Freedom Friday, Choosing to Trust, Part 2

Hi, Freedom Friday readers!

We have a lot going on right now. I feel as if I say that a lot in this blog. Well, that’s because it’s true 🙂 But this week, we had several more issues added to the mix. Some of these had been brewing for quite some time, so they weren’t completely unexpected.

My reaction, on the other hand, was something I didn’t expect.

Over the years, I have learned to go with the flow, to not react, to not try & predict, over-plan, over-calculate. I have learned, in many respects, to really actively choose to trust God. Mostly.

Mostly.

When the stuff hit the fan this week, I didn’t choose to trust God. I chose to freak out. Just a little. But freak out nonetheless.

It’s actually quite amusing to be me. I am, generally, fairly confident in who God is, who I am in Christ, and who God created me to be. I write what I’ve experienced and what I know deep within my soul. I don’t write about it if it hasn’t already begun to pulsate in my blood.

There are some exceptions. At times, I write about concepts I am grappling with or aspects of God & myself that I’m struggling with. But most of the time, I simply write what I’ve learned through reading the Bible, living amongst other believers, and through my recovery and ever-increasing walk of freedom.

It becomes amusing when I am stubborn and refuse to take my own advice.

About 6-8 hours into my freak out, I started telling myself I needed to go read my own blog. Did I? Of course not. Because a part of me wanted to keep freaking out rather than tell myself the truth.

Eventually, I snapped myself out of it. As I was running the next morning, the phrase “look up” kept coming to me. And I couldn’t help but preach to myself a mini-sermon based on this blog post about seeing with God’s eyes.

Since then, I’ve been back to my usual self, relying on God when the doubts come, resting in the knowledge of His character, diving deep into Him, and allowing His peace to fill me. Mostly 🙂

Peace, rest, reliance: none of these things are dependent on my circumstances. They are dependent solely on the character of God, who He says He is, and all that He has offered to us as believers.

God either is who He says He is, or He isn’t. It’s that simple. God is either the source of my peace, or my planning and my provision and my best guess are the source of my peace. I did the latter long enough to know where that gets me! The part that is more challenging is to believe all that God is & trust that all He has is available to us.

God did not jump off the throne, my pastor used to say, just because your circumstances have thrown you for a loop. He is still in control. He still has a plan.

I have come a long way in this area. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was writing this article, Opportunities for Joy, about practicing acceptance. Contentment, resting in God, trusting in Him comes a lot easier these days.

I hope that’s encouraging to you, readers. Progress is possible. Change is possible. Freedom from unhelpful & unhealthy patterns can be a reality.

Practice does not make perfect, but it can make progress.

Cling to Jesus. Learn about whom He really is. Show Him your heart. Open your heart to His. Rest in Him. When you find yourself striving, run to Him.

Freedom Friday: The God Who Sustains

We are back from the conference! It was an amazing time, refreshing and yet tiring (I’m sure being in the car 24 hours over the course of 3 days added to that!). There is a lot to think about & reflect on. In addition to that, there are several situations within my circles of family & friends that require lots of prayer & attention.

Yesterday, as I leaned against our chest freezer, wondering what to make for dinner, I became keenly aware that God alone is my Sustainer. I went to a Bible search tool to remind myself of Scriptures that speak to this.

I came across a gem:

“You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.” Psalm 18:35

Since returning home, Holland Davis’s words on the last night of the conference have been at the forefront of my mind (he lead worship). He reminded us that the devil comes to kill, steal & destroy, and prayed that we would not allow him to take away from us what God did in us at the conference.

So I’ve been praying for myself and others, that whatever God spoke and/or called us to at the conference, that we would stand firm and tell Satan he has no power in our lives. That we would obey what God has called us to & the areas He may have challenged us in.

But I was missing an important piece.

I am now also praying that God the Sustainer would fulfill His Word, being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in us will perfect it (also translating “carry it on to completion”) until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).

The God who leaned down to earth, who stooped down, to rescue us & make us great.

God is our Sustainer. But we need to accept His gift of sustenance. We need to allow Him to maintain and nurture those things He’s deposited into our hearts.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7

I need to be reminded that Satan wants to steal God’s best out from under me, just like he did in the Garden of Eden. Satan’s power is limited; God’s power is unlimited.

So my prayer for all of us today is that we would continue to cling to Jesus, that we would allow God to sustain and preserve the good work He has begun in us, that we would be aware of the work of Satan, but not intimidated by him.

God is Sustainer.

Read these Scriptures. Pray through them. Memorize them. Devour them. Soak them in.

Psalm 54:4
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Psalm 89:21
My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him.

Psalm 119:116
Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.

Psalm 119:175
Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.

Psalm 146:9
The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Psalm 147:6
The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Freedom Friday: Keeping Up the Pursuit

This blog post is coming to you from the Exodus International Freedom Conference! What a fantastic time we are having here. Gifted speakers, amazing worship leaders, and good friends.

I’ll be speaking to a group today and teaching a workshop tomorrow. But first, a short Freedom Friday.

As I read Judges yesterday, a short verse jumped out at me:

Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it.

Judges is interesting, challenging and at times convicting to read. The book of Joshua had just ended, full of victory and promise. The Israelites had finally come into the promised land! But despite warnings from God & Joshua, the Israelites almost immediately began to follow other gods. Fast forward a few chapters, and that’s why they were in this position with Gideon, described in the above verse, of pursuing their enemies: because they stopped pursing the One True God.

Why? Why did they leave behind the God who had shown Himself to be faithful over & over? Were the gods in the Promised Land that alluring? Were they pressured by the people they were living among to try out these other gods?

We don’t know exactly. Judges 2:10-11 simply says, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.”

Are you tired of following God? Weary of doing the right thing? Has following after God at times exhausted you?

God knew that doing the right thing, choosing to act like a free person, clinging to Him would not always be easy. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.”

Galatians 6:8-10 says, “Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

The theme of this week’s conference is The Reality of Grace. Generally, about half of the people here at these conferences are first-time attendees. They are truly stepping into their Jordan. I’ve talked to numerous people whose worlds have been rocked by what is being shared here. My world was rocked backed in 2004 at an Exodus conference when I first truly considered the reality of living in grace. Grace is a breath of fresh air to a weary, striving soul.

Something we hear in Exodus circles quite a bit is that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality; it’s holiness.

I have to ask, if the pursuit has you weary, what are you pursuing? Are you pursuing freedom from temptation? If so, it’s no wonder you are tired! We will always be tempted in some way. The Bible does not promise freedom from temptation. Even Jesus was tempted, but He did not sin.

Or are you pursuing God and all He has for you?

If it’s the latter, the Bible promised that if we continue to choose God, to dive deep into Him, we will reap a harvest.

It will pay off. It will be worth it.

God is calling you to Himself because the desire of His heart is to see you become the person He created you to be. He wants to be known by us, known for who He truly is.

If you are weary today, pull out your encouragement file. Ask someone to pray for you. Take some time alone with God and reflect on the words of Jesus in John 16, where He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Ask God to show you His perspective through His eyes.

And remember the words of Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “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 them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Thank You, God, for inward renewal, renewal that Your Word says is happening, even when we can’t see it. Thank You for loving us enough to reach out when we were running from You. And help us to learn to run to You, to cling to You, to dive deep into You, even when the pursuit has us weary. We love You, Lord. We pray in the mighty, powerful, awesome name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Freedom Friday: Do You Really Know God?

I am a Judges slacker.

I have lots of good reasons, as we are leaving tomorrow (I’m writing this Thursday) for a road trip that will end at the Exodus Freedom conference (at which I will speak). I’ve been preparing my workshop, along with packing all the stuff we will need for all those hours in the car & all those meals out (kids with food sensitivities, after all).

So, I’m going to briefly share about something else that’s been on my heart. More Judges later.

At the conference, I’ll be giving my “Learning to Walk in Freedom” teaching to just the women attendees. Though when I was initially asked to tailor my talk for women, I was excited by the possibility! And I still am.

As I began to re-work my talk for this specific audience, I just happened to be reading chapter 7 in “Breaking Free“, a book I mentioned in my hopelessness post. The chapter is entitled “The Divine Caricature”.

It asks the question, “Do you really know God?” Do you really know His attributes, His character?

Step 1 of learning to walk in freedom is to spend time with the freedom giver. As I re-read what I’ve said on this topic, the following excerpt from “Divine or Distorted? God As We Understand God” by Jerry Seiden came to mind:

One day as I walked through my favorite park, I recited the 12 Steps as was my custom. This day I stopped at Step Three: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Something inside me asked, “Who do you understand God to be?” I responded by reciting all the wonderful characteristics of God, but the voice within me said, “No! That’s what you’ve been told about God in school and in books. Tell me what you really believe God to be.”

Just as if a dam broke in my heart and mind, I began to cry, grit my teeth, and curse. I was angry. I believed deep inside that God was unconcerned with my life, unforgiving of my sin, impatient with my weaknesses, intolerant of my failures, very angry with me, and more. I believed I deserved all of God’s wrath and nothing of his grace. Nothing good could or should happen to me. I wept until I was ashamed.

Then came silence followed by that voice in my heart again. It was God’s voice. It said, “You have described yourself and the way you treat yourself. And I am not like you. I am none of those things.”

“You thought I was altogether like you!” These are God’s words, found in Psalm 50:21.

When you envision your Heavenly Father, do you imagine an angry man with furrowed brow, wagging His finger from up in heaven, waiting to punish you at any mistake? Or do you imagine a caring Father, who is slow to anger, quick to run to you with love, even in your pain & brokenness?

Do you know who God is? Who He really is?

The prodigal son, when he was close to his father, living near him & spending his days with him, knew his father’s character. He knew that if he went to his father & asked for his inheritance, it would be given to him. As he walked further and further away from his home, through distance and action, he slowly lost sight of the nature of his father’s character, to the point where when he decided to go back, he thought the best that could happen would be to become a hired man.

Have you lost sight of God’s true nature? Or maybe you never really knew it & are only learning who God really is now?

For some of us, it might be more accurate to say we think God is like our parents or other authority figures who were imperfect (just as I am) or maybe even mistreated us. The New Living Translation says in Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

Do you know who God is? Who He really is? Do you know the nature of His character? If not, will you allow yourself to absorb the truth of Scripture & what it says about His relationship with you and His heart for you?

I will likely next be posting from the Exodus conference. Hope to see you there!