Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This Doesn't Look Like I Thought it Would...

There is nothing quite like getting a glimpse of what God is doing, especially when you can see what your role is. When God calls us, the excitement is fresh, and new. We see just a glimpse of what He has for us and are inspired and elated.  When we are caught up in the presence of God, it is no stretch of the imagination for us to believe that man lives – not on bread – but on the very Word of God.

Imagine Moses, spending forty days on the mountain of God, talking with Him “as a man talks with his friend,” and watching the finger of God carve out His laws onto stone tablets.  It is too amazing for the mind to really grasp!

Imagine, then, how startling it must have been for Moses to come down from the mountain, only to see the very people he was called to lead prostituting themselves before an idol.  Not only that, but his brother – the person God gave him as his mouthpiece – lied to him about the whole thing!  After he had spent so much time on the mountain learning how to lead them – and learning from the very God who led them out of captivity – he sees the most appalling thing anyone in his position could see: People being exactly what they are, human and sinful to the core.

We can empathize with Moses when his gut (and completely fleshly) reaction is exactly as ours would be. He throws the tablets in a rage and shatters them. How could these people act so contrary to what God had just shown him?  But, as I’ve already said, his gut-reaction was wrong (and based totally on his anger at the people). When dealing with the things of the Lord, we cannot allow momentary feelings – even entirely justified ones – to distract us from the vision.

The thing about God’s plan for us is this: It really is not about us.  Not only that, but it generally involves others. Other humans.  Other sinful people, still trying to realize God’s plan in their own lives. We make mistakes, and we wrestle with our own flesh, trying to get what we want at the very same time that we are trying to crucify our flesh and give God what He wants.  In all of our learning to surrender and figuring out what it means to walk out the vision, our lives affect each other.  In Moses’ case, the people thought surely – being gone 40 days – Moses must have died; they did not know what to do without him. They panicked, and did what came naturally to them: they sinned. Big time.  Moses saw the faithlessness of these people God had just redeemed, and was so discouraged and angry he gave up (even if but for a moment)!  Don’t think that his hurling the tablets to the ground was anything other than giving up.  God had taken him to the mountain top and given His own Word to Moses, but when Moses got angry the first thing He did was throw the written Word of God on the ground! 

However, Moses had an advantage on us: He knew he was going down to confront the people in sin already, and so after he expressed his anger he rallied the people (not without separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak). And then Moses reminded God of everything He’d said to Moses, and clung to what God promised.

So what do we do when our situation does not look like we expected? What do we do when doors close, people fail us, or we fail ourselves?

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs all this. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).”
When we find ourselves in such a place that we question either God’s plan, words to us that God has confirmed through the body around us, or who we are in Christ; we need to cling to what we know, even if it is what we do not see.  Go back. Remind yourself of those words, and speak them aloud.  Pray them into existence even if we feel like we don’t even want them to be true anymore. Pray for any people who may have offended you: that God would heal your heart and that He will enable you to forgive; as well as for them to be restored to God’s plan for their life. Pray for the circumstances to come into alignment with God’s Word. Pray that God would strengthen your faith (Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief!). Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. And remind yourself of who God is, of His promises (both in Scripture in general and to you specifically).  And take every doubting, accusing, or despairing thought captive to obedience to Jesus Christ.

Some Scriptures to meditate on this week:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Hebrews 11:1-2, 13-16
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Mark 9:14-29
Exodus 32:1-35

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Freedom From Accusation and Despair

Some friends of mine and I got back in touch some months ago.  We went to school together and all have felt a calling to this ministry or that, and we have been spending a lot of time (via phone and Facebook) encouraging, challenging, and strengthening each other in our walks and specifically in our callings. We are planning a women's conference together, and are just at the beginning stages. A few weeks ago, though, I was feeling quite unsettled. Every time I would sit down to try and figure out a few details here or there, I would hear in the back of my mind, "What does it matter? This is not going to happen, anyway.  You are not the type of person who follows through. This will just fizzle out like everything else."

Well, to some extent these thoughts rang true. I do have a tendency to start a million projects and never finish any of them. I will make a big meal and leave the clutter after because now I am in the middle of this other project instead. No follow through.  That is what has tended to be true.  I say it is what has been true before, rather than, "it is the truth," because I am now learning to differentiate between what is true of myself in Christ, and what the devil would have me believe.  I did not come to this conclusion on my own, however.

Almost two weeks ago, now, I was at the Encounter God Service at IHOP in Macon. The speaker had some really great things to say, but the message itself was not even what really struck me. It was the prayer time after the service. He moved from his message into the prayer time by saying that the primary tool Satan is using against this generation is "accusation and despair."

As soon as he said it, I knew in my spirit that it was right. And I knew exactly what accusation I was dealing with.The enemy has launched it at me with different words and in different forms over the years, but the message has always been the same. Unreliable. "You are flighty. You are fickle. You cannot finish what you start. You do not follow through. None of these big goals you have will ever happen. Your dreams are bigger than you are capable of, and you do not have the follow through."

I moved out of my seat and down to the front rather awkwardly and timidly, and I could hear the devil raging all the way (though, I must admit, he disguised himself in my own insecurities). "Why are you even going? He is going to pray for you, and then you still will not be able to follow through. You will still give up on every idea you start. What is the point?"

There comes a point, though, where the devil - in his own panic - gets a little too obvious for his own good (any fans of The Screwtape Letters here?). And I knew that the prayer line was where I needed to be.  I received prayer, and I was encouraged by the words I heard being prayed over me, though there were still a few lingering doubts on my end. "Lord, help my unbelief!"

I sort of tried not to think of it for a few days. Then, on Saturday, something changed. And it was big. I had some family over that day, and they had all just left. My husband and I were figuring out what the next few hours looked like (who had to do what, dinner, etc), when suddenly I started thinking of this women's conference.  All these aspects of a situation that never occur to me just began flooding my mind out of nowhere. I had started with writing things down, but after just a few minutes had gone to get my laptop up and running instead. My head started pounding from one of those, "it was just really busy here and I am tired now" headaches and I did not care in the slightest.  Ideas came rapidly, and with them, confidence! Not in myself, mind you, but on myself in Christ.  I needed to get this stuff down ASAP and send it to the girls, and that is exactly what I did.  The next day was Sunday, and I found myself up and out of bed earlier than I thought I would be, so that by the time I was ready for church we still had an hour before we had to leave.  I asked Jeff to take the baby so I could get a quick twenty minute power nap, but no sooner had my head hit the pillow when the sermon for a talk I am going to give at the conference began filling my mind.  Up I went, and to the computer, and started typing away. The whole thing was quite amazing, because by the time I was done (it was just the intro, but still), I was so energized it was like I had napped and had two cups of coffee.  I told Jeff what happened and said, "I am so excited about this, and if the devil tries to tell me I can't do it because I don't follow through, I'll just tell him it doesn't matter because God is the one doing this, anyway!"

That afternoon I was praying and thinking, when a few things were revealed to me. For starters, I have nearly always believed this lie about myself. I did not even get my driver's license until I was twenty-five because I had just always believed it would never happen, until I moved out to a remote area where I needed a car to get around and I was forced to get my license. As I prayed, I also realized that after twenty-some-odd years of listening to and believing the same lie all the time, my body had even started to believe it. I endured two weeks of prodromal labor with my son, and I now realize that it was due to this lie. All throughout my pregnancy I could not envision myself with a son. I have always wanted to be a mother, but even as my belly grew I struggled to believe that I would be a mother, and I would raise a child. Well every time contractions started, they would fizzle out shortly thereafter. And they were not false labor. These same contractions broke my water in the wee hours of the morning, and then fizzled out again (that was nearly at the end of the two weeks). Every person who was with me and every resource on pregnancy I had suggested there was some kind of mental block whose cues my body was following, but knowing that was not enough for me. In the back of my mind, I knew what it was, but I had been thinking, "Surely, going into labor will erase these strange doubts from my mind."

Well that revelation was just enough to get me angry (and finally at the right individual!), and I got moving. What are some other lies I have believed about myself through this accusation?  I have always believed that I cannot keep a house for the same reason - no consistency or follow through. "Alright, then, devil. You want to play this game? I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)."

I have been taking small steps, but they have been liberating ones. I will not be bound by this lie any longer. If God is for me, who can be against me (Romans 8:31)? It does not matter whether this trait came about because it was a simple human flaw, or from believing the lies in a systematic attack the devil waged on my life; either way, no human flaw stands up to the redeeming work of Christ. If I am bound to Christ, I do not need to be enslaved to my "personality." There is healing.  There is redemption.

I have been so joyful in this last week. Enthusiastic, optimistic, and hopeful.  While I know that feelings may fade, I also know that I have found an enduring truth, and found myself able to cling to it. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. If God wills something for me, if He has called me to a specific purpose, who am I to say that I cannot do it?