Raise a Hallelujah

Acts 16:25-34 Paul and Silas pray and sing hymns

Fortunately I have not experienced prison and I do not pretend to even begin to understand and relate to Paul and Silas’s situation in this passage of scripture.

Yet, as I prayed this morning, God brought this scripture to my mind, not the exact book, chapter, and verse reference, but He brought to my mind His followers singing while in prison and then the earth shaking. This lead me to Acts and the story of Paul and Silas.

You see, sometimes we can feel like we are in a prison: stuck, disconnected, confused, stifled, and well, uncomfortable. We can’t see a way out of this place or season. That is why this true story holds such a powerful message for us as believers. Paul and Silas do not try to figure out a way to escape. Instead, they “pray and sing hymns to God”.

They are not working in any way, they do not know what is happening outside the prison, and they can not go anywhere. In a sense, they are left with nothing to do, but sit there and wait. Yet, they use that space to do something that shakes the earth, opens the prison doors, and ultimately saves the jailer!

A very wise and wonderful woman of God told me recently, that our circumstances may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but our response within those circumstances can change the spiritual realms.

So, if you are like me, feeling stuck, disconnected, you are not sure how to move forward, or you simply can’t move at all- sing and pray. Sing and pray for however long it takes to shake the earth and open the prison doors!

God’s Best

It is so hard to let go of what I consider to be the best for me, what I perceive as perfect. Yet, God’s best is different than our best. God’s best encompasses so much more than our best. What we might want for ourselves because we see it as perfect or the best there could be typically is a selfish desire. The perfect job or perfect girlfriend or boyfriend, the perfect home- we can’t see past our own selfish desires without God’s help and even with His help our eyes fail to see beyond what is seen.

However, God’s perfect, God’s best, is not only for our good, but for the good of others, for the redemption of this world, and for His glory. Rather than accepting what may be good for me, but could be bad for others, I want to hold out for what is best for us all and for His glory.

Maybe you do not think that applies to your dating life or your job choice, but isn’t that decreasing the size of God? Why wouldn’t it apply to those things as well? If God’s word tells us to do all for Christ, that there is a season for everything, that He has prepared good works for us in advance, then why wouldn’t He also have the best for us in all other areas?

I, for one, do not want what I think is best for me if it is not God’s best for me. Sure, it might be good, but if I wait and choose God’s best, then perhaps, I will find life, joy, more of Him, battles might be won, lives might be saved, people encouraged. When I grow impatient and reach for my best, I am missing out and causing others to miss out on God’s perfect plan.

Great Expectations

I think, as we live on this broken earth, we can, at times, seeking too much blessing from it. That is, not to say, that seeking good is bad or desiring blessing is wrong. Both are natural and biblical.

Yet, where are we seeking the good and the blessings from? Too many times I find myself expecting a blessing from the brokenness of this world. I seek heaven on this cursed planet. I seek home in a foreign land, and I desire wholeness in a broken place. – That is when disappointment and discouragement seeps in, covering me with darkness, and I am weighed down by the heaviness of it all.

We can all face these times and they are valid, real, not easily escaped from, and should not be taken lightly. For each person these dark moments or seasons are different and unique, only God knows the why and how and the medicine for it.

For me, recently facing a short time of utter darkness, I came to a realization of my warped perspective. This darkness did not come from nowhere, it is a culmination of hurts I have experienced, lies I have believed, and the enemy’s constant attacks. And it all came rushing at me at once.

I have begun to see how much expectation I have put into this life. Though I know nothing on this earth will bring me fulfillment or wholeness, I still believe I am entitled to blessings, the “American dream”. I expect comfort, belonging, even romance, and happiness. Although the Bible clearly tells us the world brings trouble, deep down, I have believed that trouble won’t be that bad for me and won’t be the norm of my life. I believed that I still deserved good things, especially as I do good to others. My expectations are high.

But, those are all lies. Don’t get me wrong, we are blessed. God gives good fits. However, we aren’t meant to place any expectation of blessing on this world. Just like you wouldn’t expect a broken refrigerator to keep your food cold, we can not expect a broken world to give us our desires or fulfill our greatest joys. When we expect those things, we have made the world our God.

Only from God do we receive great joys and fulfillment of desires. From the world, we receive curses, pain, and tribulation. From God we receive blessings, peace, and joy. We are not home yet, but through Jesus we get to taste a bit of home. We do not belong here, but through Jesus we can find belonging. We will feel discomfort, but through Jesus, we can experience His comfort.

Let us not expect heaven from earth, but bring a taste of heaven to earth for others to experience. In doing so, more people can hand over their disappointment and darkness to the Only One who knows what to with them. Let our expectations not be placed in this world, but laid on the cross, Jesus, and in heaven, where they are being and will be fulfilled. That way, when the world inevitably does not fulfill our hopes, we find our self at peace because we know this is not the end.

I AM

As an adult, more than when I was a child, I find myself relating to Moses quite often. I do not often relate to the moments when he performed God’s miracles, but more to the moments where He doubts himself and questions God’s plan.

Circumstances, my own limitations, and others often cloud my vision of God and cause me to falter on the path He has called me to walk on.

As soon as Moses is called by the Lord from a burning bush, he questions his own ability to fulfill God’s calling. Are you sure you chose the right person? He thinks. He feels like no one will listen to him, not his own people, and definitely not the pharaoh. Yet God tells him, this isn’t about him, but about HIS power and HIS ability, it is about the Great I AM.

So, Moses, with help from Aaron, steps our in faith to call his people (the Israelites) out of Egypt and back to the Lord. Because of this, the Israelites are severely punished by he Pharaoh. They suffer more and blame Moses. Moses blames God. God gives him something to say to the people in response and we come to Exodus 6:9-12—-

Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.”

But Moses said to the LORD, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me…?”

What a relateable story for those of us who are called to speak, preach, to share the gospel, to minister, to lead, or called in any way to glorify God with what we do!

I am in full time ministry. I have had my eyes opened to God’s heart for the world, the work that must be done. God has not only called me to the work to share the gospel, but to also encourage others to do the same.

However, I find myself so often, like Moses, saying, “If that person won’t listen to me, why would anyone else listen to me…?” Very rarely does it seem like people hear and I can’t help but be discouraged and question God’s calling.  That is why I am so convicted by Moses and the Israelite’s story and I pray it will help any fellow ministers, leaders, and brothers and sisters in Christ.

God never promised Moses that the people would listen. When Moses doubted his capabilities, God tells him that He will do miracles through him, that He will give him speech, but God never promises him that he will be heard (in fact, he promises him the Pharaoh will not listen!).

God calls us to share because of His character. He desires to be known and to know His people. Yet, He gives everyone free will. Our sharing, our serving, our empowering and leading, must not depend on being heard, but must rely on our being faithful to the One who is always faithful.

Like Moses, let us continue to obey God’s calling, even if it goes unheard or unseen. Allow His power to work through you as you persevere, and people will begin to hear, fruit will come, and God is and will be glorified. If you need a response to your doubt, your fears, your discouragement, remind your heart that, “He is the Lord your God ,the Great I AM.”

Never Been Kissed

It is truly odd what our first thoughts are when we wake up in the morning. Luckily, the majority of the time, my thoughts are on Jesus (this has only come with practice and by God’s grace). However, this morning, I woke up and my thoughts were on the film Never Been Kissed, and specifically, on how old the character is in the film.

If you have never seen this Drew Barrymore movie, it is about a 25 year old journalist, who has never been kissed, going undercover as a high school student. It’s a quirky charming rom com, but today, I realized, I am older than 25, and I have never been kissed. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to write this and share it with the world, but as I have gotten older, my embarrassment has decreased and I prefer honesty to masked comments and posts.

I have always wanted to be married, to share my life with a partner, a best friend, yet here I am, without. But it doesn’t ache as much as it once did. After all, what is this life truly about? Who is the one who controls these things? The answer to both, being one and the same: Christ.

I could certainly spend my time attaching my full identity to this: 26, unmarried, unpursued by most men, unattached, unkissed (is that even a word?). But that is certainly not where my identity lies. It does not rely on my relationship status, nor does it truly even rely on how I feel about myself, for God is greater than our feelings (1 John 3:20).

Whether you have been a bride or not, or will be a bride or not on this earth, you are Christ’s bride. Whether you have been chosen by others or overlooked, Christ chose you as His special possession. Whether you feel and are alone or not, Christ died for you so He could always be near you. Whether you are praised or abused, you are sung over and loved by Jesus. He will never reject you. He makes you the apple of his eyes. He is equally and simultaneously your husband, beloved, Savior, best friend, coworker, teacher, and King.

Times may come when the fact that I am 26 and have never been kissed will cause me heart ache. I can easily wonder why I have been disregarded by so many people in this world, why my heart hasn’t been seen, but ignored and rejected. However, I would much rather focus and give into the One whose love for me never fails and whom I will spend eternity with.

So, really, I am 26 years old and my heart belongs wholeheartedly to the One whom my soul loves. I lack nothing good.

New Wine

Matthew 9:17

Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.

Are you struggling, hurting, confused? Are you reading God’s word seeking Him, praying and praising, yet you feel stuck?

When we accept Christ into our lives, we are made new, but our sinful nature remains (though it does not rule us!) and effects us. God has given us free will. We get to choose to throw off the sin and run the race set for us or give into the lie of our old sinful self.

Perhaps the reason why you are stuck, even though you are pursuing Jesus and His truth, is because you are pouring new wine into old wineskin. You are holding onto your old self, old ideas, old memories, old lies, old feelings, while reading the wonderful new truth. How can this new wine pour into you and remain in you, if you have not made room for it or prepared yourself to receive it?

Take the time to let go of your old wineskin, release that past hurt, stop repeating those lies to yourself, let go of what you are holding tightly to,  and ask God to make your wineskin new. Then, as you receive truth, you will be able to be poured into and be preserved.

 

What will you ask for?

Written Feb. 2019

I am reflecting this morning on Solomon and God’s interaction in 2 Chronicles 1. This is the passage famously known because God allows Solomon to ask for anything.  Solomon asks for wisdom and knowledge to govern the people. God is so pleased with what Solomon chose, He grants him that and more.

This reminds me of the promise constantly stated in the Bible,  that when we ask, we will receive:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

1 John 3:22 And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

It is important to point out that in these instances, we receive what we ask for because first, our hearts are right with God and our desires are Godly.

In Solomon’s example, he could have asked for riches or power, but he chose a selfless and Godly request. He chose out of his desire to honor God, not others.

And God says, “since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth and possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you King, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given to you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor.”

God responds by giving him his request and more on top of that. I do believe God rewards us, but I also know He works in a way we don’t understand.

I also believe that if we are seeking His desires, asking for something in line with His will and not our flesh’s will, He will give it to us and then some. He knows when our heart is right, abiding in Him, He can trust us with more. Whereas, if we are asking out of selfishness or the wrong motives or simply for things not in His will, then He can not trust us with very much. He has to teach us.

Find Hope in Exile

Jeremiah 29:11, you keep using that verse. I do not think it means what you think it means.

All right, all Princess Bride jokes aside, it truly hit me this morning that Jeremiah 29:11 is taken out of context quite often.

When I was seeking comfort this morning, Jeremiah 29:11 popped up, so I turned to chapter 29 in the hopes of understanding better, the context of this verse.

It just so happens that I am reading through Job in my quiet times right now, so in reading Jeremiah 29:11, I couldn’t help but feel irritated over the fluffy interpretation we usually take from that verse. At least for me, when I read it, I take it as God will give me all the good things I want, and my wait or suffering will end and some day soon, things will be wonderful.

However, as I walk my christian journey, I see more and more that suffering can continue for a long while, even in the lives of the most faithful servant of Christ (in fact, more so for them than anyone else!).

Unable to glean a new interpretation on my own from this verse and chapter, I turned to other commentaries on 29:11.  It was both sad and a relief  to instantly find people, theologians, saying this verse has been taken out of context and misunderstood repeatedly.

So what is Jeremiah 29:11 about and how does it apply to us?

The Israelites are in exile in chapter 29 and a false prophet has told them that God would free them in two years. Imagine their joy over that!

So, here comes Jeremiah, the “party pooper”, the true prophet and he calls out the lie of the false prophet and gives Israel 29:11. However, prior to that, Jeremiah tells the Israelites that God wants them to (v.7) “seek peace and prosperity of the city to which (He) carried them into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Say what?!

God not only wants them to stay in exile, but find peace there and seek the welfare of the place and the people around them. In so doing, they will prosper and have a future and hope, which may or may not include going home (spoiler alert: none of them end up going home).

Don’t we all have seasons or situations we want to escape? I know I do, and I have used 29:11 as a promise that I will escape, but verse 7 is much more challenging and comforting to me.

In your tough season, remember God carried you and placed you there. “I have carried you into exile.” It’s no accident that you are where you are. The Lord is in control of everything. He gives us free will, of course, but where we are isn’t outside of His will for us. If we are experiencing a long season of waiting or pain, rest assured that God has us there for a reason and because of that we should…

“seek peace and prosperity there.” What if, instead of looking for a way out or agonizing over when this will all be over, we look for joy, fruit, gratitude in the midst of our suffering. We sit there and find God working in it. Thus, we don’t desperately look to get out of the season. We find our home in the place of exile.

Because, just as it says, “if it prospers, you too will prosper”, when we allow a particularly hard season to be used by the Lord, when we choose to find contentment there, we will prosper. God will give us a future and hope. When we accept our circumstances and set our eyes on God’s goodness, our hearts begin to change in the midst of that season and we no longer suffer, but find joy and begin to thrive.

Let’s not constantly seek a way out of our messy seasons, let’s seek to thrive in the midst of it and look for God’s promise for a future and hope within the place of exile.

My Flesh

My flesh asks for more
my flesh asks for now
it does not want to wait
desires to be satisfied quickly
rather than wait for the best
My spirit aches with a longing for Your way
to sit
to pray
to sing
to spend as much time with You a lone as possible
not to rush to find satisfaction elsewhere
My spirit seeks to live life with a God who is jealous for my attention
for my time and affection
to give you all my heart
soul
mind
my flesh fights
my flesh is foolish
yet He is greater who lives in me
He has overcome

His Best

Singleness can really hurt sometimes. When you have the very real desire for marriage and family, and another year passes you by, and you are seemingly nowhere closer to that dream, it hurts.

What can be hard for me, personally, is when I see a possibility with someone great, but then God says, “No”. I am back at square one and begin to ask God, “When?”, “Why?”, “Who?”.

While reading a book this morning, called Rhythms of Rest, by Shelly Miller, I was reminded of How God brings us into a future far beyond our imagination if we wait and trust in Him.

In the book, the writer and her family feel called to move from the states to London. This has been a great desire of theirs and God confirms through many people , circumstances, and words that He is leading them there.

So, they quit their jobs, sell their personal possessions, put their house on the market, and take their son out of school. They are more than ready to go. And yet, nothing seems to happen. Jobs in London do not line up, their house stays on the market untouched. They must wait in this uncomfortable place where they have laid it all out on the line to trust in the Lord for their dreams.

After a time of waiting and trusting, Shelly says , “And then the better than we can imagine comes true.” Their house sold, her husband got a wonderful job in London, and on top of all of that, a newer, updated, amazingly placed house in London opens up for them. The house is in a neighborhood they assumed was too nice for them, near shops, and a beautiful park.

She writes, that if they hadn’t waited on the Lord, if they had arrived in London just a bit earlier, this house wouldn’t have been an option.

Maybe it is strange to compare this story to singleness, but I am going to connect the dots anyways.

I know many of us are ready. We are seeking Jesus, mature, serving, selfless. We are not holding back our spouse due to our own spiritual life. We have laid it all out for Jesus to give us our dream, but it hasn’t happened yet.

However, if we choose to do something outside of God’s will, speeding things up, we will miss His best. And when we think someone is great and could be a possibility, and God says no, it is probably because He wants something much better for us than we do and only He knows when it will be time.

I know I would be heartbroken if I realized I went outside of God’s plan, only to see that I missed out on something better than I could have imagined.

It might make very little sense. We may hurt deeply as we wait, but be encouraged to wait sisters and brothers, because if you do, I know God will blow you out of the water with His best for you in this area of your life.