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We are promised victory through God. That’s what the bible says, right? In 1 John 5:4. So why is it that we lose so many blasted battles? If Christ has overcome the world, why does it seem like the world overcomes us?

Maybe I am the only believer on the face of the earth who experiences this problem. I try to do well, read my Bible, keep my faith in God, walk in His love, blah, blah, blah. In return, aren’t I promised some victory? So where is it?

Often is seems like every time I do something good, I am battered by the bad. Every time I overcome a challenge, I am beat to a pulp by the next. Every time I climb higher, I fall harder.

You see, I may never have battled drugs, or gangs, or alcohol…I can’t tell you about all that. But my testimony is quite fat with other stuff. I can talk to you about any type of harrassment. I know all about watching everything I own go up in flames. Abusive relationships? Been there. Done that. Watching loved ones struggle to survive? Yup. Got more bills than money? That’s easy compared to the rest. Addictions so strong it took years to gain victory over? Yeah. Self-hatred so deep it resulted in self-abuse? Oh, yup. Pain so overwhelming I attempted suicide? Phew…that one’s a lonnngggg testimony. Suicidal by the age of ten…oh yeah. Homeless? Several times. Moving way, WAY more than is healthy? Yes. Yes. And yes. Disease and sickness? Blah. Definitely got that covered. All this in 22 years of life.

Yeah, I think that’s about the bare essentials.

So in all that and WAY more (let me tell you), don’t you think I know what it means to have lost some battles? Too be in way over my head? To despair and feel like God has abandoned me? Yes. I’ve had experiences that I wouldn’t wish on Satan himself.

I. Do. Not. Exaggerate.

I have lost more battles than I would like to admit. I have received pain and given pain that I wish never occurred. I have watched loved ones detioriate before my very eyes. And I learned far too early how to be an adult.

But you know what? I know what it means to lose. But I know even more what it means to win. I understand the concept of victory. I’ve experienced it all my life. Just like I have experienced loss all of my life. For if you do not suffer, how can you know what it means to rejoice? If you don’t know pain, how can you offer empathy to another? I know what’s it’s like to feel forsaken, but never BE forsaken.

You see, the bible doesn’t promise us victory over every battle. Because that would be an empty promise. It simply does not happen. Not for us. But it does promise us victory over the ultamite war. For right now, we may shake our fists at Satan and scream, kick, and cry out; “You, you, JERK!”

But in the end, we shall reign with Christ and Satan shall feel the eternal lick of hell’s fire.

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Take your weakness,
And make it glory,
Glory, I say, in infirmity,
For weakness breeds
Strength.

Take the sorrow,
And make it worthwhile,
Make it, I say, worth your tears,
For sorrow breeds
Experience.

Take all obstacles,
And make it pathetic,
Pathetic, I say, in your eyes,
For obstacles breed
Confidence.

Take every wound,
And make it your testimony,
Testify, I say, of your pain,
For wounds breed
Sympathy.

Take your weakness,
And make it strength.
Take your sorrow,
And build experience.
Take your obstacles,
And learn confidence.
Take your wounds,
And extend sympathy.

Take life,
And GROW.

Today I want to talk about hope. Hope is defined as a feeling that what’s is wanted will occur or be had, and/or that events will turn out for the best. My Apostle taught on this last Sunday and it struck me as interesting because I don’t think that Christians ever intentionally place their hope in anything besides God. But the fact is, we often do. I know I do, anyway.

For example, we really want to buy a new car and we are really hoping that our job will give us the raise that we are way-too-far-past-due so that we can buy it. Is our hope in God or our job? Well, our job, let’s be honest. We are not trusting that God will give us the car no matter what happens with the job, we are trusting the job to give us the raise so WE can buy the car. In other words, God’s not moving fast enough so let’s just help Him along, shall we?

I’ll use another example from my personal history. I recently seperated from the Navy. Unfortunately, I did not handle ship deployments with…uh…grace, shall we say? So after a three month deployment, I swore up, down, and all around, NEVER AGAIN. I wanted out, these people are crazy, these deployments are crazy, the Navy is CRAZY. OUT. OUT. OUT. So I put in a request for early seperation. I was really hoping it would go through. The Navy is downsizing, so no prob right? Right? Oh so very wrong.

There was problem, after problem, after problem, after a REDICULOUS amount of problems. And the result? I became extremely discouraged, angry, and deppressed. You see, because I placed my hope in a decision that the Navy would make, I didn’t place it in the hands of God. And let me tell you, God’s hands are the only ones that are sure and safe. So because He wasn’t the current carrier of my hope, I lost it. They threw my request back in my face and I lost my hope. I lost my joy. I lost my motivation.

And when God showed me the error of my ways in His kind and gentle manner, I placed my hope in Him. And in His timing, though His process, I was given my seperation. And there were many times it seemed like He was not moving AT ALL, but I had to keep trusting in Him because I knew He was faithful and He was the only One I could trust with my hope.

This, brothers and sisters, is a continual life process. Though God sent me through a…kinda extreme, in my opinion…circumstance in order to learn this lesson, it is a lesson learned through the process of trial and error. One cannot sit with me and tell me they do not have struggles with hope (unless they are extremely spiritually mature and bordering somewhere on perfection.) Anyway, we do, all the time. I have had plenty before the Navy one, and plenty since. Each time I learn, I get better, I trust God more, but I must always be proactive in my own thinking. I must always be aware of just where it is I have placed my hope, because it is so easilly misplaced.

You see, the Christian walk is a walk of hope and a walk of faith. But it is not a walk of perfection. That’s a lie. The was Christ’s walk because, and only because, we couldn’t get ours right. So embrace Christ’s walk but don’t expect it to be your own. We are flawed, flawed creatures redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We place our joy, trust, hope, faith, love, etc on every breeze of the wind and then throw tantrums when the wind switches to an unexpected direction. But that is that nature of wind, is it not? But God’s hand is steady. It is solid. Perfect. Safe. And that’s where our hope belongs, no matter how many times we have to re-place it there.

Do we know that the extent of our love equals the extent of our commitment? For if we do not love, how then can we be devoted? And if we are not devoted, where comes the commitment? So I ask, if we do not truly love God, then can we be surprised when we struggle with committing to Him? Most likely, it’d be more a battle than we would like.

You see, I believe that the trouble with commitment has more to do with our awareness of God than our actual willpower. What do I mean by awareness? I mean, if we know God as a distant, unforgiving God whom we are not sure we can trust, then we will struggle with committing to Him. However, if we know God, truly know God, as a savior, a friend, a provider, a healer, a deliverer, a redeemer, then our admiration of Him will skyrocket. Our adoration of Him will grow. And our love for Him has no choice but to follow in tow.

Our commitment to Him will rise.

In my experience, I have found five different types of God-followers in this world:

  •          The Forgiven –the ones who have been forgiven of such a depth of sin that their devotion to their Forgiver is quite substantial.
  •          The Delivered –those whom God has healed from such a world of pain (emotional, physical, mental) that they can’t stop singing His praises.
  •          The Dedicated – they live a sound and content life, find God to be faithful through the normal life trials, and they are willing to stand by Him because He has proven Himself faithful.
  •          The Luke-warm – they who have found God to be a pretty cool dude and they are willing to put up a good face for the salvation of their souls.
  •          The Backslider – the ones who once followed God with passion but for whatever reason, they have turned their backs on His tender mercy but are not truly content with their decision to leave Him.

 

The first two tend to be real hot in their love-walk. Why? Because their awareness of God is hot. They know Him in an intensely personal, appliceable way and He has become important to them. The dedicated do know God on a personal level, they love Him, and are dedicated to Him. But though their passion is hot, it’s not always as fiery as the Forgiven and Delivered tend to be. The luke-warm followers are weak in their love-walk. They don’t know God personally enough to really develop passion for His ways. And the backslider is one who harbored misconceptions of God, and when life took a turn those misconceptions failed to sustain their committmet to Him.

So if we find ourselves among luke-warm or backsider status but we don’t want to stay there, what do we do? Look at the last paragraph and see if you see a pattern. The more God is able to prove Himself to His people, the more dedicated those people become. Why? Because with every answered prayer, every provision, deliverance, healing, etc, God is revealing Himself to His people. And as He reveals Himself, we see more and more of just how awesome He is. And the more we see, the more impressed we become, the more devoted we become, the more love we extend, and the more committed we grow.

In other words, the first step to grow in commitment to God is to decide to become more committed. And when we bring that desire into our prayer life, God begins to open our eyes to His glory.

Love Amid the Ashes

Back Cover Blurb

When her beloved grandfather Isaac dies, Dinah must follow his final command: travel to Job’s household to marry his son. After Job’s world comes crashing down, Dinah finds herself drawn to this great man brought low. What will she risk to fight for his survival?

My Review

Author Mesu Andrews weaves a heartrending story of two lives; Dinah, daughter of Jacob, and Job, wealthy servant of the Most High. I was originally drawn to this book because of it’s unique take on the two character’s stories. Who would think to introduce the shamed Dinah to the prestigious but soon-to-be-shattered Job? But Author Andrew does, and she does it skillfully.

The reader can tell that Andrews did her homework on the detail she places into her character’s environment; anything ranging from specific geography to the way they prepared food in biblical times. And the story itself is very gripping. The reader can feel Job’s pain and is sorrowed by Dinah’s reputation. I wanted to cheer for them when they overcame obstacles and hug and cry with them when their pain is deepened. In fact, I was so entranced with their lives that I didn’t want to return to my own.

Excellent storytelling aside, there was a few technicalities that bugged me. The characters seemed to lack much depth. I understood their concerns and joys, but I didn’t feel like I really got a glimpse at their individuality. They weren’t very unique beside the individuality of their stories. I did, however, see a decent character arc in which they matured and grew throughout the story.

That said, the writing was a tad bit dramatic. The author used certain wording and exclamations that was meant to convey emotion but succeeded mostly in making her characters seem melodramatic at times. And though this made me raise a brow a few times, it was easy to ignore for the interest of the story itself.

Overall, I say bravo for a gripping tale full of love, redemption, and hope.

I give Love Amid the Ashes 4 out of 5 stars.

   
5 These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, 10 nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
(Matthew 10:5-10, New King James Version)

Thus says the Lord,

“If, I, being perfect and well-knowledged in what my children are able and capable of, therefore do command them to go out and spread the kingdom of God, why are my children held back by fear? Where is their faith? If I have given the gift of preaching my Word, why do the people say I can’t preach? And if I, the source of all power and authority, do say to my children, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, why is it that the children of God carry more fear of the demonic than the demonic have of them? Why is it that the lepers go uncleansed because the people have no faith in My desire to rid them of their infirmity? Why is it that the sick do perish, when the prayer of faith would have healed their bodies?

“And yet I am the One at fault? I am the One who does not heal? I am the One responsible for the trials of man? Let Me tell My children this; I send no battle without first arming My children with weapons, I loose no flood without first teaching My children to swim, and I pass no command without first ensuring my children are well able to fulfill it.

“My desire is not for death and destruction, oh little children, but for peace, love, and harmony. And if destruction is not my will, why then, when presumptuous man does see it, do they point to Me before they even consider theirselves, their own race? Am I guilty of the flaws of man? Am I guilty of the murders, thefts, and rapes of man? Am I guilty of the negligence of man to their own planet? Am I guilty of their sins and shortcomings? No. I tell you. I am guilty of none of these. So why then do I bear the brunt of the blame?

“Tell Me, dearest child who holds all knowledge, did I force the finger that squeezed the trigger of the gun that killed an innocent man? Tell Me, for I am curious to know, did I spread the chemicals that are killing your planet? Did I use the resources that are weighing heavilly on your economy? Did I force the alcohol down the throat of the drunk-driver that crippled a child? Did I construct the building that toppled upon it’s workers? Did I force the leaders to begin any of their wars? Did I neglect the campfire that burned down forest and homes?

“No. No. I am gulty of none of these things. So why do I bear the blame?

“And when I came to the earth with a message of repentence, did I begin a war that consumed the lives of thousands? Or did I feed thousands, and heal thousands, and spread hope to thousands? And when I was raised upon a tree, was it because I committed transgression or because I gave my life for the transgressions of others? And when I commanded my disciples to follow in my footsteps, did I tell them to kill, steal, and destroy? Or did I send them with the message and spiritual tools of life?

“So why then do I bear the accusation of death?

“There is more to this world than meets the eye, My children. Therefore is it not wiser to walk in the ways of perfection rather than throw blame toward perfection?”

Can God pay my mortgage when the bank is empty, the wallet is pouting, and the kids are hungry?

Impossible.

Can God heal my body when my back is malfunctioning, my stomach is rolling, and my head is breaking?

Impossible.

Can God sustain my car when gas is on empty, the oil is dirty, and the brakes are squeeling?

Impossible.

Can God feed five thousand men with women who are fainting and children who are whimpering?

Impossible.

Can God divide the seas that dry land appear and a nation goes free?

Impossible.

Can God speak a word and clouds drift away, waves lose momentum, and wind forgets its way?

Impossible.

Can God free a spirit bound by adultery, burdened by murder, ravished by nightmares?

Impossible.

Can God endure beating, lashing, rebukes, yelling, hatred, reviling, nails and thorns all without a word?

Impossible.

Can God fill a church with souls in need of salvation with only a pastor and a few devoted saints?

Impossible.

Can God love a people who rape, hate, steal, kill, fornicate, defile; all in Satan’s name?

Impossible.

Can God feed the homeless of an entire city with only two souls committed to their cause?

Impossible.

Can God renew a nation that detests His ways while claiming His name?

Impossible.

Can God breathe a garden, a world, and universe, time, and space with willpower and word?

Impossible.

Can God save a husband, wife, child, or friend from a prodigal state, a broken path, and unstable ways?

Impossible.

Can God heal a world ravished by hurricanes, abused by earthquakes, and corrupted by pollution?

Impossible.

Can God make a way when the circumstances speak impossible.

Darn straight.

Lord! My boss is acting crazy. My coworkers are out to get me. The bills are piling up. And blast it! I’m sick of my brother’s uncle’s cousin’s sister’s adopted daughter always giving me a hard time! I’m going to kill her. You understand me, Big Guy? Huh? I’m going to blow up the whole flippin’ earth if something doesn’t start going right within the next two minutes. Starting now. Starting right now! Argggh!!

Am I the only who might occasionally…sometimes…feel this way…maybe more than sometimes…

*Cough*

Look. Let’s be real. Life sucks sometimes. K? If you wanna read this and pretend like life is skippin’ through the tulips on a bright sunny day and you never knew the meaning of rain clouds…well, this blog ain’t for you. My recommendation: go check out that good ol’ www.stoplyingtoyourself.com. I hear it’s all the rave right now.

But for the rest of us normal Christians, well. Time for tough love. Ready? Can you take it? If you can’t, then check out www.youneedprayer.com.

Listen. We are in the school of life and God is our teacher. In school, what do we receive at the completion of certain lessons? Tests. Guess what? Today we are in a season of testing.

Test #1 – The Love Test – God wants to know if our love for Him is the number one love in our life. The Word says that whoever puts someone before God, is not worthy of Him. The bible says it. Not me. The bible – which is only, like, the foundational standard of our faith but…yeah. I’m just sayin’…

Test #2 – The Giving Test – When the bills are tight and we are running on the dreaded unemployment that pays us just enough to cover an occasional water bill, what will we do when God says, hey, bless your sister with two of those three twenty dollar bills left in your wallet? And you think, hey, Lord, Mister Know-It-All up there, I’ve got four mouths to feed. I’ve yet to go grocery shopping. My gas tank is near empty. And you want me to do what? (I’ll be honest, I would not want to be in that situation…I may not be obedient.) But it’s important to understand that God is not testing our desire to give (well, if you’re real stingy, He might be,) but He’s testing our faith in His unfailing provision.

Test #3 – The Forgiveness Test – This one is key to reaching that next spiritual level. And if you’ve been following this blog at all, you know this is a sore point for me. Can we forgive someone who’s hurt us real bad? Now, don’t get all huffy on me, but if you can read this and say, yeah, no prob. What’s the big deal? Jesus forgave us, we forgive the world. Life is good. Running through the tulips, etc. Ahem. If you can say that lightly you have probably not been hurt to the point that I’m talking about. And that’s great. Good livin’ for you. But for others, they know what I’m talking about and yes, I’m still saying God wants to know if we are willing to forgive.

So what’s the bottom line? God’s tests hurt. Sometimes they really, really sting. Sometimes, they straight-up just suck. Sometimes, we know that the situation is just God doing His thing, but we feel like, man, do you have to darn near kill me in the process? I mean, if somebody had told me about seven months ago, hey, honey, this is just God trying to clean you up real good, I probably would have punched them in the face. Just saying. Now, I’ve never punched anybody. But a comment like that would have sorely tempted me at that moment in time…in fact, I think it might just still tempt me… Just pray for me, alright? Pray!!!

But here’s the good news. God’s invested in us. Can I say that again? God is invested in us. He has signed His name on the book of our lives and sealed it with the blood of Jesus. Now that’s an expensive seal, let me tell you. And nobody throws away an expensive anything just for kicks and giggles. So here’s the cool part. God sends us in the fire to withdraw us as pure gold. He scrubs our flesh until we’re kicking and screaming. And then? Well, He does the whole process over again! It’s aggravating! But anyway, even though He does all this, He is extremely careful not to burn us in the progression of it all.

One might say, hey! Wait a minute. You stick somebody in a flippin’ fire, they’re going to flippin’ burn. One plus one does equal two! Ever stuck your fingers on a hot stove? Duh! Burned, didn’t it? Duh! So don’t be telling me about…*continues screaming in the background* Alright. Let’s put it another way. When we cook food on the stove, we cook it until it’s, well, cooked, right? Do we cook it until it’s good or until it’s burned? Is there a difference? Why, so glad you asked. There is a difference! Guess what? Burned food don’t taste good. God don’t want burned kids. He wants cooked kids, get it?

So God sends us through these nasty tests that feel like they’re burning us to high heaven even though they’re just cooking us up until we’re nice and tasty so He can eat us up (just kidding). But if you remember anything through all my bumbling, remember that in the midst of it all, God is right there with us, carrying us, keeping us, and helping us pass the tests. Remember, He’s invested in our success.

Come, take a breath, little angel,
Breath in, breath out, release your pain.
I know that life has been difficult.
I know the world twists your shame,
As though you are an unspeaking object,
To be thrown about, rejected, abused.
But I say you have worth, little angel.
I say you are special in this world.
I know that you do not believe that.
I know they have spoken lies to your soul.
But don’t worry about that.
Reject what they say.
You are worthy.
You are worth it.
You are loved.
It’s gonna be okay.

Come, take a breath, little angel,
Breath in, breath out, you’re redeemed.
Don’t let the devil say unspeakable things.
Close your ear to the envies of man.
You are beautiful, little angel.
Did you know that?
You are treasured, little angel.
Have they told you that?
There’s a Father who loves you.
A Savior who died for you.
A Spirit who desires to comfort you.
You are loved.
Did you know that?
You are loved by the King of creation.
You are loved by the Redeemer of man.
You are loved by me.
You are loved by God.
You must now learn,
To love yourself.

Come, take a breath, little angel,
Breath in, breath out, step forward.
It is time to dream again.

A short time ago, my coworker was going through myspace and he pulled up a picture of my old ship captain and showed it to me. Now, not that I am one to purposefully hold a grievance. No. I’m a pretty easy forgiver. But there are certain incidents that are hard even for me to recover from enough to forgive.

This captain caused me a great deal of grief and hurt. Not that I believe he consciously desired to hurt me. But human nature being what it is, well, he did. His actions, along with a few others, drove me to a mental state of such despair that I feared I would never recover. I almost killed myself over this incident. And I would not wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy.

So when my coworker innocently showed me a picture of a man I haven’t even seen for over seven months…I had to look away. I couldn’t look at him. I could feel dark emotions beginning to churn within me and in order to keep them from suddenly arising and drowning me in anger, I turned away.

I thought I had forgiven him. And perhaps consciously I had. But my reaction to that picture told me that there was still a very bitter grudge beneath the surface of my emotions. And I didn’t know how to make it go away.

Listen, brothers and sisters. It’s real cute when we say offences come but it’s our choice to receive them. But it’s not reality. Many offences will punch you beneath the belt whether you gave them permission to or not. And guess what? It’s going to hurt whether you pretend it does or not. So what am I saying? We are going to battle with forgiveness whether we admit we do or pretend we don‘t.

I would love to meet the soul who can walk through this life and never hold a single grudge. Oh wait, that was Jesus. Haha. I am going to meet Him one day. J

The wonderful thing about this is that at our weakest, God is strongest. You see, it is one thing for us to not walk in forgiveness and have no desire whatsoever to do so, and a total different thing for us desire to forgive but really struggle with the execution. In the first situation, God is able to help us. But it’s in the latter that He is fully glorified.

As long as we desire to forgive, our Heavenly Father will take us through a heart process. This is where He rolls up His sleeves, gets down and dirty with our dirt and our hurt, and begins to spread healing through our souls. And as He heals, He coaxes us ever closer toward our goal of forgiving the instigator of our pain. Even if that instigator is ourselves.

So be encouraged. If you are in a hot spot like me where you want to forgive but are finding it just a tad bit out of your reach, just keep walking with God. He will guide our footsteps until we are finally at that place of grudge-free peace. And He will love us through every step of the way.