Friday, May 30, 2008

Steady Through The Silence

SILENCE! Nothing but….SILENCE! Ever been there…where you just aren’t hearing from God? Me too.

I’ve been a “funk” of late. Something happened a couple of weeks ago that had more impact on me than I thought. Without going into the details please read this and hear my heart.

When this “something” occurred it set me into a whirlwind of doubts and insecurities, feelings of being overwhelmed. These feelings were screaming at me “I can’t do this. I don’t know where to begin or how to do it. How, will I find the time?”

Being the mature Christian that I am J I did what any mature Christian would do. I prayed or at least I tried but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t….there were no real words coming forth….just silence. Then I remembered that the Holy Spirit who lives inside of me will pray for me when I have no words. Unfortunately, that didn’t help the silence either or what I was feeling. So I was beginning to “feel” that I’m not hearing from God because He isn’t hearing from me.

Feelings….I am great at telling people we cannot live by our feelings but we must live by fact…the bible being our basis of fact. Feelings are like roller coasters, up and down, upside down, twisting and turning and actually causing you to get sick after so many twists and turns upside down. Yes, “feelings” can take you on the same kind of ride and I knew that. But I could not get away from those “feelings.” For the past two weeks or so I have to admit that I didn’t want to work on my bible studies let alone prepare a lesson that I would have to teach. Again, those feelings were now in control. I was in a “full fledged funk” and could not snap out of it. It was so bad that I actually asked a small group of ladies to pray for me which is something I usually don’t do.

While these feelings were overtaking my life I praise God that I have learned enough over the years to be on guard. What I mean by that is that I kept my mind, even if it was half hearted, on the things of God. I would still listen to teaching tapes each night before I would go to sleep, I would work on a bible study, and I prepared a lesson last night even though I did not “feel’ like it. But I knew that I knew, if I did not, God would someday take that privilege away from me….I had to give it my best…whatever that was at the time.

Yesterday, while cutting the grass instead of working on my lesson for today because I didn’t “feel” like it, I felt a temptation come upon me. I knew then that I had to be careful because not only was I living on my feelings through this silence, but now, I was on a slippery slope. I knew I had to remain steady because there was some spiritual battle going on over my life….did you ever know deep down in your spirit that there was a battle over your life? It is hard to explain but I know it was there and it was real… it was a sense of oppression. The good news is I finished cutting the grass and eventually the temptation passed. Praise the Lord!

This morning still in a funk and feeling the heavy silence of my Savior, I continued to read the word and I started working on my Beth Moore study. Finally, the silence was broken. God so spoke to my heart and removed my funk. He restored my soul and has refreshed my spirit. I can’t help but think of how God’s Word tells us if we seek Him with all our heart we will find Him Again, we have to live life by the facts of God’s Word and not our feelings.

During these past few weeks I have to be honest with you….God was speaking…there were times when He gave me what I call my “life verses” or verses that are so meaningful to me, that they bring me to tears. So you see I did get something other than silence during this time but yet these feelings were in control. I just “felt” the silence or what I perceived to be silence…not hearing from God. I was searching for answers but not hearing from the One who had them in the way I wanted. However, the other side of that is…I didn’t know why I kept getting those verses until today. Today He showed me that He has plans for me, just for me and He will bring them to completion. I know that my God is bigger than any circumstance or person and that He can handle whatever overwhelms me.

I write this because so many of you have been surrounded by the silence as I have been. I want to encourage you that even when you don’t “feel” like praying or doing a bible study or reading your bible do it anyway. We cannot see what is going on in the spiritual realm. If we allow the silence to send us away from our Savior, you can bet that a slippery slope is in the close distance. Peter followed Jesus at a close distance in John 19 and what happened….he walked right into the enemy’s camp. While he was there, he first stood by the fire warming himself. In the other Gospels we read that Peter then sat warming himself by the fire. It didn’t take long for him to make himself comfortable in the enemy’s camp. Following at a distance whether close or far, can only mean a slippery slope awaits and it will bring you right into the enemy’s camp. Walk steady through the silence because even though we may not hear Him, our Savior is near and He is walking with you. And yes, He does speak through the silence. AMEN!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Amazing Freedom found in the Infinite Grace of God!

Amazing Freedom found in the Infinite Grace of God!

This past weekend I attended with Women of Faith Conference here in Jacksonville. The theme this year was “Infinite Grace.”

As I thought about “Infinite Grace” I wondered how many women will attend that conference without really giving much thought to what those words really mean. So, I asked myself and then others “have you given any thought about the theme and what those words “Infinite Grace” mean?

After pondering those words I set off to do a search on the Internet. Here’s what I came up with.

Infinite means never ending, boundless, limitless, immeasurable.

Grace has many definitions. One is what God does for us, to us, in us, and through us. It is unmerited favor or getting something you don’t deserve. I loved this one that stated, “although there are many definitions there is one common thread that runs through them all….you can say that grace is the activity of God motivated by His love accepted by the receiver through faith.”

It is in this Infinite Grace that we can find our freedom….freedom from those things that keep us in bondage….freedom from past hurts, freedom from our shame, freedom from anything that keep us from being all God wants us to be. In other words, it’s all about finding freedom from a broken past. Freedom is ours in Christ.

Freedom is ours for the asking but the question is do you want it? What do I mean by that…do you want it?

I can’t help but think of times in my own life (sometimes even still today) where I know that something in me isn’t quite right….I’m not where I’m supposed to be spiritually; I’m not growing in the things of God, I’m kind of just going through the motions. Or it can be something that isn’t necessarily wrong but I have to ask myself should I be doing it? It can even be something like an insecurity or something shameful that is deeply hidden within me, something that I thought I dealt with a long time ago….or something that is revealed and you realize that you’ve never dealt with it. I do understand that the Lord is revealing these things to me because He wants me to deal with them. He wants me to be free so that I can live the life He purposed for me before I was even born. A life that is to be used for His glory has to be a life that is free.

But the question is “Do I want the Amazing Freedom that is found in the Infinite Grace of God? If I were to be perfectly honest I would have to say that sometimes the answer is “I do, but” or ‘no.” Why? Because it may be too painful to bring up some old and shameful memories; maybe it’s because I thought that I was way beyond forgiveness. Or it can be just too hard; I’m handling life quite well…I’ve gotten myself into a nice comfort zone; there’s no sense in bringing up my sinful past. I’m quite content here. Let sleeping dogs lie as they say. I wonder if I’m the only one who thinks that way or if there are others who do as well?

I know about hurts, shame, sin and insecurities. And, I also know about the Amazing Freedom that is found in God’s Infinite Grace. I too have been through the valleys and felt the pain of the reason as to why I was there with every step. It is with each step though that I got closer and closer to freedom, to the freedom that the Lord so desires for me. Sometimes it was a quick journey and yet others took what it seemed like forever. One thing they had in common though was in the end I found God’s “Amazing Freedom.”

I’ve found freedom on more than one occasion, and yet I know that there are more things to be dealt with and more steps to take. I’m planning on choosing freedom over bondage and I hope you will too. I hope that you will choose to walk your road to freedom by holding onto the Hand that will lead you by and through His Infinite Grace. No matter how long our walks to freedom are remember God’s Infinite Grace is never ending. It knows no boundaries and should we take a wrong turn and let go of His Hand….just reach up and grab hold of it again….but this time hold on a little tighter and a little longer…you’ll get through and be free at last.

In our Sunday morning class we just finished an in depth study on the Samaritan woman. She had many of the same issues we have today….shame, sin, self. In the heat of the day Jesus met with her and conversed with her. And through this conversation this woman came to the place of finding the freedom I’m sure she longed for. She found freedom from self which included her personal limitations and human weaknesses as well as her sinful lifestyle. She gained freedom from the racial barriers that were so prevalent back then. And she gained freedom from a sinful lifestyle that included immoral behavior, adulterous relationships and a freedom from her unbelief in Jesus as the Messiah. By the end of the conversation she knew beyond a shadow of doubt that He was the Messiah and that freedom was now hers.

The Samaritan woman is just one example of a person finding freedom. There are many examples of freedom and restoration in the bible. Take the time to read the Scriptures and allow God Himself through His Word to speak to the depths of your spirit. Allow Him to minister to you as He ever so gently reveals those things He wants to release you from, in order for you to experience His Amazing Freedom.

I pray for each person who will read this blog, that we will sit at the feet of Jesus daily….that we will come to a new understanding of just how much He really loves us. I pray that God’s Great Grace will pour down from heaven bringing you to a new understanding of who He is, and the grace He so desires to lavish on you.

I’d like to share this last comment with you in which I use three of the Women of Faith themes from 2007, 2008 and 2009. It goes like this:

When “Amazing Freedom” is found in the “Infinite Grace” of God it is for sure “A Grand New Day.” AMEN!

Let me know how you are doing on your road to freedom.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Venturing Through The Valleys

A valley is not exactly where one prefers to be. Most people would much rather be up on that mountaintop. But yet we read in Psalm 23:4 “though I walk through the “valley” of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

The Good Shepherd will never lead us where He doesn’t want us to be. He knows exactly where the green pastures are but sometimes He takes us into the valley before we reach them. Why? Why are the valley experiences a must for each believer? Because it’s in the valley that we grow spiritually. It is in the valley that we realize how much we need our Good Shepherd and how lost we would be without Him.

Notice that David says he walks “through” the valley. He does not go half way through and then decide to turn around. He doesn't just stop there. No, he goes through. David knows that the only way to come out of the valley is by going through it. There’s no other way.

And, the Shepherd doesn’t lead His sheep only so far and then just leaves them stranded there. He doesn’t say “okay my little sheep” I’ve led you through this far now you’re on your own. I’m outta here! No, He leads them “through” until we are all the way out. He’s with us every step of the way gently leading and guiding us to the green pastures that await us.

Another key is this Psalm is the word “walk.” It doesn’t say to hurry or to run through the valley. It says David walked. What’s the importance of walking? If we hurry through we’ll never get the full understanding of what the Good Shepherd wants us to learn while in our own personal valley. Hurry is a great enemy of our spiritual well being. It will distract us and cause us to fall off the path that leads to the mountaintop. Think about Jesus….even when He was in the most difficult of circumstances He never hurried through them. He remained obedient to the will of His Father and His Father’s timing for each circumstance. May we follow Jesus’ example and not hurry our valley experience but rely on our Shepherd to bring us through according to His perfect timing. Don’t be so frantic to get out of the valley that you miss the significance of why you are there.

Each valley is different for each person. And though we may cry out to God, “Get me out of here, I’ve had enough, I can’t take it anymore”. Or we might say something like, “How much longer Lord, how much more of this? I want to be on that mountaintop NOW!” We want God to say “yes” quickly, we want so badly to arrive on the mountaintop. But God says “no” not yet my daughter. Not yet! There’s a “yes” that awaits you outside this valley, but if you get out of your valley too soon, you’ll never experience the true freedom and deliverance that awaits you. Our Shepherd calls us and says, “Come my daughter let’s continue our walk, follow me. And even though it may be hard, remember that goodness and mercy are right behind you all the days of your life. Yes, even here in the valley, particularly in the valley.

As we go through our daily lives we are told in Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

While we are in the valley we are to “ask” the Good Shepherd to lead us and to show us what our next step should be. We are then to “seek” His answer. In other words, He’s shown us what steps to take, now keep “walking,” keep moving forward in search of His answer. Don’t stay where you are in the valley or you’ll never get through. Knock implies to be persistent – keep moving forward, keep searching until you find His answer. It is then that you will get through your valley and arrive at your mountaintop.

The decision is ours. Will we be like the Israelites who wandered for 40 years or will we follow the leading of the Good Shepherd?

I pray for each one of you who may be in their own valley right now. May you find God’s strength to continue your journey upwards to your mountaintop. May you find His comfort along the way knowing that He’ll never lead you to a place where He doesn’t want you to be. May this Venture Through The Valley bring you to a greener pasture refreshed and restored with a renewed love for the Shepherd who laid down His life for you.