How could we not feel anything other than that for Him?
How could we not feel anything other than that for Him?
Since we were talking about Ebenezers last week, I wanted to show you the one I’ve been building since I got to Florida.
You know that God gave me the plan for my immediate future in 2010, while I was in Arizona. During the third year that I was in Florida I received Joshua 1:5.
No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.
I needed that verse in the early years of my life in Florida because I often believed that I was in some kind of wasteland. Even though His plan for me was falling into place exactly as He’d promised. I hadn’t been able to find a job since I’d lost mine in 2008 (and it was now 2013), I was still living in my parent’s house, and I still had doubts that I should be in Florida at all. I mean … maybe what I thought was “God’s Plan” was just something my brain cooked up and not from Him at all.
Getting this scripture brought me to my knees. It is, essentially, three promises in one glorious verse. This ‘gift’ from God came at a time when the devil had been bullying me with severe oppression over my inability to find a job. Furthermore, I wasn’t really hearing from God the way I had in Arizona and thought He had deserted me. The Holy Spirit put me quickly and firmly on the right track with this verse.
All three promises were important. The first “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live.” gave me greater strength to thwart Satan’s lies. The third, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” reminded me that I wasn’t in a desert and far away from God. But the second part … oh the second part! “I will be with you, just as I was with Moses.” Man, that’s amazing. Do you remember how God was with Moses throughout the early books of the Bible? I can just imagine Joshua hearing this. Since he, too, was with Moses and knew how God interacted with him, did he fall over in awe? I certainly did. God hasn’t disappointed. He has made good on these promises and I knew I needed a stone to remember that He had helped me thus far.
The top stone is the verse God gave me after I’d been diagnosed with cancer and was crying one night to Him about everything in the Plan I’d hadn’t done. It was the last part in the plan and I’d dragged my feet and hemmed and hawed and had started – but had not finished the last phase.
My remorseful plea that lonely night was, “Am I going to die without finishing what you said I would do?” Tears flooding my pillow. That was followed by “I’m sorry, Lord.” And then came a fresh round of tears. I was sorry I hadn’t acted faster and now I might not have time to do what He called me to do.
It was the next morning that the Holy Spirit impressed Numbers 23:19 onto my heart:
God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and then not act, or promise and not fulfill?
Upon reading this verse I dissolved into a mass of tears again. But this time they weren’t tears of sorrow. Joy flooded my heart to almost bursting. What relief!
This scripture told me I wasn’t going to die – at least not before I finished His plan for me. It also promised that I would finish it, because God doesn’t lie, change His mind, or not honor His promises. At that moment, those were the sweetest words my wretched heart needed to hear.
Certainly a scripture worthy of an Ebenezer. So I found another stone and wrote the verse address on it. I never want to forget that here, again, was a time when God has helped me thus far.
So, did you think about using some sort of Ebenezer to remember how He has helped you too? I’m dying to know what you’re using. Let me know in the comments!
If you weren’t with us on Monday, I’m quite certain you’ll need to toddle back and read that post to get what’s happening here! It’s okay, we’ll wait for you!
I didn’t research the churches on Mom’s list because I stumbled over a piece in the local newspaper about John Maxwell that announced he was going to speak at a church called Christ Fellowship on the last Sunday of the year. John Maxwell? Throughout my years as a human resources professional, I’d trained my management team on a number of his books. This was exciting and furthermore, I recognized the name of the church from my Mom’s short list. It was a no-brainer to start there in my search for a church.
So on the last Sunday of 2010, while driving to the church, I continued to pray all the way, “Lord, get me outta here.” It didn’t matter that John Maxwell was going to be there. I wanted out of Florida – but quick.
I drove on to the campus of this mega-church with a highly cynical eye. People were smiling and waving. Signs read “New Visitor? Flashers On.” I turned mine on and was directed to special parking right in front of the church. A parking attendant met me at my car and walked me in to a place where people were eating breakfast. A healthy bookstore sat off to one side. Another volunteer met me inside and directed me to the sanctuary. I found a seat in the huge auditorium and settled in for the service. Before it even had begun I was welcomed by two different pastors. I remember thinking ‘this place is way too slick.’ People were too happy – too smiley – too shiny. I wondered if I’d fallen into some sort of alternate universe of Stepford Wives.
The lights came down and the band started to play. It is my supreme pleasure to worship Christ and when I stood and lifted my hands to the heavens, the Holy Spirit fell upon me so quickly that I was bowled over with capital L – Love. Suddenly, the place didn’t seem so “slick” at all but warm, friendly, and so full of Christ-loving Christians that I could no longer deny my joy in finding this church. On my way home I was so happy I prayed earnestly, “Lord, I want to stay here. Please help me find a way to stay here.”
I could just imagine God looking down on me and nodding in satisfaction.
What I didn’t remember at the time was the second phase of the plan that the Lord had given me in Arizona. The first phase was “you will move to Florida.” The second was “you will find a super new church.”
How easily I had forgotten that all along I was walking in His will. Had I, number one, remembered His plan and, number two, changed my attitude (instead of complaining – actually looked forward to the next item on the list) I’m certain my transition to life in Florida would have been a whole lot easier … and perhaps even pleasant.
The “plan” as I’d come to call it, seemed to skirt my memory most days. It was only a few more weeks of attending this new church when I met some ladies who were so full of the Holy Spirit, He practically oozed out of them. Driving home that Sunday I thought about my new-found friends and thought, ‘This sounds familiar.’ I dug out my journal and read number three on the list, “you will find great new Christian friends.” Doh! How stupid I’d been. Thankfully we serve a gracious and merciful God who allowed me to rail against Him time after time until I could recollect the plan he’d given me in prayer.
An Ebenezer would have been helpful. I could have considered my journal an Ebenezer, but that would mean that I’d have to actually open it and reread entries. Yet, each time a part of His plan fell into place I should have found a stone to add to the pile. It seems that only the physical representation of the stones would help a dunce like me.
So … do you doubt? Do you forget that the Lord has helped you thus far and wonder and worry about what is going on in your life?
I think it’s okay to doubt. Just don’t languish there for any period of time. Instead, spend your time reviewing God’s work in your life rather than holding your own little pity party like I did when I moved to Florida.
How has the Lord helped you in the past? Now make yourself an Ebenezer. It doesn’t have to be a pile of stones, it could be a journal, writing on a white board, sticky notes on the bathroom mirror … anything that will remind you that God is close.
He loves you and He will never leave you.
For a few years now I’ve considered my faith like a brick wall. Not that it shuts out the world … although it may also do that … but it helps me stand firm in my conviction of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Each time I witness something of God – a word of knowledge, his voice coming through loud and clear from the Bible, a divine appointment, a miracle, His faithfulness – each instance is a brick that I mortar on to the existing wall making it stronger, wider, higher.
It’s kinda like my modern day Ebenezer.
In (1 Samuel 7:8–11) the Israelites were victorious in a fight against the Philistines but only because God intervened.
Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, “The LORD has helped us to this point.” (1 Samuel 7:12)
The Blue Letter Bible identifies the Ebenezer as a “stone of help.” In the Old Testament, people would set up an Ebenezer to remember what God had done for them. It was usually a rock or a pile of rocks. This marker in history would remind the generations of God’s faithfulness, goodness, provision, love … whatever He had given to sustain His people at that time.
Joshua also erected a memorial of twelve stones (one to signify each tribe of Israel) on the west bank of the Jordan River when the Israelites crossed to take the town of Jericho (Joshua 4:6-7).
Even though it’s not named as such in the Bible, I believe that group of stones to be an Ebenezer. Joshua said, “Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.” But he could have just as truthfully said, “The LORD has helped up to this point.”
I love the idea of setting an Ebenezer to remember God’s faithfulness. To make a physical representation of a time when God has shown off one of His many attributes. How often we are treated to God’s working in our lives only to run into trouble down the line and completely forget that we serve an awesome, omnipotent, and faithful God?
The fact that Jesus said we will face rejection (Luke 10:16), persecution (John 15:20), and suffering (John 16:33) is enough to know that hard times are going to hit us. If we forget the goodness of God and waiver in our faith every time we are subject to some trial … where would we be? Swaying in the wind and never clinging to the Lord who loves us and has already proven Himself to us time and time again. Constructing an Ebenezer of some sort can help remind us that He is close.
When I came to live in Florida from Arizona six years ago, I was none too happy. I didn’t have a job (and couldn’t find one in the economic downturn) so I was forced to move in with my parents. Not having lived with my parents for over 30 years, I prayed every day that God would change my situation. If I remember correctly it was something like, “Lord, get me outta here.” Out of my parent’s house. Out of the State of Florida. It didn’t matter. Over and over. It became my mantra.
I wound myself up in knots praying that prayer even though God had already told me my future. If you’ve been reading me for a while you’ll remember that in a particularly intense prayer session in Arizona God told me that I would move to Florida. Unfortunately I hadn’t been building my brick wall and had forgotten that what I thought of as my horrible situation was actually part of His plan.
Even after three weeks when I came to grips with the fact that I might have to stay in Florida for a while … wait a minute … do you like the fact that I succumbed to my “fate” after three weeks? I really gave God a lot of time to change my situation, eh? Oy Vey! That’s an eye-opener! Well, after three whole weeks I yielded and finally decided to find a church to attend while I worked out my sentence in Florida.
My Mom had gone around to her friends asking for a church that might match my style. “I told them you liked to put your hands in the air when you sang.” She said.
Grinning, because it was true and I knew my mom really thought that was kinda kookie, I took her list of three local churches where, presumably, they sang with their hands in the air.
Now I see I’ve really gone on much too long. Please come back on Wednesday when I’ll wrap up the story and perhaps add another brick to the wall.
I’ve just finished a book by Pastor Kyle Idleman called The End of Me. He’s also the author of the wildly popular Not a Fan (revised and expanded in 2016) which I also loved. As He usually does when I read good Christian material, God spoke to me throughout the book.
Pastor Kyle starts out discussing the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5) and how Jesus’ advice is contradictory to our culture. “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” (Mt. 5:4) Those who mourn will be blessed? Everyone wants a blessing but who wants to mourn to be blessed?
Let’s look at it through Jesus’ eyes. To paraphrase Idleman: when we suffer, we mourn. Our suffering opens up a huge cavity in our hearts with whatever we’ve lost – it could be a relationship, our health, a person, anything that means something to us. But this is where God can fill us up with Himself. If we allow Him, we will be blessed by His presence … by His comfort … by the peace that transcends understanding.
I, and certainly anyone else who is fighting a terminal disease and loves Christ, has experienced that sorrow – that hole that gapes open like a cavern when you hear the words, “You have _________.” Fill in the blank, for me it was cancer.
But it wasn’t long before I experienced Jesus’ presence … His comfort … His peace. It settled on me in the midst of the battle and poured down into that hollow filling me full of Him. It’s probably the main thing that leads me to glorify God in this whole mess. The reason I can smile. The reason I can praise and worship Him in the midst of cancer.
When I meet others who know what’s going on inside me, they usually start to look all sorrowful and sad. They come up, arms open wide, hug and kiss me and step back saying, “How are you?” I love these people – and I’m not being sarcastic. Anyone who takes an interest in my condition (or loves on my parents through this journey) I seriously adore. There just aren’t enough people in the world today who care about anyone other than themselves.
“I’m great!” I say, beaming a bright smile. Even those who know I follow Jesus seem surprised at my answer. Oh I may have some fatigue or nausea but I am great despite those side effects. Jesus is my Savior and whatever happens I know where I’m going.
I recently remarked in a small church group that I may be answering a lesson question a certain way because I had what was essentially a terminal disease. The group agreed but one woman piped up and said, “You know, we all have a terminal disease.”
We all laughed, but she was right. We’re all dying – just some faster than others.
While I intend to go out on a slow boil, we all should live this life like we’re dying … because we are.
Why? Because God is sovereign. Only He knows when our last day will be. And in the meantime, you too can experience life in a cocoon of His presence – thick and warm like your favorite blanket on a snowy winter morning. Only this Comforter brings that peace that I can never really adequately describe.
How about you? When have you experienced God’s indescribable peace?
Something I did a couple years ago.
Don’t you love when God hits you sideways with something He’s probably been trying to get through to you for a while and you finally get it?
I admit, I have to laugh. Because when I do get it, I can look back and see how long He’s been after me to learn something. I laugh because God knows I’m a dolt sometimes and loves me anyway! He’s so good to give us space to laugh at ourselves.
In Bible Study Fellowship this week we’re studying John 16 and one of the questions asks, “What circumstances in your life test your commitment to follow Jesus?” I thought and thought about this question because over the past 9 years the Lord has brought me to a place where I can no longer imagine not following Him.
So I considered my previous life … a time when I backslid … and answered with the situations that tested (and won over) my commitment to follow Jesus. Namely – success in my career (which gave me prestige and popularity), health (which wasn’t that good, but wasn’t bad enough to worry about), and finances (which were so that I was frivolous and spent buying possessions to fill up the ache in my heart).
As we answered the question in leader’s group on Saturday, I looked at the words on the page: career, health, finances …
The three were the world’s interpretation of success. I spent my time focusing on those things that were going to help me live the “good life.” I was doing good. I had everything I needed and then some. I … I … I … what I didn’t see was the gulf between God and I getting wider and wider until … I lost it all.
That’s when it hit me. I’d answered the question a couple of days prior but right in the middle of leader’s group I had an epiphany.
God had brought me to the end of myself.
Ten years ago I was ignoring God and doing my own thing – great career, decent health, super finances. But now …
Now I have no career, no health, and no finances!!!
Why do I sound so happy?
Because I’m closer to Jesus than I’ve ever been in my whole life! That alone fills me with so much hope and joy I’m busting at the seams. At the end of myself my thirst was quenched, my pain was comforted, and my sorrow turned to joy.
So no, nothing can get me to go back to the world’s system. I’m following Jesus as closely as I can and when I get a little ahead of Him … or perhaps lag too far behind … I know that He’ll pull me close to Him again.
Have you come to the end of yourself yet?
I keep Him before me always. I will not waver. I will not move to the slightest breeze.
“The Bible’s not working for you.”
Her words stung like water crackling on a hot pan and my blood ran cold. It was her way of saying God’s not working for me. My heart sunk.
The hard truth was … she was right, in a way.
I had been denying my sin.
I hadn’t confessed it, hadn’t repented of it, hadn’t asked for forgiveness, hadn’t received God’s glorious grace.
I’d stuffed it down inside like no one could see it.
But everyone could see it … even God.
And while everyone looked the other way, God didn’t. He had to call me up on my game of hide and seek. I hid and He sought and found and used this woman to bring me back round to Him.
Thank you, Lord.
Even through the silent tears and the hurt and the embarrassment of my sin being found out … thank you.
Because now I can move forward. Now I can confess it all to Him and receive His grace and mercy. Now I can ask Him for the help I so desperately need and faithfully, He will provide.
He will strengthen me. He will lead me away from sin.
What sin did I commit? Does it matter? God cannot look upon sin and I want Him watching me … always. I wish for nothing other than His constant, unfiltered, undeniable love.
Will there be more sin? Of course. We are sinful beings.
But today, I’ve repented and have been forgiven. I’ve received His grace and mercy. I stand in the light once again, free.
Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. ~ Psalm 51:1
Glorious Father, why do I believe I can hide my sins from you and somehow You’ll overlook them? Keep me forever in Your grace Lord, searching out my heart and finding the sin that creeps inside and tries to hide from the One who knows all. Help me Lord to quickly remove myself from temptation when my flesh or the world or the devil hungers to sin against You. Let me be a source of light to those around me and not an overturned basket hiding sin in the dark. In Jesus’ magnificent name, Amen.
For more of one of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible, please read David’s Prayer for Restoration in Psalm 51.
This is the last post of a three-part series to bring you ways you can increase your discernment – Part One is here and Part Two here. It’s an appendix in the book Another Jesus Calling by Warren B. Smith and have supplemented it in some cases with my own opinion from my experience – which you’ll find in italics.
Before I close out this series I need to go back and clarify two issues from Part Two.
In #5 in which Mr. Smith says “Do not seek signs, wonders, and spiritual experiences.” I stand by what I said originally but want to clarify: I absolutely believe that God still speaks in signs, wonders, and spiritual experiences. God will use anything and anyone to get His message across. For me, He has used people, songs, birds, and even secular books to solidify a point. My faith has been built on His Word and the spiritual experiences He’s given to me. What I want to stress is to be careful in interpreting any sign, wonder, or spiritual experience you encounter.
I’ve known people who have become so fixated on a sign that they stop looking to Jesus Himself. I’ve had friends tell me that they asked for a sign and then God said “this” in a cloud but the next morning He said “that” in the waves of the ocean. Our God is not a God of confusion. Just like the issues I have with Jesus Calling, He is and was and always will be – unchangeable. As much as we should test the spirits – test the signs you think you see. This is why we need to continually grow our discernment.
Secondly, I stated under point #7 that I don’t believe angels are spirits. A dear friend pointed out that in Hebrews 1:14 when the author is comparing Jesus to angels he says:
“Are they (angels) not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?”
That also reminded me that all demons were originally angels fallen from God’s grace. So I stand corrected. Angels are spirits too. Somewhere along the line I guess I just made an internal decision that angels (good) spirits (bad) and that vernacular leaked out into the blog. I should be more careful! Mea culpa.
Now – on to the last example to heighten your discernment:
9. Gird up the loins of your mind. Take every thought captive for Christ. Fight the good fight. Contend for the faith. Let God’s truth continually preserve you.
Take every thought captive for Christ. Guarding your mind is so vitally important! When I read the book Another Jesus Calling I was overcome by compassion for my friends and other Christians who have been reading (and loving) Jesus Calling … a book I believe is not at all from Jesus. Within one day I heard Ms. Young was releasing another new version and my heart sank. How many Christians (fans and/or followers) are being held in the grip of this spirit who is speaking for Jesus?
Please be wary about anything that comes into your mind that is not of God or godly. Learn to see it and oust it before it starts working on you.
I was listening to a talk by Jenn Johnson (Bethel Church) recently and she reminded me about viewing everything with a Kingdom perspective and to not let yourself get mired down in the negativity that has become our society these days. She’s right and it’s a word we all need to hear time and time again.
Step away, because you are set apart!
In His Love,