The Grace in Struggle

When you see someone in a place in life that they shouldn’t be, do you automatically cringe and think “Wow, that’s not good!”? Say they’re sleeping around, say they’re partying, say they’re running from their marriage…Do you stop to think that where they are is exactly where they need to be?

I don’t believe that any of these circumstances are good, or that God would desire anyone to sleep around or party or run from their marriage. But sometimes doing these things is what it takes for us to be turned into a passionate, devoted and enthusiastic follower of Christ.

What if we viewed these circumstances in our loved ones, or even in strangers around us, as grace filled opportunity for the individuals and their families to see God work miracles?

I have experienced first hand how quickly people give up on others when they turn away from their Christian walk and behavior. To be completely honest, it’s disgusting how quickly we give up on people that are struggling. If they don’t turn their lives around in our timetable or in the way that makes sense to us, we move on and encourage others to move on. It’s completely unbiblical. If only we would have the courage to wait on God’s timing and to remember that there is a plan and purpose for absolutely every single thing, even hurt and pain and detestable actions…if only we would present our requests to God, if only we would fight for those who are struggling, if only we would remember that Satan is already conquered, if only we wouldn’t give up so quickly!

I also know first hand the power of prayer and the completeness of the Grace of God. God’s love covers all sins, brings his people out of the impossibility of their situations and transforms hearts and lives to a point of disbelief. Prayer works! I felt prayer as I was running away from the Lord. I knew when people were praying for me and it made me mad.

Yes, I was living in a horrible lifestyle. My actions were disgusting, my life was very far from where a Christian girl should have been…but I was still exactly where I was meant to be because it was part of God’s plan. I don’t believe that I would have ever been as passionate as I am about God if I hadn’t gone through this rebellious period. I don’t think I would have believed God’s power if I hadn’t seen and felt it first hand.

I wonder what would happen if we refused to give up on those around us that are struggling. If we refused to stop praying for them. If we refused to stop waiting for them to come back to the Lord. If we refused to believe that our prayers are going unanswered.

What would happen if, next time you saw a friend that wasn’t living out their Christian walk, you praised God. Praised God that he is bringing them through this trial in order to show them a miracle. Praised God that he is turning one of his creations into a person that will live passionately for him. Praised God that he is chasing after them. Praised God that he isn’t giving up on them. Praised God that he has the grace to lead them down this ugly path in order to show them how beautiful and powerful he really is.

If we understood how powerful our prayers were, we would never get off of our knees.

-Unknown

Loving Our Husbands to Reflect God

As I was writing the last post, I started thinking: If God is our husband, and we are to love him as though he has nothing to give us, shouldn’t we do the same for our earthly husbands and even other relationships?

What if we loved our husbands regardless of what they gave us in return?

As wives, homemakers, marriage team-mates, we want certain things from our hubbies. We deserve certain things. Our husbands are part of the Team and they need to participate. It’s only fair, it’s only right?

But what if we loved them without conditions, without worrying about what they bring to the table or how much effort they put in?

I think this would not only transform our marriages, but it would transform the world around us.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is he Saviour. Now, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Ephesians 5:22-24

When we married we committed to a covenant. For better or worse, for richer or for poorer, until death do us part. I didn’t actually realize that marriage was a covenant until two years ago. It’s not a contract, but a covenant. Here’s the difference:

A contract is an agreement between parties saying that one party will provide a service if the other party provides a return service. An example of this is your phone company. They provide you with service as long as you provide them with payment.

A covenant is an agreement between parties where, regardless of what they receive in return, they will commit to keeping their end of the deal. Marriage is a covenant saying that, regardless of your husbands behavior, feelings, treatment, you will be his wife through it all. You have committed in covenant that you will be his wife, will love him entirely, until death do you part

Verses like Ephesians 5:22-24 hold us to that covenant by instructing us to be submissive to our husbands. It doesn’t say “If he behaves in a certain way”, it just says to be submissive because our husbands are the head of the family.

What if we worked on transforming our way of thinking, the pattern of thinking that our society has pounded us on the head with, the way of thinking that says “We deserve to be loved in return! We deserve to be shown affection, respect, adoration!”.  What would happen if we started loving our husbands, submitting to them, even when it wasn’t convenient?

It would change the world.

It would reflect our relationship with God.

It would restore marriages.

It would transform our husbands.

It would make us lean on God like we have never leaned on him before!

Isn’t that the point of our lives? The point of marriage? To reflect God’s relationship with us to the world? To show the world that, regardless of our actions, our affections, God loves us and will continually invite us back into relationship with him. He will never give up on us, will never stop waiting for us to turn to him, will never give up on his commitment, his covenant, to us.

If we started loving our husbands and honoring the vows we made with them I believe that we would grow in depth, personally, but also spiritually. We would start to appreciate what God has done for us, the forgiveness he continually gives us, even when it doesn’t make sense at all. We are constantly turning our back on God, sinning in every way, but yet he always forgives us and wants us to return to him. We are constantly insulting God, telling him in different ways that he isn’t good enough for us, that we deserve better. But he still opens his arms to us and welcomes us home. We are constantly taking what God has given us and squandering it on meaningless pursuits…but God waits and watches for our return with eagerness.

Wow!

When we look at our marriages as a reflection of Gods relationship with us, there should be no question in our mind that we need to love our husbands without conditions. It’s the point of marriage. This is when we realize that God is the inventor of marriage and it becomes more meaningful than just some signatures on a marriage certificate and a public display of commitment. And I believe that when we focus on our marriages having this purpose, divorce rates will go down, fulfillment in God alone will be more prominent in our Christian circles, and the world will see who our God really is and they will crave that same relationship with our Savior.

Love God Without Conditions

What if we loved God as though he had already given us everything we wanted?

Sometimes, maybe most of the time, I think we are worshiping and praying because of what we want God to give us and not just because God is God. Do you think you do this? I’d ashamed to admit that I know I do this…

I pray, there are answers, and I praise God. I pray and hear nothing, and I start to pout. Does this sound familiar? I hope I’m not the only one.

God asks us to follow him, to pursue relationship with him, he says that once we do this he will give us the desires of our hearts but he doesn’t say that this should be the point of our pursuit. Actually, I think that we will be surprised at how our hearts desires change once we start chasing after God.

What would happen if we continually humbled ourselves, recognizing that we actually deserve nothing from him, and praised and worshiped him just because he is the Creator, the Beginning and the End, the God over every single thing. Let’s just take a moment to remember who it is we are praying to. Maybe that’s our issue.

Maybe we have gotten so caught up in what God can give us and what he promises us that we have forgotten who it actually is that we are praying to. We live in a world that continually preaches at us about what we deserve, what we are entitled to, how amazing we are. But really, we don’t deserve anything, we aren’t entitled to a thing and we’re really just pieces of dust that are here today and gone tomorrow.

There’s been times where I have been crying, mad and frustrated, and praying “God, I’m doing what you’ve asked me to do!! I don’t know what else I can do, why aren’t things going my way? Why isn’t this happening? Why aren’t you answering?”. That prayer, broken down, shows just how arrogant I really am. Who am I to tell God that I’m “doing all I can do”? Didn’t he sacrifice his Son for me? And I’m complaining about having to…wait for my passport for to long?? Or that my knee isn’t healing fast enough?? Or…or…or…Who am I to ask why things aren’t going my way? Hasn’t he promised to take care of me, to bring me through trials, to provide what I need? And why am I complaining that he isn’t answering me when he has already told me that he will, in his time?

Who am I to demand anything from God?

Who am I to question him?

He loves me, yes. He desires a relationship with me, yes. But all the rest is a bonus. What I need to do is chase after him, work on my relationship with him, worship him, praise him…and expect nothing in return. The point of my life is to glorify him with everything I have, in everything I do, and not to do it expecting a treat in return.

If God, the creator of the stars, the universe, the oceans and the trees, the creator of human anatomy and all it’s complexities, the God that controls the weather with just the sound of his voice…if that God loves me and wants to spend time with me, that should be good enough. Everything else should be viewed as a perk, not a requirement.

This way of thinking is a continual rebalancing. A lifetime work in progress. It’s impossible to think this way for long without slipping back into the attitude of entitlement, whether we mean to or not. We’re human, since the fall of man we have been wired to be selfish. But if we keep being intentional about bringing our thought patterns and prayer lives back to this way of thinking, I believe we will see an amazing change in our relationship with God.

And because of the change we will see in our relationship with God, we will also see changes in ourselves. We still start changing from the inside out. I believe that if we continually make an attempt to worship God selflessly, we will see God move even more mightily around us. I believe that we will feel him near and hear his voice and we will be able to watch him move. On top of this, when we make God himself a priority and not what he can do for us, I believe that people will be attracted to us and we will be able to, and desire to, share our relationship with him with those around us.

Just Give Up

I give up.

I giiiiiiive up.

I am tired of thinking and trying and over analyzing and pushing…I’m tired of my mind doing over-time, trying to work out my situation. It’s exhausting. I’m worn out. I can feel the stress, the tense muscles in my jaw and in my shoulders. I can sense it in my behavior and my attitude. And I. Give. Up.

I’ve gotten to this place multiple times before. God shows himself, I see a big movement on the other side of my mountain and then suddenly…nothing. And when the nothing appears I over analyze. My mind takes things into it’s own hands and tries to work out the when and why and how and who.

God brings me to this place on purpose. I can see it being his way of making me let go, making me realize that I actually have no control. It’s a place where I feel hopeless and helpless and the looming impossibility is overwhelming. And I believe that this is exactly where God wants me to come so I can fully surrender to him. It’s where I realize that this is the only answer; complete surrender and defeat of self.

The fact is, I can’t do what I’m doing by myself. There is no possible way I can accomplish what God is asking me to do unless he, almost literally, carries me through it. And this doesn’t just apply to people who are waiting for their husbands to return or standing for their crumbled marriages, but it applies to anything and everything that God is asking us to do. Nothing can be done unless he is the complete centre of it.

That’s why, I believe, when you are trying to accomplish something on your own God just sits back and allows you to try…”Go ahead,” he says “You do what you think you have to do. Then you’re done struggling and pushing and forcing and controlling, you can rest and see how much easier it would have been if you had just allowed me to take over.”

It’s grace that get’s us to this point. Grace that allows us to see how completely inadequate we are but that it doesn’t matter.

Grace is realizing that nothing we can do will work as well as moving aside for our Savior.

So I’m done. I’m done pushing and forcing. I’m done worrying and wondering. But what I’m not done doing is what God as asked me to do. I’m not done waiting on God’s promises. I’m not done trusting that he knows what he is doing. I’m not done seeing God work in ways I had no idea were possible. I’m not done waiting for God to show up. I’m not done seeing the miracles that God is preforming.

And when Satan tempts me to give up, you know what I’ll tell him? I’ll tell him that I will give up, I’ll give up my plans, give up my expectations and I will step aside. Because when I step aside, God steps in and when God steps in he shows up in a power I could never have on my own. When I give God the space to work, he works. And when he works mountains crumble, demons are defeated and victory is won. So yeah, I’ll give up alright. But watch out Satan, because you and your lies are going to hell in a hand basket.

 

Are You Pretending?

Are you living for God or just pretending?

I look back on my life and realize that for the majority of it, I was keeping God at a distance. He was a part of my life. But just a part. He was there, but just on the sidelines. And, at the time, I saw nothing wrong with this. Why should I pray about what job God wanted me in? I would make the decision and, obviously, since God knows everything, it would be in his plan. He would have known ahead of time what decision I would make and, therefore, it was all just up to my choices. Right?

I was a Christian, I went to church, I prayed often, but it was more like I was talking to God and not talking with God. He was basically my Genie In A Bottle (link to Christina Aguilera’s music video…just kidding). He was a Being I called on when I needed help and when I didn’t need help, he was a very distant thing.

Not only did I not see anything wrong with this way of living out my Christian walk, I saw many things wrong with the opposite way of living out a Christian walk. I heard of people who asked God what he wanted them to do in the daily, no-brainer, decisions (what job to work at, who to date, where to go for lunch, IF they should go for lunch…) and I thought this was ridiculous. These people didn’t have their own brains, God created us with freewill for a reason, they were too weak, they were too dependent.

I actually don’t remember thinking that I should try it their way, I just remember my mindset: They’re stupid, I’m not, I’ll do it my way. Brutal.

My mom always told me I had to learn things the hard way. She was rolling her eyes when she said this, just like I’m shaking my head as I write this.

When I assess my Christian walk, I realize that I used to pretend to be a Christian. I was going through all the motions but there was no change of heart, barely anything different about me than a non-believer, and certainly no passion for the Lord. If someone had asked me “Do you love God?” I would have said “Yes, of course!” but inside me the words “But no one is actually in love with God” would repeat themselves.

The dictionary’s definition of ‘Christian’ is: “a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.” Was I a believer of Jesus Christ’s teachings? I would have said I was.

In Mark 10:21 Jesus tells a rich man to go sell everything he has and then he will have riches in Heaven. He tells the man to do this, and then to come follow him. I was a believer and a follower of Jesus, but there’s no way I would have been willing to sell everything I had for him…

Matthew 16:25 says that whoever loses his life will gain it. There was no way, when push came to shove, that I would be willing to give up my…anything…for God. Give up your life? God isn’t really asking you to do that…

God will provide whatever you need, clothes, food…whatever it is, he will provide. But you need to get a job, make sure you’re earning good money, advance in that job, make sure it’s one you’re passionate about. And if you don’t do this, you’re lazy. God will help those who help themselves. Right? Um, no. Not what the Bible teaches, actually. Check it out in Matthew 6:26. (As a side note, I Googled “God will help those who help themselves” and…well…Go Google it, see where this saying stems from…).

If I was really, truly, living a Christian walk, loving God and believing his commands, why was I not living like I believed him? Why was I nodding my head to his teachings but yet my thoughts were whispering something different? Why weren’t my actions reflecting what I was telling the world (ok, not the world, but a select few, which in itself should have been a clue)?

I was pretending I believed what I had been taught since I was born, but really, I didn’t actually believe God would do what he said he would do.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

No, actually, what I need is a good nap, not some “quality time” with a God I rarely hear from.

If only I had taken the time to just try what the Bible was telling me! If only I had taken that quality time with God instead of the nap. I would have realized that the rest God is talking about goes deeper than just resting my eyes. It satisfies and stills the very depth of my soul. The root of my foundation is quieted. My need is met, not just temporarily satisfied with a band-aid.

I don’t want to pretend anymore. If God says move, I will move. If he says speak, I will speak. I have learned, the hard way, that when God tells you something he will follow you until you are obedient. And it’s not just because he wants you to listen to him, it’s because he knows that when you do listen to him, it will quench that hunger you feel inside.

I don’t want to pretend anymore! I want to see God work! I want to see his power in my life! I know now that when God is telling you to do something, all you have to do is take that one step of obedience and he will allow everything else to fall into place. He will do all the work.

Do you want to pretend you’re living for God, or do you actually want to do it?

You can start by opening your Bible daily. It’s just one simple step. God will cause a hunger in you that isn’t based on emotions but based on necessity. You will learn to crave him as you press into him.

Do it, I dare you.

Fasting No. 2

Fasting is similar to our relationship with God: It’s so simple it seems complicated. It involves a lot of trust, to just simply give up an item and trust that God is working. It’s so simple that I started thinking there had to be more to it, but there’s not. God simply asks us to give something up and he will do the rest.

Every single time I fast, it’s different. Sometimes the days speed past, sometimes they go slowly, sometimes I have amazing time with God, other times this is more of an effort, sometimes I feel like I could go days without eating a meal, and other times the line “bigger fish to fry” makes me drool…Every time is different, but I believe that’s because every spiritual battle is different. There are times where I see answers to prayer immediately, and others when I don’t see the result of that fast until months later.

Whatever happens: It IS doing something!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1

 

God’s word does not return void! When he says to pray and fast, there is a reason. If you are feeling prompted to fast, take it seriously. There is a reason your spirit is putting this on your heart, there is a purpose!

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11

 

It’s important to make specific time to spend with God while you are fasting. If you are going through something big, or have something that is heavy on your heart, spend this time praying intentionally for these things. Find verses that apply to what you are going through, verses that fill you with hope and ones that remind God of his promises. Even after the time you set aside for God each day, remember to pray for your case while you go about your day. You are doing battle, so be persistent and fight!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6

 

When I ‘come down’ after a fast, I usually feel tired, discouraged, weak. I’m trying to get better at reminding myself that these feelings are normal for this period of time, but that is a work in progress. Satan will try to attack you when you complete a fast. He will lie to you, tell you that it was meaningless, and remind you of how impossible your situation is. You just tell him to go back where he came from! Even after you’ve completed a fast, the spiritual battle is still happening.

Many articles that I have read about Christian fasting have said that spiritual movement and answers to prayer will typically show themselves in the first three days after you break your fast and this is exactly what I have found. Even though I have seen this happen over and over again, I’m still surprised when it does. God is so faithful, he wants to bless us and he is ready and eager to hear our prayers! God is working in absolutely every part of your life in order to bring you closer to him and bring blessings to you. Keep talking to him and he will keep talking to you!

I have been amazed at the answers to prayer I have seen from fasting! Sometimes it happens the day I break my fast, but more often than not it’s within three days. Once it was months later that I had news of a huge event happening while I had been fasting. However you hear of things happening because of your fast, remember, it doesn’t matter! I know it’s easier said than done, especially when hunger (do you get the ‘hangries’ too??) is involved, but we are fasting to be obedient to God and not to see a result. There will be a result, fasting is powerful and effective, but that is God’s business and not ours. Our business is to be obedient regardless of the outcome.

If fasting has been on your heart, pray about it, research it, and do what you can. If you’re wanting to do spiritual battle, fasting is an incredible way to take it a step further. Just remember that you don’t need to do it a certain way because that is how you’ve heard of other Christians doing it. This process is between you and God and as long as you are health conscious, it doesn’t matter how other people have done it. Doing it one way or another is not going to make you closer or further away from God.

 

Fasting No. 1

Fasting. It seems like this is something that is surrounded by questions. How does it work??

Put simply, fasting is humbling yourself before God and opening spiritual doors. It is showing God that you are willing to sacrifice in order to see him work. And through fasting, you will see him work! Fasting is powerful, even if it isn’t fully understood.

There are many types of this sacrifice; many people choose to fast select items, others choose to give up all food and do a juice or water fast, both usually for a predetermined amount of time.

I had never thought of fasting until a couple years ago. It was something I had heard bits of information about, but I wasn’t interested. I thought that it was just something the weirdo’s did. I didn’t want to go all crazy with this Christian Faith stuff, I just wanted to be a Christian.

But when God came and flipped my world inside out, things changed. He put it on my heart to fast for three days before a big event, just like Esther, and so I decided to fast all food for these three days. I went out and bought organic fruit and vegetable juices so I would be prepared and I researched the art of fasting, both from a spiritual and health standpoint.

The three days went more smoothly than I had thought they would. Although I felt hungry, I didn’t feel deprived. I wasn’t drained and barely walking, like I had imagined I might be. When I did start eating again there were two sensations I noticed right away 1) I almost felt guilty for breaking my fast and 2) My stomach couldn’t hold as much food as I wished it could.

Since my first fast, I have done many others. Sometimes I’ve fasted for longer, sometimes I’ve only fasted particular items or types of food (Popcorn. if you know me you’ll understand that giving up popcorn is a big one for me…seriously…). I only fast when I feel like God is asking me to and I make sure that when I do fast, my mind is in the right place. There have been times where I’ve thought of fasting in order to lose weight and this is when I don’t fast. Fasting, at this time in my life, is not about weight and when my mind goes there I know that I need to protect myself from an unhealthy thought process. Fasting is spiritual. When I am not focused on doing this for God and God alone, I don’t even let my mind think about it.

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

Ezra 8:23

The Bible talks about ‘fasting and praying’ many times. Queen Esther told her people to do a three day fast before she presented herself to her King and husband and Daniel also fasted for three weeks.

There is a level of spirituality that is released when you fast. It is a way to do spiritual battle on top of your prayer life. Not only is fasting powerful in the sense that it is a way to do spiritual battle, but it also allows you to rely more fully on God. I believe that this reliance leads to a more intimate relationship with our Savior. Not only because, yes, you are more dependent on him, but also because you are showing trust in him working in your life. Because of this trust and surrendering, you will see him work. Actually seeing God work and answer prayer will build on your relational foundation with him. There is nothing more satisfying or humbling than seeing answered prayer.

From what I’ve seen, fasting is not something that is frequently discussed in the Christian circles and from what I’ve seen, the power I have seen released because of my fasting, I believe it needs to be. Fasting should be a regular occurrence in a Christian’s walk with the Lord. The bible mentions fasting together with prayer often and so it makes me wonder why we have taken the white-out to that part of our faith.

Fasting is spiritual battle and Satan will sense it. He will try to push back, to tempt you and discourage you. But the more you feel this, the more you can have faith that you are doing the right thing. Satan pushes when he feels a threat, and ladies, let’s show this guy that he has something to be afraid about! Our God has power and strength and is already standing in victory, let’s do whatever we can in order to win these battles and stand beside our God!