Who am I vs. The Great I AM

In my last post, I wrote about Moses’ encounter with the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3.  Today, I am going to continue from the same passsage.  To recap, the people of Israel have been held in slavery in Egypt.  Moses has gone from the riches of the Pharoah’s court to a humble career of tending his father-in-law’s sheep in Midian, an occupation he has assumed for 40 years.  Moses leads the sheep over to Mount Horeb, where a burning bush catches his eye.  Although the bush burns, it is not consumed.  From the bush, God speaks to Moses, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.  I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey- the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.  So now, go, I am sending you to Pharoah to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:7-10).

I love the interaction that takes place between God and Moses during the next part of this chapter.  Moses responds to God saying, “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).  God responds telling Moses that He will go with him and as a sign to him that when the people of Israel come out of Egypt they will worship God on that very mountain.  When Moses asks God, which name he should call God by, God responds, “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you'” (Exodus 3:14).

I love this.  Do you see the contrast?  Moses asks God, “Who am I?”  And God responds, by saying “I AM.”  This whole walk of faith, this whole journey with God has little to do with who we are and everything to do with who God is in us.  It has little to do with our own merit or qualifications, we are told that in our weakness He is strong.  

God loves to use the weak things of this world.  There is nothing that we lack that He cannot provide.  In the midst of insecurity and fear, He is our strength and our confidence.  When we lack resources, He is our provision.  Where we lack direction, He is the way.  When we feel consumed by darkness, He is the light.  Where we feel rejected, He is unconditional and everlasting love.  When we feel alone, He is with us.  There is nothing that we cannot do with God by our side.  I am convinced that God calls us to things that our bigger than us, so that we have no choice but to rely on Him fully.

This is a message that has been hitting close to home for me lately.  I have always been the first one to disqualify myself.  Throughout my life, time and time again, I have carried this sense that I am not the girl for the job.  I have prayed that God would use me and grant me opportunities to do His work and He has more than answered that prayer.  Somehow I thought that when the opportunities came the confidence would come with it, but instead I feel very much like Moses often times, asking the Lord, “Who am I?”  In many ways, I still feel afraid that I’m not qualified.  But I know that God is using even my fear. My Pastor said it this Sunday, “Fear is your invitation to step into glory.”  My fear invites me to trust in a God who never leaves my side.  My fear invites me to step out and take risks, knowing that with Jesus, nothing is impossible.  My fear invites me to greater faith, even when the odds seem stacked against me.

What is God calling you to today?  Does it seem bigger than anything you could accomplish on your own?  It should.  In all your weaknesses, turn your eyes to the strength of the Great I AM.  Discover who He has called you to be in Him.

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From Desolation to Consecration

In Exodus chapter 3, we find the familiar passage of Moses and the burning bush.  What strikes me most about this passage is that God chooses the lowest point in Moses’ life to consecrate him and set him apart for God’s divine purposes, thus the title From Desolation to Consecration.  Allow me to explain:

The Desolation

Prior to this “burning bush” moment, the people of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt and still are.  Moses had fled from Egypt to Midian after attacking and killing an Egyptian man that was beating a Hebrew. In chapter 3, we find Moses tending the sheep of His father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian.  Moses had been doing this same work for 40 years.  For an individual that had grown up in Pharoah’s courts, this was poor employment, but Moses humbly did it.

At the opening of the chapter, we are told that Moses had taken the flock over to mount Horeb.  Interestingly enough, Horeb means desolation.  It is here on this mountain that God speaks to Moses through his burning bush encounter.  It is incredible how God will use our greatest moments of despair, hurt and pain to draw us closer to Him and to speak His life, His love, His destiny and His promises over us.

When Moses notices the burning bush and turns to look, God calls Him by name, saying “Moses! Moses!” God will use our lowest moments to help us to turn to him and to put our full trust in Him.  Although we may feel like we have lost sight of our purpose and or calling at times, God knows our true identity in Him.  He knows who He has made us to be and He calls us by name.

The Consecration

In Moses’ place of desolation, God brings consecration, a dedication to His divine purposes.  God speaks to Moses saying, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground…I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob…” Concerning the Israelites He says, “I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egpytians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.  So now, go, I am sending you to Pharoah to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (3:5-6, 8-10).  Moses is God’s chosen agent of deliverance for the Israelite people.

There are a few things I love about this passage.  It is clear that God hears the cries of His people.  He sees their pain and knows their anguish.  He sees how they are being oppressed and He has compassion for them.  There is not one tear that you have cried that has gone unnoticed.  There is not one prayer that you have prayed that God has ignored.  You can be sure that He is concerned with all the matters of your life, both big and small.

Secondly, it is clear from this passage that God never forgets His promises to His people.  By referring to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God remembers His promises of old to establish Israel as a great nation and to give them a land of their own.  It may not always happen the way we planned or according to our timing, but God never forgets His promises to us.

Lastly, this passage highlights the fact that we serve a God that loves to write us into His story.  Could God have delivered the Israelites on His own?  Absolutely.  Instead, God chose to use Moses, a humble shepherd, as His chosen agent of deliverance because God loves to partner with people to accomplish His purposes.  Historically and biblically speaking, He seems to love to use those of us who seem the least qualified and the most messed up.  After all, Moses was a murderer!  I love that about God.  He uses us in our weakness to shine through in His strength.

Consider this for a moment.  You are God’s chosen agent of transformation for your family, friends and community.  God’s desire is to use you as His vessel to bring His message of hope and redemption to all those who are broken and hurt around you.  Are you in your lowest moment?  Are you in the place of desolation?  He is calling you.  It has little to do with who you are and everything to do with who He is in you.  Great are the purposes and plans He has for you (Jer. 29:11) and He is faithful to bring to completion the great work that He has begun in you (Phil. 1:6).

Turn towards His voice.  Do you hear him calling your name?

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Vessels of Hope: The God that Writes Us into His Story

Last week, I spent alot of time reading about Gideon in the book of Judges.  Gideon lived during a time when Israel was (again) doing evil in the eyes of the Lord.  The Israelites were being severely oppressed by the Midianites.  Each harvest time, the Midianites would come through ravaging all of the Israelites crops, stealing away the people’s sustenance and livelihood.  In the midst of this oppression, Israel cries out to the Lord.

The Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon while he is threshing wheat in secret.  He tells him, “The Lord is with you mighty warrior.”  Gideon asks a valid question. “If the Lord is with us, why has all of this happened to us?” The answer given is enough to give me goosebumps.  The Angel of the Lord tells Gideon, “Go in  the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.  Am I not sending you?”  It’s that last part that gets to me…am I not sending you?

We have moments in our life where the storm seems to rage all around us.  We go through periods of overwhelming confusion and hardship.  We go through seasons of hopelessness that leave us feeling defeated and broken.  Gideon was no stranger to oppression and trials.  But this passage makes one thing clear, God doesn’t merely give us hope, He births hope through us.  God not only wants to give you hope in the midst of your circumstances, He wants to use you in the midst of your storm to be the vessel through which He brings His hope, love and joy to others!  God desires to use you as His chosen vessel through which His message of transformation and restoration will be shared and embodied.  His desire is to use your life as a catalyst that will inspire many other hearts to turn to Him!

God loves us so much that His desire is to write us into His story line.  He loves sharing in the adventure with us.  He loves using His sons and daughters to play an active role in bringing about redemption in broken hearts and lives.  In this way, your pain takes on new meaning.  Your brokenness has purpose.  We are told in Romans 5:2-5 that it is our suffering that produces endurance, our endurance that produces character, and our character that produces hope.  That hope will never put us to shame because even in the midst of our circumstances God’s love has already been poured into our hearts.  In this way, God takes even our suffering and our pain and uses it not only for our good, but also for the good of those around us.

You might be thinking that you are not up for the challenge.  You may be thinking that you are unqualified and unequipped to be the one to bring hope to your family, your workplace, your friends or your community.  You are in good company.  Gideon thought the same thing.  He replied, “How can I save Israel?  My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”  (Judges 6:15).  The Lord assures Gideon that He will be with him and that with God at his side,  he will strike down all the Midianites (Judges 6:16).  And that is exactly, what happens.  

With God on your side, nothing is impossible.  In our weakness, He is strong (2 Cor. 12:9).  We have been commissioned.   We have been called.  

 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority on heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20

What You and an Office Plant Have in Common

Recently, one of my roommates and I were talking about some decorating I want to do in my room.  I had mentioned to her that I want to get a desk plant or two, but I want to plant them in bright yellow pots.  I love the way splashes of yellow can brighten up a room.  I wanted to know if it was feasible to move a plant from the pot it comes in to a brand new one.  She explained to me the principle of repotting plants.  Apparently, the bigger the pot you put the plant in, the more the plant will grow.  If you keep the plant in the same pot, it can only grow to a certain extent.

I know nothing about keeping plants alive, so that bit of information came as a shock to me.  I also found it to be super profound.  I realized that throughout my life, when I have gone through changes in seasons and (sometimes painful) transitions that God was merely repotting me.

I am a firm believer that when you are a follower of Jesus that He never allows you to stay comfortable for too long.  Settling into comfort zones and patterns of living for too long stunts our growth.  I believe that God intends for us to learn and to grow in each season of life that He has planted us in.  But from time to time, we start to get stagnant.   Even good seasons run their course and it becomes time to set off into uncharted territory.  A sudden shift of seasons and circumstances can be jarring and unsettling.  God’s heart in these periods of transition is to expand our territory, to teach us new lessons, and to grow us and to mature us, until we look even more like Him.

I know I sound like a broken record when I say that this year has been one of transition for me.  The latest development includes a potential move out of my house with one of my roommates to live in a ministry house in an impoverished community.  This is both exciting and scary.  While I will be with friends and doing something that I love, I also realize that in order to do this I will have to sacrifice much time, energy and even my personal space to a certain extent.  The neighborhood won’t be “safe” and I know that I will be challenged, tested and stretched.  However, above all else, I know that I will grow even more than I have grown in this last season.  I know that God is going to teach me things I have not yet known and bring me to an deeper understanding of who He is and who I am in Him.  I know that He is going to use this situation to bring even more glory to His name.  I know that I am being repotted.

Like Jabez, in the Old Testament, I want to be one who never gets to comfortable, but who rather prays: “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory!  Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain”(1 Chron. 4:10).

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The Struggle vs. The Process

“The struggle” is a playful phrase that we use to describe a period of time where something is presenting itself as a problem that we are dealing with.  We could be in the struggle at work.  We could be in the struggle with our weight and personal health.  We could be in the struggle with school work.  Everyone’s struggle is a little different.  Sometimes the problem is minor and sometimes the struggle is more severe.

The beautiful thing about living in community is that you realize that you are not the only one in the struggle.  Living in a house with four other women, I have learned that we kind of take turns having our moments and seasons where things for whatever reason are not that easy.  I love it though for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, it makes you realize that you are human.  When things aren’t going perfectly, it’s not because something is wrong with you.  Everyone deals with the same sort of problems.  Sometimes it’s easy to believe that you are alone in your trials when you are dealing with them in isolation.  Secondly, living in community gives you an instant support group.  At any given time, I can acquire four unique and helpful perspectives on whatever situation I’m in.  It’s a pretty good set-up.

Lately, we decided though to erase the phrase “the struggle” from our vocabulary.  Instead, we refer to these harder to handle seasons as “the process.”  Individually, and as a house, we are learning that the tougher moments of life are exactly what God uses to bring healing to our hearts, to bring us closer to him and to equip us and prepare us for the future that lies ahead.  Just calling it “the process” serves as a daily reminder that whatever we are going through is only temporary and intended by God to bring about His goodness in our lives.  God doesn’t necessarily cause everything, but he can definitely use everything.  This is why it says in Romans 8:28 that He works all things together for our good.  Remembering that your trials are a part of the process that He is using to make you into a stronger man or woman, helps us to keep our joy up even in the midst of conflict.

Trust God and trust the process.

 As it says in James 1:1-2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of various kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

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Joy on Accident

Over the last year or so, God has transformed the way I understand joy and experience joy in my day to day life.  Like most people, the joy I experienced was limited to how well things were going in my life.  And I measured how well things were going in my life by how much progress I had made in achieving my own personal goals and obtaining my desires.

A while back, I stumbled upon this definition of joy as explained by Kay Warren: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”  This got the wheels turning.  God was speaking to my heart.  Joy wasn’t to be found in the details of life or the particular situations, but rather in the assurance of a God who is in control and is worthy of my trust and confidence.

That changes everything.  

My circumstances may change from favorable to unpleasant, but that doesn’t mean that my joy has to waver.  My joy can be constant because the God in whom my joy is found is constant and unchanging.  Are you following me?

I am realizing more and more everyday that my heart is a fickle mistress and I hardly know what I want or what would be good for me.  If things don’t happen the way I expected, who’s to say that the God who knows me fully doesn’t have a better plan in store?  I am learning that the storms of this life are no match for my Savior, the one whom even the winds and the waves obey.

There is one more thing I am learning.  As Hannah Brencher mentions in her blog post “Drop the Mic and Go Find Sarah,” “God doesn’t orchestrate accidents.”  God is not caught off guard or shocked by your particular set of circumstances.  No one is capable of throwing a curve ball at God.  He knows everything.  Seasons can be long and difficult, but nothing we go through is without purpose.  There are lessons to learn, there is joy to be found, there is transformation taking place, even in the things that the enemy tries to use to destroy us.

True joy isn’t something that just happens to you.  True joy is a choice that you make.  It’s a choice to live life to the fullest, no matter what life looks like in the particular moment that you’re in.  It’s a choice to believe in hope at all costs and it’s a choice to trust that tomorrow will be brighter than today.

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Returning to the God of our Youth

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.  (Psalm 71:5) 

Lately, many people I know have been in the struggle.  In my house, we call it the process.  Many of my friends are dealing with past hurts and pains that have decided to resurface.  Recently, I went through it myself.  It is deeply unsettling and uncomfortable to have to re-confront circumstances that have hurt you at a time in your life when you thought you were already over it.  It usually happens when you’re on the verge of making a big transition or change.  You are ready to launch into something new when slowly but surely old ways and habits start creeping in.  The wounds are reopened.  Many times the reopening of past hurts manifests itself as fear, anxiety or a sin issue.

As much as it sucks to go through this, I have to say that I understand it.  I know for sure that the enemy will try to use this kind of thing to discourage us and to hold us back from attaining all that God has for us.  He thinks that he is gaining ground in our lives when we find ourselves in this predicament.  The amazing thing is that these are exactly the kinds of situations that God will allow in our lives to expose the root of our brokenness and to heal us at our core, in order that we may walk into the next season without all the baggage of our past weighing us down.  The Lord will use these times to expose lies that we have believed, to speak His truth over us and to cause us to experience His love in a greater way.  I have had the privilege of walking with one of my close friends through this process and I can’t tell you how powerful her prayers and her worship are, as she places her trust in God even in the midst of her fear and pain.

I have many friends and family members that have lost their faith along the way.  I pray for these people more than I pray for anyone else.  I had a dream about one of these people the other night.  In my dream, we were reunited and they appeared to be younger than they are.  While praying, I believe that God showed me that His desire is to restore innocence, purity and childlike faith in the lives of His sons and daughters that have wandered off.  It became clear to me that the majority of those I know that have given up on the Lord started drifting off at some point in their youth.  There was a time and a place where hurt and pain occurred and a decision was made that set off a chain reaction of events that gradually led the person away from God.  Each individual has a different story.  Some have suffered abuse, even abuse at the hands of other Christians.  Some have experienced loss.  Others bought into a lifestyle that contradicted their identity in Christ to achieve a sense of belonging and acceptance.  But each story has a common thread.  Each person found a temporary answer to the pain that they were put through, putting a thin band aid on a deep wound.

I believe that the band aids we have used to mask our pain are falling off, exposing our deep wounds for what they are.  I believe that God is allowing this exposure and this resurfacing of pain to introduce true and lasting healing into our lives.  Like a little child, I can picture some squirming and squealing as their heavenly daddy cleanses the deep gashes on our hearts.  But we need to experience that brokenness before we can become whole.

For those who are walking with the Lord, I believe that this process is intended to mature us, to grow us and to cause us to experience deeper levels of freedom.  For those who feel distant from God, the process is intended to call you home.  

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