Fighting with God

I was reading a devotional earlier this week about Moses. The author said that when Moses ran from Egypt after committing murder that he was running into the desert where he was having no impact on the world.

But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?”~Exodus 4:1

 But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” ~Exodus 4:13

This made me wonder how many times I have run into my own desert out of fear. A desert could be isolation, addiction or staying busy to escape thoughts of the past. I know I have done all three throughout my life. What was I afraid of? Some of the reasons varied but ultimately I was afraid of being seen. I felt like I wouldn’t be accepted if people got to know me.

I was wrong. By doing this I wasn’t allowing God to shape me into the person I am meant to be. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with who I was but I was selling myself short. God loved me as I was but He also loved me too much to let me stay in the desert running from him and the rest of humanity.

I fought him every step of the way at first. That fight lasted many years and had moments of my surrendering followed by more foot dragging. God was patient with me and never gave up on me. He let me fight with him like Jacob. He even gave me wounds like Jacob. My wounds were more emotional but just as real. Like Jacob, I got most of those wounds because I wouldn’t surrender. I had to be stubborn and do things my way.

God also let me argue with him like Moses did. Once I was able to surrender (well, I mostly surrendered) and start trying things his way, every time He would ask me to step out in faith and out of my comfort zone I would argue and resist. But every time that I finally listened I was able to see how far I’ve come and the fears I had were unfounded. The most important thing that happened is that God never left my side, not even for a moment.

Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4

What I hope those reading this take away is that it’s okay not to be a perfect, cookie cutter Christian. It’s okay to have doubts. It’s okay if you question God sometimes. If the Bible is any indication, He’s used to it. But I also want to challenge you to surrender and even step out of your comfort zone when asked. God won’t let you down.

Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him. ~Psalm 37:7a

If God can use me despite all my physical problems, He can use you too.

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Great things out of the humble things

I couldn’t sleep last night and didn’t have anything queued up on my ipod, so I started listening to the first Harry Potter book. Something that was said by one of the characters got me to thinking. It was a good thing too because I didn’t have any ideas for this week’s blog. I just hope I’m not inadvertently stealing the ideas of a friend who wrote a book on biblical truths found in Harry Potter.

I can’t remember the exact quote but it was in reference to the home Harry grew up in being so plain. They said something to the effect of sometimes from humble beginnings come the magnificent. When I heard this I started thinking of biblical characters that this was true of.

I thought of Moses first. He technically didn’t have humble beginnings since he grew up as royalty in Egypt and was highly educated. He ended up having to flee into the desert to live as a shepherd. When God did call him he thought he couldn’t possibly be used by God. I’m sure it was scary going back home when you’re wanted for murder and God wants you to demand that Pharaoh release all his slaves.

Moses had a great life for the first 40 years. But when called by God he only focused on the bad parts. This is something I find myself struggling with when God tells me to do things out of my comfort zone. I think of what I can’t do and all of the things that could go wrong. I should be focusing on the times God protected me and came through for me. God kept Moses safe when the Egyptians wanted him for murder, he gave him a new job and a wife and children. But he couldn’t see God was always with him and will be this time.

…“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:9b-10

And what about Gideon. (see Judges 6-8)  He was in a pit hiding in a pit from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord greets him as mighty warrior. Gideon is like, “Who? Me?” God definitely has a sense of humor. Gideon said he was from the least tribe, least clan, least family and least of his family. Talk about a low self-image. He kept testing God to make sure he was really hearing right. God kept taking away the number of men. Gideon must have been scared to death. But God used him to hand the Midianites a decisive defeat.

I have gotten better but most times I see myself as lowly when I am called on by God. When I started writing this blog, I thought who cares what I have to say. But every week I average 25-35 readers. It was a surprise to me that so many cared. But I still struggle with fear when I step out in faith. But God has always come through.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.  Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.  God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. ~1 Corinthians 1:26-29

I could write a whole book on different biblical figures but I will only talk about one more for this post. King David came from humble beginnings, screwed up several times but was used by God in mighty ways. He was a lowly shepherd, a profession that is looked down on. When the prophet Samuel told his father to bring his sons because one was supposed to be anointed king it didn’t even cross his mind to include David. That must hurt. And after being anointed he had to wait 20 years before he took the throne and was constantly on the run because King Saul wanted to kill him.

I have trouble waiting one month for something let alone 20 years. If I was David I would have said forget it. But he persevered out of faith.

I hope those who read this will remember not to count themselves out, no matter how bad things get. I definitely need reminded. We might not be used in huge ways like those I talked about, but God will use us. These figures were lucky enough to see the results of their faith and God’s work in their lives. Despite this, they had the same fears and negative self talk that we feel when stepping out in faith. We might not see the results but we can rest assured that God works everything for good for those who love him. Nothing goes to waste.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. ~Ephesians 2:8-10

Fear Not

I survived Hurricane Irma unscathed. I was one of lucky ones. So many others had extensive damage and even health problems from the heat. With temperatures in the high 80s and high humidity the heat in South Florida is unbearable, especially with no air conditioning. I have gone through it over 10 years ago when we were hit by several storms in one year. I know all of those without power are feeling quite miserable.

With a strong hurricane coming we faced many possible dangers from loss of property to flooding to loss of life. But we faced an even greater but invisible danger. Fear.

The fear of the unknown is very real and some of the possible outcomes were genuine concerns. But if we stay in a constant state of fear we not only overreact or even worse make bad decisions but we also cause ourselves to get sick.

Worry and anxiety for prolonged periods are not good for our health.

According to WebMD:

“Worrying is feeling uneasy or being overly concerned about a situation or problem. With excessive worrying, your mind and body go into overdrive as you constantly focus on “what might happen.””

“When worries and anxiety become excessive, chances are you’ll trigger the stress response.”

Most of us refer to the stress response as “fight or flight”. This is a normal response to perceived danger but if this state is repeatedly triggered by excessive anxiety and worry. This can cause problems such as dizziness, fast heart beat, fatigue, irritability, nervous energy and shortness of breath. The last two are all I need.

A lot of us were worried and stressed before and during the hurricane. Some were still worried after the storm not knowing how family and friends were doing. I certainly was worried before the storm and during the time that we felt the peak.

I was checking the news several times a day leading up to the hurricane. It was so uncertain I was looking for them to have a better idea of when and where. They never did until it happened. I definitely felt my stress and anxiety rising. Constant uncertainty and warnings of how bad it was going to be was driving me crazy.

It was good that they were telling people to be prepared but after awhile it creates fear way beyond causing people to realize that they needed to take it seriously. Then during the storm if we tuned into get an update we had to sit through half an hour of pictures of the places that got hit the worst.

I think it is important that we have moderation in these situations. Turn off the news and focus on something else. At my house, we had a movie marathon. Watching constant coverage and worrying about it wasn’t going to change the outcome one bit. If I can’t change it why make myself sick over it. The only thing I could do was put my trust in God and distract myself.

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? – Luke 12:22-26

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

Work in Progress

Paul writes in Romans 6:6-7:

“We know that our old self was crucified with [Jesus] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.”

Crucifixion is a slow painful death. My old self was crucified, not euthanized. Why then am I surprised when my sinful nature rears it’s head. Why am I surprised when overcoming my addiction becomes painful and a struggle. Why do I let it frustrate, discourage and anger me when it does? Even Jesus told us things we be difficult but we can find peace in him.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I need not let my addiction and setbacks take away my peace. It takes time and I should show myself grace. God does. Who am I not to?

I am free from sin because I was crucified with Christ. My sinful nature will try to take over again but it won’t and can’t because I am free from it. I am no longer a slave to it.

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6:6-7

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11

“And, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:18

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”Galatians 5:1

My sinful nature will only take over if I allow it to, if I submit to it. I am a slave of righteousness. If I remain that way I will not leave room for my sinful nature. If I do stumble it is just that a stumble. I am not yet fully what I am to become. People screw up. The rub lies in remaining a slave to righteousness. This world has many distractions.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14