THIS MIGHT HURT A LITTLE

I found it! I found the quote that says what I’ve been meditating on but couldn’t quite put into words. But C S Lewis managed to articulate my meditations well.

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Not that I don’t have moments when I do doubt if God will bless me. I do. However, what I’m realizing is that I hope to be blessed the way I want to be blessed because I think what I want is what is best for me. And that’s a two-part issue: As a human, I believe I already know what’s best for me and, as LaRonda, I am not always confident that God wants to give me good things.

I’m slowly accepting that God does love me – always and anyway. That’s grace. I wasn’t raised with grace or mercy, so it’s been hard for me to accept that God loves me always and anyway. Often, I feel inherently unlovable enough to not warrant grace.

As I mature into my faith, I’m accepting that what God wants for me is good, better than what I can hope for myself. But I’ll be honest. I often cringe when I trust God. Why? Because I know it might hurt! Don’t pray for patience; just pray for everything to go your way instead. Right? 🙂

I was absolutely terrified last month as I watched our checking balance deplete with no hope of improvement in sight. What if God meant to bring His will to fruition by means of us losing everything we had and turning our lives upside down? (I know it sounds dramatic and tragic. Welcome to my head!)  I was certain that I couldn’t bear to go through something like that. And I couldn’t understand why I was being put through such a trial when God knows I don’t have the emotional foundation for something like that.

Everything turned out fine, and my faith in God as my provider was exercised and strengthened. But it wasn’t fun. So what I believe I need to do is rely on what I know of God rather than my feelings. And that’s what I’m in the process of doing right now – getting to know God by reading His word and visiting with Him in prayer and quiet more than listening to what others have to say about Him. (And you’re welcome to come along for the ride!) I’ve been to church and Bible studies, so I know many of the stories; but I’m finding that there is no substitute for letting the Holy Spirit tell me what I need to know about my God, letting God reveal Himself to me intimately, personally. I just need to become confident that He is gentle enough to meet me where I am – even if it’s on edge of an imagined cliff or on the shore of my own Red Sea – but still willing to stretch my faith when He knows I’m ready for it – like that teacher in school who constantly told me that I wasn’t living up to my potential. (I was quite satisfied with mediocrity, thank you very much! It took less effort than potential.)

Ultimately, I know that I need to believe that it won’t hurt any more than it absolutely has to and that His grace is sufficient to carry me through the pain if it’s necessary. I suppose growing pains should be expected. There are plenty of examples in nature to show it’s even necessary in order for a creature to become what it was born to become. It’s going to take a lot of trust for me to do that. And honestly, like living up to my potential, it’s a little scary to consider. But the option of depending on myself really isn’t a preferable option, is it?

WHO FORGOT THE BREAD?!

I can’t tell you how I got there, but I ended up looking at Matthew 16. Take a look:

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?

11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Now, here’s what I came away with: These disciples had lived with Jesus – at his side, day and night, day after day. They’d listened to His personal, intimate teachings, as well as the parables He’d shared with his audiences. And with each of His lessons, He was training and instructing the men who would carry on his ministry after His death. He wanted them to be prepared.

And they thought Jesus was worried that they hadn’t brought bread along for the trip!

He had to remind him of the miracles he’d just performed by providing enough bread to feed about 9,000 people (and their families), with leftovers. Those miracles displayed His ability to not only meet a need, but to do it in abundance. He wasn’t worried about having enough bread!

I can almost imagine Jesus thinking, “Seriously?!” But that’s all the further the disciples could see.

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These were the men who would carry on his ministry. The time for Him to leave them was growing closer by the hour. No wonder Jesus prayed for them! No wonder he sent the Holy Spirit to help them.

No wonder we have a hard time “getting” the message. Jesus was patient with His disciples, though. Patient and compassionate. And He’s just as patient and compassionate with us as we work to understand what He’s trying to tell us or what He’s trying to do in our lives.

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Jesus knows it can be difficult to understand him sometimes. As he was washing the feet of His disciples, they were taken aback. Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7 NIV) I think it’s safe to say that this is a constant state for most of us – we don’t understand now, but later we will.

Right now, God’s doing some things in my life that I really don’t understand. I want so desperately to trust Him because He says He loves me and has a good plan for me, but it’s really hard to hold onto that sometimes! It can be a little scary to wait on God.

It’s my prayer that those of us who are confused and/or discouraged trust in God to get us through our trials, that we will believe in His goodness and His timing – especially when we don’t know what He’s doing. I pray that while we wait, the Holy Spirit will comfort us and fill us with peace, wisdom and confidence in our Lord. Amen.

LETTING GO OF THE LIES

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 NIV

This is such a short sentence, and yet it’s so powerful! It’s one of those verses that could be divided and each sentence would work alone. But they work together powerfully!

If you’ve ever felt inherently defective and undeserving of anything good, you’ve missed so much. My prayer for you is that you can move from a position of powerlessness and worthlessness to one of power and worthiness in Christ even if no one else has treated you that way – including yourself. I pray that you will open your heart and hands to what God has to give you.

A good place to start is by submitting to God and resisting the devil. I read this verse on my phone this morning and, for the first time in my Christian life, I read it differently (and I’m kind of excited about it right now because I need this now!). Today is different because I read it as a deserving child of God. I’m learning who my real Father is, and I have to tell you, He’s powerful!

My Father has already won every battle to come. In spite of how scary the devil can make things look, it’s all nothing to God. If you follow the story of Christ, you’ll see that demons fled when He spoke. They knew who He was and they were afraid. They were afraid Christ had come before His appointed time, which tells me they knew their time was limited. Their fear also tells me that they knew they were on the losing team. They were weak and vulnerable and had no choice but to submit to Christ as the son of God!ca320ee80218a2a06ce2f66d5db8dbf3

This is the same devil and demons we deal with today. They’re the ones who whisper to you that no one likes you, that you’re inadequate, that you’re alone. They’re the ones who lie to you!

Now, be honest for a moment. If you had a friend who you knew lied to you, how long would you listen to her and trust her? You’d be foolish to believe what she said. Sure, there might be times she tells you the truth, just to keep you in a relationship. But how long could you tolerate hearing, “Jill doesn’t like you.” or “Jim thinks you’re fat.” or “You’re not good enough.” when you know it’s a lie?

So why do we listen to Satan’s lies? Because they agree with the thoughts you already have? Test them against what your loving, forgiving Father says about you, and you’ll see that they are, indeed, lies. Remember that Satan condemns and God convicts. Condemnation is bad, and you don’t need that. Conviction is good, and you need that.

Submit to God. Read His word and learn how very much he loves you. Realize how wonderful and powerful you are as the child of the One who created the universe and you with the same hands. But you need to submit to God so you have an anchor to hold onto. It’s a bit like playing on the monkey bars; you don’t let go of one bar before you let go of the bar you’re holding.

Then resist the devil and make him flee. The verse doesn’t say, “and hope he’ll leave you alone.” It puts the truth very simply – he will flee. He’ll flee from you just as he fled from Christ and his disciples. Why? Because you are a child of God, and God protects His own. This is where you let go of the other bar.

Trust me, once you’ve got ahold of God, you can let go of the stuff that doesn’t help!

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RISE UP AND STAND FIRM

For a devotional today, I read Psalm 20. It was incredibly encouraging!

Psalm 20:4 says, “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

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I really like that part! Who doesn’t want God to give us the desire of our heart? Who wouldn’t appreciate having all their plans succeed?

But there’s such a temptation to limit God, isn’t there? I look at my present situation and think, “If only God would….” I see my immediate need and pray that God will meet it. But what if meeting my immediate need in the way I think is best isn’t what would glorify God? Then God becomes little more than a Santa Bunny, there to make all our dreams come true and give us a pony if we beg long enough.

First of all, God is so much bigger than we let him be. He is able to do all things and to give us an abundant life. Too often, we settle for a little blessing because we’re in a hurry, when we could have a greater blessing and a genuine heart overhaul if we would only trust and wait on his timing.

The second mistake we make is in expecting his blessing to glorify us rather than Him. We don’t really mean to, but it’s our nature to be self-focused most of the time. God loves us dearly and wants to bless us, but he owes us nothing. The way I see the scripture, he has a victory planned – but for “his anointed” and for His kingdom. I believe all of God’s children have been anointed for something. His anointed have been set apart for a sacred and divine purpose. It is the anointed who will bring glory to the kingdom of God:

Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call! (Psalm 20:6-9)

When you are anointed and you go to battle in the name of God, there is nothing and no one who can stand in the way. God has already established His victory. The only question is when and how. And what are we to do as the enemy falls in defeat? Rise up and stand firm!

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What an awesome God we serve when His name is stronger than chariots or horses, whispers or doubts, or whatever weapon the enemy chooses to use against us. We’re not told to put our faith in our checking balance or our relationships. And we’re not told to fidget and worry. We’re told to rise up and stand firm.

I pray that today I can do that. I pray that I can put my worries in God’s hands and let the victory over my circumstances be for God’s glory not mine. And I pray that I can simply rise up and stand firm.

WHEN YOU QUESTION YOUR PARTNER

Remember when you were in school and you had to partner with someone to complete a project, and your partner failed you? Not only did you do most of the research, but you got a bad grade besides because of their lack of participation.

Or as an adult, you were on a workplace committee to work on a project. Most of the members did a fair job of contributing; but there was that one person who not only didn’t do her part, but actually made the outcome of the project worse than if she’d done nothing at all. In the end, your boss didn’t care about how each member performed individually; they only wanted results, and the results were dismal.

Sometimes, you think, it would have been easier to have done it all yourself. You know what they say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” That would be the easiest way to handle things, wouldn’t it? But that’s the world’s answer to everything. The world will tell you to “look out for yourself because no one’s going to help you, baby. You’re in this alone.”

Some Christians would go so far as to say the temptation to not rely on anyone else is from Satan because division has always been his goal. And there’s truth in that, too. Satan will wait until you’re weak to suggest that no one – not even God – will be there to help you.

But what if it’s not a school partner or a coworker who isn’t pulling their weight, but your spouse – the one you believe God set aside just for you? Robin Williams once said, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

For some, this isn’t a theological contemplation for meditation; this is a question they need an answer to because they feel very alone right now. And quite scared.

That’s the root of it all right there, isn’t it? Fear. God’s Word reminds us again and again to not fear, do not be afraid or dismayed. As a child of God, our heavenly Father promises that he hears our cries and knows our hearts. He is our Abba Father, our provider. Will he come through when no one else does? Will he show up when the one he chose as your partner fails you and leaves you afraid that he or she won’t do their part to provide for the family?

Satan whispers, “See? I told you you were alone.” He is constantly on the move to see what he can destroy, and if your relationship looks wounded and helpless, you can be certain he’ll attack it. All he needs is an opening, one small opportunity. He only needs us to be weak. Weakened by fear, disillusionment, anxiety, unfulfilled promises, unspoken assurances.

I believe there are warriors out there who are battle-weary and need encouragement. I don’t feel it’s enough to simply say, “God says that you shouldn’t be afraid.” He has said that, several times in fact; but I think it’s naĂŻve to think those who need an encouraging word right now will find it encouraging enough. For some, it would be like slapping a smiley face sticker on your problem and calling it first aid. Some of God’s children have a history of disappointments that have left them feeling hopeless and helpless when things get scary. They expect nothing more more than self-preservation to be their security.

God gave you emotions, and fear was one of them. But it’s not his plan for you to live defeated when you have been designed for battle. And if the best way for Satan to gain a foothold in your life – in your marriage – is for you to be weak, then you need to be strong. Tou can be afraid if you choose, but do it afraid!

God knows you can’t do it alone. He never intended for you to fight in your own power and has made it clear that apart from him, we can do nothing. So pray for the peace, confidence, discernment and courage you need. Then put on the Armor of God and prepare for battle, knowing this:

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“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10 – 17). Then stand firm.

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He is God. He will not fail you!

JUST ONE OF US REGULAR FOLK

For most of my life, I dreaded reading the Bible. It seemed so boring! All those doth sayth’s and verily’s can really get to a person after a while. God always seemed to be smiting some tribe or another.

But at some point in the last year, I had a refreshing perspective of the Bible.

First, I realized that this is a collection of some of the most flawed people you could imagine. The fact is that they were just like us!

Second, I realized that God loved them dearly and used them in mighty ways in spite of, or actually through, their weaknesses. Jonah was kicking and screaming while God used him; but he used him! Abraham and Sarah got ahead of God’s timetable and decided to take things into their own hands and “help” God.

Have you ever felt like that? Like you’re bursting full of God-ordained potential, but you don’t feel like you have a starting place? You’ve been sent on a mission without a road map or a timeline? You don’t know when to start or where to stop. Maybe you think you heard God wrong! You know there’s a big plan for you, but the plans are anywhere from sketchy to questionable.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the patience for that. To me, that’s a whole lot of nothin’ that leaves me standing in the middle of nowhere looking like a confused Minion.

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I want a plan, an Excel spreadsheet, a T-shirt…something! Because if I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, I don’t know if I’m doing it right or not.

But if there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s this: God is as merciful as he is sovereign!

He can take whatever mess we’ve made and still work things to fit His plan because His word never returns void. And it never gets readjusted. He didn’t look at Ishmael and say, “Well, that’s not what I was thinking, but it’ll work.” No. He didn’t listen to Jonah and say, “Fine! Someone else can do it instead.”

So rest assured that if God has planted a seed in you, it will grow to fullness in His time and in His way for His purpose. You might go kicking and screaming. You might try to “help” him. You might even try to get ahead of the game and do the wrong thing. But you cannot make an irredeemable mess of what God has spoken over you.

Just remember who ends up getting the glory here. Oh, God’s going to use you and the talents he’s given you, but the glory will be His. After all, where’s the glory if he lets you do what anyone else can do without his help?