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God Is With Us No Matter What

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ve probably heard me talk about my past issues with anxiety, specifically when it comes to flying. (You can read more about it here). God has delivered me from anxiety and anytime I feel moments of anxiety leading up to or while flying, God continues to deliver me from it. However I have found that the fear of anxiety—the “what if it happens”–is more troublesome in the lead up to a flight.

The prospect of a trip with some long flights came up recently. While I felt excited about the trip itself I kind of didn’t want to go. I wanted to put it off. When I realized that the main reason I wanted to put off the trip was because of feeling afraid of the “what ifs” of anxiety associated with the flight I decided that I’m not going to miss out on great experiences because of fear of anxiety.

Then I read Psalm 139 and these verses stuck out to me in a new way:

Is there any place I can go to avoid Your Spirit? To be out of Your sight? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I go underground, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—You’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to You.” Psalm 139:7-12

Even when I climb to the sky in a plane, God is with me.

Even when I travel on the underground trains, God is with me.

Even when I fly to the other side of the world, God is with me.

In fact, He’s already there waiting to greet me upon arrival.

Even when I’m in a literally or figuratively dark place, God is there and I’m immersed in His light.

Always.

What ever your fears, doubts, worries or what-ifs are, God is with you, surrounding you with His love; ready to help you in your time of need. Because He loves to help.

He says:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

God is Doing Something New!

Recently I found myself thinking, I wish I could get back to the spiritual place I was in with God five years ago…less cynicism and so much more fruit of the spirit flowing out of me on a regular basis. But then I thought, God doesn’t just want me to be like I was five years ago. He wants to do something NEW and something MORE in me right now. Yes He wants me to be free of the negative thinking and habits and become more like Him, but He wants to help me to do that going forward, not looking backward.

Whatever negative attitude or habit we have chosen to walk in over the years—anger, bitterness, pride, a critical spirit, whatever it is–God wants to free us from those things and bring us into a new place. When we feel like we’ve become a “less wonderful” version of who we used to be and we look back and say I want to get back to where I was, we mean that in a good way….but God will help us move forward. He wants to bring us into an even better place than we used to be!

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

So…

+Are you looking back instead of being in the present and moving forward?

+What negative attitudes or habits do you need to let go of in order to move into a new and better season with God?

+Trust that when you surrender yourself to God’s work in your life, He will refine you and make you more and more like Jesus. And because He is so gracious He’ll work it all for good. (Romans 8:28)

Burning the Fields

Do you ever feel like you’re getting burned by God? Not in a literal sense but that He is letting you walk through the intense heat and flame of trial in order to refine you? I do! Times of refining build our character, make us more like Jesus and teach us how to depend on Him. Times of refining activate our faith because we have to trust God in the midst of painful circumstances. Often we need to spend more time seeking Him just in order to “survive” the refining.

The Refining Time
Every year after harvest farmers must clean away the left over debris from their fields to prepare them for planting. Many farmers set fire to their fields in order to burn the debris. One agriculture website says: “Fire is used to minimize pests and weeds, to remove residue after harvest, and to prepare the field for the next growing season. When used as a management tool for growing certain crops…it rejuvenates the plant and helps it grow healthy and strong.”

Makes me think of these verses on how God refines us:

For You, O God, have tested us;
You have refined us as silver is refined…We went through fire and through water;
But You brought us out to rich fulfillment. Psalm 66:10, 12

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.” John 15:1-3

When God is bringing the refining fires into our lives we can trust God to:

+Make the fire just hot enough to burn up the internal debris but not too hot that it will consume us.

+Bring us out on the other side into a stronger and healthier place, prepared for the next season.

Blog title comes from a song of the same name by musician Mitch McVicker.

Step Out in Faith…God Responds!

We all have those landmark moments of faith in our walk with God. You know, those God-encounters that boost your faith and propel you forward toward becoming more like Jesus.

One of those moments for me came my sophomore year in college. My pastor had done a lot of research about various historical revivals, including the Welsh revival of 1904. Listen to this! During that time in the country of Wales, there was a huge revival and over a short period of time more than 100,000 came to know Jesus.

It began when a young Welsh man named Evan Roberts, who was passionately committed to Jesus–and spent lots of time studying the Bible and seeking God through prayer–was led by the Spirit to begin preaching with great passion about the salvation God offers through Jesus. Evan had four main points that were a part of his message:

+Confess all known sin.

+Get rid of any ‘doubtful’ habit in your life.

+Obey the Holy Spirit promptly.

+Confess Christ publicly.

Now, back to my sophomore year…

My church held a consecration ceremony where we were offered an opportunity to make a commitment to do those four things I just shared.

So, I did.

It wasn’t just an outward act to go down to the altar and make a commitment…it came from my heart. And let me tell you what happened as a result! I was spontaneously filled with this non-stop, overflowing joy that could only supernaturally come from God.

I didn’t ask for that joy. I wasn’t expecting it. But it surpassed anything I had ever experienced before. And it just kept happening. Every day.

My heart was full of joy all the time. I even found that as I walked to classes I was smiling and saying hello to people I walked by who I didn’t even know. I couldn’t help it! I was joy-full.

I also found that I was so much more free during worship times at church, and didn’t care about what other people thought of me…I just wanted to connect with God and worship Him.

So…

Has something like that ever happened to you? Have you ever had a God-encounter that left you dramatically different? When you make a genuine commitment to God, either for the first time, or to give yourself more fully to Him, He responds. For me at that point, God was responding to my step of faith by filling me with an abundant joy that I knew I didn’t manufacture on my own. I knew it came from Him. God did it, and He was glorified through it.

What step of faith is God leading you to take this week?

Even though taking a step of faith is risky and can be scary, just do it. God is faithful to meet you on the journey. And He will respond in ways that are more wonderful than you can imagine.

For a video version of this blog click here.

This post is part of a group blogging project celebrating the release of Inciting Incidents, a book featuring the stories of six creatives who share honestly about surviving life’s difficulties while attempting to do great things. Visit IncitingIncidents.Org to read an excerpt from the book, learn more about the authors or to share your story.

Treasures in Darkness

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” I read that Persian Proverb several years ago as I was walking through a year-long wilderness journey of extremely high anxiety and panic attacks that came on out of nowhere. The anxiety was so high and so pervasive that I couldn’t even shake it when I was with close friends who I knew I could fall apart in front of, if needed. It led to a huge crisis of faith where I questioned if God was even real and if the Bible could be trusted. Much of the time I felt like I was hanging onto faith by a thread. God eventually led me out of that intense anxiety and taught me how to overcome it. Now I can honestly tell you that on the other side of it, I am thankful for the experience.

Treasure Hunting With God
In Isaiah 45:3 God says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Only in walking through darkness–that wilderness–do we receive those secret treasures from God. There are certain things we only learn and experience while suffering.

My experience of anxiety tested my faith (proving it stronger on the other side); developed my character; gave me deep compassion for others in similar trials; and drew me closer to the heart of God. In the midst of what feels like darkness to us, we can be encouraged that even “darkness is as light” to God (Psalm 139:12). He sees everything. He is with you, no matter what “time of day” it is in your life.

Recently I listened to a sermon where the teacher suggested that perhaps the wilderness times in our lives are one of God’s favorite times to spend with us. Not because we’re suffering or are experiencing pain but because during those times we tend to draw even closer to the Father; to have our character refined causing us to resemble Jesus more and more; and we gain insights we never would have learned if we always stayed on the mountain top. And while suffering we also have the opportunity to fellowship with Jesus in a way that we cannot at any other time; to tap into just a small piece of what He suffered for us on the cross.

O My Strength, I Watch For You
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is written by David, who went through a very long wilderness experience before he became king. During that time he grew so close to God and learned to truly depend on Him for every need. David’s character, way of thinking, and the way he worshiped God were forever imprinted in a positive way because of that dark wilderness journey; a journey that prepared him to be king of God’s people. In Psalm 59:9-10 David writes:

“O my Strength, I watch for You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.” 

Notice that David addresses God as His Strength and his fortress; and even in the midst of his trial David knows how kind and loving God is toward him. But here’s an interesting thing: David is watching for God to show up to help him. He is expectant. David knows that God will come through for him; he doesn’t doubt for a second. He knows from experience after experience that God will not fail him. Ever.

God Will Never Fail Us
God always wants to draw us to Himself. He wants us to rely fully on Him. He wants us to give up control to Him. So He will allow certain situations into our lives that accomplish just that: coming to the end of ourselves; not being able to control situations; having to fully lean and rely on and trust in Him. That can be a tough experience to live out daily. And that is where I was living while walking through anxiety. But the result of that experience is that I know that He is my Source. And I know now that God will not fail me. Ever. I don’t just mean I know it in my head. I mean I know it. Just like David, I know to look for God and expect Him to come through for me no matter what I am facing.

Be encouraged by that today if you are in the midst of groping your way through the darkness. God is with you. He is. Submit yourself to Him. Trust Him and watch for Him. There is treasure in the dark times, just as the stars are a treasure only visible to us at night.

I’m sharing this blog post as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus

 

Read other stories of faith here.

 

 

Your Faith Gives Me Strength

God is the source of our strength. He has limitless strength and is strong at all times; His strength is especially showcased in our weakness. We find strength when we seek Him. But there is another important way that God brings us strength.

Through our relationships.

God created us for relationship with Himself and with others. We need to be in healthy community to thrive. When we are in godly relationship with others we strengthen one another’s faith and encourage each other to keep going.

Your Faith Encourages Me
I have a friend who has been through many intense trials and yet in the midst of illness, stress and intense relational drama she clings to God with a faith that won’t budge. Even when the situation seems insurmountable and her questions remain unanswered, she keeps running forward in faith. She keeps seeking God, keeps worshiping Him, keeps following Him. She won’t give up. Her faith strengthens my faith and it gives me more strength to keep going when I am discouraged, because I think of how she keeps going.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Jesus paved the way and set the example for us with His persevering faith; and we encourage others as we follow His example.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:2

This Week…
+Take time to refresh a friend and spur them forward in faith!

+Even when you feel weak make a decision to keep going. God will use your faith to strengthen and encourage others.

+Be intentional about keeping your eyes on Jesus. Follow His example of joyful perseverance.

Encouragement From Psalm 121

If you are feeling discouraged, invisible, exhausted, confused…whatever it is, KNOW that God is with you always; protecting you and caring for you.

Psalm 121

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?

My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.

Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!

The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.

The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.

The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.