Look to the Victory!

Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. 2 It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.
Judges 3:1-2

God, it’s so easy for me to get caught up in the battle that rages all around me.  I guess that makes sense. It’s a big battle raging all around me! Hard to ignore!  But I keep forgetting that the war is won. The spiritual carnage all around me can be so oppressive.  It creeps up on me with complacency, discouragement, worldly delights, a critical spirit, and with shame.  Instead of looking at the victory, I look at the battle.

Thank you, God, that You’re not content to leave me that way.  Gently but firmly, You take me in Your hands and walk me through the destruction.  You place my feet on the conquests of Your own shed blood. You teach me the ways of war.  Your train me diligently. You personally dress me in Your own armor, the armor of Jesus, and You carry me forward as a wrecking ball of Your majesty.  

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;
Psalm 144:1

Why does my heart grow weary?  Why do I stumble? Why do I struggle?  Why do I doubt?

The victory is mine to inherit.  You’ve told me so! It is already won.  But You will continue to teach me. It’s not my power that brings victory, it’s Yours.  I’m sorry for trying to take responsibility for defeating an enemy that has already been made a footstool beneath Your feet by the power of the blood of the Lamb.

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Psalm 110:1

The enemy will continue to fight until You put a final end to his reign of terror.  And until then I must be in the midst of the chaos. Help me remember that You bring order from chaos.  You are teaching me with each battle how to claim my victory! You are teaching me how to lead others. You are teaching me to keep my eyes on You and my faith in Your power and not my own.

You’ve let the enemy keep fighting for a little while so that I can participate in the victory as well as the spoils. I will know war and be taught by trial how to fight, just so You can look at me with a big grin on Your face and say, “We did it!”  I marvel at Your love and desire to let me partner with You. But partnering in battle means partnering in the suffering as well as the victory. Thank You for counting me worthy to suffer for Your name.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Philippians 1:27-30

I know it’s only going to get worse.  The more I learn to fight, the harder the barrage against me becomes.  But with my eyes trained on You, trained with the experience of battle, I can trust You deeper.  I will have the victory. Let’s give them that “clear sign of their destruction” one more time.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
   I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:4-5

So, let’s eat!  The war is won.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   Forever.
Psalm 23:6

Yeshua is Salvation

I recently learned that the first use of the word “salvation”, that is “Yeshua” aka Jesus, happens in the Torah when Yahweh rescues His people from the Egyptian army at the crossing of the Red Sea. While on a general level I could see the similarities to Jesus, this morning I had an even deeper understanding of the parallels of this story with the story of Salvation through Yeshua for all who would believe.

The Israelites had been enslaved by Egypt.  They were oppressed and despised. Humanity is enslaved by sin.  The world is ruled by, oppressed by, and destroyed by sin. It takes over our decision making, it rules our thoughts, it inspires anger and vengeance, and dependance on self instead of God.  

God brought a deliverer to Israel with Moses.  And God brought a deliverer to humanity with Jesus.  Through Moses, God parted the Red Sea to make a way for the Israelites to journey toward the Promised Land and have victory over the Egyptian slavers. God used Jesus to bring salvation to the world, by taking on the sin of the world on His own body and having victory over it, to clear the way for people to enter the journey toward the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem.  

Moses interceded for the people with God.  He communed with God on the mountain, brought the law of the Ten Commandments to the people, and told the people what God wanted from them.  Jesus intercedes for all people with God. He came to earth as a man to intercede for people to God. He fulfilled the Law once and for all by conquering sin and death on the cross for all people who would accept it.  He came back to life to lead all people who would believe Him to the Promised land of eternity with God.

The Israelites wandered through the desert learning the lessons of God, and growing in their faith and trust in God’s protection, provision, and salvation.  Humanity wanders a world still ruled by sin, learning the protection, provision and salvation of Jesus. Just as God led the Israelites along the way through the desert, so too, God leads the way for all who trust in Him, through the Holy Spirit, to navigate through the desert of a sinful planet until we can finally arrive at the Promised Land of eternity with Christ.

Finally, the Israelites are led into the Promised land by the conquering of idol worshipers, and false gods and practices, while allowing any who chose to side with God to have the salvation He offered to His chosen people as equal inheritors.  God partnered with the Israelite army, but in the end it was always God who provided the victory, not any special work or tactics of Joshua and his military prowess. We are allowed to partner with Jesus in the conquering of sin and death, by being made co-heirs with Christ, and this is given not by our own power, but simply as a gift of God by his grace.  As followers of Christ, we can have victory over the sin and death in our lives but trusting in God to win the battle for us.

And finally, the Israelites receive their promised inheritance, just as we too shall recieve our promised inheritance with Christ.  Pretty cool.

Note: I didn’t include scriptural documentation because I have assumed a Biblically savvy audience.  For Biblical context references, feel free to contact me privately, and I will provide them.

 

The Lord is Faithful

Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
Joshua 21:45

Lord, You are faithful with Your promises.  The written accounts of Your faithfulness are vast.  You describe Yourself as faithful and true. You have been faithful to me and to the promises You have made me.  So, why do I always doubt? Why do I fall so short of trusting You? I look around and it seems that everyone who knows You counts on Your faithfulness.  Do they question it in their hearts the way I do? 

Why do we doubt You?

I know it is the enemy sowing his seeds of doubt.  I know he is trying to knock me out of Your lap. But You have a firm hold, Lord.  You won’t let me fall. You are faithful. I recall Your faithfulness and my heart is made light.  I get reminded of Your goodness. I remember Your work in my life: how You saved me from sin and death, how You walked with me and gave me strength, how You put courage and faith in me and held me up.  

Why do I doubt You?

You have brought me back from death so many times.  When I repent, You hear me. You have turned my failings into blessings.  You forgive me and love me and walk with me. You know everything about me.  You made me. And still You love me. Still You see me. Still You forgive me.  

Why do I doubt You?

Hold me up with Your righteous right hand.  Create in me a clean heart. Prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  Make my paths straight. Guide me in the paths of righteousness for Your namesake. Be my strength and my shield.  Be my fortress, my shelter, my comfort, my defender. Be my everything.

Don’t let me doubt you.

Lord, You are faithful.  You are good. And Your love and forgiveness never need to be doubted.  Yet over and over again You prove Yourself to me. When I doubt, You don’t condemn, You encourage.  When I feel dead, you show me life afresh. When I doubt, You provide faith. Build my faith fresh today.  Fill me with Your power, Precious Lord. Let me feel Your Presence and be reminded of Your faithfulness.

Lord, You are faithful.

 

Cages

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16

Jesus, I’m haunted.  The sins of my past, both big and small, haunt me and I’ve grown too comfortable with just accepting that feeling.  I’ve let myself think that there is no way to move past them. I’ve believed the enemy’s lies, Lord. And I’m sorry.  I’ve let him put me into a million different cages of fear, doubt, shame, and sorrow. Lord help me, I’ve been comfortable there.  I’ve been so comfortable. It’s all I’ve known for so long.

You’ve promised me your blood has paid the price for my sins, no matter what they were, no matter who they hurt.  You’ve promised me that my sins are forgiven, that you’ve paid the eternal price for them and have had victory. I’ve known that in my head since I was a little girl, ever since you saved me, Jesus.  But I’ve let my callouses build up, I’ve let them be a shield instead of You. I’ve tried to fight my own battles, even as you cried out to me to let You fight instead.

I’m tired of accepting defeat.  I’m tired of listening to lies. I’m tired of beating myself up for the wrongs I’ve committed against You.  I’m tired of carrying the weight of their burdon, Lord. Help me to release them. Help me to be humble enough to accept Your forgiveness, because I know that it is pride and shame that have kept me from believing Your blood is enough.  Help me to have the humility to give up control so that I can receive the victory I can never find on my own.

I’m sorry, Lord.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  Help me, Jesus. Help me to receive Your salvation fresh and new right now.  Help me to walk in Your victory and Your peace. Your blood was enough. Your blood IS enough.  You are enough. Help me, Jesus. Help me to move forward. Help me to have hope. Help me let go.  Get me out of all these cages I’ve put myself in and let me be done with it forever.

Pressing In

And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
Luke 8:43-48

Anyone who has been reading my blog posts knows that I’ve been going through a painful but valuable time of transformation by the Lord.  He’s brought things up to the surface that I had kept buried for many years. They were poisoning me, and God wasn’t content to leave me like that.  But in order for God to deal with those things that had been buried, I had to revisit all the anguish and cruelty that had been visited upon me so long ago.  It sucks. It hurts! It has been beyond difficult. But it’s been so worth it.

The turmoil and upheaval I’ve been experiencing in this transformation has opened up old wounds and left me feeling vulnerable while the Lord gently walked me through the proper healing process.  The enemy exploited my vulnerability and coaxed me into fear. I didn’t want anyone to judge me for being so broken. I didn’t want people to see my wounds. I didn’t trust myself to not lash out to protect myself.  I didn’t trust myself to be strong and courageous. I was a mess (I still am, but atleast I’m a healing mess!) and I didn’t want anyone to know it.

So many things would trigger me into a panic attack.  My anxiety and fear tried to rule me. I was in fight or flight mode, and all I wanted to do was run away.  But God said, “I am fighting for you, my love.” And those were powerful words. For the briefest moment I chose to believe God.  I chose to believe that He was fighting for me and no matter how vulnerable I was, I could be a living testament of God’s power at work in me.  How many people could be encouraged by this walk I’ve been on? How many people could be shown that God is trustworthy to save?!

I challenged myself to press in to the Lord and watch Him fight for me.  At first it was terrifying. The enemy taunted me with the lie that God wasn’t going to save me.  He told me people would hurt me. He told me I couldn’t do it, that I couldn’t be exposed. But instead of running, I pressed in.  I held onto the hem of the Lord’s robe and prayed that God would protect me.

And He has.  

I am regaining my strength.  My faith is growing. My heart is healing.  And my thoughts are being cleansed by His power.  The Spirit of the living God is within me. He refines me and teaches me.  He proves His faithfulness and sovereignty in my life over and over and over again.  I am stronger now in my trust of the Lord’s power at work within me. My shield of faith is being expanded and the lies of the enemy are falling broken in front of me.  I march over them with the triumph of the Lord to guide me.

There’s victory in Jesus.  Sweet and powerful victory as I continue to press into Him.

Back to the Garden

Sin and shame have ruled my life for a very long time.  Since I was a child, I tried to hide it from everyone: from God, from myself, from the world.  As a small child I had experienced a cruel type of shame from the enemy that forced a burden on me that I was not intended to bear.  But the Lord is so merciful, full of forgiveness and abounding with love. What the enemy intended to harm me, God will use for good.  And He is.

I’ve longed to go back to the Garden where I could walk in the presence of God, completely vulnerable, completely trusting, and completely unashamed.  I just didn’t know it. I kept trying to cover myself instead of relinquishing my control to let God cover me. God’s covering is perfect. It protects.  It builds up. It comforts. It surrounds me in love and peace. It is good because God is good. And in the Garden, we communed as one friendship in complete transparency with one another.  I could know Him and He knew me. And it was good.

But the devil tried to steal that from me.  He tried, but he has failed. God never gives up, and He hasn’t given up on me.  Instead, He has tenderly and lovingly guided me back to Him, though the path has been difficult.  All along the journey I have fought with Him. I’ve questioned His judgment and His direction. Can you imagine?  I questioned God! What an oxymoron! But I did it, and I’ll likely do it again. I kept insisting that He not see my nakedness.  I had too much shame. I had too much guilt. I had fear and darkness where their should have been trust and love.

“I acknowledged my sin to You,
And I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to YAHWEH,’
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
Psalm 32:5

When I acknowledged my doubt and fear and shame to Him, He didn’t turn me away.  He forgave me. And again and again He will do the same. What incredible peace there is in that!  It is life changing. As I continue to strip off the layers and layers of shame and guilt and fear that I have built up around myself for so many years, the Lord faithfully and lovingly says, “I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you,” over and over and over again.  Seventy times seven and more. And with each confession I’m drawn closer to Him. I am more and more exposed and I am more and more free.

His presence is the only covering I need.  Shame and doubt and fear have only kept me away from Him.  But as I release control of my covering to the Lord, I am free.  His presence is my shield, my righteousness, my honor, my delight.  To be naked and unashamed in His presence is to be back in the Garden.  And that’s where I want to be.

So, Father, I’m sorry for not trusting You.  I’m sorry for trying to cover all of my guilt and shame with manufactured lies that never gave me the comfort and peace that I thought they would or needed them to.  Real peace can only be found in You. Real comfort is in Your arms. Your presence is mine for the asking when I surrender to You and confess it all. Thank You! I am saved.  Help me to continue to walk in the Garden and not try to cover myself again in anything but You.

Ugly Cry

Last night a younger couple came over to our house for some prayer time.  They are newlyweds. When we were done praying the wife asked me how I was able to be so strong in the Lord when I’ve endured so many trials.  I had to smile.  Most people know I’ve dealt with a lot of debilitating health struggles, but she had no idea what I’d gone through that very day.

I’d spent almost the entire day alone at home.  My spirit was in turmoil. I was beyond overwhelmed.  I literally found myself ugly crying multiple times throughout the day.  I screamed so loud in my anguish that I was afraid the neighbors would think I was being murdered and call the police.  I screamed until my throat was raw. My body shuddered. Snot and tears and saliva gushed out of my face in a torrent of grief.  To say that life lately has been a struggle wouldn’t begin to do it justice.

The enemy hates me.  He hates us. He hates anyone who is actively seeking to serve the King of Kings.  And the enemy doesn’t want to see us free. He wants to see us remain in bondage forever, torn apart by the deeds of our past, and the sins the world has committed against us.  But I’m done with that. I decided that fighting through the pain and torment and fear and anguish were worth enduring for the sake of what lay beyond that.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

If Jesus could walk out suffering for the sake of the world, I can walk out suffering for the sake of myself.  Honestly, it’s the simplest concept, isn’t it? Endure the pain to receive the reward. And for me the reward is to finally be free of the haunting memories of past abuse and torment.  I am working, through the help of a profoundly gifted Christian therapist, by prayer and by tenacity, to move beyond the scars of my past that bind me and into the life of freedom that Jesus gave me on the cross.

So, when my sweet young friend asked me how I manage to be strong and courageous in the Lord when I’ve endured so much, I had to smile.  I looked right in her eyes and said, “Ugly cry.” She chuckled, maybe even a little awkwardly. And I continued, “Ugly cry through the pain and suffering, trusting that the promises of God are true.  That in this world we will have trials. But they do indeed build our faith and strengthen us.”  At that very moment I was shrouded in peace and endurance that only the Lord could provide me.  I was a living testament to God’s ability to comfort through the trial and hold me up by His power.  I’d say that’s worth a little bit of ugly crying…maybe even a lot of it.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18

 

Teach Me, Oh Lord!

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Exodus 14:14

Jesus, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed.  It seems like taking my next breath is too difficult.  Depression has this way of crippling you down to the deepest part of yourself, and for so long I have scratched and clawed away at life just to find a smile.  It’s been really, really hard. I found myself crying out to You, God, with phrases like, “Lord, just take me!” or, “Lord, come back already! I can’t do this anymore!”  And then I felt frustrated, even angry that You didn’t abide to my demands.

But God, You’ve never been content to let me be swallowed up by my own self-pity or the schemes of the enemy intended to destroy me.  I was too important to You to have my life thrown away because I was weary of fighting. All along You have offered me Yourself, Your Salvation, Your strength.  I cried, “save me!” and Your response has always been, “I am.”

You truly are I am, aren’t You, God?

You’ve taught me so much through these trials, Lord: lessons You weren’t content to let me lose.  Each step of the journey, You have taught me, strengthened me, and helped me. You have made my paths straight, no matter how drunk on my own self-loathing I became.  You pulled me up out of pits of my own folly, and wiped away my tears with the tender kisses of Your breath of Life.

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
   the Lord answered me and set me free.
6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
   What can man do to me?
7 The Lord is on my side as my helper;
   I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
Psalms 118:5-7

No matter where I am, no matter what I do, You will teach me and guide me and strengthen me.  You are God. When I am discouraged, when I am depressed, when I have given up, You remain strong within me, teaching and guiding me and building me up in Your image and molding me to be more like You.  Your Word teaches me, Lord. You are the Word made flesh, Jesus. I will submit to Your teaching.

My soul clings to the dust;
   give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
   teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
   and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
   strengthen me according to your word!
Psalms 119:25-28

 

Wisdom in the Secret Heart

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Psalm 51:6

I’ve been dealing with a lot of old stuff in counseling.  Stuff that’s been hidden deep inside me for a very long time.  And I’ve been realizing how much I have lied to myself to protect myself from the truth of my past.  I’ve lied to myself to stay safe, but I haven’t been safe.  I am wounded.  And healing can only come in the revelation of the wound and the power of God to heal it in me.

I’ve always looked at the idea of “wisdom in the secret heart” as a deep wisdom, a deep understanding or teaching of God’s Word in my inner being.  And that’s certainly true!  But I’ve been discovering just how deep the Lord is willing to go with me if I’m willing to let Him take me there.   And it’s way deeper than human knowledge can even comprehend.

It’s scary.   It’s so scary that I’m writing this blog post right now and instead of my standard “prayer format”, I’m just putting it out there stream of consciousness style.  I guess the details are fine to stay between me and God.  He is showing me the things that have been there all this time.  The things I’ve lied to myself over for many, many years.  I’d let the enemy convince me that keeping it hidden from my own mind would heal me.

But I’ve relied on myself to heal these wounds for a long, long time.  I even convinced myself that I was trusting God to heal me in the midst of my own suffering.  But God has used it.  He is faithful to teach me wisdom in the secret heart no matter how stubborn I am and no matter how many times I fall for Satan’s tricks.  He is patient with me and quick to forgive.

All this sin that others inflicted on me.  All this sin I inflicted on myself to hide with shame what happened.  All of it has been revealed and washed clean by the blood of the lamb.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 56:10

God is able to clean what has been stained inside of me.  God is able to heal the wounds and restore me.  But restoration can only come once the wounds are revealed.  And the wounds couldn’t be revealed until I was willing to acknowledge them.  I can look back at so many experiences in my life and see how the Lord has been gently trying to show me the way and help me to get there.  And through it all I’ve gone deeper and deeper and deeper as I submitted to His teaching and His love for me.

I’ve confessed and cried out to God.  I’ve offered prayers of repentence and cries for mercy.  And the Lord has heard me.  And He’s taken me deeper.  He’s taken me to the deepest knowledge of my broken spirit and my broken heart.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:16-17

But it wasn’t until I gave up everything–and I’m still in the midst of giving it all up–that I’ve realized the truth of this wisdom in the secret heart.  This wisdom of deep repentence, not regret, not fear, but deep and profound repentence for all the years of hiding it I’ve tried to sustain.  It was never hidden from God.  And His love for me remained.  When people stole my innocence and scarred my soul, the Lord was there, and He wanted to heal me.  As He wept for my injury, and wept for my abusers, and wept for the damage it did to all of us, He remembered the cross of Calvary and offered it to me.

And only now have I finally recieved the start of that wisdom from the secret heart.  That wisdom that brings confession, repentence, forgiveness, and restoration.  There is profound peace in that.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
 and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
Psalm 51:12-15

You, Oh God, Are Faithful

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Exodus 34:6-7

Why have I ever questioned Your faithfulness, God?  You define Yourself as faithful and yet I forget to trust You in that.  I want to trust You more God. The desire of my heart is to trust You in all things and be lifted up out of the pit by Your faithful hand, because You are faithful.  

The world is fallen into deep chaos, God.  Idolatry, murder, sexual immorality, and evil of all kinds commands this world in an orchestra of personal passion mixed with the screams of the innocent.  It can be pretty terrifying, God. Evil rules and evil wins all the time. We are barraged with the cannon fire of the enemy at every turn. The spiritual battle waged against us is real.  It is painful. It is discouraging. It is real.

But, You, Oh God, are faithful.

You answer evil with the victory of Jesus.  You answer hatred with the love of forgiveness.  You answer the lusts of the flesh with the intimacy of unconditional acceptance.  Why would anyone choose anything else? You abound in steadfast love and yet the world mocks what You offer and chooses to go their own way.  How it must break Your heart to see people stubbornly refuse Your love and faithfulness. How it must sadden You to watch people twist Your offer of acceptance into a license to do whatever pleases them.  

People are ruled by the desires of their own hearts.  People have chosen to decide for themselves what is “good” and what is “evil”.  From the moment Adam and Eve ate from the tree, people stopped trusting You and chose instead to trust themselves.  People will permit all sorts of evil now, God. How it must sadden You!

Trusting You is the better way.  You bring order from chaos. You offer life over death.  You bring restoration instead of decay. It’s pretty clear that Your way is the better way, because Your way brings life!  In a world that longs to live forever, why would anyone choose to go their own way? Why would anyone choose death over life?  Help me to show them, God. Help me to tell them. Help me to live so that others want life, too.

Life is found in You alone.

Here is a message from Nasser al’Qahtani regarding Exodus 34:6-7.