Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Rest Found In Perfect Peace

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

I don’t know about you, but when my mind is full of chaos and anxious thoughts, rest is not possible. My surroundings can be calm and serine. But rest only comes when there is peace in our minds, and peace comes from the Lord. We are kept in perfect peace BECAUSE we trust in the Lord. Apart from him there is no peace, and therefore no rest.

To learn the art of feeling small contains more rest than all the strength in the world. To begin to understand that God knows and we do not, that God has a plan and sees all and we do not have to, takes all the burden off of us. It removes the weight of the world from our shoulders.

As humans, we feel there is weakness felt in not knowing. There is a smallness that settles over us and shames us when we do not feel in control, which is why we strive to be in it so adamantly. But to be powerless, to have no strength or control, that is the exact space that the Lord enters in. That is right where He wants us: to be aware of who He is, and that be enough.

Want to enter into rest? Stop striving. Come to terms with how small you are or rather, how big He is. Then let the weak say they have strength and the weary find rest and the chained soar on the wings of eagles and the exhausted run and not grow tired and the humble receive grace and the broken find new mercy.

Because they have lost themselves only to find themselves in Him. And it will make all the difference. There is a glory that comes to Him when He uses and works in our tininess. There is a freedom that is found in the place where we know it is not us, but Him. Give yourself over to obedience, surrender. And then rest. When our minds are fixed on Him, we enter into perfect peace, because He IS perfect peace.

The Creator Of The Heart Knows What It Needs

There is a natural inclination in us that can overflow into our walk with God. We are always going through something, and we tend to look for things that apply to our particular season. I know I am not alone in this, it is only natural. We need our season to be spoken into. We are looking for a word that resonates with us. We search for phrases in our sermon listening, for quotes in worship music, for sentences in our devos, or chapters in the Bible. We are always looking for something to give us that encouragement to keep going. And there is nothing wrong with that, that longing in us to hear from the Lord is never put to shame.

But the Lord taught me an important lesson recently. We cannot box Him up. We cannot choose what is good for us, because we do not know what is good for us. We are so quick to jump and decide what we need to hear and what we can just skip over. “That sermon wasn’t what I needed right now” “the worship set didn’t have enough powerful slow songs”. But when we ask for that word, the Lord is always faithful to give it, and sometimes in ways that we least expect. We are missing out when we do not listen.

Practically put, when I am desperate for some hope, some peace, some words to take as a sign that God knows and sees my struggle and is there with me in it, I am not running to the book of Leviticus. I am googling verses about how I can do all things through Christ, or searching through the concordance for verses about trials meant to strengthen me. But when the Lord puts the book of Leviticus in front of me, am I to turn it down and tell Him that it isn’t what I need?

I am going through a sermon series now through the book of Exodus. I almost skipped the first sermon because it was mostly whole chapter reading. At the moment, I wanted some good old preaching to my heart telling me it was all going to be okay. Some applicable one liners. So I tried to skim through the series to find titles that matched my current struggle. But the Lord, knowing what was best for me, was impressing it upon my heart to start at the beginning and absorb everything I could. To read His word the way it was intended to be read- in context. In it’s fullness and richness. And the blessing I received, the amount of application I found from those seemingly inapplicable truths, was incredible. It spoke to my heart in ways that one liners would not have. It told me a story about real people, people just like me, whose situations the Lord stepped into.

But the truth is, we usually don’t need the things we think we do to speak into our season. What we need is to remember to forget about ourselves. This is not about us, none of it. It is about Him. And in that is all the peace we’ll ever need. When we are in the valleys, we need to be reminded that He is bigger. He is more powerful. He is greater. He is in control. And sometimes that isn’t through the quick and simple encouragements, but through the seemingly outdated stories that we never in a million years thought could help us, that display His timeless fingerprint. A foggy view of God and who He is is the main cause of discouragement. Clean the glass, open the window if you must, but allow Him to show you Himself clearly, the way He intends for you to see Him.

Exodus sermon series if you happen to need some encouragement:
http://www.thevillagechurch.net/resources/sermons/series/exodus/

Declaring His Praises

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
1 Peter 2:9

I know I am not alone when I say that there are times when I don’t know how to keep my eyes set on the fact that my identity is in Christ. I am aware of my calling as His own. I am aware of who I am in Him. But there are days I cannot feel it enough to actually identify with it. When you are not the best at all of it, it is hard to get your mind around how He can use you. The need to be good enough, capable enough, worth something for the kingdom because of what I can bring to the table: this is the fleshly mindset that traps me. But there is no true security in “the real me” if it is at all based on who I am and not wholly on who He is.

On these days, I find myself having to go back to the very beginning and start from scratch. As I walk with the Lord, in this calling, I am constantly learning and relearning. Believing and following Christ is a whole new world. We are not taught to surrender who we are. This culture teaches us the opposite of this. But it trains us to find identity and worth in what we do, what we own, who we know, what we look like, or the control (we think) we have. If I have created my own identity out those things, in anything apart from Christ, I have enslaved myself to that false identity.

We are granted the highest honor of being able to say that we are His child, and we can allow that to simply be enough. We can trust that He is enough to base our entire worth on. We can find our confidence and wholeness in Him. Projecting the desired image of strength instead of undesirable vulnerability does not bring healing to the heart and rest to the bones. Striving to look or act or be a certain way does not make much of Jesus. Lay it down for something greater. More of Him, a richer testimony of who He is and what He has done, fulfillment in the depths of your soul because you know you do not have to work and can simply give from an overflowing of what He’s already given to you and filled you with; Himself.

So the things that you are the best at, gifted in, the most capable of, learn to use those things to proclaim Him. After all, He is the one who has given them to you and they are not meant to be left undiscovered and unused. The things you are mediocre at, the things that will not impress anyone or that you’d rather hide, He will use to proclaim Himself as well. Your stories. Your experiences. Your very average abilities. These all glorify Him as well. And our life for His ultimate glory is all that matters in the end.

He called us, the church, out of darkness and into his light for a very specific purpose: to proclaim him. Not to be the best. Not to glorify ourselves through the gifts He’s given us. Not to display what we are able to do and hide what we are not able to do in order to glorify Him, as if He does not redeem every part of us. Let that pressure go. He simply wants us to declare His praises from the overflow of hearts that love Him. Talk about him, sing about him, write about him. Use whatever you have. 

He will use us in spite of us. And that is the best news I can give you. Embrace your smallness, your minuteness, your incapability and mediocrity. You will not be good at everything you put your hand to. You will not be the best at most things. You will fall short in a lot of areas. There are things that will always be a work in progress, growing, mainly yourself. And that is okay. Those things are not who you are. Those things do not define you. Those things are not your identity. Being found in Him frees us up to focus our energy on declaring Him instead of worrying about who we are and what image we should be portraying. We were called specifically for the purpose of declaring Him, because we know we are safely found in Him.

Sister’s Keeper

“Two are better than one–
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up!”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings.”
Galatians 6:2

These two verses hit me during a recent phone call with my sweet friend where we were able to share with each other the victories that had just taken place in our lives. Resolutions to our biggest current issues happened within the same week. At the end of the conversation, we both made a few closing statements, looking at it all in retrospect. We went through and named all the issues we had just faced and seen perfectly resolved, and then proceeded to declare that the things we were so concerned with just weeks ago, all seemed to work out and prove just how much the Father has our good in mind. This is true, He absolutely does. It all seemed like pointless energy wasted looking back on it. And so it is, of course.

But though those comments are practical and sound good after the fact, they are not reasonable. We did not know the outcomes of our situations then. And just a week prior, in those moments of fear and looming heartache, we needed each other’s assurance that it would all work out. That there was a plan in place. That the Lord was still on the throne. We could breathe now, and that gave us the freedom to laugh at how silly and dramatic we had been. To comment on how worthless worry is. But when we felt the anxiety closing in on us caused by the possibility of our worlds crumbling, laughter about how we were handling it all (even the smallest of issues) would not have been appropriate or welcome.

The relief I found in having resolutions to my own problems was equal to the relief in knowing all was well with her. This is because I had taken some of her burden and placed it on my shoulders, just as she had with mine. Give yourself a break. It isn’t your burden to carry alone. God gave you your friends for a reason. He has called you into community. Not to get you into a church building, but because He knew just how much you’d need it through life’s daily struggles outside of the church building. He knew the human mind, and He knew just how we would handle problems. He knew the stress we would burden ourselves with that we wouldn’t be able to cope with alone. He knew that even though we desperately would desire to trust Him, to cast our cares upon Him, that our desire alone would not be enough. We NEED others who are outside of us, to remind us, to walk with us. And my God, will He provide. Just what we need, right when we need it, like He always does.

A true, sincere relationship with Christ. And then community. That’s the order every new believer is encouraged to walk in after they first believe, and it is that way for a reason. There is a direct correlation between the community of believers we surround ourselves with and our spiritual health and growth. We desperately need it. Without it we are stagnant, distracted and unable to thrive. We are at risk of wandering away from the truth, from the faith altogether, without it (James 5:19-20). It is our job to keep bringing each other back to the truth. It is our responsibility to carry each other. This fulfills the very law of Christ.

You are, indeed, your sister’s keeper.

Rivers & Flames 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God. 
Isaiah 43:2

This time a year ago, everything in my life was perfectly stable, no different than how it had always been. It was all going as planned. I was conquering my first semester of college. I had a job nannying for two boys I loved. The plans I had for my future were still in order. Things with family and friends were as consistent as ever. I was helping lead the ministry I grew up in. Schedules. Safety. But little did I know, and as I was soon to find out, all of that was about to change. Love changes things, friends. And God’s plans for our lives shake us up. Security, consistency, steadiness, calm were all about to be challenged. 

A year later, all the plans I made have been surrendered to the Lord and He has changed almost every one. I have fallen in love with the love of my entire life, in the most real sense of the phrase. We’re about to get married(!!!) The career path I was convinced of has changed completely. I have since moved across the country. I have stepped into a new community of believers- a community so different than the one I was in my whole life. I’m asked often how I’ve managed to transition so well, and the only answer I have is Jesus. He is with me no matter where I go, and He is the only constant I need. Passing through waters and rivers and fire and flame, I have learned more of who the Lord is than if you were to pull together all the lessons, trials, and knowledge of Him that you possibly could from my entire life before. This year, He came in close and met me where I was. 

This is what I’ve learned of who He is, (and it is only the beginning): He cannot be boxed up, He is always doing something new, who He is never changes but He always gives us the unexpected, yet He can be trusted with our lives. He is as reliable as the rising and setting of the sun, but His dreams for us are wild. His plans for us are not safe, but He walks with us and keeps us in safety. He is our refuge. He is everything good, and there is no good apart from Him. He will not allow our dreams to stay boxed up, collecting dust in a corner. He uses us when we surrender to His will. Every single thing is done for the outcome of our good & His glory. He is home. He has made His home among us, inside of us. He is our father, our most constant friend. But He cannot be defined by human characteristics or definitions. Nothing and no one compares to Him. There are no synonyms for His character. He is in the gentle whisper in the dark when we’ve just about given up, telling us to push forward. He is in the most beautiful sunrise, reminding us of new horizons up ahead. He is the sure voice telling us to jump because He will be with us there. He is the peace in the midst of chaos. He is all that matters at the end of this day, at the end of this life. He is not on the sidelines. He is in total and complete control. He is sure. He is certain. He is never changing and never failing. He is ever faithful. He is all around us, closer than our very breath. He is with us in every situation. He is the reason for all of this. He is all that matters. 

Every ounce of crazy and trial is worth learning more of Him. The Lord preserved me through all of it, the beauty and pain that the best of change brings, and He always will. He does not give us assurance of ease in this life, but of His presence. And you will find He is enough. 

You see, when you are not fully found in the Lord, everything HAS to be stable. Because that is your hope and peace in life. When you know Him, he is your stability. He becomes your hope and peace, not your circumstances. Whatever may pass and whatever lies ahead, He will be there and He will surley be enough. We will walk through fires and come out unsinged, for He is the Lord our God who goes with us. 

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭