Monday, August 31, 2015

Through the Fire, Heroes Emerge

Heroes. We all have them. Who are your heroes?

Hero by definition is someone of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities.

Here's my short list of Hall of Heroes:
     Corrie ten Boom
     Richard Wurmbrand
     George Muller
     John Bunyan
     Abraham Lincoln
     C.S. Lewis
     Martin Luther
And from the bible:
     Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
     Joseph (the one with the awesome coat and slew of brothers)
     Queen Esther
     and the prophet, Elijah
I can not help but be moved by the way these people lived and died. One of the common factors in EVERY single person on my list is they endured hardships courageously and stood strong. This is what inspires me about each of them. They trusted God in extraordinary ways.

What makes some people come through hardship with so much grace? In my studies over the past years, I'd say it always, always comes back to the way they view God and are able to trust him completely. It's not because they were great, in and of themselves. It's because of the One in whom they trusted, was great! Hardship and Heroes. They seem to go hand in hand.

Even as a young girl, when I'd read the accounts of my heroes, it didn't stop with admiration. I found myself wanting to be like them. Funny, isn't it, how we want what they have, but not the trials they went through? What if I truly believed that everything in my life passed through the hand of God, for a purpose, for good. Be sure you hear this though: it's not that everything is good. The death of a loved one, cancer, wars... they're horrible! But what if I believed that God wouldn't allow anything into my life that he didn't choose. If this is true, the verse, "If God is for us, who can be against us," is much more powerful than I'd ever believed before! (Rom. 8:31)

Remember Job? Let's look at him for a moment while we ponder this thought.

     The story begins with the angels presenting themselves to God, "and Satan came along, also".  So the Lord says, "Where have you been?" to which Satan replies, "Roaming the earth." Observe carefully now because it's the LORD who begins by saying, "Have you considered my servant Job?" He proceeds to brag him up a bit. Satan retorts, "Job doesn't have to fear because you've protected him. But if YOU stretch out YOUR hand and strike everything he has, he will surely curse YOU to your face." God tells Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself, you won't lay a finger." 

God was going to use Satan for his own purposes in Job's life. Hard to understand, but keep reading.

     All within a day's time, Job lost his herd of livestock, and some servants were killed by enemies; fire came from the sky and burned up his flocks of sheep and more servants died; the Chaldeans took his camels, killed more servants; and his sons and daughters died when a wind blew the house over on them and killed them! Job's response is this:
          "Naked I was born, naked I will leave. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.  May the name of the Lord be praised."

     Job's story continues with him being struck with painful sores from bottom to top of his body. His wife then says, "Curse God and die!" And Job responds with, "Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?" His sufferings were great. Then to top it off, his friends show up to say the LORD is doing this because Job must be at fault for something. Surely the LORD would do something to rescue him if he were in fact pure and upright. Again, Job had a rebuttal, "Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him."
     Finally, in chapter 38 the Lord speaks. He never answers a single "why" question. He only answers with WHO he is.  At the end of Job's biography we see that it's the LORD who blessed the latter part of Job's life even more than the first. He gave him twice what he'd owned before. And Job's extended family "consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him" .  He eventually had 7 more sons and 3 more daughters. He died, old and full of years, we're told.

     It's easy to read this story as "Poor Job. Passive God. Aggressive Devil." But there is no where throughout the entire story that GOD is not seen as the one in charge of all that's allowed into Job's life. Satan said, "YOU protect him.  YOU should stretch out your hand and touch him." The wife says, "Curse GOD!" Job says, "Though YOU slay me, I will praise you still." 

You may be saying, "I don't want a God like that!" Yes. Yes, we do. Would we rather that God is just a passive God who allows outside, purposeless forces or a powerful Devil to rule our lives? That we sit at the mercy of some cosmic chaos with no direction?  He is a holy God with the power to do exactly what's needed in our lives to refine us. How different would I endure hardship if I saw that it all comes through my loving Heavenly Father's hands? 

Though God is able to rescue from the fire, he often doesn't. But he ALWAYS goes through it with us. Oh! There is so much I wish I could type to convey what is tugging at my heart about this but I'm going to leave this blog with a few scripture references to complete this thought. I hope you'll take the time to read them.

Before moving on in my blog about freedom and peace, trust and rest, I HAD to lay this foundational stone to stack my other thoughts on. I'm compelled to believe that He is the "author and perfecter of my faith." And I've heard it said that we are either coming out of a crisis, in the middle of a crisis, or headed into a crisis. I don't want to be caught off guard. I hope to be firmly planted on the Rock, like so many of my heroes who have gone before and shown me what it looks like to trust in Him.

Incredible verses and stories about faith in adversity:
     Daniel 3
     Hebrews 12
     1 Peter 4:12-13
     James 1:1-16


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

There's Good News and Bad News

What does real transformation look like? We try all sorts of things to get results in our lives. We desire change for the better but keep sliding back into old habits. There's even a slick little quote floating around stating "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Is it dumb luck that some people get results? Are some people just doomed by fate to a life of misery? Why are we so apt to keep doing the same things even though we hate it? 

The answer: Human Nature (a.k.a. our flesh) This is why alcoholics fall off the wagon; why mothers who've vowed never to yell at their kids again, do. Abusers continue to beat, thieves steal, addicts get numbed one more time, procrastinators will get results...tomorrow, eating disorders destroy bodies, liars fib, and sinners sin. How do we NOT walk in our flesh when it's our nature to do so? 

Now, I hope you're not feeling bleak at this point. Keep reading. But in order to get to the good news, we've got to look at the bad news first. When we typically look for a solution for our "bad habits" we either:
     1.) Try and stop doing something - OVERCOME
                 or we

     2.) Try and start doing something - PERFORM

Both solutions have a dismal long term success rate. Why? Because they are both based on self-effort and works and not faith. We really have no power to overcome or perform our way out of this state. Now, some of you may be thinking, "I am strong. I've beat my issues. How dare you judge me!" Hold on. I'm not saying you may not have times when you've managed them better than others but let me ask you this: When the fires of life show up and the pressure is on, you're pressed from all sides and your negative emotions begin to swell, will you want to return to your old habits? Will your eyes long to find porn, your mouth water for a taste of alcohol? Will your anger build walls and throw bricks? Will you do everything in your power to control the situation or will you just shut down completely and check out? If you're a Christ-follower, you've heard that we are to walk in the Spirit and walk by faith, not by sight. How? And where is this peace that God says we'll find in Him anyway?

Here's the good news; It's there. Just as he says... it's found in Him.
     "Don't be anxious about anything... the peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Jesus."
     "May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times, in every way."
     "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." ***

Peace doesn't come from trying to feel peace, from overcoming your pain or outperforming your old habits. Peace is a product of the Spirit, the Fruit of the Spirit, in fact. So, here's a question to ask yourself? If I'm not experiencing this peace he's offered, WHY? Could it be because you're not truly trusting him? Does it feel true that "I can be worry-free and have complete peace in ALL circumstances?" The reason I ask if it FEELS true is because our feelings stem out of what we believe. If it doesn't feel true, (not is it true, because we know it is because his Word tells us so!) then ask him, "Lord, what do you want me to know about this?" Seek him and trust that he will answer you.

Let me finish up today's thoughts with the complete verses from Philippians.
     "Don't be anxious about anything, BUT in everything, BY PRAYER AND PETITION, with thanksgiving, PRESENT YOUR REQUESTS to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4

*** Philippians 4:6-7, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, Isaiah 26:3 Check these out in your bible today and ask God, "Is this true?"

Monday, August 24, 2015

When We Don't Know What To Do, We Do "Something"

Have you ever been in one of those awkward situations where you didn't know what to say, so you just said "something" and then regretted it? Me, too. Or you had a time you strongly overreacted and later wondered, "Why did that upset me so much?" Mm hmm.

I believe people live out of default settings; things we believe and don't even realize it. Maybe you've had a moment like this in your life: Your husband comes home after work and casually asks, "What did you do today?" (Cue music that reveals danger is near. Very near!)
     "What do you mean, 'what did I do today'? Do you think I sit around here all day doing nothing?" Surprised, your husband's eyes widen as your head starts spinning and glass starts shattering (figuratively speaking, of course.)

So, what just happened here? Why the explosion from a perfectly routine question? I believe it's because there's a deep seeded lie that's playing in the heart unknowingly and the question just brought it to the surface, pushed on it, and revealed itself.

This has happened millions of times on earth. It's happened a hundred times just in my own home! Fortunately, I had a friend who knew how to help me with my "issue".  She said, "You've got a lot of lies going on in your head!" For years, I lived with a Committee of Voices silently shouting at me and I didn't realize that my reactions were often just manifestations of carefully disguised lies. My "you are worthless" lie would rear it's ugly head. I'd react and lash out at the ones I loved, much like the story at the beginning.

You can not believe the truth and a lie at the same time!

The bible calls this being double-minded (Jam. 1:8) I may say I believe something, but my actions are going to prove whether or not I really do. Here's an example:
     I can say,"I believe the Lord will supply all my needs." That's a biblical concept so I can be assured that it's true. I can even teach this concept to others. But...have I ever worried about money? Worried I wouldn't have all my needs met? So, the question becomes, "What do I really believe?" My mouth may say one thing, but my heart is somewhere else. I may even believe that I trust His provision, but when the pressure comes, I'll live out what I truly believe in my heart.

This past week, I went to to a conference in Denver. I thought it was going to be about biblical counseling. It was. But it was more. I soon realized this wasn't about helping people through hardships. It was about God's Truth in our lives. Not head knowledge truth, but truth I believe with action. It's the word the bible uses as "faith" and "trust". And as the sessions went on, I began to see that we often need to sit back and look at what we are believing is truth.

Jesus said in John 8, "If you hold to my teaching...  You will KNOW my truth, and the truth will set you free. If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

"No one tells anyone when they are in counseling, but they tell everyone when they are free," said our speaker this weekend.

I am one of those the Lord has freed! Freed from sin and death. But also, freed from guilt and shame. I've decided to write about this because of the healing the Lord has done in my heart and mind over these past 10 years as I've asked him that huge question over and over, "Is that true, Lord?"

If you relate to the story of the exploding wife, or the ruckus of the voices in your head, or you're just tied up, believing one thing while proclaiming you believe another, then I hope you'll consider stopping by this blog and reading what I'll write over the course of the next weeks. I've found freedom and I don't want to keep it for myself.

Jesus is the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life. Even if you aren't his follower, oh, I hope you'll still read this anyway and test if what you read is speaking to your heart at all. If you're thinking, #religioustrap, consider reading my story. It starts at the beginning of this blog. Candi... Meet Grace or Thou Shalt not Chew Gum in Church.

If you're tired of shackles, weary from worry, hopeless about your circumstances, I know where freedom lies. It's not about just "getting through" life's struggles. Anyone can do that. Believer or not. That only takes the ability to inhale and exhale. Let's do more than just breath. Let's thrive! When we don't know what to do, let's do more than just "something".

So, my believing friend - "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what the will of God is - - his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

And those of you not sure about Jesus, (or me! for that matter), "Do you long for something more?" If so, it may not be a coincidence that you're reading this today.