Our God is Fighting for us

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may have noticed that I have totally slacked off on posting.  I’m sorry!  I have a bunch of stuff that I have to juggle and I am learning to manage my time better.  I am going to attempt to start posting again…at least two times a week.  It’s a start, while I learn to figure out my life in this busy season.

Anyways, this post is about the God that fights for us.  If you are anything like me, maybe sometimes you feel like you are in over your head.  Maybe you feel from time to time like life is a bit more than you can handle.  Maybe you are afraid of change.  Maybe you are afraid of nothing changing.  Maybe you feel like making a difference but you fear that you’re not the best person for the job.  Maybe you are afraid to fail.  Maybe you are afraid to fall.  Maybe you feel insecure in your call and worried over the future.

I can totally relate.

Last week, while sitting in my living room doing my daily devotional time, I had the craziest thing happen to me.  Some of you reading this are going to dismiss what I am about to tell you as some sort of mental disturbance or made-up fantasy, but for those of you who know me, you know well enough to know that I wouldn’t lie about something like this.  

Me and one of my roommates were alone in the house.  I was studying in the book of Exodus.  As I began to read, I began hearing the muffled sound of a war drum.  As if it was coming from a TV or laptop on blast from the upstairs of our house, I heard a man yell “Charge!!!!!!!”  Finally, I looked up from my reading rather annoyed, slammed down my Bible and asked my roommate,  “Okay.  WHAT IS THAT?”  My roommate looked at me puzzled and confused.  I persisted, “You don’t hear the war drum?  You don’t hear the man yelling charge????”  The response, “Theresa…..are you alright?”  She hadn’t heard anything.  I went back to my reading.  The sounds continued for a stretch of twenty to twenty-five minutes.  The war drum went on.  The man’s voice continued to give orders, but I could never make out what they were.  From time to time, I would hear a sword being unsheathed and armor clashing.  Occasionally, I would close my eyes straining my ears to hear.  When I stopped reading, the sounds faded away, but as I would begin to read again, they would pick up.  Every now and then, I would check in with my roommate who still did not hear one single thing.  Eventually, we did pray together about it and the noises stopped.

Later on that night, I told our other roommates and one of them said something to me that hit me to my core.  She said that she felt like God was trying to tell me that as I read His Word and set my eyes on Him that it is me unsheathing my sword and putting on my armor.  She said that it was as if God wanted me to know that my simple acts of obedience and drawing close to Him were setting things into motion in the spiritual war that we are all up against.  More than anything, that God goes before me, commanding armies of angels and fighting on my behalf.  She told me that she didn’t think it was by accident that God allowed me to experience that when He did, at a time when I felt overwhelmed and depleted of my own strength.  God wants me to know that He is strong within me and has given me great authority and power as I walk with Him.  That just blew me away.

I love that moment in Exodus, when Pharoah after already agreeing to let the Israelites go, changes his mind and begins to chase after them with the intention of enslaving them once more.  The Israelites cry out to Moses in utter fear and anger, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?  What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?”  Moses responds, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:10-14).

Today, stand confident in the fact that God has not left you alone in the battle.  Oftentimes, when we are on the verge of a breakthrough, as it was with the people of Israel,  the enemy will attempt to intimidate us and to drag us back down.  Stand firm, knowing that the Lord goes before you and that He is fighting for you.  Stand confident that your small acts of obedience are making a huge impact, not only for you, but for those around you.  Do not back down.  God is faithful and He can be trusted.  When you feel attacked and enclosed on all sides, lift your battlecry of worship.  God will make a way for you, where the road seems impossible.  He will part even the seas on your behalf.

Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; fight against those who fight against me.  Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help.  Also draw out the spear, and stop those who pursue me.  Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’ (Ps. 35:1)

For when I’m not Perfect.

I recently told a friend that if I had to use one word to describe what I have been feeling lately it would be terror.  I like to be real in my relationships and in my writing, because I’m sure the things that I am feeling and experiencing are not uncommon and that many people can benefit from the lessons that God is teaching me.  That confession of fear was obviously not coming from a place of faith or confidence in the Lord.  Rather, it was a humble confession of the very human fear that I have been experiencing lately.

God has been very strategically chipping away at some old lies I have believed and although it has been a painful process, it has brought me to a greater level of freedom than I have ever experienced before.  For several years, I have prayed for change.  I have prayed for a new season.  Now that the new season is here, the excitement and anticipation that I should be feeling oftentimes take a backseat to fear and uncertainty.  This fear and uncertainty has brought me to a place where I have been forced to ask myself some hard questions.  The primary question being what exactly is it that I am afraid of?

Over the past couple of days, God has exposed a familiar root in me: Perfectionism.  This is an area of my life that God has brought to my attention before, but now I feel that He has made it an area of focus, in terms of my growth and maturity in him.  Since childhood, I have always been the straight A student. If you give me a task to complete, I will do everything within my power to make sure I excel at it and that I get it right.  In some ways, I have found my identity in that.  I can remember times that I cried and cried over a B on a report card.  I would feel this deep sense of disappointment in myself that I hadn’t made the mark.  There was no room for average or mediocre.  I was either the best or I was nothing.  

I am realizing that some of this attitude has carried over into my adult life.  When I do something, I want to be excellent at it.  I am extremely motivated and determined.  These are great qualities to have.  The problem is that I can’t always be excellent.  There are going to be things that I’m not gifted in and there are going to be some areas of my life where I will have to grow in my gifting.  Growth comes by trial and error and making mistakes.  It’s all a part of the process.

I am realizing that God’s plans for me are far greater than the plans that I have for myself.  I have always seen myself as more of a support person, a behind the scenes girl.  The more that my calling and gifts have evolved, the more and more God has required me to take the lead in more obvious ways.  Despite the fact that I have always hated public speaking, I find myself preaching more and more.  I have developed a sense of comfort preaching to the group of 30 students we minister to weekly, but I know that opportunities are fast approaching for me to speak to large groups of people that I don’t know.  The girl that finds comfort in being behind the scenes is being pushed out of the nest and asked to take the stage.

This scares me because its so new and so uncertain and so outside of my comfort zone that mistakes and goof ups are inevitable.  Rough nights and slip-ups are bound to happen.  I will say dumb things from time to time.  I will wish at the end of the day that I had done things differently.  I will walk in to situations and opportunities feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing.  But what I hear the Lord saying to me is “That’s okay.”  It’s okay to be uncertain.  It’s okay to make mistakes through this process.  It’s okay that some nights will go better than others.  You live.  You learn.  You move on.  At the end of the day, it is not about Theresa.  It’s not about how well I do or how eloquently I speak.  At the end of the day, it is the Holy Spirit that does the work.  It is He that puts His words on my lips.  It is He who shows me step by step how to walk throughout each day of this amazing adventure.  He does not require for me to be perfect.  He only asks that I be willing and obedient.  He will do the rest.

I am moved by the words of Paul that he writes to the Corinthians, “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling” ( 1 Cor. 2:1-3).  This is Paul speaking, the great apostle, evangelist, church planter and author of much of the New Testament.  Yet, even he was hyperaware of his own fear and weakness in the face of the enormous call on his life.  Paul continues with these powerful words, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).  Paul was not the most wise or persuasive speaker, but He was willing and eager to be used by God.  He was obedient to step out even if it was with weakness, fear and trembling.  The spread of the Gospel message, the growth of the New Testament church and the miracles of Paul’s day had nothing to do with Paul delivering a great sermon or commanding an audience’s attention.  Rather, it was by “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”  It was and always is the Holy Spirit that does the work of salvation, deliverance and transformation.  That is my prayer.  My prayer is that God would use me as His vessel to arrange a time and a place for people to meet and to encounter God, but that God would move me out of the way and let the Holy Spirit do the work.

God is doing a deep work in my heart that is setting the stage for what comes next.  He is causing all of my fears and insecurities to be exposed.  He is shining his light on every weakness.  He is no longer allowing me to hide behind what’s comfortable and familiar and easy for me to control.  He is causing me to take my trust in Him to a whole new level.  He is asking me to believe that my greatest weaknesses can become my greatest strengths because these will be the areas where I depend on God the most.  I believe that the areas in my life where I experience the most fear will be the areas where God unleashes the greatest opportunities.  One thing I know for sure.  At the end of my life, when I look back on all the miracles, the breakthroughs and the monument moments, I will be able to take no credit.  The glory will be God’s and God’s alone.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with my weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

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Stepping out on a Limb

I have noticed in the time that I have been writing this blog that certain themes continue to come up time and time again.  The process of delving into my gifting as a writer has been an amazing one for me.  It has given me a place to record and share the remarkable lessons that I am learning at every stage in my journey with God.  I can look back and see how God is maturing me, how I am growing and how he is bringing me back to familiar lessons to bring me to greater levels of wisdom and understanding.

This season for me is one in which God is dealing with insecurity, big time.  I have written about insecurity before and I will probably write about it many times because it is common to all of us.  In the past, I have focused on insecurity as it pertains to my appearance and personality and all the things that make me uniquely me.  But now, the insecurity that I am dealing with pertains to ministry and my calling.

Let me give you some background on me.  I entered into relationship with Jesus Christ when I was 10 years old.  I was already planted in a church where I was challenged and encouraged in my walk with God daily, so I continued to grow in the things of God.  My church family, and in particular, my youth group, kept me from going down the same path that many of family members had gone down.  My relationships with my leaders and peers strengthened me to keep pursuing Jesus despite many obstacles that I faced.  Since the time I was 13 years old, I have known that I was called to full-time student ministry.  I have spent the last 13 years being trained in whatever ways I could.  I served as a leader within my own youth group growing up.  I have done various internships and served as a youth leader to two different groups of teens.  I have obtained my Master’s Degree in student ministry and have increased my level of responsibility and commitment to the teens I am currently serving.

Let me tell you something else about myself.  I have always been the first person to disqualify myself.  I am very comfortable taking the back seat and serving as a loyal support to whoever happens to be in charge, but the idea of actually being in charge myself makes my heart beat faster, my mind start racing and my hands turn clamy.  I have always assumed that one of two things would happen: 1.) That I would always be a support to someone else, perhaps a husband that led. 2.) That when I was called upon to stand on my own that I would feel confident and have all the answers.

I am learning though that this is not the case.  It recently occured to me that recent transitions in my life have brought me closer to a time and a place, where I will be called upon to take on more responsibility, to lead in a more upfront and obvious manner and to eventually stand on my own and take off into my personal calling.  God, in his infinite mercy and sense of humor, has taken the girl that has always disqualified herself and placed her with a group of people who not only believe in her, but also push her daily towards becoming all that God has intended her to be.  It seems as though no matter how insecure or fearful I become I am always pushed further to step out into leadership and own my calling.  It’s good for me.

In this season, I am learning so much.  Most of all I am learning that God is using even my lack of confidence and insecurity to drive me closer to Him.  I am learning that all the great men and women of God felt very much like I do when God called upon them to do great and mighty exploits in His name.  I can identify very much with Moses, who had this to say when God called him to be His chosen agent of deliverance for the people of Israel, “Pardon your servant, Lord.  I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10).  Yet God assures Moses that He will go with Him.  God tells Him, “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:12).

I am learning that my fear of inadequacy, failure and dropping the ball, is meant to drive me into the arms of my heavenly Father.  He lovingly reminds me that in my weakness, He is strong.  He whispers into my ear that with Him, nothing is impossible.  He doesn’t require me to have all the answers or to be confident in my own abilities.  Instead, He simply wants me to have confidence in Him.  He desires that my trust in Him would continue to grow.  The only way that I achieve this growth in trust is to step out on a limb and to take risks, despite any apprehensions I may have.  When I am willing to do this, my faith is increased.  At the end of the day, my journey with God will not be about my own self-confidence, strength or ability, but about a God that used me even despite my inabilities.  That’s what makes the journey so incredible is that God would use even a girl like me to accomplish His purposes.  I know that God goes with me.  He puts His words in my mouth.  He instructs me step by step what I will do.  I know that no matter what difficulty comes my way, He will never leave my side.

Armed with this knowledge, the only thing left to do is to step out on the limb, to take the risk and to fly.

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