What steps can we take today towards taming our tongues?
Search for the source of the fire
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” Matthew 15:18 (NLT)
Our words reflect our hearts, and fortunately for us, the Lord is an expert at heart work.
Ask Him to show you what is at the root of any patterns of negative speech. Is it insecurity? Bitterness? Pride? Ask Him for discernment to recognize your heart condition and for the desire to lay it down before Him so He can weed it out.
Practice fire safety
“Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.” Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
Be intentional about speaking life. Keep an eye out for opportunities to encourage, comfort, praise, and build up. A kind word at the right time can change a life. Just as negative words can have a domino effect, so can positive ones.
Train as a firefighter
You may not be the one who started a negative conversation, but peer pressure is powerful and soon you can find yourself joining in with gossip or complaining because it is just easier not to swim against the tide.
Brainstorm ways to subtly redirect a conversation that is headed in the wrong direction. For example, many of us may find ourselves at work when the conversation becomes a session to sound off on everything that dissatisfies them about the job. This can be an opportunity to empower someone about their gifts and how their presence in the workplace can make a difference or make an improvement in the workplace.
Changing our patterns of speech can be uncomfortable and downright difficult at first. It is a lot like choosing to walk through the trees in the forest instead of the well-worn path, but the more we take this new route the easier it gets.
May we pray with the psalmist David daily,
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NLT)
As Christians, we believe Jesus is what every soul on this Earth is looking for, whether it be intentional or unintentional.
For a moment, I would like us to pause and think about this next question.
How many of us truly believe that we have found everything we are looking for in Jesus?
When I first heard this question in my spirit, I was immediately ready to respond. However, I heard God tell me to STOP and take a moment before responding.
The truth is there was still a thirst inside of me despite all that Jesus gives me.
Have you accepted and received the gift of salvationbut for some reason are just not fully satisfied?That hole in your heart or a certain area of your life just does not seem to have been filled – not all the way at least.
You may have said in your heart “Well, I do have a thirst, but at least I am not smoking, drinking or sexing it away.”
Maybe you do not exactly do all of the following, but what about on a Friday night when depression and loneliness kicks in?
Could our means of satisfying our thirst be more private right now instead of visible to the world?
Maybe masturbation, binge eating, isolation, oversleeping, or doing drugs is your means to quiet your thirst. Or maybe even the sense of company and doing things helps you to avoid the reality of your thirst.
For years, I have struggled with a thirst called the validation of man. One minute I feel like I have been delivered, and the next, there I am again longing for man’s affirmation. Why do I allow it to control my emotions and leave me feeling defeated? Why do I exalt “IT” and give it so much authority over my life?
The reality of this thirst sickens me to my stomach. The further I go into my purpose there it goes reminding me that:
“You don’t know the big dogs, you’ll never make it.”
“You don’t have a big enough support system, so how are you going to change the world through this gospel message you are so passionate about?”
“Look at the post you create, no one pays them any attention. Nobody is calling you and no one knows you. You’re nobody. You don’t even have that many friends. You don’t even have a platform. You don’t need God, You need MAN.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6 (ESV)
I do not doubt for a moment that our adversary has taken so many opportunities to take his shot. The biggest mistake of my life was allowing myself to consider a view that the enemy presented. I somehow managed to move from a place of certainty in Christ to feeling that I just do not have enough.
Before I knew it, there I was surrounded with blessings from God, but it just was not enough for me. Every time God would prompt me to do something my first response was “How? I do not have enough.”
Looking to those around me, I have noticed their amazing support systems. These people are writing books, leading worship, preaching to thousands, starting women’s groups, mentorship programs and more. People have even bought into their vision. They have resources everywhere you look.
Here I am, a girl with a big dream, filled with passion and purpose to change the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but I am left thirsty, feeling like I am missing something. I am a Christian who is supposed to be filled by God, but still I am thirsty.
It was not until I developed a fight on the inside of me and made up my mind to intentionally allow Christ to satisfy every thirst within me that I began to move out of that place of darkness. Every day, I do my best to be intentional about choosing to allow Christ to satisfy every thirst within me.
Some days when I am not doing so well I avoid compliments to the fullest. If someone attempts to compliment me, I quickly try and change the subject because I know a part of my flesh desires these things. The validation of man sometimes can feel like food to my flesh and the last thing I want to do is feed it.
When people come up to me and say things like “Oh you are so anointed. God is going to do so many things in your life….,” immediately my head goes down. It is because I am trying to keep a monster tamed that is seeking to take my life little by little. I don not want to gratify the desires of my flesh not even for a second.
Honestly, some days I am deeply saddened when I feel this thirst inside of me that wants man to see me and notice me. Some days, I am prostrate on my face asking God to completely take this desire away.
When I hear the thoughts of comparison and thirst, I fall to my knees and in His presence I stay. Even if it is mere silence as I weep my eyes out, I do not move until He meets me. And there goes my Daddy, laying his hand on my head and comforting me. When He does this, I melt in His peace. He reminds me that I am not the thoughts that I wrestle with in my head and in my heart. He reminds me that though that temptation may come and go, if I daily come to Him for my portion He will always fill me. His sweet communion is what I long for daily.
Daily, I bring a gift to the altar of the Lord. My gift is me, and on the altar I lay, where God consumes me so that I may forever burn for Him.
Where there is no communion with God, it is impossible to be sustained by Him. Allow Christ to satisfy every thirst within you. Doing so means we have to come face to face with the ugly reality of our thirst. The enemy comes to sow seeds in us by planting a kind of thirst in our hearts and feeding off of that. However, he needs permission to do so
The only way to fully guard you heart is to consistently and continually lay it upon the altar, where it is always fully open to God and the sanctifying work of His precious Holy Spirit.
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
The lyrics to “Your Promises Never Fail” (spontaneous version) by Emmy Rose have been my fighting words for months now. And each time I listen to it, I feel greater revelation happening within me about who my God is and how powerful His promises over me are.
“For I know Your thoughts Your plans for me are good I know You hold My future and my hope Your promises never fail Your promises never fail And Your promises never fail And Your promises never fail No, no, no”
My heart has cried many times, “God, when will my prayers meet my promise?”
“When will I see what I’ve poured out my soul for come to pass?”
“When will you do it for me?”
Each time I ask these questions I am reminded of Hannah. Her story in 1 Samuel is one of my most favorites. I can relate to Hannah so strongly that I feel as if I am Hannah. She is a woman desperate for a promise to come to pass. She is taunted relentlessly by an enemy. People who loved her, who were in her corner, supporting her, but couldn’t fully grasp what grieved her. Bystanders judged her because they didn’t know her story or her heart. When I look in the mirror, all I see is a weeping, desperate Hannah.
If you are unfamiliar with the story of Hannah, I will give you a paraphrased version. Hannah shared her husband Elkanah with another woman named Peninnah. Peninnah was able to have children and did, but Hannah could not. Each year, Hannah’s husband would take them to the house of the Lord to sacrifice. He would given Hannah a double portion because he loved her even though she could not give him children. He could not understand her pain. Hannah’s rival however taunted her so relentlessly that Hannah was in great sorrow. Just as Hannah is silently pouring her desperate heart out to God, a judging priest approaches her and accuses her of being drunk. Through tears, Hannah explains her heart, and the priest quickly blesses her and sends her on her way.
My most favorite part about this story is in verses 19-20.“and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord.’”
For at least nine more months, Hannah had to be taunted by Peninnah. She had to keep praying. For at least nine more months Hannah had to use her promise as a weapon against Peninnah. She had to remind her heart and her mind what was spoken over her. She had to keep fighting and keep praying and keep singing until her cries were from labor instead of grief. She had to use her promise as a weapon until she could see it. She had to keep praying until she could meet it.
I see you woman, on your knees desperately praying for your promise to pass. I see your family and friends misunderstanding you because they do not understand your promise or your heart. I hear your rival taunting you and beckoning you to give up, to forget your promise and forget your God. I hear the bystander’s whispers and accusations as they watch your life from afar but cannot see your heart.
However, I also see our God wrapping His arms around you in compassion and mercy. I see His heartbreaking for yours and holding you still. And mostly woman of God, I hear your victory cry! Your shout of labor as you birth your promise! I rejoice with you as you continue to war for what is yours!
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her.” Luke 1:45
“I don’t want to strive for your love anymore God.
I am so sick and tired of wanting you to be proud of me because of my actions.
Am I doing a good job?
Maybe if I could stop being such a screw up, you’d love me.”
This was me less than a month ago gushing out my heart in bewilderment to God. I had a commitment to share for a ministry in less than two days, and I felt as though I was literally about to lose my mind.
Why you may ask? The answer is simple I felt inadequate and as though I had nothing to share. On top of this, I felt distant from God.
I thought of how someone else could do so much of a better job at sharing for this ministry than myself.
I knew my feelings were rooted in the spirit of pride, but I asked the Lord “where does my insecurity stem from?”
I remember growing up in school and having no problem sharing in front of the class
(I was quite the ham), but after grade school and into college years, I had become more reserved, more self-aware, and more insecure than I had ever been before.
As I pondered on that thought, the Holy Spirit told me, “when you feel inadequate it’s because you are not leaning into the reliance of the Holy Spirit.”
For as long as I can remember, my life verse, or the verse that the Holy Spirit whispers to my heart the most often, is Proverbs 3:5-6 it says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
You would think with how many times the Lord has whispered that into my spirit, I would have it down pat by now, but nope.
In my mind, all I could think about was how I was not doing all of the things..
You know, the praying for hours soaking in His presence kind of things.
Or reading the Bible for hours on end.
I have always been a perfectionist, a doer, a striver, a hard worker, a go-getter of sorts. While at times this mindset has helped me throughout my life, other times it has been one of my biggest downfalls, especially in my walk with Christ.
You may be thinking what is wrong with wanting to be perfect or being a hard worker? Essentially, nothing is wrong with either of those qualities, but the truth is I am not perfect, and there is nothing I can do to become perfect.
When I feel the need to perform or to be perfect, it is because I have stepped away from simply abiding in the Father. Abiding in Him means I take off all of the pressure I place on myself to be perfect and lean into the Perfect God who has infinite love, wisdom and strength for all of life’s circumstances.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NLT)
There is so much safety in relying on God and not myself. The Bible tells us in our weakness He is strong. The truth is we are all screw-ups, but God loves us in the midst of all of our garbage, setbacks, and failures.
So those two days came and went, it was finally my turn to share with the women of that ministry. I walked into that opportunity with no nerves, and no sense to perform. I simply shared of God’s goodness, relied on Him, and gave Him all the glory He deserves.
Girlfriend, let me tell you, it is not about you. It has never been about you, and it will never be about you. So do that thing that scares you, do that thing that God has called you to, do that thing that requires you to step out of your own reasoning and strength and rely on God to do the work.
If we are going to accomplish anything for God, we have to remember it is for His name’s sake. It is so His name will be glorified and that all will know of His unwavering love for them.
But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly! Romans 5:8 (TPT)