Friday, January 31, 2014

Expectancy


"Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the LORD;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Is 25:9


I have had one word on my mind the past couple of days.

Expectancy.

The weather has been a little unexpected for East Tennessee the last few days.  On Tuesday, we accumulated 3-4 inches of snow here, the most snow we have seen in years and it was completely unexpected!

On one of those snow days, I was trying to be a "good mom" and do all the things a good mom should do like go outside in the snow with the kids and then happily come in and make hot cocoa complete with marshmallows sprinkled on top.  The picture in my mind is one of us joyously playing in the snow and then snuggling up by a fire cupping our warm chocolate lattes.

However, the above is only a picture in my head.  The reality of the scene was actually quite different.  We came in from sledding and all of us were numb and grumpy from the cold.  My little angel of a girl said something disrespectful questioning my sled purchasing wisdom and suddenly this mom's temperature was rising with no need for hot cocoa.

I decided to take a warm shower to "cool" down.  Negative voices in my head pounded.

"You're not a good mom."
"You can't be at home with your kids, they will drive you crazy."
"You are a failure."   

Then, that negative accusing voice was hushed by a gentle whisper.  "That is not me."  The voice of the Lord interrupted and pressed stop on the defeating recordings.

Then, a miracle happened.  Soon after I was out of the shower,  a received a phone call from someone who normally is not very encouraging.

However, this day, God used this person to not only encourage me but also confirm a direction I have been asking the Lord about for months!

God used the person I least expected to encourage me on a day where the enemy had decided to launch an all out assault to discourage and discredit me from going forward with God's plan and direction.  

Immediately after the phone call, I had a peace and just had to laugh at the Lord's timing and provision in unexpected ways.

But, that leads me to the word on my heart--Expectancy.  

Shouldn't we expect God to move and act?   Yet,  I find I am often pleasantly surprised when I see Him at work. I don't think He minds us being surprised.  I think He likes to surprise us!  I know I like to surprise my friends.   However, knowing His character, I think He would also like us to expect Him to show up because He will!  

He showed up even when I wasn't expecting Him.  How much more will He show up when we do expect Him?  Or how much more will we notice His presence might be the better question.  He is there.  He is with us.  He is involved in our life.  Expect Him to act on your behalf.







Friday, January 24, 2014

How to Handle Fear {Part 3}


Earlier this week, I shared some truths I have been looking at in God's Word about fear and some heros that were victorious over fear.  The last Hero of the Bible we are going to look at this week is the King of Heroes—Jesus!  We are going to look at Jesus in the Garden and uncover whether Jesus was afraid.
 
In Matthew 26: 36-46, we find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He said to Peter, James, and John,    “ My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.  Stay here and watch with Me.” (Matt 26:38). 

My Bible commentary states that the agony Jesus experienced was not caused by the fear of physical death, but by the association of His death with sin.  

“For He made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.”( 2 Cor 5:21)  

This is huge!  Sin and God cannot be together, so this meant Jesus would be temporarily apart from the Father!  That is why on the cross, He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Matt 27: 46).  Jesus trembled at the thought of being separated from the Father and His Holy nature agonized over becoming sin, the one thing He hated.  

However, I have to take issue with those who would claim that Jesus was afraid of His sacrifice.  Jesus, the One who constantly stood confidently in the face of fear and is the same as God who commands over and over again in His Word to NOT be afraid, would not have been afraid.   He agonized over His plight and temporary suffering, but He was not afraid.  He may have been tempted to fear and He left a good example of what we should do when tempted to fear.
 
1.       Pray!  (Matthew 26: 36)
2.       He asked others to pray (Matthew 26:38, 41)

Jesus knew by the end of His time praying that it was God’s will for the plan of redemption to move forward.  By the time the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, He was no longer in agony and the temptation to fear did not win.  He stood boldly before His enemies.  

Prayer in the midst of fear gives us the confident and courage to be bold in the face of adversity.  And praying also helps us to know God’s will and when we KNOW God’s will, courage and confidence follows to do His will.   

Thank you for allowing me to share what I have seen in God's Word this week.  I would LOVE to hear your feedback?  Did any of what I found help you with your fear?  Was there anything I mentioned that you hadn't thought about before?  Do you agree or disagree with it?  Please leave your thoughts in the comment sections.  I heart and treasure your comments.   


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How to Handle Fear {Part 2}

Yesterday, I shared in How to Handle Fear {Part 1} how David triumphed when others were paralyzed with fear.  Today, we will look at Joshua and how he handled fear.

In the book of Joshua, Moses is dead and God tells Joshua to prepare to enter the promise land. God tells Joshua 3 times in the first 9 verses of Joshua Chapter 1 to be of “good courage”.   Each of the three verses coincides with a reminder from the Lord later on in the book of what is needed to help his people “be of good courage” to face their fears.   

What the Israelites did to prepare their hearts for belief is an example we can follow to prepare our own hearts to believe and conquer fear. 

“Be strong and of good courage for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. “  Joshua 1:6

1.       Remember God’s promises.   God swore to their fathers to give them the land.  Anytime God makes a promise, we can expect Him to deliver on that promise.  We do not need to be afraid.  God will do what He said He will do.  Before Joshua led the Israelites to Jericho, he reminded them of God’s promise.  “The Lord your God is giving you rest and is giving you this land.”(Joshua 1:13)  We too must remember and remind ourselves of what God says when we are afraid. 

“ Be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses, My servant, commanded you; do not turn form it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:7

2.       Obey God.  Living pure and holy lives helps us overcome fear and walk in boldness.    In Joshua 3:5, Joshua exhorts the Israelites the day before the Lord opened the waters for them to cross over the River Jordan.  Joshua said, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”   When we are living in the truth of God’s Word, we can have confidence to do what God has called us to do and believe that the Lord will do wonders!

 “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1: 9

3.       Remember God is with you.  Throughout Joshua 3 and 4 there is an emphasis on the Ark of the Covenant being with His people and going before them as they crossed over the River Jordan on dry land.  The Ark is mentioned in in Joshua 3:3,6,8,11,13,14,15 and Joshua 4: 5,6,7,9,10,11,16,18. Of course, the Ark of the Covenant is symbolic of the Lord being with them. 

When facing difficult circumstances or overcoming fears, it is important to remember our God is with us and goes before us (Psalm 139:5).  We must keep our eyes on Him.  They had a physical symbol of the Ark.  We don’t have an Ark, but we have something better, the living Word of God.
    
4.       Watch your words.  The last truth I want to point out from the book of Joshua is that God had the Israelites remain silent until they shouted for the walls of Jericho to come down.   “You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth until the day I say to you, “Shout!” (Joshua 6: 10) 

What we say and don’t say will help us overcome our fears.  Words of unbelief and doubt reap actions of unbelief and doubt.  Words of belief and faith, reap actions of belief and faith.  Yesterday, we saw how David spoke words of faith to the giant and how it built his confidence and courage.   Words of doubt feed fear.  Words of faith feed courage. 

Again, like David, we can see the train of thought--belief-faith-courage-action-success, in the example of Joshua.  He believed God’s promise, He had faith and encouraged himself and others in that faith through God’s Word, He took action on what God said to do, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down in the end.  Any giant or wall of fear cannot stand against our God and the truth of His Word!   




Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to Handle Fear {Part 1}

Hello Living Free in Him friends!  I am so thankful you have come here today to see what the Lord has laid on my heart.  I have been working on a Bible study on the subject of fear.

Fear and I go way back.  We were pretty cozy for about thirty years!!  Then I finally had enough of him! Fear of rejection consumed me and he is not a good companion.   He was a bad friend and it was time to kick him to the curb!  He reared his ugly head back into my life about 6 months ago when I was faced with much rejection at one time.  However, I decided he could not stay.  He is not welcome in my life and he had no choice but to go!  So, when I found out the Proverbs 31 In the Gap Bible Study needed writers for a study of fear, I jumped at the chance-- the chance to study on something I needed to overcome and hopefully help others do the same in the process.

I looked at three heroes of the Bible to see how they handled fear.

This week, I thought I'd share with you a little of what I found in God's Word. We will look at one hero today and then the other two later in the week to see how they were victorious over fear and how we can apply the truths that helped them overcome into our own lives to help us beat our fears.  

The first hero is David.

Keep this train of thought in mind: belief-faith-courage-action-success.

In 1 Samuel 17, we find David about to face the giant Goliath. Now, Goliath was huge. He was nine and a half feet tall, and you can bet he worked out! When David heard about this giant who threatened the Israelite army, he asked, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" David showed no fear. He knew God was on his side. He had seen how God had helped in the past and knew He would help him in this situation ( 1 Sam 17:35-36). David faced the giant and spoke to the giant, "The battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands." (Can't you just hear the faith in his voice!)  

We too have giants we need to face. They may not be physically nine feet tall, but they can seem just as insurmountable.  Like David, we need to know some things before we are ready to face our giants. What did David know? What was it that made him so ready and EAGER even to face this giant with certainty that he would come out victorious?

1. David knew His God. He spent many hours in the presence of the Lord. Before David was a giant slayer, he was a harp player. He spent many hours singing and praising the Lord in the middle of the meadow. David had a strong relationship with the Lord, which fed his confidence.

2. David knew his God was with him and would help him. He drew confidence from past victories. "Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God." (1 Samuel 17:36).

3. David knew who he was. He knew God was on His side and that he was in the army of the Living God.

We see the train of thought--belief-faith-courage-action-success—as David beat Goliath.  He believed God was with him, he had faith that God would help him, he courageously faced the giant and spoke to the giant, threw a stone and won the battle!

We don't have a stone to throw but we have the Sword of the Spirit, God's Word, as our weapon!  When we come up against a giant or fear, we can speak the Word of God to overcome and fight the battle.  God will fight our battle.  David knew God was with him.  God is with you and He is for you. When you think about it, we have the Living God and His armies fighting for us!  In comparison, all giants are tiny!

We don't need to get cozy with fear, we need to throw a stone at it and toss it to the curb!  It has been a bad friend, the kind we don't need hanging around.

Power Verses: 

 1. “Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:47

2.  "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."  Romans 8:37

3. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

What is a giant in your life?  Do knowing any of the truths above help you believe God will help you overcome that giant?  Or is there another truth in scripture that you could use to overcome your fear?  When you see how David was able to stand confidently against his giant, which are do you need to grow stronger in (Knowing God, Believing God is for you, or Knowing who you are in Christ?) and how can you do that following David's example?  Please share in the comments.  I'd love to hear from you.

On Wednesday, we are going to look at another hero, Joshua, and how he handled fear.





Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Room for Grace


Do you ever feel like you don't measure up?  I do. Do you feel pressure to keep up pretenses of perfection? Yes.  Do you ever feel like a failure when you don't live up to others' expections? Absolutely!

Put all those expectations and pressures in a room, lock the door and denounce the voice of defeat.  Box the unrealistic expectations up and close the lid.  Seal them in the room labeled "Grace".

What is possible for one to upkeep may be quite difficult for another.  God doesn't require us to "do" certain legalities to earn our place with Him.

The woman with no children at home will most likely find it easier to keep her home tidy than a mother with four crumb smashers hanging onto her leg while she struggles to make a meal just to have it left uneaten by picky little mouths.

"Grace" makes up the difference between where we are and where we are going.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't want to improve and be all God wants us to be.  It does mean that on the way to where we are going, we can walk light and not be burdened down with a load of legalism trying to gain approval.  God approves of us with dusty dressers and unorganized sock drawers.  He approves of us with frazzled hair and flip flops (or even when we accidentally wear our slippers out in public--which I have done quite frequently!).

Someone pointed out to me today that when we mess up (and we will mess up), the degree to which we condemn ourselves or entertain negative thoughts tells us how much we really understand His grace and the cross.  Would Jesus say that to you?  Umm...no.  He would speak correction encouragingly.  What she said really spoke to me.

I realized that this "grace" girl needs a bigger room for grace.  I need Jesus.  I cannot do this journey or live this life on my own.  I won't try to pretend that I have it all together and I pray you still like me even though I don't.  However, if you don't, God's grace can cover that too!  I need this as much as anyone.  Right now as I am writing this, I am looking at an unmade bed with clothes freshly washed piled on top that need to be put away.  And I almost deleted that last sentence for fear of what you would think of me!   (I do usually make my bed, but to be real, there are mornings it doesn't happen and today was one of those days.)

Along with giving ourselves grace, we need to make room to give others grace as well.  There is enough grace for everyone.  We don't have to keep it all for ourselves and we shouldn't.  When others mess up or disappoint, or even hurt or betray you, the room labeled grace is big enough for that as well.  God already paid the price for their forgiveness as well as yours.  It isn't right to hoard all the grace space ourselves.

I also need to practice giving others grace.  Is there someone in your life constantly disappointing you or hurting you.  This person may be someone you have to have in your life, such as a family member.  I understand forgiving over and over again can be hard, but it is necessary for your heart health.  They need grace too (and maybe a little distance might be beneficial).  Maybe you can build them a faraway vacation home in the mountains and label it grace.  :)

Who is with me?  Who needs to build a room labeled "Grace" and put all the expectations the world and others place on us in there?  As we get closer to Jesus, He leads us and guides us as to what we should do and what should take priority.  Today, I decided that writing on grace to you beautiful readers was just a tad bit more important than laundry.  (Laundry will wait, but I will get the laundry put away--promise!)

"The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly along with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 1:14

 "The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace." Col 1:6

"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galations 2:21

I'd love to hear from you.  What is something you beat yourself up about?  How can you give yourself grace while working to improve on that area?  What do you sense the Lord saying to you about this area?



Thursday, January 9, 2014

Just Be


There is a rest that can only come from God.  The world seeks and strives after this rest calling it  "Peace."  We sing of it.  We send wishes of it out in brightly adorned Christmas cards.  We hold up two fingers symbolizing the sought after prize.  We even buy our children clothes with a sign representing the longing inside us all.  However, the world is not capable of entering this divine peace or rest.  There is only one Door that leads to this elevated goal; and only one Entrance that was birthed in a manager on a silent night over two thousand years ago.  

Hebrews Chapter 4 starts with, "Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it."

In God's Word there is a promise of entering His rest.  However, in the world of hustle and bustle and deadlines and duties, how do we achieve this internal rest and why do we fall short of it?

One answer is found in the very sentence I wrote above.  Achieve.  We think we have to do something to achieve rest.  We think we have to do actions such as read our Bible more or pray more or listen to more sermons or live better or act more Christ-like.  All of these are good habits, but no amount of doing will ever usher us into the peace of His presence.

"For we who have believed do enter that rest..."  Hebrews 4:3  

Believe.  The first part of the word "believe" is "be".  We enter that rest first by believing in the Savior sent in the form of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and then we enter a deeper peace and rest by being.

"For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His." 
Hebrews 4:10

No amount of works can help us enter the rest of God.  

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."  Ephesians 2:8-9

Our Pastor says often that we are to "Know, Be, Do".  First, Know Him.  Second, Be with Him.  And the Doing comes as a result of knowing and being with Him.  He also relates this to a prayer he prays often...

"Lord, help me know what you want me to know, be who you want me to be, and do what you want me to do."

So many times I think we focus on the "doing" because that is measurable.  We need to focus on knowing Him and being with Him and then the "doing" is a natural byproduct.

Right now as we enter 2014, many are setting goals and I am just beginning to think about mine.  I think one goal worth setting this year is to just "be" more, to "be" with my Savior more and basque in His love and presence.  Rest.  Beautiful Peace of His presence.  Be.

I want to enter His rest.  How about you?  Have you been experiencing His rest?  Just "Be".





Saturday, January 4, 2014

Continued Newness

January 1, 2014 marked the beginning of a new year filled with new hopes and new dreams.  To be real with you, 2013 was filled with heartache and challenges, but also with so many new HUGE blessings that it can be overwhelming to process it all.

As I sat in my writing/studying/reading chair in my bedroom, I went to the Lord and opened my Jesus Calling devotional.  I read the introduction for the first time.  Then, I read the verse on the January month page.  It is a verse I have read many times. I have it memorized and recite it often.  However, this time when I read it, it was fresh and new.  The words jumped off the page as if written just for me.  You most likely know the verse and have it memorized too.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Last year I heard someone say they ask the Lord to give them a word for the new year.  So, I decided to try it and the Lord gave me the word "newness".  You may have heard that story.  If not, you can click http://www.livingfreeinhim.blogspot.com/2013/11/god-what-are-you-doing.html to read the story.

God continued to speak directly to my heart as I turned the page of my Jesus Calling devotional and read the next few lines.

"Come to me with a teachable spirit, eager to changed. A close walk with me is a life of continued newness.  Do not cling to old ways as you step into a new year.  Instead, seek My Face with an open mind, knowing that your journey with Me involves being transformed by the renewing of your mind..." 

2013 brought many changes and much newness.  As I reflected on 2013 this past week, I am thankful for the newness and the old made new.  My relationship with the Lord is at a new and deeper level of intimacy than it has ever been and I look forward to a continued life of newness in my walk with Him. If we ever imagine we know Him completely, we are further from Him than we think.

In October 2012, I said these words (I don't recommend ever saying them!), "I am comfortable the way things are, I don't want anything to change."  As I said the words, it was as if I felt something happen in my spirit.  I know that sounds crazy, but I believe something profound happened.  Then, I prayed and told the Lord I was happy with the way things were, but if He wanted to change anything, for Him to show me.

He did.  Little by little I became unsettled in many areas of my life.

I honestly had an open and teachable heart with a willingness to get uncomfortable if needed.  God doesn't care much about us being comfortable, He is into us growing and becoming who He has called us to be.  His calling is rarely, if ever, comfortable.  He is continually calling us to new levels and new heights in Him.

However He leads us, we can be assured that it is for good.  He can rest in knowing that He does indeed KNOW the plans He has for us and those plans ARE to prosper us and not to harm us.  He does give us a glorious and wonderful future and hope!  So, that when we have continued newness and are hurled out of our comfort zones, we can know He is good.  When He stirs us out of where we are comfortable, it is for better things concerning us and His plan.

That being said, going forward, 2013 is over and a new year is beginning. My new word for 2014 is "boldness".  Walking with the Lord daily and KNOWING He is with me and for me should birth a new boldness.  Also, knowing He is perfecting the things concerning me (Ps 138:8) and He knows all the plans He has for me and they are all good, should ignite a new confidence in me that is unshakable.  I pray I will KNOW these things deep within my heart this year and I pray for you to know this as well so you can also walk in a new level of confidence and boldness in 2014.

Has the Lord given you a word for 2014?  If so, I'd love to for you to share what God is laying on your heart in the comments.

Father, I ask for You to give us a new level of boldness this year as we walk with You in continuous newness.  I ask for You to give us confidence to do and be all you designed and planned for us to be.  I ask to know you in newer ways and know more of you.  We need you Lord.  We ask for you to lead and guide us in all things for 2014.  We are in awe of your wonders and glory.  We love you.  In Jesus' Name, Amen. 




 
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