Isaiah 40:29(NLT) “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.”
“I’m to blame. It’s all my fault. My life is a mess!” This is what we say to ourselves sometimes. It’s negative self-talk. We need to let it go, so we can forgive ourselves and be healed through Jesus Christ!
Admittedly, running away is not always the best answer, but sometimes it is the only solution that will keep you and your family safe. For me personally, getting away from an abusive husband was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to tackle. I didn’t think I had the strength to do it, and I had no clue how I’d make it; but I don’t regret for one second my decision to run away from darkness. It’s the advice I would give any person facing domestic violence and abuse, to run towards the light and never look back.
I don’t proclaim to know it all, but I do know that God never meant for any of His children to be subjected to pain and abuse on any level. He tells us in 1Corinthians 13:4-5(NLT), “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.” It’s wonderful that our Heavenly Father has placed this wisdom in His Word for us. Loving others with a Christ-kind of love is God’s goal for every person, because this is a love that is real and true. We don’t have to speculate as to how a Godkind of love should operate. We have the definitive Word on the subject from our Heavenly Father.
1John 4:8 tells us that anyone that doesn’t love does not know God, because He is love. God doesn’t punish us. He’s loving, kind, and gentle. That’s His nature, and because we are His children, this should be our nature as well. 1John 1:5(NLT) tells us, “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.”Our God is light, and we can run into His loving arms. He will rescue and protect us because He tells us in Isaiah 40:29 that He will give power to those that are weak, and He will give strength to those that are powerless. This includes every person on the planet, because whether we want to admit it or not, we are all weak and powerless to some degree, and we desperately need His help. He is so gracious and merciful, and He is willing to help us.
Those who want to control us also want to steal our power. They want us to continue feeling low and powerless, but we don’t have to succumb to this. Instead, we must put our trust and faith in God. We want so desperately to believe that the person that confesses to love us will not continue to hurt us. We go back to them time and time again, but we need to wake up and stop taking the abuser’s word over God’s Word. No one can love and protect us like Heavenly Father, and He deserves our trust, and He never fails.
No matter how you slice it, abuse is not love. It is a way for the devil to steal your power by using someone close to you. Instead of giving your power to the enemy, use your strength to get to a safe place emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically, so you can do what is best for you and for those who lean on you for support. Run towards the light of God’s love and power, and never look back. ■
The Bible is a spiritual book for God’s spiritual people. If a person doesn’t believe that everything is spiritual and that they are spiritual beings, they probably won’t be too interested in hearing what God says. They either will concoct their own theories about life and living or adopt the philosophies of others. The path that many have chosen is to place their intelligence in the forefront and to try to neglect, undermine, or contradict the unmatched intelligence of our Creator. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9(NLT), “8 My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Heavenly Father’s thoughts are exponentially higher than ours, and we can be so easily deceived into thinking our way is right, when it is completely opposite of the mind of Christ. It’s important that we confront this, because in order to have God’s peace, joy, love, and power, we must allow for the reality that we may need to change the way we think.
Folks are complaining like never before. They are upset with people they feel have done them wrong, they’re upset with the systems of the world, and truth be told, they are upset with themselves. Nothing is meeting their expectations, and they want to put the blame on God, when they haven’t done as God has commanded. Heavenly Father tells us in Romans 12:2(NLT), “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Learning God’s Will for our lives is the key that opens the door to love, light, and all the other good stuff that He’s made available to us through Jesus Christ.
The choice to change the way we think is ever before us. God didn’t create us to be robots that followed His every command automatically. If that is what He had wanted, He would have created us to be just that. Our Heavenly Father wanted a family, and He created us in His image. Genesis 1:27(NLT) says, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” God created us to be self-governing, like Him. We decide who we’re going to serve and what we’re going to do, but make no mistake, our identity has already been established by God. No matter our choices, we are spiritual beings having an earthly experience, and earth is very definitely a temporary sojourn.
While we’re here, serving one another is integral to our purpose, and we’re to achieve this purpose in the unity, love, and compassion of Jesus Christ. This is “Faith Basics-101”. Living out our purpose in service to God and in service to His people is “God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” This is the path He has set for all His children. God’s kids are supposed to operate this way, because serving others is the way HE operates. Jesus Christ demonstrated this in his life, ministry, and sacrifice. His example leads the way to the Father and lays the path of our destinies before us.
Jesus said in John 14:6(NLT), “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” I am completely and utterly over the moon with what Jesus Christ said in John 14:6. My biological father had issues—serious ones. He was a poor example of how a father should behave, and he did not model love, compassion, and generosity before mine and my sibling’s eyes. His addictions got in the way of him behaving as a good father should, but I can tell you very straightforwardly that if anyone had tried to come against my father in any way, I would have tried my best to make sure they never tried it again. I would have done my best to protect him, even as a child. If I felt this way about a poor example of a father, imagine how Jesus feels about an excellent One. God doesn’t need protection, but He demands holiness. It’s what He deserves. Anything glorious deserves glory, and there is none more glorious and holy than the One True God.
Through Jesus Christ, we are made righteous, we are made fit to stand before God with no sense of guilt, sin, or condemnation. Jesus accomplished this for us on the cross, and his way is the only way to connect to the Source of all good things. Romans 8:29(NLT) says, “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” We were created to be God’s children, and Jesus Christ has perfectly modeled for us what God’s kids should do—how we should behave, think, and govern ourselves in this world. As our Big Brother, Jesus Christ desires to guide each of us in a way that we become what we were always meant to be. This is our destiny. It wasn’t, nor could it be, determined by us. God knew us in advance, and He has already chosen us to be like our Big Brother, because our Big Brother embodies all that God is in human form.
If I tried to mow my lawn with a vacuum cleaner, I will probably be dissatisfied with the results. The same can be said when we try to live our lives outside of the purpose for which they were created. We are dissatisfied with the results. We were never intended to live disconnected from the Source of all life. We are spiritual beings having an earth experience, and the key to maximizing life is to lead it through God’s love. Most of us have our own ideas about how to accomplish this, but God warns us not to leave it to speculation.
We must not let the worries and enticement of the world choke the Word out of our minds and hearts. Ephesians 4:21-24(NLT) tells us, “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Our responsibility is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to change the way we think so that we walk in God’s love and align ourselves with our purpose for being on this earth. This is the way to live a life filled with love, light, and all the other good stuff that comes from above.■
I met a very successful investment banker that is also a very faithful member of his church. Not long ago, I had a conversation with this man, and he was not exactly what I would call pleasant. I was shocked by this. Understandably, his demeanor was in part shaped and molded by years of being a consummate and confident professional, and no doubt that in some instances he was very much catered to, but I thought the example of Christ should have been more apparent in his manner. My expectation was that some element of the deep compassion, understanding, and grace of our Lord and Savior would squeak through his unfriendly exterior. Ahh, that didn’t happen. Even a casual conversation didn’t escape his condescending tone, and he claims to have been in the faith a mighty long time. What happened?
In contrast to this man’s stern exterior, I have met people that love Christ so much that his essence just oozes from their pores. They make you wonder how such beautiful people can remain that way in this harsh and cruel world. I love the Lord with all that is within me, but honey, there are some things that, if you rub me the wrong way, it’s a struggle. I have to bite my tongue and perform all kinds of internal contortions to keep myself from ripping someone to shreds with my words. Oh yeah, I can do that. It’s one of the skills you pick up from all that repressed anger resulting from domestic violence and abuse.
I’ve learned the hard way that we really must practice the spiritual and intelligent discipline of pausing to think before we speak. Our words are creative. They form a framework for our futures. God’s Word puts it this way in Proverbs 18:21(KJV), “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Our words are constantly and consistently giving birth to the big three Cs, consequences, conditions, and circumstances. Most of us are in the habit of putting all kinds of stuff out there without giving any thought of how that stuff will come back to us. The truth is that everything we bring forth in the form of thoughts, words, and deeds is a representation of who we are. God designed life to be a mirror. It is always going to reflect our thoughts, words, and deeds back at us.
1John 4:16(NLT) says, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” This is a beautiful verse indeed. We could attempt to explore its width and depth ten million years, and still not reach the end of its truth. Heavenly Father is not mean or angry. When He looks at Himself, love is reflected back at Him. Perfection is His reflection; therefore, He is deliriously happy within Himself, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. All the good stuff—every happiness, every blessing, every power, and every ounce of love is contained within God. With open arms, He invites us to come into Him through Christ. Our invitation isn’t merely to have a seat at His table, it is to share sonship through our Lord, Savior, and Big Brother, Jesus Christ.
The passage of Psalm 91:1-4(NLT) says, “1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most Highwill find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. 4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” Inside God’s love, there’s blessings and intimacy with Him. Traveling outside the lane of God’s love, there’s confusion, darkness, and chaos. It can make us very bitter, and this bitterness leads to yucky stuff like resenting, disrespecting, and treating others poorly. We are often surprised by how this stuff comes back to us, but we shouldn’t be. Even some who say they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are still traveling in the wrong lane. The banker seemed to be in that wrong lane. He felt comfortable only giving himself over to the franchise of money, but not to the total surrender that God requires.
It doesn’t matter how much money we have in the bank, if demonstrating God’s love through the example of Christ in the greatest way possible isn’t our goal, we’re lost, and the temporary pleasures on earth are the only ones we’ll have. God has something infinitely better in mind for our lives.
God’s love is the creative force behind everything good and lasting. Love does its most perfect work when we think, speak, feel, and live God’s love. His love prepares us! It makes us fit into the glorious plans He has for us, not just for this life, but for eternity. Hebrews 5:9(NLT) tells us, “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Jesus Christ is perfect, and he became for us the source of eternality. He’s given us the gift of salvation, and with this is the gift of being with Heavenly Father in Christ forever. Those who cling to money and worldly pleasures also base the root of their identity in the pursuit of those things. For them, eternity is not viewed in the glory of its light; it is just another acquisition. But for those who walk in the Spirit, eternity represents a never-ending expansion in which they become in Christ all they were meant by God to be from the very beginning. It is the joy of leaving an everlasting legacy of love that continues creating out of God’s love for an eternity. This is what happens when we make the moment by moment choice to speak, think, act, and move through God’s love. What could be better than this?!■
A few years ago, a few of my friends went ‘vision board’ crazy, and some of them were over the moon when the goal listed on their boards became a reality. We were all inspired by their success, but one friend in particular was very impacted by everyone’s enthusiasm and success. She’s much younger and has a special place in my heart because her childhood was very similar to my own. Issues resulting from low self-esteem and childhood trauma had caused her to feel as though life would never deal her a fair hand. After breaking up with her last boyfriend and wondering if she would ever get married and have a happily ever after, she decided to give this vision board idea a try. She hoped it would have a positive impact on her life.
In the Old Testament times, God would speak through a few chosen individuals that were spiritually attentive enough to hear His voice. These were God’s prophets, His truth speakers and truth seekers. They were responsible for delivering the Word of the Lord to the people of God, so that everyone could remain blessed according to God’s Will. There were three extremely important pieces that had to fit together for this to happen. The first is that people had to believe that God exists and that He speaks. Secondly, they had to believe that the prophet could hear from God, and thirdly, they had to believe that the word spoken was a true and sure Word.
Faith doesn’t get down with any finicking, wishy-washy business. It’s a tool in God’s mastery kit, and He designed it to only respond when the truth is heard and obeyed. Studying God’s Word, it’s clear that many of the prophets of the Old Testament were chopping at the bits to hear from Heavenly Father, and this is a huge lesson in spiritual maturity and development for those of us living today. The prophets understood the enormous value of receiving a Word from heaven, and that nothing in all eternity could challenge or prevent it from going forth.
This is often the missing piece in the way that we think today. We are motivated chiefly by what we want to happen or the blessings we want to receive, and we expect it to take place on the double. Before, or even without knowing whether it’s in God’s plan for our lives, we get busy pursuing what we want and expect it all to take place without receiving a true and sure Word from Him.
‘Jesus, take the wheel’ has become a popular catch phase, and many use it with no idea of its heft. Jesus owns the wheel! Through his grace, he indulges our indifference to this truth. You and I don’t own anything. Everything we have is a loaner from the Almighty. Colossians 1:15-17(NLT) tells us, “15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.” The grace of God is nothing short of amazing, because even our very lives belong to God. Our bodies are His temple, but most people behave as if this isn’t true, and yet, He still loves us and wants us to love Him back.
Habakkuk was God’s prophet, and after praying to receive a Word from God, the Lord answered him in Habakkuk 2:2(NKJV) and said, “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” Our God answers our questions. The answers may not always be what we expect, but He will always answer our questions in a way that reveals His Will for our individual lives. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts, and don’t lean on our own understanding. We’re to acknowledge Him in all our ways, and when we do this, He promises to direct our paths.
Some of us have this a little backwards. We think we’re supposed to guide, and then tell God to follow along, doling out His resources and power for our plans. This is what my dear sweet friend thought when she set up her vision board for marriage and career goals. Not having a clear understanding that GOD is the ONE who sets the vision has led many down the path of disappointment. Many worry that He might not speak to them, or that they won’t be able to recognize His voice or discern His directives. The reality is that learning to hear His voice and learning to discern His directives is what gives our lives meaning and fulfillment; and walking the path He’s set before us is what makes life sweet. The gift of the Holy Spirit is our perfect teacher! He has no problems whatsoever teaching us to hear and discern. Our job is to be obedient and make sure we learn the lessons well.
The process of creating a vision board requires a clear vision of the goal. God knows our past, present, and future; therefore, clarity from Him regarding His vision ensures that we’ve got the right goal, so we can then have confidence and faith that it’s achievable AND pleasing to God. A vision board also uses more pictures than words, and the words should be concise and impactful. This is where truth comes in. The pictures we need are those that come from the mind of Christ. John 16:13(NLT) tells us, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” This is precisely the information we need to be concise, and only the Spirit of the Living God can provide it.
Rest assured that dreams come true and goals are reached when we allow Jesus Christ to take the wheel. He knows God’s plans for our lives and the purpose for which we exist. If our aim is to truly follow the call of destiny and reach the greatest level of fulfillment God has destined us to achieve, best to let Him lead the way. He’ll give us the vision for our lives, and it will not disappoint. It’s up to us to write it down, be concerned about making it clear and concise, and follow wherever Jesus Christ leads us.■
A person said to me that she couldn’t understand why salvation through Jesus Christ is necessary. She finds the bible confusing and very troubling in some areas, and one of her greatest areas of confusion is consequences and why we must face them if God’s forgiveness is granted. She has heard teachers and preachers say that the world is being punished by God with the pandemic. She is alarmed by what she sees and said, “How can a loving God do this to people?” I’ve been on the Christian journey a long time, and I’m no stranger to questions like these. We live in a world where people see the most horrible things imaginable. They blame these dark deeds on God, even refer to them as “acts of God”, and they attribute the wonderful blessings of life to themselves or the devil. 1John 1:5 declares that God is light, and there’s no darkness in Him at all. This is the truth! We’d give ourselves the greatest gift of eternity if we’d accept that God’s Word is true, that He cannot fail, and if we trust Him, He will prove His Word to us in an undeniable way.
From the very beginning of His Word, in Genesis 1, God shows us a little bit about His process of creation. This is an oversimplification of course, but in a nutshell, 1) He spoke; 2) everything cooperated, converged, and complied; then 3) everything came into being in response to His sovereign authority, glory, power and majesty. It couldn’t happen any other way. When God speaks, we have the definitive and final authority on any subject. God also spoke us into being. He created humans to be like Him and gave us free-will agency to make our own choices. Like Him, we are self-governing when it comes to how we want to live our lives. We can live them according to the example of Jesus Christ, which was always God’s plan, or we can try to come up with our own code of standards, and live as we please. Some who do this are very sincere, but sincerity is no guarantee for truth.
In Genesis, we see that God is very specific and leaves nothing to chance. That’s just the way He gets down. For instance, He didn’t create frogs to have baby elephants, or bears to have baby giraffes. Everything produces after its own kind. That’s order! Another important pattern is the order in which He went about creating. It was very systematic and intelligent. He didn’t create Adam first and then create everything around the first man. No. He created everything humans would need for habitation, and then He created Adam. The understanding that God wanted us to enter into His rest and provision could not be compromised in any way. He is a God of order, and wherever there is order, there are laws. Therefore, there will always be a price for violating the law.
God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This was His Word. It was law. He said, “Don’t do it!” and that’s exactly what He meant. Then comes the slick and dastardly evil one, who wanted to steal the dominion and authority that God had given to Adam and Eve. Jesus Christ told us in John 10:10 that the devil is in the earth to steal, kill, and destroy. It’s amazing how people will believe in many of the other truths in God’s Word, but they have a problem dealing with what Jesus said in John 10:10. All we need to do is look around at the chaos and confusion in the world today. It is the devil’s handiwork, and he has blinded people so much that they try to label what God says is wrong as right, and what God says is right as wrong.
We have crafted many of the judicial systems on earth following the pattern of God’s laws. In most of them, if you violate the law, you lose all the privileges that come with being a free citizen. That’s what happened to Brother Adam and Sister Eve. They were in paradise spiritually, because they were holy and had spiritual perfection in their relationship and fellowship with God. This allowed them to be in a physical paradise in the Garden of Eden as well. They were in bliss, but they gave it up because they chose to be separated from the sovereignty of God.
They were tricked by the devil into disobeying God’s commandment which forbid them from eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They disobeyed God’s law and lost all the privileges of being a free citizen in the beautiful paradise God created for them both spiritually and physically—on this earth. Notice that God didn’t come down and slap that apple out of Eve’s hand. Heavenly Father didn’t prevent her and Adam from making a bad choice any more than He will prevent us from making them. We are free to choose who we are going to be. The problem is that humans didn’t stop making bad choices after the first couple messed up but continued to sin and do things that were outside of who God has created us to be.
People have thought throughout history that creating more laws was the way the go, that the more laws we had, the better we would become. Instead, the exact opposite was true. The more laws we had, the more we used them to sin even more. We needed to be saved from ourselves and rescued from darkness. So, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to accomplish the work that we could not do for ourselves. Through Jesus Christ, God orchestrated redemption’s plan. He redeemed us from the dreadful curse of the law.
God is a Righteous Judge, more righteous than any of us can fathom. He is not flexible to our whims. He said in Jeremiah 17:10(NLT), “But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Many people have lost faith in the judicial systems in governments and countries. They are ruled in some cases by people that have tremendous power but are corrupt. Because of their corruption, they administer a kind of justice that serves their political, personal, and financial gain. God can never fail. He is perfect in every way, and therefore, He can never be accused of administering justice that isn’t perfect, righteous, and fair. Everyday the sun shines on every living person. Every day, whether we are motivated by good or evil, we breathe air and enjoy a beauty that isn’t possible for us to create or reproduce. God sends the rain to water crops, and the rain doesn’t distinguish which crops enjoy its nourishment. This shows us the goodness of God.
God’s Word tells us in 1John 4:18(NLT), “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” God is not punishing us. We are punishing ourselves, and many are too arrogant to see this. Fear is the opposite of faith. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 6:24 that we can’t serve two masters. We can’t have fear and faith at the same time. There are some very evil people that are possessed by satan to do some very evil things, and unfortunately, there are more of them than there are of those that love God and desire to please Him through Christ. Many of those counted on by millions to make sound judgments and good decisions do not, but God will never abandon those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. Psalm 34:10(NLT) says, “Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.” God will not fail us, but we must trust in His Word!
Galatians 6:7 tells us that God is not deceived when we pretend to be something we’re not. He’s not fooled when we say we love Him but refuse to obey His Word. He tells us that the harvest will always reveal the true motive and identity of the seed. In other words, the consequence will reveal the true motive and identity of the action. That’s a big chunk of meat to swallow but swallow it we must if we want to live by God’s truth. For every action, there is a re-action. Every choice we make has a consequence. God forgives our sin, but just as a good parent desires their child to make good choices, God desires the same for us. When we don’t, we shouldn’t blame Him, but humble ourselves to seek His forgiveness and ask Him to help us right our wrongs. If everyone did this, the world would be a much different place.■
One of the worse noises in life is the sound of a human body being repeatedly thrown against a hard surface. Words can’t describe how disturbing this noise is, and when you grow up hearing it frequently, it becomes an expected and terrifying alarm. Nighttime is not sweet dreams, bedtime stories, and lullabies. Instead, you’re constantly on alert, never sleeping soundly and always primed for the abuse of verbal attacks. Some sense of relief came if it were just the verbal abuse, but even then, I had to be ready to step in the middle of a physical battle at a moment’s notice. Now far removed from the threatening circumstances of that abusive reality, the remnants of the trauma are still with me. They are ongoing reminders to guard my heart and renew my mind to God’s peace. Through the Lord’s grace, I do all that I can to protect the serenity and calmness He has taught me, but honestly, it has taken me a very long time to give “no” it’s rightful place in my life.
“NO!” can save a life or help to preserve one. It’s serious business, and this is by no means a lesson on the right time to say it. That is solely left to an individual to decide for themselves and use their judgment about what is or isn’t an eminent threat of danger. What this is, however, is my account and what I believe to be the scriptural and spiritual foundation that anchors my courage and confidence to say “no” even today. Many people that have lived in abusive homes grow up believing they have no right or authority to say “no” to abuse and expect it to stick. They accept whatever comes their way, and their judgment has not been vetted through the scrutiny of self-worth. That was certainly my experience.
Ephesians 6:12(NLT) says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” When I learned about this verse in my teen years, it was literally a game changer for me. In general, I’m motivated in life by the truth of spiritual knowledge. It is my greatest hunger, and I subscribe wholeheartedly to the reality that the right knowledge will position any person to exercise power.
As a teen, I didn’t understand why the person that had caused so much pain didn’t regard me as someone they were forbidden to hurt? Why was my childhood prematurely chiseled away? The answer to these questions lies in the spiritual realm, not in the natural realm. Everything that we see with our physical eyes is temporary, and everything we see was made of things we can’t see. Hebrews 11:3(NLT) tells us, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” I had battled a physical enemy for many years, and even though I grew in physical strength as I aged, my physical strength was no match for his. But spiritually, this was not the case.
As I gained spiritual knowledge, I also gained spiritual strength. Boy did this make the devil mad, because I had exposed the lie that he wanted me to believe—the lie that I was powerless and had to continue being his punching bag. My faith in Christ unleashed God’s power in my life, and he began to do some amazing things. I had always been terrified to talk back, but the Spirit of Christ within me gave me a boldness I had never known. The truth had given me understanding, and my spiritual eyes were open. I realized that I was not fighting against a flesh and blood enemy, but the evil at work within him.
We are often tempted to take full credit for miraculous demonstrations of courage, but I am not tempted at all by that notion. On the day that I said “NO!” I was as desperate for answers and rescue as I had always been. It could have gone in a completely different direction were it not for my faith in the power of Jesus Christ. I witnessed it with my own two eyes, the person that had been my oppressor for years was muzzled and bound by a chain and restraint invisible to human eyes. He could not move against me, and although I couldn’t see the force that held him, I felt it in every way.
It amazes me even till this day, but I am under no illusions about what happened. A person cannot rise above what they don’t know or haven’t been taught. I sought the Lord, spent hours in prayer, and made Him the center of my existence. I believed 2Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” I accepted His liberty with all that was in me, and He backed my “NO!” I believe He will do this for anyone that dares to trust wholeheartedly in His awesome love and power.■
Who doesn’t love a superhero, right? My husband inherited a boatload of comics. Trying to get them cataloged, I’ve gone through so many of them, that I can’t help it, I’ve got superhero on the brain; they come in with their superpowers and super strength and save the day! When I was a child, like everyone else I suppose, I wanted to be one. The mere thought of jumping from building to building, defying gravity, and seeing through walls took our imaginations beyond the limits of casual childhood play. Superheroes helped to teach us to dream bigger than our perceived capabilities. As much as they were entertaining back then, there are some insights these pretend power-packed champions can give us as adults, even today. I believe they will shed some light on why we get stuck and feel as though life has not dealt us a fair hand.
If you think about it a little more, you might agree that imagining for a second that a person can step outside the norm and be super means that we are willing to accept certain realities. One of them is that laws govern the world we live in, and it would take someone with super abilities and higher intellect to manipulate those laws or override them if such a thing were possible. Another notion we’d have to accept is that there are some individuals that don’t have superpowers but are so despicable and abusive that those of us without super abilities often need rescue. We get ourselves in such a fix that we need this rescue on a super scale. The third thing most of us buy into when it comes to superheroes is that ‘super’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good’. It could mean dastardly evil, in which case the buy-in that good always and ultimately wins would also need to be present. ‘Good always winning’ is primarily the thing that keeps us good-loving folks coming back for more and more of the story.
I have no doubt in my mind that the people that came up with comics, as well-meaning as they might have been, didn’t really understand much about how faith works. They did, however, understand the limitations of human beings and our need to believe in someone greater than ourselves. They also understood that we need to be rescued on a scale that exceeds our propensity to do great harm. In a way, I guess one could say that comics have successfully branded the word ‘super’ so that most of us associate it with a hero. Our mistake is that we relegate almost everything to do with the word to the ‘make believe’ category. It has prompted some folks to dismiss the reality that with God, ‘super’ exists on an unimaginable scale.
Not trusting a reality higher than our physical sight can see will hit the pause button on life; it will cause us to be stuck for sure. That’s not what Heavenly Father had in mind. He created us with wonderful imaginations so that we will dream big and aim high; so we won’t acquiesce to the baser things. Instead, we’ll change the way we think to recognize and believe the miraculous truth that Jesus Christ spoke in Matthew 19:26, that with God all things are possible. To be WITH GOD is to accept His help, trust His wisdom and ability, and move in partnership with all that He is. And the extraordinary thing about this is that God moves through, in, with, and by us! His Spirit lives inside the sanctum of our inner beings. 2Corinthians 5:17 tells us that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become a new creation. 1Corinthians 3:16 affirms that our bodies become God’s temple, and His Spirit dwells within us.
Heavenly Father didn’t create us to be superheroes able to leap tall buildings in a single bound because we didn’t need to be. He created us to partner with Him in amazing ways. And one of the endless reasons that this is so amazing is that God created the law! He created laws that keep us grounded and continually growing in our relationship with Him. He spoke them into being, and although He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present, He never violates His laws. He can do anything He wants to do, but He chooses to do everything perfectly through His unconditional and overwhelming love.
Jesus Christ demonstrated this love-power with his entire life. One of the most poignant examples is in John 6. It was around the time of Passover, and John 6:5(NLT) tells us that while sitting on a hill with his disciples, they saw a huge crowd coming towards Jesus. This was not an unusual occurrence of course, because his power, love, compassion and charisma always drew crowds. Jesus turned to Philip and asked a question, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” Understand that Jesus was not looking to Philip for a resolution, because he knew Philip had doubt in his heart. Doubt is the very thing that keeps the power of God from flowing through us. Doubt traps us in very troubling and oppressive circumstances.
In John 6:7(NLT), Philip responded to Jesus by saying, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” There were about five thousand men, and this count did not include the women and children that were there as well. Philip saw this situation as outside the limits of what they could handle, and even having the Son of the Living God with them didn’t change Philip’s mind. The revelation of the enormous power and authority of Jesus Christ slipped by Philip even though he had witnessed the many miracles Jesus had performed, but Jesus wasn’t deterred in the slightest. A young boy, no doubt strategically positioned by Heavenly Father, was nearby and he had five loaves of bread and two fish. Five loaves of bread and two fish was incredibly disproportionate to the huge crowd of over five thousand. This should fuel our understanding of 1) God’s enormous power, 2) the compassion and love of Christ, and 3) the great need of those he served. It allows us to appreciate ‘super’ in the form of a miracle when the combination of love, power, and need converge.
So many people are feeling stuck and sad, and they may not feel as though there’s anything super in their lives. God invites us to put Him to the test. If we’ll move from fear and doubt to faith, through the Lord Jesus Christ, God will save the day. That’s what He does. He has rescued us through Jesus Christ, and there’s nothing pretend about that. We must begin to believe in the power of God’s love more than we believe in the evil around us. Only villains believe in evil more than love. In 2Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul was vexed by one of satan’s angels, and Paul said, “he tried his best to get me down. What he in fact did was push me to my knees.” Paul begged God to remove this obstacle, but God told him in 2Corinthians 12:9(NKJV), “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” God’s strength shows up and shows out as we humble ourselves before Him in faith. We may not be superheroes by comic book standards, but we serve a God who has all power, and He wants to show us that we can do infinitely more through His love than we could ever do without it. ■
Do you feel honored, valued, appreciated, and loved by others? Do you feel as though people know the real you—the ‘you’ that you believe yourself to be at the deepest level? We all want validation from those we care about, but the truth is that it doesn’t come that often. I will venture to say that there are more people that feel undervalued and unappreciated than those that feel valued and appreciated. This doesn’t paint a very pretty picture I know, but so many of us feel as though we’re doing all the right things, yet it doesn’t appear we’re being rewarded. Well, God has something to say about this, and if we’ll open our hearts to receive it, I believe that it will make all the difference in the world.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a young woman that is very disillusioned with life. She was raised with parents that love the Lord, and she doesn’t remember a time when their lives didn’t revolve around their faith. She told me she does all the things that she believes a Christian should do—reading God’s Word and praying often, but something doesn’t feel the same she said. She’s reached a point in her spiritual walk where she feels depleted—like no person or thing can fill up her empty spaces. She has feelings of hopelessness and is emotionally exhausted.
Back in the day, and in many churches today as well, the diagnosis would be one of judgment and perhaps not one of compassion and spiritual maturity. We can’t get it twisted, we live in complicated times and the enemy is busier than ever. There are a multitude of darts aimed at our direction, and they are aimed at various and important areas of our existences. Sometimes we are attacked on all fronts. Someone or something at the job is weighing heavy on our minds; boyfriend or girlfriend ain’t acting right, and maybe a family member or friend is not providing the support and care you expect. When you add financial instability, environmental craziness, and the state of the world today in this mix, becoming weighted down emotionally is a very real possibility.
Jesus Christ has told us to cast our every care upon him, and most Christians know this passage in the bible. It’s Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT): 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Many of us do this. We give our burdens to Jesus Christ because we know the awesomeness of his power, and initially we trust him, but many of us take our burdens back. There are a couple of reasons why we do a take-back and why our commitment to surrender, release, and let it go doesn’t stick. I’d like to put a few out there for your consideration.
Lack of Prep for the Next Phase Like the young lady I mentioned, many of us have been on this journey a while, and we know that God requires a commitment to His Word. In our minds we might be doing all the right things, but this doesn’t always mean that we’re growing spiritually. A routine can turn into inflexibility in a hot minute. It can lock us into habit patterns that work for a season, but what about God’s plans to take us higher now and in the future? Heavenly Father created life to be dynamic when it comes to spiritual growth. In this arena, stagnation is a minus and not a plus. When our spirit has received the message it’s time to go higher, but our soul is not in a listening mood, the disharmony gets translated to our hearts and minds as feeling bad. Surrendering to the reality that God wants us to cling more tightly to Him and that it’s time to move up, this will prepare us for the next phase of our spiritual journey. Praying for guidance through His preparation process will aid us tremendously.
A Misleading Need for Emotional Validation Heighten emotions of praise and thankfulness are such a big part of the way we worship and experience God. But some us have developed a kind of dependency on emotions, and we start to trust our emotions more than we trust what God says. We have to switch that around. Our emotions should follow what God says. In other words, when we turn our dials all the way up to believing and trusting God, we might not feel like skipping through fields of daisies, but we have to trust Him anyway. The skipping will follow.
Looking to the Wrong Source Validation is part of the soul’s appetite. All of us will seek it because it’s part of being human, but the source of our validation is monumentally important. Many of us sense this big hole inside, and it just feels awful sometimes. So, what do we do? We try to fill it. We seek to feed our souls validation from those we love, admire, and support. The trouble with this is that their food is not eternal, and it can’t affirm the truth of who we are and who we’re meant to be. So, if we’re looking to feast on any other source than Heavenly Father, we will be in a constant state of soul-starvation. This is where many of us are right now.
The soul can only be as fulfilled and whole as its most hearty and healthiest meal. When we understand this, the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 4:4(NKJV) magnify exponentially. After fasting forty days and nights, he was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread. He responded to the devil’s temptation with “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. ” The eternal wisdom, counsel, and promises of God’s Word is the food our souls were meant to eat. The psalmist lays out God’s spiritual menu in Psalm 34:8(NLT). He tells us, “Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”
God knows us intimately. He knows the REAL you better that you can ever know yourself. When we’re depleted in our inner beings because our souls are starving spiritually, God can give us what we need. He has the very best medicine, and He knows exactly where to administer it. We are spiritual beings, created to thrive from spiritual nourishment. When we’re feeling depleted, devalued, and low, we need not cling to what worked in the past. God’s resources are infinite, and He loves to help us tap into His treasures. Let’s be good to ourselves and surrender totally to Him. Let’s be willing to release the things that hold us back so we can make room for the things that propel us forward. Then, we will be prepared for the next level of spiritual growth. As we feast on His Word, we’ll learn to trust the Lord in a greater way, and He will validate our souls and keep us continually satisfied.■
I got out of a relationship with someone that I thought was a really good guy. He loved the Lord, preached on Sunday at times and was a really good father to his children. We loved each other but after about a year together, the relationship took a turn. His love became painful. If he called and couldn’t reach me, his insecurity would rear its ugly head. It wasn’t apparent at first, but as the relationship progressed, I saw that he handled his own pain through manipulation and playing mind games. I was just not willing to remain in a place where hurt and pain became the constant, and love took a backseat.
I left this man, and it was indeed a difficult break-up. I was truly committed to him and the relationship. It took months before I could even think about him without shedding a tear, but I endured the pain, because I’ve lived long enough to know that trouble doesn’t last always. When we face heartache and trouble, God tells us exactly how to handle it. In Romans 12:12(NLT), His Word says, “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Instead of letting myself become bitter, I followed the Lord’s commandment.
As I busied myself, going on with my life, I happened to see this man in passing one day, and before I knew it, I had given him a smile. It was not forced or fake but came from a place that the love of God had created in me. He emailed me and said he was so happy to see me, but he said he was even more happy to see the smile I had given him. He thought I hated him.
James 1:2-4(NLT) tells us, “2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”God wants us to get to a place where we are not dependent on a person to do for us what only God can do. Heavenly Father is the Source of our joy, not a person.
If a relationship is harming us, it’s harming our relationship with God. He will give us the strength to let it go. One thing I know to be true, time causes us to forget some wounds, but only the love of God can truly heal them. Just as 1John 4:11 tells us, because of God’s love for us, we should be able to love one another. Even if we want to hold a grudge or be angry for a lifetime, our growth in the Spirit of Christ will not allow us to do this. We can let go and be better and not bitter, and we’ll be so much stronger for it.
Pray and ask God to give you a new heart, and let His love blanket all your pain, as only He can.
The women I grew up around were warriors in my eyes. They were not champions of academia, didn’t have loads of money by any stretch of the imagination, and not all of them would measure up to what we consider to be spiritual veterans of today. They were the ‘least of these’, women that were incredibly humble, fiercely determined, and in many cases, fantastically resourceful; they had to be. Survival depended on their ability to take what most consider to be nothing and turn it into something that added beauty, comfort, and sustenance not just to their lives, but the lives of their families. I will always consider them heroes, but like most heroes, they had a blindspot. It was the very thing that ultimately broke their spirits and left their souls depleted of all life’s joy.
Love is our life’s work. A person can run a billion-dollar company, go to the moon and back, or entertain millions with their talent and abilities, but if love has not been their motivation, their accomplishments will have been in vain. 1Corinithians 13:2-3(NIV) tells us, “If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” This is profound wisdom. It is the machinery of life, and it is a truth that can never be refuted no matter how much we might try. Everything that we do will be judged on whether love was purely and solely our motivation.
Talking about love immediately summons imagery of ooey gooey feelings, but this isn’t the love 1Corinithians 13:2-3 is referring to. Most of us associate love with feelings, but if love’s work was dependent only on how we felt, very little could be accomplished. God is our Father. John 3:16 tells us God so loved everyone in the world that He gave them the most precious gift He owned, which is His only begotten Son. He paid the highest price that could be paid. Why? John 3:16 tells us why. He did so that everyone that believes in His Son will not perish but will have eternal life. His love for everyone knows no boundaries, and He didn’t just talk the talk so to speak, He walked the walk. He demonstrated His unfailing love for us all.
Jesus Christ said in John 15:13(KJV), “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” We are the friends he’s referring to. If you don’t believe in the value of the life of Christ, you will not have the heart depth to be grateful for his sacrifice. In truth, there is nothing that exists in all of eternity with the capacity to measure what Christ gave up, and what he accomplished on the cross. Nothing can compare with the suffering he endured. Philippians 2:8(NLT) says, “he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” The suffering he took on was the suffering humanity deserved for its rebellion against God, and although Christ died over two thousand years ago, humanity is still rebelling.
The value of a treasure is recognized by the price that is paid to acquire it. The highest price was paid for our souls, and by this we can know a little bit about the value God has assigned to them. He treasures us. When we live in such a way that we honor God with the gift of life that He has given us, and we demonstrate our gratitude by celebrating it the way that He does, we are no longer blind. It is through this lens of God’s love that love’s work begins.
My beloved heroes loved the Lord, but they didn’t realize the beauty of the destiny He had for them. They allowed the men that were used by satan to keep them blinded to their worth. Through the domestic violence and abuse that was afflicted on them, their voices were silenced, their opinions were belittled, and any attempt to be strengthened in confidence and faith was brutally attacked. It is impossible to rise above that which we do not know or haven’t been taught. We can only rise to the level of which we are willing to believe in our worth.
Heavenly Father is our Creator. He is the only One that can assign our value. No other human being has that right. Jesus Christ lives within us, and God tells us that we are the hope of his glory. The suffering of domestic violence and abuse can make a hero a victim, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. You don’t have to settle for scarcely getting by. You don’t have to stand by as someone maliciously tries to dismantle the hope that is in your soul. You can begin to change the way you think about yourself. You can recognize that you’ve underestimated your ability to capture your destiny and carry it out through the Father’s love. Trust God wholeheartedly through Jesus Christ. It’s how you demonstrate that your eyes are open to the glory of all He’s created you to be. God will continue to light the way as you honor the worth of the life that He’s given you, and only make room for those who do the same. ■