Lately, I have been doing a study with my ladies group about Psalm 23. It has been eye-opening to see what all God has revealed to me through studying this on a deeper level. Particularly how God is our Shepherd and we are His sheep.
There are three main things I have learned so far about the sheep and by extension, myself:
-Sheep are vulnerable.
-Sheep know their Shepherd’s voice.
-The sheep trust their Shepherd enough to follow Him wherever he may lead.
Sheep are vulnerable.
Aren’t we all vulnerable to some extent? I know I am. Vulnerability can sometimes be a hard thing to emulates as it requires first to get real with ourselves and others about what’s really going on in our lives. And sometimes, even be bold enough to be vulnerable with another person-who we may or may not know so well. Through their vulnerability, sheep also show us gratitude. They are grateful for the protection given to them by their shepherd and because of their trust in him-resulting from vulnerability-the sheep are willing to express gratitude and thankfulness to their Shepherd.
Then we, Your people, the sheep of Your pasture,
will pause and give You thanks forever;
Your praise will be told by our generation to the next.
Psalms 79:13 (The Voice Translation)
Sheep know their Shepherd’s voice.
The longer you walk with God and the closer you grow towards Him, the easier it is to recognize his voice. Let me give you an example of this from my own life:
Several months ago, I was given the opportunity to assist in facilitating the ladies small group at my church. And for anyone who knows me well knows that I am the last person who enjoys public speaking even more so speaking in front of people I already know. I was so grateful and thankful for the opportunity while also terrified.
But… I know my Shepherd and I know His voice. He kept asking me over and over again in my spirit to step out in obedience and trust him. He has a plan and He knows what he’s doing with it. And so, oh meet him. I did what He called me to do and I have never felt so encouraged by anything else in my life.
Do you know His voice? If so, are you listening to it?
My sheep respond as they hear My voice; I know them intimately, and they follow Me.
Sheep trust their shepherd enough to follow Him wherever He may lead.
When I think about someone who follow God where He lead him: I think of Abraham. He didn’t know where God would lead him but he followed Him there anyway. I want to be like that. Look how God blessed Abraham through his obedience. He became the father of many nations.
I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!
Genesis 17:6 (New Living Translation)
What a blessing it is to trust in Jesus! Thank you Lord for being trustworthy and being our Shepherd.
Perseverance is often pursued with well-meaning intention, only to become a distant memory seen in the rear view mirror. Generally, my perseverance becomes significantly stagnant when it begins to get lost amid other responsibilities.
So, I decided to see what God has to say about perseverance. Although I’ve studied it before, I was pleasantly surprised with what He revealed to me recently.
God reveals His character and heart through creation in many different ways.
Today, God met me as I was planting my herbs. The same way I had to carefully loosen each of the herbs from their original containers and gently transfer them to a new pot, is the very same thing that God is doing in my life. He is picking me up and placing me into new and challenging seasons, so I won’t become too comfortable in my current pot.
In the same way my plants can’t stay in the same pot, I can’t always stay in the same season of life. Gardening has given me the opportunity of being able to plant “seeds,” as God often does in my life and watch those seeds slowly, but steadily mature into something beautiful in return. What a beautiful reality for us to grasp today.
If gardening has taught me one thing, it’s that Romans 5:3-5 in The Voice translation really hits home.
3 And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, 4 which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness. 5 And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love.
Romans 5:3-5 THE VOICE
Thank you for Your creation and the lessons You teach us through it.May I never become so wilted from Your Words, that I neglect the blessing of a new and exciting opportunity.
Anytime I hear new Christian music, I’m always stunned by the message portrayed through the lyrics and, of course, I fall in love with it. From the moment I heard “Stand Strong” by Moriah Peters, I was ultimately called to action in Him. As I listened to the lyrics, a revelation occurred to me: It should be my ultimate responsibility and priority as His daughter to share the love he’s graciously given me with others.
I know it’s a message you’ve probably heard a thousand times before, but a friendly reminder never hurts. As hard as this world may try to keep Christians completely bogged down with our earthly circumstances, we’ve got to consciously remind ourselves that nothing we have on this Earth will last forever.
It’s all about eternity in Heaven! As Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:2, “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of Earth.” (NLT) Just like anything we are faced with, things are always much easier said than done but it’s in the trying times where “the rubber meets the road” meaning that we have a decision to make as His sons and daughters: How much longer will we continue to be blinded by the world in the sense that we remain content in our walls of insecurity by not having the faith to tell others about Him? It’s time for us to wake up and realize our call to action! If we’re not bold enough to step out in faith and share His message with others in everything we do, we are consequently disobeying God and that’s certainly not what I what to do!
So, what exactly are you ”standing” for in this life and what will matter in eternity? Have you sought after Him? Think about it like this. Our military exists to protect our country from harm. Similarly, God’s armor is meant to protect His children from harm (Ephesians 6:10-20) and if we are being weakened by the world around us, we won’t be able to stand for Him in life like we should!
Therefore, put onevery piece of God’s armor soyou will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then, after the battle, you will still be standing firm.
I don’t know about you, but I want to live my life completely devoted to Jesus Christ. Not just when I feel like it or when it’s convenient for me. The way I see it is like this either you know Jesus and have a relationship with Him or not- There’s no in between. When I was thinking about this, the Lord reminded me of these words from Paul in Philippians: “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11 NLT) This verse prompted me to ask myself this question, “What does it mean to truly be living for Jesus in everything I do?” I still fight the battles and have those moments where it’s all I can do to find the faith to believe His promises for that day or in that situation I’m facing.
Lately, I was reminded of the time in the Bible where Jesus heals the Demon Possessed Boy and what I love about this passage in Scripture is the fact that it is another great example of what it means to have faith in Jesus regardless of your current circumstances. I believe the point Mark is trying to get us to understand is that even though the disciples weren’t able to cast the demon out of the boy, his dad never lost hope in the matter because he believed that Jesus could heal his son. My favorite verses are 9:23-24 where Jesus and the boy’s father are having a conversation about what it means to believe in Him. “What do you mean, ‘If I can?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14-29) I can honestly tell you that those words have been my prayer quite a few times over the years and it’s those honest and heartfelt moments where I feel closest to Him. There’s such joy in being honest with God, because truthfully He already knows our hearts, so why not be honest?
I have come to the understanding that it’s much more difficult, at times, to deal with the unbelief as opposed to actually having the faith to trust and believe the promises He has for us! This is also one of Satan’s main objectives, because the more he can keep us blinded and caught up in unbelief, the less effective we are for Christ and what He has called us to do. My prayer for all of us that our unbelief will give us an opportunity to recognize our lack of faith, which will bring us to repentance and forgiveness that is only found in Jesus!
Thank you for Your word andthe truth it possesses! As I continue to grow stronger in You, help me to be reminded of the faith of that child’s father and strengthen my unbelief. Show me once again how to believe the promises You have just for me!
Today I was reading in John 21:1-25. Where Jesus appears to the disciples after they’ve been out fishing all night. (Let’s be honest, they were probably exhausted, discouraged and a little more than disappointed because they hadn’t caught a thing.) As I was reading this passage, I couldn’t help but put myself in their shoes.
I think it’s important for us to take a step back and recognize that they had no idea that Jesus was going to meet them along the shore early that morning and provide exactly what they needed. In their case, it was fish. For us, it might be a career choice, financial stability, a relationship, a marriage. No matter what it is, we can be sure of this: In the midst of our self-doubt and denial, He will give us exactly what we need, just like He did for Peter and the disciples when He told them to cast their nets out. (v. 6)
I’m going to challenge us to once again be determined in our denial. And, by determined I mean, having the faith to believe that He will call us to do that which He has equipped us. (I don’t know about you, but I know that if I would’ve been with Peter and his buddies when Jesus told them to cast their nets out again, for a second I would be just a little bit doubtful.) If we’re honest with ourselves we’ve all reached that point somewhere along the line.
It’s amazing to me that Peter and his buddies decided to step out and be brave despite their doubts. In my devotional today from She Reads Truth, Rebekah Lyons said, “Despite Peter’s denial, his place in the kingdom never changed. Jesus’ plan and purpose for him remained the same.”
All I could do was just say to the Lord, “You really have a sense of humor!” Trust me, if you could’ve heard my conversation with Him this morning, you would understand. The truth is, I love writing more than anything in the world and it is honestly what I feel He has called me to do with my life and career: To write words of encouragement and hope for Jesus Christ, so that everyone around me will understand what He’s done for you and me. Writing these blogs bring me so much joy. It’s indescribable. I feel like I fall in love with Him all over again when I write. I’m so grateful for this gift.
Now, it’s your turn.
What is the gift He has given you?
What is the thing that you dream of doing in the future, but you’re scared to think it could ever come true?
Believe it or not, God in His sovereignty has placed passions and desires in our hearts that we can use to glorify Him. (Ephesians 2:10) I promise you He has gifted you even if you don’t realize it. It’s in you because He planted it. He asks us to be patient as He reveals it to us in His timing. (By the way, when I started my original blog in my senior year of high school, I never could’ve imagined the beautiful blessings that would flow from it.) Then, we water the desire or passion He’s shown us with acts of diligence, obedience and sincere worship.
The rest is up to Him.
All we have to do is cast our net out one more time.
You’ll be amazed and abundantly blessed by what you catch.
5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NIV
Grief is a strange thing. In my personal experience, it comes in waves. All too recently this scripture has come alive to me in a fresh way. Our mortal bodies are only temporary and when we meet Jesus, we truly don’t take anything with us. As we’re currently cleaning out my grandma’s house after her passing earlier this year, I encountered this scripture in reality. Years and even decades of possessions accumulated only left to be sorted through.
This process really got me thinking. What possessions (spirituality and worldly) am I accumulating in my life? What things do I still need to sort through and complete an inventory of? I can only hope and pray that at the end of my life, no matter my amount of accumulated worldly possessions, I will have stored up many more treasures in Heaven. It’s definitely been thought provoking and challenging.
Now, I want to challenge you to do the same. Ask God to help you sort through the things you’re accumulating in your life. Once God begins to reveal things to you, your perspective of earthly things will begin to shift.
Thank you for this reality of heaven here on Earth. Thank you for the reminder nothing we have now will last forever. This life is truly our temporary home. Thanks for being the One who holds the future.
When we hear the word hope in the world today it’s most often associated with the things we can’t see. Interestingly, the various definitions of hope are described in the following ways by Meriam-Webster:
: to cherish a desire with anticipation : to want something to happen or be true hopes for a promotionhoping for the bestI hope so.2archaic : TRUST
transitive verb. 1: to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment I hope she remembers.hopes to be invited. 2: to expect with confidence : TRUST
The more I continue growing in Christ, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that the worldly definition of hope and what God says about hope sometimes tend to contradict one another. You see, even though the world wants us to be hopeful in life it can become very easy to hold on to the hope, but lose the “expectation of fulfillment” as the definition states. So, the next obvious question to ask here is “what are you and I placing our hope in?” If your answer isn’t Jesus, I would strongly encourage to consider changing it, because although God desires for us to have hope while we’re here on Earth, that hope shouldn’t come from the things of this world. It should come from Jesus Christ.
If you have any doubts about what I’m saying, let me encourage you to read a passage from Luke’s gospel. In Chapter eight (v. 43-48) we read the story of a woman who has suffered from bleeding for quite a few years. Although it’s unclear how many years she had been suffering, I can only imagine how worn she must have been from her circumstances. If we’re honest, everyone is probably worn to a certain extent because that’s just how this life is. Furthermore, what I admire most about this lady is the fact that she wasn’t placing her hope in the world. She placed it in Jesus. She believed and knew that He was the only one who could totally heal her because her faith allowed her to see beyond her physical circumstances and the current reality before her. In the last three verses of her story (46-48), we witness her faith turning into action when she actually touched Jesus. But, Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” I want to have the faith of this woman. A faith where absolutely nothing can separate me from Him including a disability!
I would’ve given anything to have seen the look on her face as she stared into the eyes of her Creator as she was healed. How exciting! There are a few verses from Romans that I would like to leave with you about having faith in Christ and it’s my hope and prayer you’ll be encouraged by these words today!
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
I don’t know what my life would look like if I weren’t disabled, but I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. In writing this, I’m in no way saying that my disability is my crutch, or blanket excuse for not being humble in nature because I think we all struggle with humility. I’m simply saying that my disability has made me humble in more ways than I could ever imagine. That’s why Paul and Moses are two of my most favorite people in Scripture.
Paul and Moses each had a moment of humility with God, where they had to surrender their pride and walk humbly into the calling God had placed on their lives. For Moses, it was his fear and inadequacy for public speaking.
There is just so much I want to say here, but we would be reading a twenty page thesis. Here’s my brief synopsis of the humility of disability from Moses’ story: His speech inpediment drove him to seek humility, but that only happened after he chose to surrender his fear of inadequacy, so he could pick up his staff, as God had told him to do from the beginning of the conversation.
So, now, I want to challenge you by asking, will today be the day that you choose to surrender your pride and pick up your staff? God has given all of us a staff. If you don’t know what yours is, ask God to reveal it to you.
Paul, on the other hand, had quite an abrupt awakening to humility.
Paul experienced the humility of disability when he literally fell to the ground and was blind for three days. God humbles us, but only after He brings us out of our old selfish attitudes and behaviors.
I can personally identify with each testimony of Paul and Moses, as I have experienced each of these humbling situations myself in terms of getting a fresh sense of humility through life’s difficulties. I firmly believe that disability of any sort can lead us into greater humility with Christ, if we afford ourselves the opportunity to see the humility of disability.
It’s one thing to speak an encouraging word to someone in passing, but it’s another to call their God- given potential out before they can see it in themselves. I’m so grateful for the people in my life who have called me to courage before I even knew what was coming. They saw the potential God has for me and were brave enough to tell me about it.
I think we can start calling others to courage by not underestimating the potential God has given us.
Growing up in church, I had always known that God had a plan for my life even though I couldn’t exactly bring myself to trust His word and believe what God says about me.
Gideon was someone who witnessed God’s courageous calling for his life firsthand. In Judges 6:11-16, we see Gideon’s story begin to unfold.
“Then the angel of the LORD came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon, son of Joash, was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!” “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The LORD brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The LORD said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
Judges 6:11-16 NIV
I love Gideon because I see so much of myself in him. He was taken by surprise when the angel appeared in verse twelve calling him a “mighty hero.” As I was praying in preparation to write this message, I couldn’t help but think of all the times where I’ve been surprised by what God has called me to do. I can totally relate to Gideon’s current perspective of the situation. We’ve all had times where we feel weak and unequipped to fulfill the calling God has given us.
God knew Gideon was going to be a bit surprised by his calling. That’s why He sent the angel to declare that truth over him. God does the same thing for you and me.
I’ve walked through many seasons of life where I have known and sensed the Sprit pulling me in a certain direction. As much as I trusted Him, there was still a tiny part of me that was doubtful. Feelings of insecurity and insignificance flourish in our moments of self-doubt. Satan adores our weakest moments. I don’t want to assign false thoughts to Gideon in any way, but I can just imagine those feelings of doubt were starting to weave their way into Gideon’s mind when he replies with Judges 6:15:
“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
I can’t even tell you how many times I have told God this same thing. It starts when those feelings of insecurity and insignificance flourish in self-doubt.
In verse sixteen, the Lord says to Gideon:
The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” I just LOVE that this was God’s response to Gideon because that’s His response to me in the midst of my self-doubt.
P.S. The rest of Gideon’s story is amazing in the way he trusts God to defend his army against the Midianites! Check it out in Judges 7!
I want to close by reminding you of three key points we can learn from Gideon’s story:
We must not underestimate the powerful potential God has given us.
Trust His calling in your life, even when it catches you by surprise.
Feelings of doubt and insecurity flourish in moments of self-doubt.
So let’s walk right up to Him and get what He is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Hebrews 4:16 (The Message)
I have read this verse a thousand times before today and the way it’s presented through The Message translation hit a home run within my aching soul. Let me give you an example:
I had a posterior spinal fusion to correct my Scoliosis six years ago. Ever since that day, I haven’t been able to sleep on my stomach, which had previously been my favorite way to lay in bed. The most unfortunate part of this story is that now when I put myself in the position that used to be SO COMFORTABLE, has now become excruciatingly painful. I mean to the point where it almost takes my breath away at first. Through the immense pain and discomfort God has taught me something so incredible.
When I relax and don’t tense up the immense pain in my muscles slowly begins to lessen.
Last night, as I was lying there with my face literally planted in my mattress, God in His sovereignty spoke to my heart saying, “The same thing happened the first time you approached Me. You were tense. Sin had provoked a spirit of fear in you. Once you accepted and knew Me as your Redeemer and Heavenly Dad, you weren’t afraid anymore and could truly rest in your identity as My daughter.”
As those precious words were being uttered to my heart I just couldn’t help but be in awe of who He is. Everything He is. How beautifully profound! I love it when He speaks so clearly there’s no mistaking it. I have had that conversation on repeat in my mind all day today. Sometimes the most painful situations we encounter in this life can actually be a soothing balm for our soul that teaches us so much about our Heavenly Dad. (That’s what I call Him quite often.)
Our conversation also deeply resonated with me about what it actually means to live humility out in my spirit on a daily basis. Hebrews 4:16 became even more alive to me in that moment when the tightness in my muscles was almost too much to bear. Humility is an essential component in our relationship with Christ. Why? Because humility allows us to see God’s love on a more intimate level. It gives us the courage to fall on my face before Him (sometimes in a puddle of tears) and know that He will hold me until I calm down. If I’ll just accept what He “is so ready to give.” A new job. A new CNA. Peace. Hope. Joy.
I could keep going, but you see the point, right?
If we are too scared to approach Him because of the situation we’re facing, then how do we expect Him to help us?
God is all about spending time with US. He desires to spend time with US. Everyone has to start somewhere. I’m here to tell you the first few times you go to Him, it may be painful or uncomfortable, but the more we are faithful in spending time with Him- We can trust and relax in His presence.
Comparison is something that has plagued humanity since before the world began. The lie that we must compare ourselves to others in order to feel significant is from Satan himself and not God. God created every person on this planet different for a reason. We’re unique and those imperfections are what make us beautiful. It’s in our moments of weakness that God’s glory becomes even more radiant!
I want to look at three realities in Scripture that deal with the comparison struggle:
Adam and Eve
Abram and Sarai
Satan wanting to be better than God
Genesis 3:1-24: Eve was the first person to ever face the comparison struggle. We watch as she is the first to fall victim to the the lies from Satan. In verses 4 through 6, she becomes convinced by Satan to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She thinks she will be like God by eating the fruit in verse six.
4You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
Genesis 3:4-6 NLT
Can you identify with the comparison struggle?
It’s no coincidence that the comparison struggle can be traced all the way back to Genesis. God put it there to remind us that He knows what a battle comparison can be in our lives. Since I’m being brutally honest with you here, there have been times where I have faced the very same struggle with comparing myself to those around me. It can start out so subtly until I feel God speaking to my heart saying, “Andrea, stop comparing yourself to her. I created you to be yourself and no one else. If I would’ve wanted everyone to be the same, you would be that way.”
It’s in those moments that I stop and fall to my knees. I’ve read the story of Adam and Eve a thousand times, but not until recently did I realize that both of them were facing the comparison struggle long before you and I existed. They bought into Satan’s lie that by eating that piece of fruit, they could be like God. (v. 6)
Comparison and Pride Go Hand in Hand
I’ve always learned so much from Abram and Sarai. They loved God and wanted to follow Him, yet they had a tendency to get very impatient with God. Ever been there? It’s a REAL battle.
The story of Abram and Sarai is a prime example of comparison leading to pride. Sarah knew that God would be faithful to His promise of numerous descendants. (Genesis 15:1-6) However, she was growing impatient with God again. How do we know this? Sarah started comparing herself to Hagar because she was jealous of her.
We see this coming to fruition Genesis 16 through “The Birth of Ishmael” as it’s entitled in my Bible. Looking back on Abram and Sarai’s story along with Adam and Eve, it shouldn’t be surprising that comparison will always lead to jealousy in our hearts.
What I love most about Abram and Sarai’s story is that despite all their mistakes, God kept His word and remained faithful to the promises He had made. We need to be reminded of that very truth on a daily basis.
The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Isaiah 40:8 NLT
I had always heard that Satan had been thrown out of Heaven because he wanted to be greater than God. However, I’ve recently realized that Satan not only wanted to be like God, but he wanted to be greater than God himself! This conclusion astounds me. No wonder Satan uses the comparison trap on us because he’s just hoping we’ll bite the bait of being jealous of others.
12“How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. 13 For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north.[e] 14 I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’
Isaiah 14:12-14 NLT
These words in Isaiah are evidence that comparison and jealousy always come as a package deal. Make no mistake that comparing ourselves to others is a sin, whether we realize it at the time or not.
Although comparison may appear subtle at first, we’re essentially telling God that we aren’t content with the way He created us. Talk about a fresh perspective on the struggle of comparison! I felt such a deep desire from the Spirit to write about comparison this week because it’s something that He has really been convicting me of and speaking to me about.
The good news is that with Jesus we have HOPE. He knows we are going to struggle and sin while in the flesh. Of this we can be sure: God loves us through it all, just as He did for the people in Scripture. His love for us never changes and He is always faithful.
“Never forget as you step forward with your life that you are a trailblazer. Someone is watching. It’s the walking in front of. It’s the standing beside. It’s the trudging behind. We do this because we aren’t alone in it. Even if you don’t see others watching or standing or following, they are there. Women, young men, old men- all sorts of people. Seeing you be brave may be all the need to be brave.”
Let’s All Be Brave, Annie F. Downs
I am here to tell you that I want to encourage you to be brave before I start telling you my story. Right now, bravery looks like standing here in front of your wonderful faces, virtually. Being brave is NOT natural for me, but the older I get, the more I feel God leading me more in that direction.
What does brave look like to you right now?
I became a daughter of the King when I was eight years old and ever since that day I felt like God had a unique plan and purpose for my life, specifically designed by Him. Throughout the years that followed, remembering God’s perfect plan for my life was becoming increasingly difficult as I was so easily allowing myself to be entangled in Satan’s lies. I was allowing myself to become so fixated on the things I couldn’t do as a result of having Cerebral Palsy that the mere truth that the God who created the universe has a purpose for my fleeting life had become a distant reality in the depths of my soul.
Even through the dark time, I did my best to cling to two immensely powerful verses in Scripture which can both be found in Jeremiah. “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT) This verse always seems to mean something new to me every time I read it. Granted, I have no clue where God plans to take me in this life, but I’m ready for our adventure because I have come to the realization that I am in no place to try and “limit” Him in terms of what I think I can and can’t do. Truth is, He knows more about me than I will ever know, so how could I doubt my Creator?
Fast forward to the middle and high school years when God’s voice had become even more of a faint whisper in my heart. His voice remained that way until July 2013. I’m not over exaggerating when I tell you that’s the week where EVERYTHING changed for me!
I went with my youth group to the LIFE Conference in St. Louis, MO that summer. As our last session was coming to a close, everyone was served communion (with real bread, not crackers-just saying). Let me just tell you, my friend, there is absolutely nothing on the face of the planet more beautiful than being able to share communion with 6,500 other teenagers from all across the globe. The speaker that night talked about living in true servanthood for Christ. (Besides, isn’t that what we’re called to do anyway according to Matthew 28:19?) He kept saying over and over again that we couldn’t begin living in TRUE servanthood if we weren’t content with the servant (ourselves) first. In that moment, I began to sob (just as I am now as I write this. Don’t worry, they’re happy sobs now) because God kept telling me to put aside my old ways of negativity, doubt and insecurity. I could only be content in Him. I left that arena as a totally new woman that night. (2 Corinthians 5:17) I am forever grateful for that sweet time of communion with my youth group in St. Louis. It’s where I learned that sometimes the greatest miracles God does aren’t necessarily the physical ones.
That night God showed me there is purpose in the pain.
My miracle didn’t come in the physical form, but it CAME.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture comes from Luke 13. It’s entitled “Jesus Heals on the Sabbath” in my Bible. I love this passage dearly, mainly because I see so much of myself in this woman. Luke tells us she “had been crippled by an evil spirit.” That same crippling spirit caused her to be “bent over double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight.” (v. 10-11) I can’t imagine the immense amount of pain she must’ve been in. It doesn’t get any sweeter then verse twelve, y’all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said, ”Dear woman, you are free of your sickness!” I often wonder if the joy that woman felt when she was healed and the joy and freedom I’ve found in being content in Him are anything alike?
I can promise you this:
There is always purpose in the pain.
A Heavenly purpose.
Hopefully by now you can see how good God has been to me even when I didn’t deserve it. I’m sure we could all testify to His goodness. Thanks for letting me share my story. I hope it was an encouragement…
Just like you did for Habakkuk and the people of Israel. They were exhausted and worn out from all the waiting and wondering, just like I’ve been for the last twenty years. Some days everything in this life feels like it’s all too much for me and You use my weakest moments to remind me that it’s not my battle, after all.
Recently, I had a day where nothing seemed to be going right. No morning coffee or worship music. On this particular morning, it was imperative for me to be heading out the door.
Ever been there? I think we all have if we’re being honest. To put it bluntly, that day ended up being not so great. God later spoke to me by His spirit saying, That day was out of control because I wasn’t the one in the driver’s seat. WHOA. The crucial reality that He gently whispered to me in that still moment sparked something within the deepest depths of my soul.
I wanted to consult the Bible and see if I could find something that related to my current situation. (Spoiler alert: There is ALWAYS something in the Bible that relates to whatever we may be going through. That’s why I never get tired of reading His Word). With God, nothing is a coincidence because it’s all part of His plan.
It should’ve been no surprise to me when God called me to write about Habakkuk since I’ve been studying his book for the last three weeks on Sunday mornings. I love this book in the Bible because it’s pretty darn close to the reality of my own life. It’s full of wrestling and waiting on God, trusting His faithfulness and finally resting in the confidence of His promises even when we don’t necessarily know how our stories will end.
As I have been reading the first two chapters of Habakkuk’s story, I get the sense that he is crying out in deep despair to the Lord on behalf of the people of Israel. Their current situation was far from good. The people in leadership were evil and destructive.
Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. 4 The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.
Habakkuk 1:3-4 New Living Translation
I adore these verses not because they’re joyful, but because I’ve heard myself crying out very similar things to my precious Savior over my last twenty years. From the moment I read these brutally honest words, I knew I had to write about them. God’s word had become real to me like never before. I saw myself crying out some of these very same vulnerable and gut wrenching words. God, in His loving kindness, used Habakkuk’s story to serve as a “full circle moment” in the words of Steven Furtick to show me once again how far I’ve come. It was such a soothing moment for my soul.
I want to challenge you to think back to a time in your life when you experienced a “full circle moment.” What did God speak to you? I firmly believe that these full circle moments can be the turning point in the life of a Christian if we let them. Ouch. This can be painful because our human nature isn’t too comfortable with change.
I believe Habakkuk learned the beauty of our full circle moments can’t happen without the sting of sacrifice. This was the perspective I got while reading the first several verses of Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter three:
I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy.
3 I see God moving across the deserts from Edom,[a] the Holy One coming from Mount Paran.[b] His brilliant splendor fills the heavens, and the earth is filled with his praise. 4 His coming is as brilliant as the sunrise. Rays of light flash from his hands, where his awesome power is hidden. 5 Pestilence marches before him; plague follows close behind. 6 When he stops, the earth shakes. When he looks, the nations tremble. He shatters the everlasting mountains and levels the eternal hills.
Habakkuk 3:2-7 New Living Translation
If we truly want to appreciate the beauty of the full circle moments, we must, …”trace God’s hand of faithfulness.” As Lysa TerKeurst says. I believe that’s what Habakkuk was doing in this prayer. In addition to crying out to God for help, Habakkuk also recognized the need to constantly remind himself of God’s faithfulness in the past.
Gracious, have I wrestled with this a time or a thousand! Those seasons of my life were some of the hardest YEARS I have ever lived through. Can I share a secret with you, though? I wouldn’t trade them for the world. (I know. You probably weren’t expecting that answer). It’s the truth. Granted, I’m saying it in retrospect, but still. I’m SO grateful for those years of questions, tears and wondering because God knew it would make me even stronger for Him.
I think that as Habakkuk was entering the last phases of writing his struggles, he knew that the battle wasn’t his to fight. It was God’s.
The Lord replied,
“Look around at the nations; look and be amazed![a] For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. 6 I am raising up the Babylonians,[b] a cruel and violent people. They will march across the world and conquer other lands. 7 They are notorious for their cruelty and do whatever they like.
By the second half of his prayer, we see where he finally sees the truth that it’s God’s battle, indeed:
I trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me,[a] and I shook in terror. 16 I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. 17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer,[b] able to tread upon the heights.
Habakkuk 3:16-19 New Living Translation
So, I believe there are three beautiful crumbs of wisdom we can take away from Habakkuk’s story:
The people were running on empty, but God filled them by preparing them to watch Him fight the battle. (Hab. 1:5-7)
The hard times of wrestling Habakkuk went through made him stronger for God in the long run because he reflected on God’s faithfulness in the past. (Habakkuk 3:2-7)
God is always making things new (even through destruction). From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation God uses people. Ordinary people such as you and I to carry out His will on Earth. I know there have been times where I’ve forgotten, in a sense, that the people God used were just like us. Flawed by human nature, yet saved by grace alone as Romans 3:23-24 reminds us.
Genesis 6: In my Bible it’s entitled “A World Gone Wrong” which clearly tells me that things aren’t looking so great namely because sin (see Genesis 3:1-19) was running rampant in the midst of God’s perfect creation that was created by Him for our pleasure.
By the time we get to this place in Scripture, it’s evident that God’s patience with His people is running scarcely thin. How do we know? Look at what Genesis 6:3 says, “Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”
We meet Noah (in the second half of Genesis 6:11-22) There are many things I love about Noah. Here are my top three:
Noah was an ordinary man who was married with a family. In fact, we are told in verse nine that “Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.”
Though it is unclear in Scripture, I often wonder if Noah or his family ever questioned what God had told them to do. If I were in their position, I probably would’ve been curious.
Noah truly understood first time obedience. He knew what God was asking of him and he was ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work. It’s a little embarrassing to write, but I can’t say I would be that obedient at first without pacing back and forth a little bit.
I like to look at this part of Noah’s Story like the warm-up, so to speak. For Noah, it was getting all the materials to build the Ark. What might it be for you? Going back to school? Changing jobs? Stepping out in faith to a new God-given opportunity? Sometimes God causes us to walk through spiritual warm-ups to get us ready prepared for the next big step in our adventure of faith. We see this applied in the sports world all the time. No team ever makes it to the SuperBowl without practicing. God works the same way-He doesn’t put us in the “game” until we’ve had some practice; it’s often found in the faith building experiences that mold and shape our faith in Christ. (Read Genesis 6:11-22)
After Noah had diligently prepared for the flood, God knew it was time. Because Noah obeyed the Lord by building the Ark, God blessed him by protecting Noah and his family. They were the only people who didn’t get wiped out by the flood! How incredible! (Read Genesis 7:11-24)
God is always faithful. He keeps every promise. He never leaves us even the midst of a raging flood. He is so merciful. The story of Noah has always intrigued me and the older I get, the more I am UNDONE by God’s grace!
After the flood began to calm down, God realized how much He truly loves and adores the people and the planet the he created. So much so that in verses 8-17 of Genesis 9, God in his sovereignty promises His covenant with humanity by sending a rainbow and a dove as a sign that He will never destroy the earth in that way again.
A final tidbit: God always restores. It’s what He’s done from the very beginning as is evident through Noah’s Story. There’s nothing too broken, damaged, or scarred that He can’t restore. (Do you hear me?) God can restore absolutely anything!
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
“Stay alert!” Watch out, for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter 5:8-9 NLT
Faith in itself is a very complex ideal for our human minds here on earth to understand, although it’s an essential component to the relationship we have with Christ. With our faith in Him, we can move mountains, but without it we face a path of discontentment and self-destruction.
That statement alone should motivate us as Christians to take our responsibility in Him even more seriously, but in some cases it can have the opposite effect.
This can happen for one of two reasons: Someone might feel like it’s easier to live in defeat instead of victory, which more than likely resulted from a repetitive lie from Satan. Second, maybe they’ve been asleep spiritually and forgotten what God’s direction and nearness feels like.
Regardless of where you are in your relationship with Him, there is great hope and joy. It’s no coincidence that the ultimate hope and joy our hearts desire can only be found in Christ- He put those desires in us when he made us in His image.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV
I have come to a greater understanding over the years that God doesn’t want us to live a life of defeat because we are VICTORIOUS in Christ!
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV
God also earnestly desires for our lives here on earth to be enjoyable and exciting, but we can never lose sight of the future we have in eternity through what Jesus did on the cross. Honestly, I believe that’s where faith takes over. Faith is that sweet reminder of what is to come in Heaven. It’s the strength that has carried me through almost twenty years of having Cerebral Palsy.
What I’m saying is this: If we have faith and trust in Him, no matter what we can truly experience the joy that can only from Him. If that’s not you, you have no idea what you’re missing and it’s my hope and prayer that you will choose to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust Him, and He will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:5-6 NLT
Andlet patient endurance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4 ESV
Around the middle school age, I can remember becoming very insecure about being in a wheelchair. I didn’t like how even people who knew me, or just plain strangers out in public would stare at me. It wasn’t until a number of years later as I grew up and allowed God to mold me into the woman I am today, that I began to realize just how far He has brought me.
When I think of someone who battled insecurity in the Bible, Moses comes to mind. He was aware of God’s calling on his life, but felt ill-equipped to live out the calling. Haven’t we all been there at some point or another? I know I have.
In Exodus 3, we encounter Moses at the Burning Bush having a conversation with God about Moses’ calling.
7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
Exodus 3:7-12 ESV
What strikes me most in this passage is Moses’ response in verse eleven. Who am I? Who am I to lead these people, Lord? Personally, my response to God’s calling on my life sounds much like this:
But, Lord, I’m just an ordinary woman with a disability. Who am I that You say that the words You have given to me? Nobody will care what I have to say. The “I” within that previous statement is the root of the issue, for both myself and also for Moses. It wasn’t Moses leading the people out of Egypt, in the same way I’m not the one writing these very words. It was God who was speaking through Moses and it’s God who is speaking through me.
From the moment I was content in my identity as His daughter and not my disability, He resurrected my soul from the grave of insecurity and into the garden of contentment! There’s nothing more beautiful than that.
So, what “graves” do you need God to resurrect you from today? Let me assure you that He is ready and willing to do that for you. Don’t let Satan stop you from doing that thing that God has called you to do. I did that for far too long and all it did was leave me discouraged. Because of Jesus, we have hope. Hope to start over, and ultimately, the hope of eternity!