Have you ever met one of those people who is the epitome of freedom? They don’t care what other people think and don’t seem to be phased by what happens to them, but continue to go forward with almost reckless abandon? I’m not one of those people. I would like to be, but I am far from their level of freedom. I have a comfort zone, a routine, to which I have grown accustomed and like to maintain. Interestingly enough, the most free people I know are those who are very close to God, intimately tuned into his voice, and actively seeking his face. The most free people I know have trusted God through good and bad, displaying an awe-inspiring amount of faith. Trusting God is great in theory, until he asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. So, what do you do when his direction or instruction flies in the face of your instincts?
All of our favorite Bible characters navigated through this same internal struggle. Let’s look at Moses. God told him that he would be used to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. What a ridiculous notion! Then, after they had been rescued from their oppressors, God sustained his people through miracles as they wandered about in the desert. God’s instructions to Moses were ridiculous, but he obeyed, why? It wasn’t because he was being forced or coerced into submission. Moses obeyed because he knew God. He knew His voice and character, making obedience a no-brainer. So why do we struggle so often with following God’s instructions?
I want you to think about a time when God has told you to do something. It could be going and speaking to someone, forgiving someone who hurt you, quitting something or starting something new, or a thousand other things. Do you have yours in mind? I have mine. Now, how does that instruction or direction make you feel? Now, that’s a strange question coming from me, I’m not one to talk about feelings often, but I’m learning that there’s value to this type of self-assessment. I think two of the main responses can be: fear or freedom. I think your reaction depends wholly on your perspective. Let me say it another way, your response to obedience reveals your view of God.
The Bible says that God is love, it’s not that he can love or he loves well, but he is the very definition of love. The Bible also says that perfect Love casts out all fear, meaning that fear cannot exist in the same space as perfect love. When a frightening directive is given by God and your focus is on the directive and yourself (i.e. a selfish perspective), the natural result is fear. But when you focus on the one giving the command, it can be a freeing experience.
Most of the time, I take the selfish road, as I am a very selfish individual. But the interesting thing is that this perspective always leads to my detriment. By focusing on myself and how God’s word effects me it causes me to operate in a place of fear. But, when I change my perspective and focus on God, my response changes. When I know that God loves me and is always looking out for me I can trust that his directions are indeed good. I can know that He wants good things for me and will work things together for my benefit and not to my destruction.
I don’t know what you’re facing right now, but I know that God is good. Every time I have entered into a period of transition or stepped into something scary, God has pulled through and, despite all the bumps in the road, I’ve come out better on the other side. And I believe he will do the same for you. If you’re frighted by that next step He’s telling you to take, know that you’re not alone. It’s okay to react with fear, but you can’t stay there. When fear begins to creep in, whispering in your ear to run away or hide, change your perspective and focus on the One who is speaking to you and leading you.
I’m not writing this because I have mastered this or because I have this all figured out. I’m writing this because I’m in the middle of it right now. What God is telling me to do scares me and I have to daily, sometimes hourly, shift my focus to the Lord and off my situation. I’m asking you to join me on this faith walk as we continue to move toward God and away from ourselves.
A simple shift in perspective can change everything. I’m willing to humble myself and change my thinking, are you?
Sarah was raised in Tucson, Arizona, but now lives in Dallas, Texas. She currently works a 9-5 job, but in her spare time she loves to write, paint, draw, and sing. More importantly, she wants to help people receive hope when they feel like they have none.
Sarah: “I believe every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story is worthy of being shared.”
Sarah’s Blog: workinprogressblog.co
Have you ever run away from something, and I don’t mean something that might threaten your life? I mean, has there been a time in your life when you ran because you didn’t want what was in front of you, so you did a 180 and took off like lightening in the opposite direction?
Most of us, if we’ve lived for any length of time, can remember at least one of those times, maybe even more than one. As Christians, that running most likely involved running from God. Not too many believers would say that in some way at some time they didn’t run from what God was telling them to do. After all, there is a little Jonah in all of us.
Abraham Kuyper, the journalist, once wrote,
“Our heart is continually inclined to rebel against the Lord our God. So ready to rebel, that O, so gladly, were it but for a single day, we would take from His hands the reins of His supreme rule, imagining that we would manage things far better and direct them far more effectively than God.”
What do we do when we find ourselves running? What do we do when we see someone else running?
If it’s us who’s running, chances are that we don’t even see it. But if it’s someone that we simply know, either from church or just an acquaintance, we may be tempted to sit in judgment, as if it’s simply their weak constitution or their lax moral integrity that might cause such a detour. We might simply shake our heads in feigned remorse, thinking, “What is he thinking? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
If it’s a loved one, maybe a child or a spouse or sibling, the pain can be almost immobilizing. Suddenly all memories of our own course changes are almost non-existent, and the only things we can think are, “What is he doing? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
I don’t know….can we?
Let me remind you of how Jonah did. In Jonah 1:1, we read:
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah…
That means that God literally let Jonah know exactly what He was thinking.
Then in verse 2, God said to Jonah,
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
This was not what Jonah expected. After all, he was the Lord’s prophet. He was supposed to go and direct his prophecies to the nation of Israel. He wasn’t supposed to go to Israel’s enemies and prophesy so that they might be saved. What in the world was God thinking?
Maybe we should think of this in terms that are closer to home. Maybe the little Jonah in you might sound more like:
“God doesn’t want me in this marriage! He wants me happy, and I’m not happy here! What is God thinking?”
Or maybe this:
“God wouldn’t want me to miss out on a better lifestyle. He says that I will get the desires of my heart, and my heart desires that car or that dress or that house (that I can’t afford). He wouldn’t keep me from it, would He? What is God thinking?”
Or maybe our child’s little Jonah says this:
The little Jonah in all of us might say slightly different words, but it’s pretty much the same thing. All of us have listened to the little Jonah some time or another, and we all run for exactly the same reason that Jonah ran. Verse 3 says,
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
The truth is that this running isn’t literally from God, since we, as His children, are always and forever His and in His loving care. However, what we can and do run from is what the literal translation says is the “face of the Lord.” Jonah was trying to get as far away from where he would be confronted with all that God is. When we run, we run from the same thing, which generally means we run from the church or our church family or anything else that might remind us of who God is.
There is a reason that many have called Satan the “travel agent of distraction.” If he can get us away from the “presence of God” or the “face of God,” then he can also deceive us into thinking that we can get away from it, which consequently keeps us from healing and love and peace. Warren Wiersbe wrote in his book, Be Amazed,
“It’s possible to be out of the will of God and still have circumstances appear to be working on your behalf. You might be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep. However, God in his providence was preparing for Jonah a great fall.”
But the good news is that God always provides a fish, doesn’t He? He always provides exactly the right storm at exactly the right time so that even though we may be distracted temporarily, we are never permanently lost.
Jesus said in John 6:39,
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none of all that he has given me.
If you are running from the face of God today—refusing to go to church, avoiding your Christian friends, finding every excuse in the book for not getting involved with your believing family—genuinely reflect on the little Jonah in you. God will not lose you, but I can promise you that it is no fun in the belly of the fish! Bow before the throne of the One who will never leave you nor forsake you and come home. Unless it is God you are running toward, you’re headed for the storm.
And if it is a loved one who is running from God’s loving face, take heart and never lose hope. The promise that Jesus gave in John applies to every one of His children. The fish is coming. Keep praying and keep your eyes fixed upward. God will bring him home.
After all, there is a little Jonah is all of us, but there is a great God who owns our hearts!
To read more from Dr. Deb Waterbury, visit debwaterbury.com
Fellow moms, I don’t about you, but as the political, moral, and spiritual horizon gets bleaker and bleaker for the world our children are growing up into, my heart hurts and feels heavy. What that often translates to is a heightened sense of urgency to prepare my children for that world followed immediately with a crippling sense of inadequacy, overwhelm and anxious thoughts. It only takes an instant for that storm to magnify my fears and cut me off from the lifeline I have to the Commander-in-Chief who has the ultimate victory over this war, the lifeline to the One who is the Master Strategist who has planned for every contingency and equips us warrior-mothers for the battle at hand, and that lifeline is prayer.
A few months ago, my pastor encouraged us to use a telescope instead of a magnifying glass, turning our eyes from our problems to the Creator of the universe, and entrusting Him with our cares. If worship, our gaze focused on the Creator, is our telescope, then prayer, is our periscope.
A periscope, an instrument that is standard equipment on submarines which submerge deep beneath the surface of the ocean, is defined as “an instrument for observation over, around or through an obstacle or condition that prevents line of sight observation from an observer’s current position”. Prayer improves our line of sight. From our current position, submerged beneath the waters of the worries of this life, prayer returns our line of sight to our Heavenly Father so we can acquire the information we need to adjust our position, prepare for what’s ahead, give us insight or simply remind us that there is more going on than what we can see from where we are.
A description of a periscope’s design is as follows, “The overall design of the classical submarine periscope is very simple: two telescopes pointed into each other.” Prayer by design, is God seeing into us, and us seeing into Him. Prayer is God abiding in us, and us abiding in Him. What an incredible gift of grace!
Lately, scrolling through Facebook has become much more than a mindless activity full of relatable photos, memes, and hilarious videos. Instead, I’ve learned to view it as an opportunity to obtain a glimpse into the lives, minds, and hearts of many friends and family members on social media. This morning, during my daily scroll through the incessantly, inordinate Facebook feature otherwise known as “newsfeed,” I came across a post from a young lady that caught my eye and peeked my interest. The post was barely noticeable, only comprised of two words. Yet, those two words shot through my body and into my soul like a burst of electricity. Those two words stayed in my head all day like a catchy tune, and at night, hovered over my mind like a storm cloud. The post came from a young lady who struggles with dysthymia, also known as chronic depression. Those two words were: nobody understands.
A love we crave
Biblically speaking, a man’s purpose is to know God, and to spend eternity relishing in the enjoyment of Him. We were created to experience intimacy with the God of the universe, and to spend our days pursuing the knowledge of Him. In light of this, I believe that an inevitable characteristic of this design for humans to know, is a desire to be known. Humans were created to know, and be known by God Himself. Naturally, this desire to be known has been tainted by the fall, and sin has perverted a right desire, into one full of selfish ambition and personal glory. This is wildly evident in today’s culture through a yearning for fame, and an insatiable desire for attention from those of the opposite gender. This yearning to be known is especially evident within this age of technology. We desire so much to be known, that we create various social media as platforms to showcase ourselves. We spend hours upon hours designing boards we feel best represent our style, hobbies, dreams and ambitions, taste in music, movies and food. We tweet our every move in order to keep the world up-to-date on our lives. We take the time to fill out silly questionnaires and “like” different pages so that our friends can know us better. Our human desire to be known is evident in every aspect of our lives.
It can be said—to be known, is to be loved. Or better yet, to be loved, is to be known. We see this truth played out in Matthew 7:23 and John 10:14-15. In Matthew, the Lord rebukes the one who does not belong to Him with the terrifying statement “I never knew you…” while in the gospel of John, Jesus uses the knowledge of His children to claim them as His own stating: “I know my own and my own know me.”
Humans crave an understanding kind of love. A love that knows truly, sincerely, and deeply. A comprehending love, a grasping love—an intimate love that can fathom them. To know God, and to be known by Him is the only redemption.
Fully God, fully man
As I read the words, “nobody understands,” a verse immediately came to mind. No, it wasn’t Psalm 119, nor was it Psalm 139. The verse that came to mind, was the end of Hebrews chapter four, and beginning of Hebrews chapter 5:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (5) For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
In the Old Testament, the duty of a priest was to operate as intercessor between God and the people. He would offer sacrifices on behalf of the people, but also for himself since he too was a sinner. Because of this, the priest was able to show compassion towards the people, since he himself was beset with weakness. Of course, after Christ’s death and resurrection, we are able to have access to the Father and to experience intimacy with Him. Jesus Christ, as the great and final high priest, bridged the gap between a holy God and fallen man.
But we know this. We know God sent his Son to live the life of perfect obedience which we could never attain. We understand that it is only the sinless life and righteousness of Jesus Christ that makes us right before God. Most believers have no problem understanding the fact that Christ was sinless, and this is because we grasp His deity. However, I believe many Christians fail to comprehend the aspect of Christ that legitimized Him as a sacrifice, which is His humanity.
The incarnation of God is an astounding facet of the gospel. As J.I. Packer stated: “Here are two mysteries for the price of one — the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus. . . . Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.”
We are confident in Christ’s deity, yet oftentimes, we undermine His humanity. Nonetheless, the truth of Jesus’s humanity is to be regarded just as important as the truth of His deity. We know from the Word of God two things to be absolutely sure: Jesus has two natures—God and man. And each nature is full and complete—He is fully God, and fully man (Colossians 2:9, John 1:14, Hebrews 2:14). But what does it mean that Christ was fully man? It simply means this: that Jesus was exposed to all the limitation of man. He required all things you and I require in order to survive… food, drink, and sleep. He was not exempt from the things which confide us, such as gravity, pain, fatigue, and illness. Because He was bound to all the limitations of man, this includes the temptation we experience. He Himself was tempted, as Hebrews says, “in every respect.”
Hopefully this truth will lead the believer to ask the question; why? Why would the God of the universe willingly subject Himself to the limitations of man? The beginning of Hebrews tells us it is so that He can deal gently with the ignorant, and the wayward since He Himself was beset with weakness.
How beautiful is that? This perfectly holy being chose to subject Himself to temptation in order to deal gently with us. The Creator willingly humbled Himself to walk amongst the creation, so that we might know one who understands. The one who spoke and caused all to be, the one who the wind and the waves obey, the one who commands the tiniest of bacteria, to the greatest of all mammals—He understands. In the God of all creation, we find the greatest love—a sacrificial, sympathetic, and understanding love.
I urge you, never again to be dismayed by the lie designed by Satan to isolate you. The lie that you are alone, and misunderstood. The King of kings understands more than you’re capable of comprehending. What a shame it is to walk through life believing no one understands or cares, and what an offense it is to a God who left His throne to demonstrate how much He does.
Miryea attends The Masters College majoring in English with a minor in Bible. With her degree, she plans to teach middle school English as well as continue to enjoy, and further develop her passion for writing. Born and raised in Arizona, she was home schooled from first through twelfth grade, and is the eldest of two.
“This is not my life.”
“Those are not my children.”
“That is not my husband.”
Have you ever looked around at your life and thought any of these things? I mean, this isn’t what we signed up for, right? No one told us the day we walked down that isle or the day we graduated from school or the day we heard our child’s first cry that things would one day take us to the brink of despair.
That’s someone else’s life. That’s not mine.
But then one day it is. One day you wake up and all those women whose lives were battered by unfaithful spouses or lost children or sickness or death are suddenly not just remote prayer requests. No longer can you abstractly look at those sad and torn lives and feel sympathy. Now you are smack in the middle of empathy. You’re living it, and the only thing you can do is look around and wonder, “What happened?”
The truth is that if you’ve been an adult woman for longer than three minutes, you will have experienced these emotions, and you’ll experience them more than once. We were never promised a rose garden in this life, and for the most part, we realize that.
But sometimes it’s not just a weed-infested garden that we find ourselves in the middle of. It’s a pool of sticky, slimy toxic waste, and we think, “Nope. This is not my life.”
What are we to do in those moments? What does a Christian woman do when even getting out of bed seems abundantly out of the question?
I have recently experienced yet another of those seasons in my life as a woman, wife, and mother, and I was struck with these thoughts in rapid succession. Huddled in the corner of my bedroom, lights off, and curled up so tightly on the floor that my joints ached, the despair caught me almost off-guard. I wasn’t even crying correctly because I couldn’t breathe well enough to make a sound. I just rocked and gasped for air. And then my thoughts changed from “This is not my life” to “I have to fix this!”
Isn’t that the way we are? That’s how God created us women. We manage things. Paul referred to women as the “managers of the house” in Titus 2:5, and managers manage things. Consequently, our first instincts are to manage our situations.
It only took me a few minutes, however, to realize that I couldn’t manage anyone out of anything this time, and instead of moving from that realization toward Christian resolution, I moved toward anger with God.
“I know You think I’m this strong. I know You think I can handle this, and I know You said I wouldn’t be given anything more than I could handle, but I’m not this strong! This is too much!”
Of course, I didn’t actually yell these things out loud, although I have before. No, this time I screamed with boldness in my head. I really was confounded by God’s apparent misidentification of my supposed strength. I needed Him to reconsider.
Have you ever felt this way? Are you feeling it now?
I am ever amazed at our Father’s grace. I’m in awe of His constant and abiding love and patience toward us. He could have yelled back at me right then. He could have struck me down completely for my irreverence. That would have been warranted.
However, what He gently did was fill my head with these words:
Debbie, I do not ordain these things in your life to point you to your own strength. I ordain them to move you toward Mine.
You see, it will forever be our propensity to try and make things about us. It’s my knee-jerk reaction to bolster my own fortitude and figure things out, and then to be angry when I’m just not strong enough or smart enough or tolerant enough or when I feel forced to do things on my own. This is unfortunately an anger that when harbored will quickly turn into bitterness.
Indeed there are a lot of bitter women out there, and among them is no small number of bitter Christian women. Why? Because we simply aren’t strong enough, and truthfully, that was never God’s point.
Everything is about Him, and these times are meant to bring attention to Him, to His strength, His love, His mercy, His care, His tolerance, His grace, and His perfect plan.
What do we do as Christian women in moments of such complete despair that we can’t even breathe?
I was pouring out to a dear friend in the middle of this—which, by the way, I highly encourage you to do—and she reminded me of exactly what we are to do when we look at the life we now live and wonder how it all went so wrong so quickly. She reminded me of Psalm 121,
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
When you are on your bedroom floor and the pain is beyond your ability to bear, you do the only thing you can do, you do the only thing you should do, and you lift up your eyes.
Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-30,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
There are going to be moments in these lives as pilgrims in this foreign land when we are nothing less than confused by the things that happen. We can become downcast in our souls over the heartache inflicted on us by the ones we love the most, and we will gaze at our circumstances with a sadness that feels insurmountable.
What do we do?
We lift our tired, tear dimmed eyes toward heaven and unto our Father. We rest in His divine and loving purposes. After all, we have a hope that the world does not share, a hope and an assurance that we do not serve a God who is an “absentee Father.” Our Lord is fully involved in the lives of His children, and He has promised us that He has a plan, a plan that will not harm us but will bring us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) He has promised us that all of our lives are purposed for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
So, my sisters, lift up your eyes to the hills. From where does your help come? Your help comes from the Lord, the very Maker of the heavens and the earth.
This morning I was reading the Book of Joshua, one of my favorite books in the Bible. I love the character of Joshua and how he handled such a difficult situation with grace and dignity. More than share about an idea I squeezed out of the text, I want to invite you into this story with me. It may seem silly, but that’s okay. For the next few moments, let your imagination run with it, in fact, let your imagination run wild. Imagine yourself in the story, see the plot through the lens of different characters. Maybe begin by reading through a passage as Joshua and then go back to see it from the perspective of those living in Jericho. Open yourself up to see this story from a new perspective and allow your eyes to see something that you hadn’t noticed before.
Are you ready? Okay, let’s begin.
Before we even begin to read the text, I want you to remember what you know about the people of Israel. They, as a people group, went from being slaves to being wanderers. For 40 years these people marched around the desert; they had to wait for the old generation to die off before entering into promise. How do you think these people felt? Maybe they were small children or teenagers when they came out of Egypt. They had heard all their lives about the signs and wonders of God and seen him perform miracles as he provided for them in the desert. Now was their time: they were entering into the promised land.
Imagine the excitement that flooded their hearts and minds. I probably would’ve felt scared or some trepidation because the thing so long awaited was finally here! I wonder if they continued to complain or if they exuded worship. Moses, their leader who they had been following their entire lives, had died and his apprentice was appointed their new leader. With excitement and determination the entire nation agreed to follow him in the same manner they had followed Moses. They exuberantly expressed their determination to follow God and all his precepts. They steadfastly promised to not depart from God or his law.
The nation moves closer to their promise. I wonder if, as they grew closer, selfishness began to make itself known. I wonder if people began to grow more concerned about getting enough for themselves and less about the good of nation. How would you have felt crossing the river and seeing different scenery than you had before? I wonder if anyone swooned or cried upon seeing the land flowing with milk and honey. Did anyone have a heart attack upon seeing the beauty of the land or the size of the inhabitants?
I wonder if their countenance fell when they saw the size of Jericho. Or did they remain full of faith and hope? Jericho was essentially a fortress, it was impregnable. If the people living there didn’t want you inside, there was no way you were getting in. I think that’s probably why the Lord picked Jericho first. Have you ever thought about the fact that the Lord could’ve directed them to start taking over the land in a different area? God could’ve eased them into this idea, defeating the smaller towns first, to build up their confidence, but he didn’t. God wanted to show himself strong when the people of Israel could do nothing to assist him.
So, the Lord speaks to Joshua and downloads what’s arguably the most absurd battle plan ever: walk silently. In my mind, I always pictured a group of 100-200 people marching around this rather large wall, but in reality that number was in the thousands. Joshua 4:13 says “About 40,000 ready for war passed over before the Lord for battle, to the pains of Jericho”. Can you even imagine what it would be like to walk around a wall silently with a group of 40,000 people? Imagine how loud their footsteps would be! They would be a thundering herd who never spoke a word. I wonder how the people living inside the wall felt, did they think it was an earthquake? Or did they look outside and taunt the Israelites for their foolishness?
The Israelites obeyed and stayed silent. I wonder if they prayed quietly to themselves as they walked. Did they come up with creative hand signals to communicate with each other or were they on-task? I know I would’ve had a hard time keeping my trap shut, but I suppose there was great motivation to obey.
For 6 days they repeated this long walk. The city of Jericho itself was about 6 acres, not including the large wall and moat that surrounded it. These people were getting their workout! I wonder if feelings of uselessness or frustration began to grow in them as the days marched on. After all, they had just been wandering aimlessly in the desert for 40 years.
But then the 7th day came. I’m sure the excitement was palpable. I’m surprised they were able to hold it together for that long! I wonder if the walk that day was at a quicker pace than normal; were they almost sprinting there at the end of their 7th lap? I would imagine, though their bodies probably ached from the distance they had walked, their spirits were lifted and adrenaline was pumping, fueling them to continue forward.
Then, the moment they had been waiting for came: it came time to shout.
Imagine that sound! 40,000 people with trumpets and pent up noise within them, shouting for victory. For 40 years they had been aimless, without victory, without a home, without anything other than the provision of God, and they were about to claim the first of many promises. I like to imagine that God was smiling from ear to ear, proud of his precious people for their obedience and faith. Then the walls came down. I wonder if, because of their noise, they didn’t realize that it was happening right away. I wonder if someone in the crowd excitedly began to point as a section of the wall began to crumble right before their eyes. Then, I imagine, the shout from the crowd grew louder as they saw God come through on his promise.
One of the most beautiful things about this story is the faithfulness of God. Rahab was a prostitute living in the wall of Jericho and her whole family was spared because God had honored his promise. She ended up living with the nation of Israel for the rest of her days and is an important figure in the lineage of Jesus.
God is faithful and his promises are true. This questioning and imagining that we just went through isn’t just limited to Bible stories, but can be used in our everyday lives. When someone’s telling you a story about their lives, ask questions, and put yourself into their shoes. Insert yourself into their story and try to see things the way they do. I believe God is honored when we take a little extra time to look deeper than the surface.
Thank you for imagining with me today!