Sunday, April 29, 2012

Make No Agreements with the Enemy

The sun is shining and life is good. How exciting to say that! After wading through all of my junk with me for the last few months, you’re probably relieved to hear it, aren't you? I am!  Being in the midst of storms certainly makes a person appreciate a little sunshine. My leg is feeling good! I haven’t used the brace in several weeks. Last week I actually went on a walk around the neighborhood for the first time in almost two years! Yay! Thank you, Lord.

Today during this sunshiny day I met with over twenty fired up high school and college students who are getting ready to go to mission trips in India, Mexico and Thailand. I was invited to their meeting to talk about prayer and spiritual warfare. It was so much fun! They are all eager to go.  Part of my talk was about what goes on inside our heads.  Sometimes we let thoughts go on inside our heads that have no business being there. If we stopped and really thought about them we would realize that they are not from God. Thoughts of our insecurities, our comparisons, the way we worry about our standing among others; feelings that we aren’t good enough for God or that we will never make it; feelings of condemnation and guilt. God is not the author of those thoughts. God is truth. God says “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” He says, “Whatever things are true…think on these things.”  When we agree with thoughts that aren’t God’s thought we are making agreements with the enemy. We are shaking his hand and saying “you are right". We are building an alliance with the wrong team.  I don’t want to shake hands with the devil.  I don’t want to agree to anything he has to say.

Unfortunately I did that during the saga with my health this winter. I gave into discouragement and hopelessness. It’s sure a lot easier to see the truth from this viewpoint than it was in the midst of it all. But I want to learn to recognize the lies in the midst. I don’t want to wait until I’m “out of the storm” to see the truth. This week, as I go through my days I want to pay attention to what’s going on in my head and who I’m making agreements with. I only want to agree with Christ, and He says I’m lovely and that I belong to Him. I’ll shake on that!!

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Our Relationship With Him is a Priceless Treasure

I am the third oldest member of my church. That’s quite the dubious honor, isn’t it? I know this fact is true not because my church is small, but because it’s a college church and we don’t have many members over 40. That’s why my husband and I are seen as part of the few, the proud, the wise over forties. It’s a little funny, really. Well, anyway, recently I was asked to come and speak at a WSU/UI Freshman meeting.  I stood there and looked out at that group of 100+ freshmen and actually at that moment I truly did feel wise.

I realized in that instant how much life had changed since I sat in their place. I was struck, really, with what had happened in the 30 years since I’d been a freshman.  I remembered worshiping God with all my heart, hands raised, a passionate 18 year old. I remember promising Him my life-- anything He wanted was His. I also remember my expectations of how amazing and wonderful life was going to be.

Honestly, my life turned out a lot differently than I thought it would in just about every way. It’s been harder than I imagined, and the trials have been greater than I expected when I was looking towards a shiny, problem free future.

However, as I stood before the students, the thing I couldn’t help feeling was grateful. Because in those 30 years that were sometimes hard and sometimes confusing and always different than I pictured, I had come to know God.  And I know Him in a depth and a reality that I could never have imagined at 18. I have learned the reality behind the verses in my Bible. I have lived and found God to be my refuge. I know that He is faithful. I have felt His love and His healing and His compassion. I’ve seen Him work wonders and transform lives. And it is for that one reason alone that I wouldn’t trade my place with theirs for all the world.  If knowing God is wisdom, then I do have something real to share.  It’s good for those of us who have walked a few miles to remember all that we have gained in our years with the Lord.  The relationship we share with Him is a thing of great beauty, a priceless treasure. 

Psalm 90:1-2
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

He Who Dwells in the Secret Place 6: Freedom

I’ve been thinking of last post’s picture all week. It haunts me, only in a good way.  I’ve never thought about the broken places in our lives as burned out cities, but that fits.  So does the idea that in the broken places I’m curled up in a ball between the bed and the nightstand….hiding.  Chew on that for a minute.  In those spaces I’m deep in enemy territory, miles and miles from freedom.  Stuck.  Alone. Hopeless. If those aren’t incredible descriptors of how our wounded and sinful places feel, I don’t know what is.  

Who decides to penetrate my hopelessness? Jesus Christ Himself. In all His love and power. He makes His way in the midst of the darkness and emptiness and bursts into my prison.  He comes over to where I am, kneels down, looks me in the eyes and says, “I’m getting you out of here.”

And when I say, “I can’t do it, leave me” He takes me by the shoulders and tells me that I can and I will.  He is the only reason we ever leave our prisons. He’s the only way we can leave our burned out cities. There is no other way. But by His grace we can walk. We can run. And we can be led to freedom.  The incredible freedom Jesus offers us is one of the big reasons I love Him. Lord, let me continue to fight for freedom in my life and the lives of those I love. You came to bring life and that more abundantly. And that is just the truth. 

John 10:10 (NKJV)
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

He Who Dwells in the Secret Place 5: The God of All Hope

It was sunny yesterday! After months of seeming never ending gray, it shined like hope. I’ve been thinking about hope a lot lately, having been in the hopeful frame of mind.  A week and a half ago I felt like God told me to quit wearing my knee brace. This is what I heard:  “It’s time to get rid of all the crutches, my dear.” I’ve been wearing a brace for over a year because it made walking easier and lessened my pain greatly. So when I felt like I heard that, I wiggled my finger in my ear as if to say, am I really hearing you right, Lord?  I had just days ago gotten past the barely walking stage! But I am learning to trust in ways I have never trusted before, so I took it off. (I did hate wearing that thing, it itched and sweated and looked ugly to boot).  And my leg is doing great. In fact, this morning I took a walk through the neighborhood with my husband, a walk I haven’t taken in almost two years!!!  Six weeks ago when I was desperate and hopeless I had no idea where this road was taking me. I had lost all hope. I had no clue that God was working and that I was close to victory.

Which brings me to one more picture that the Lord gave me in February when I was down and out. It started with an image of a burned out city. It looked like a battle had been there and passed, and everything was deserted, as if the war had moved on and left this ugly skeleton behind, now deep in enemy territory and far from the front lines.  Down in the corner you could see three soldiers in camo making their way carefully up the street. Somehow I knew that the guy in the front was Jesus.  They continued up the street for a while before ducking into one of the houses.

The next scene shows them bursting through a door into an attic type of room. The floors are wooden and there’s a large window that is set close to the floor. The only furnishings are a small bed and a nightstand.  I’m looking through Jesus’ eyes as I scan the space, and after moving into the room I see myself curled up in a ball on the floor between the nightstand and the bed. Now I’m looking with my eyes up at the three men in military garb and I somehow know that the two behind Jesus are angels.

Jesus kneels down and looks at me, eyes full of compassion, and says, “We are getting you out of here. The thing is, it’s not going to be easy. You are going to have to fight for this. We are deep behind enemy lines and we have a long way to go to freedom.”

I am not sure of everything I said to him, but I know that I didn’t think I could do it. It was too far, too hard, I’d never make it.  Just leave me.

At this point Jesus grabs me by the arms, shakes me a little and says, “You can do this. We are not leaving you here. But you’ve got to believe. You have to dare to hope.”  

How many of you know that hope is a dangerous emotion?  The pain of not getting what we long for can be worse than never hoping at all. My God had to bring me to a place of hope. And then He brought me to a place of healing. I don’t know if I’ve made it all the way out of enemy territory, but I am on the run, and I am full of hope. 

Romans 15:13 (NKJV)
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

He who Dwells in the Secret Place 4: Don't Give Up the Secret Place

I was in a forest. Jesus and two angels were with me. Jesus was sitting on the ground. He’d pulled me onto his lap and his arms were wrapped around me.  I was exhausted and trying to talk Jesus into leaving me there. “I can’t make it. Just go on without me. Leave me here. I can’t do it.”  Jesus refused to listen to my objections. I wondered where the angels were and Jesus pointed out a space about 40 yards away. They were in the middle of hand to hand combat, some sort of warfare.

All of a sudden this creepy guy who had to be the devil came out of the trees and walked up to us. He was dressed all nice and he smiled this horrible, evil smile at me. Stopping right where we were, he said to me, “Hold out your hand.”

Jesus began screaming, “No! Don’t do it! Don’t listen to him!”

Automatically, as if I had no will of my own, I held out my hand. He grabbed it and pain went shooting up my arm. I’m still sitting in Jesus’ lap and His words are strong in my ear, “Stop! Don’t listen to him. You don’t have to listen to him.”

Finally the devil drops my hand, still smiling, and says, “I’ll be back. I can access you anytime I want.”

He walks away and leaves me and Jesus. I’m crying. Jesus is hugging me tight and saying, “You can’t give him access to your life this way.  You have to stop.”

The Lord gave me that alarming image recently when He was talking to me about fear and anxiety. You see, God is the author of all goodness: light, truth, love, joy peace, gentleness….etc. The enemy is the author of every bad thing: jealousy, hatred, lies, insecurities, and of course fear and anxiety. When I let those things become large in my life then I am listening to the WRONG voice. I’m giving the enemy access and he always does damage.  Praise to God for He is the author of freedom and I know He has victory in store for me. 

The day I got that image was the day I sat in the kitchen and Nick prayed for me and I walked out the door without my crutches after having needed them desperately the day before. What I didn’t know was that my good friend Amy had woken up at 6:30 that morning praying intently for me. This whole thing has been beyond my comprehension. All I know is that my leg is better all the time. Yesterday I felt challenged to take my brace off which I have been wearing for over a year. I went all day without it. So far, so good. I’ll keep you posted.

Ephesians 6:12-13
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

He Who Dwells in the Secret Place 3: More than Relief from Pain

Sometimes the images and beliefs that govern our lives lie deep below the surface where we can’t see them, but they drive us nonetheless. In the quest to find my way out of the difficulties with my leg I came face to face with some of mine and it changed my life.

At one point in this process Nick and I dusted off a book that we’d had on the shelves that talked about roadblocks to being healed when people pray for you. According to this book, fear and anxiety are two real killers. They literally make people sick. Well, I’ve struggled with both of those my whole life. And normally, what I’m anxious about is failing or making a mistake, doing things wrong. I have a lot of grace for other people, but not so much for myself.  Being a self-critical perfectionist is detrimental to your healthy apparently.

I don’t know why the truth goes right over my head in some instances, and hits me directly in the face in others. This time the truth smacked me hard and I knew I had a problem. It’s kind of interesting that auto immunes are all about the body attacking itself when I’ve spent my whole life doing just that. I’m not making claims for others, but I know for myself that God wants to do more in my life than just take away the pain in my leg.

While I was praying God gave me a picture that was so accurate it took my breath away. I saw myself as little girl. I was afraid. I had an overwhelming feeling like I had to do things just right but I never saw my failures ahead of time. It wasn’t like I went, “I know this is wrong, but I’m going to do it anyway.” My failures were broadsiding me.  And God was waiting arms folded, watching to see what I would do. I was all alone in this picture and no one would help. I had this unbearable weight of needing to navigate the world perfectly and I didn’t know how. If I did it wrong, the wrath would be quick and painful.  So it was all about trying to make myself see the failures that I kept missing, needing to be hyper vigilant, and every decision becoming very important. Down deep where I don’t see it, I’m still living that way.  God spoke to those lies. He told me that I can’t save myself. That He is not like that, He is with me and wants to help me. He’s on my side. I repented of believing lies. I don’t think the work is finished, but I can feel a difference already.

We are so short sighted. All we want is relief from the immediate pain. God wants more for us. He wants us to be free. I pray we all continue to move towards the greater good God has for us, even if it hurts.

Oh yeah, my leg is doing a LOT better by the way.