04/12/2012

Gaining Help from above – Sacrifice**

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:03 pm by The Water Bearer

Warning: Contains Graphic Image

One of the main reasons we miss out on experiencing the presence of God in our lives is because our thoughts are too consumed by the physical world. We focus on our material comforts, our desires, our careers, our families, our looks, our fun or our reputation. These are the ‘beautiful things’ placed before the throne of God by the enemy, to distract us from pursuing righteousness. They are responsible for hardening our hearts, and building pride, which prevents God from being able to intimately connect with us.

We protect our own worldly desires and our reputations so much, yet we may be inspired by a vital piece of the puzzle when understanding the lessons constructed within the sacrifice of Christ.

Consider for a moment that the King of Kings, glorified by angels, the highest authority in all the universe, lost His reputation and respect, gave up His position and His worldly desires, endured the lowest form of humiliation and abasement, by undertaking a criminals torture and death. Offering His blood to flow as the cleansing waterfall, for us to be able to connect with God, becoming blameless through Him! He gave up His comfort and reputation FOR US!

I need a moment to let that sit on my heart and let the tears clear from my eyes….

How can we expect to be intimate with God  if we give up nothing for Him in return for His sacrifice for us, or even fail to acknowledge it?

If we have a ‘God-sized’ hole in our hearts, there is nothing of this world that will fill it. The only way to feel whole, is to fill ourselves with the love of Christ first, before anything from the physical realm. This includes relationships, good times, wealth, knowledge etc. By giving back to God the things of the world we have held onto in our hearts, we move into a new phase of a supple mindset and heart.

Once we accept that the ‘world’ is not meeting our expectations or filling that void inside us, and instead move God into that space, by making Him come first. Then we can begin, bit by bit, to let go of our grip on the comforts of the world and the hold they have over us. This is required if we are to have an experiential awareness of God. We can begin to understand and accept that there are purposes behind enduring suffering throughout our time here.

“And he said to them all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man’s advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?'” Luke 9:23-25 (KJV)

Taking up our cross daily is the equivalent of an unselfish willingness to suffer, to pray for strength of faith instead praying for more comfort. God is more concerned with our character than our comfort. Giving up our lives doesn’t necessarily mean bringing about our death. God certainly means us no harm, and this is proven especially if we recognise that Christ came to free us from death and give us life. Giving up our lives means being willing to let God use our life for His cause, to cling to Him through our suffering. It means, no matter what suffering we endure, our faithfulness allows God’s strength to be perfected in our weakness.

We must expect to face some persecution for our faith, for we become different to those of the world. Singer songwriter Amy Grant sang the lyrics..”When the world begins to see you change, don’t expect them to applaud.” Fear not, for in due time the Lord will vindicate those who are His children.

We may also endure physical ailments, which act as our own experience of the “thorn in the flesh”, a condition to keep us humble, for the miracles we can achieve with God in charge of our lives can very quickly puff us up with pride.

My car accident, for example, left me with injuries that weakened me, yet at that time God used me for some miraculous experiences through my faithful obedience. More experiences than I can remember, it was a time of daily miracles. I would have claimed the glory for myself had I not been exposed to the weakness that my physical body was restricted by. I knew I was not capable of being strong faithfully because at a time I was so bottomed out by psychological and physical damage.

Through our willingness to suffer as Christ did, in a metaphorical sense, we grow in intimacy and unity with God, our hunger and need for Him causes us to step into the miracles He can perform through us.

A way to help us tolerate the suffering, comes when we accept that this world is only temporary, much better awaits those who have been called into salvation and eternity. Is it easy? Absolutely not! I can tell you however, that it is WORTH IT!

Everything you sacrifice unto the Lord, He will return 100 fold!

“And every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life.” Matt 19:29 (ASV)

This is the 6th post in the series ‘Gaining Help from Above’. Check out the previous posts Connection, Accepting an Encounter, Security, Control & Nourishment, if you haven’t already, and here is the link to the next post in this series…

30/11/2012

Gaining Help from Above – Nourishment*

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:33 pm by The Water Bearer

Nourishment is defined as – “The substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.”

This is probably the most obvious post, which many of you knew was coming in this series. The word of God is immeasurable nourishment for achieving a healthy heart and building a relationship with the Almighty. Unfortunately it has been known to fall into the wrong hands, it has been misused as a tool to condemn, judge, and control way too many people over the years. I have come to realise one very important thing about the Bible, and that is that it is a personal book, not a public one. Sure, we share scriptures to back up our theories and we use them to encourage or even reprove others, but all in all what God inspires in each word changes for each person, according to where they are at in their walk with Him. This is why there are references to the ‘secrets’ of God’s word.

“And he said, To you is given knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to the others, they are given in stories, so that seeing, they may not see, and though they give hearing, the sense will not be clear to them.” Luke 8:10 (BBE)

Secrets are defined as – Something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others. Something that is not properly understood; a mystery.

There are only two, who can know for sure what God is saying to you through His word. One is you, with your heart after Him, and the other is God! That’s it! Others can guess, they can speculate, they can advise, they can theorize, however God and God alone is the only one who’s guidance we must take, any advice must be checked back with Him and await confirmation, before anything can be known for certain. Read here for more on confirmation and deception.

“Out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be confirmed”. 2 Cor 13:1 (MNT)

Abraham, the father and patriarch of the Hebrew nation, had no scriptures, he had a relationship with God. God poured promises deep into Abraham’s soul. Angels were sent to bring more fortuitous assurances. God spoke directly and the willing heart of Abraham believed and obeyed. In today’s scope of interactions with God, many of our imaginings about the ‘Words from God’ have become contaminated by false prophets and counterfeit deities. So we must have discernment and not swallow anything whole. We must chew it over with prayer and nourishment, we must give God the chance to confirm what it is that He is trying to tell us.

When we begin to build a relationship with someone, we spend time getting to know them. Reading the scriptures is a way of getting to know God and what His principles are. The stories and history recorded were written by those who had a deep relationship with God, and while there may be much confusion and debate over interpretation, there is much opportunity for growth for those who are willing to pursue it.

“Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11 (ASV)

The first thing I can hear you saying, based on what I said at the beginning of my own adult walk is, “But it’s hard and boring, and I don’t feel like reading the Bible”.

Something extremely important to recognise before we begin to read God’s word, is that the enemy is real and is out to destroy any hope we have of reaching the potential that God has in store for us. He has access to our flesh and uses it to pull us away from God and the disciplines we must apply in order to overcome it.

This is just like any other discipline, take for example physical exercise, we all know it is good for us, we all know that it will help us improve many areas of our lives, yet our flesh resists it. Even once we get going, we begin to feel the weight and pressure of keeping it up and we want to quit. Prayer is the same, try praying to God for 10 minutes. We can talk on the phone with our friends easily for 10 minutes, but test and see how hard it is to talk to God for that long. Our flesh distracts us, it feels like we simply cannot do it!

Reading the word of God also brings out this resistance, especially at first. Even when we pick it up and open somewhere and begin to read, it is like the words all overlap on the page, we find ourselves reading the same line over and over and not taking anything in. Or we open up at a genetic listing, a whole chapter dedicated to someone who ‘begat’ someone else, to the next generation and so on and so on. My advice is to press on, turn a few pages, pray for help to be able to read and understand. The Bible may be many things, however, “boring’ is not one of them, this is another trick from the enemy. We need to open up our hearts and let God in through His word. We need to acknowledge the enemy in our flesh and find the willingness to overcome it.

We can’t treat the Bible like any other book, reading from the front page through to the last. Each Book of the Bible is a whole book in itself, both filling and worth meditation. Before I open it up just anywhere, I pray and ask God to guide my eyes to find the words He wants me to read. If nothing makes sense after a little while, then start at the beginning of that chapter, if it still doesn’t connect then start at the beginning of that book. Another good idea is to make a note of the section you opened to and go back and check to see if it makes sense in a few days time. That can be mind-blowing!

Just like we need to eat healthy nutritious food to keep our bodies in top condition, we also need to read God’s word to keep our hearts in top condition.

‘Jesus answered, “Scripture says, ‘A person cannot live on bread alone but on every word that God speaks.'” Matthew 4:4

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.” Isaiah 55:2-3

‘Nourishment’ is  the 5th post within the series, ‘Gaining Help from Above’. Previous posts include, Connection, Accepting and Encounter, Security, and Control. Keep an eye out for more posts to come, Blessings to you!

28/11/2012

Gaining Help From Above – Control*

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:47 am by The Water Bearer

When I was a young single Mum, before I began deepening my relationship with God, I found myself bouncing from one relationship to another. I was hunting desperately for that one man who would fulfill my dreams of a united family, and a stable home for me and my daughter, a nice yard with a fence where she could play, and maybe a dog. You know the ‘typical’ family life, a life I had been dreaming of since my parents split up when I was a young girl.

I was in a relationship with a man, we did not live together, and after 2 years I was frustrated. I had pinned so many hopes on him, hoping he would want the same things as me. No matter how much I forced discussions about our future he always seemed to change the subject, or speak in vague riddles. Eventually, after long talks with my Dad about life, love, faith and dreams, I began to accept the truth. In reality this man and I were looking for different things, and I was so hell-bent on controlling my life and those in it, that I had given God no room to  take the wheel and steer my life in a better direction.

Dad’s talks gave me a new perspective. I needed to let go of my rigid dreams and allow God to bring His dreams into my life.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jer 29:11 (ESV)

I ended my 2 year relationship and took some time to sit quietly with God, I promised to truly give up my pursuit of that one dream I had been in search of. I committed my life into God’s hands, and rather than the physical ways I had been intimate before, I began to develop intimacy with my Heavenly Father instead.

Within a few months everything changed. A good friend invited my Dad, myself and my Daughter, to rent his house, it had a nice yard and even a dog. I now had my Dad as a stable influence in our life and a dear friend who completed the household. I found myself rushing home from work to spend time at home, something I had no recollection of doing for as long as I could remember. Then one day, in an miraculous way, my heart changed. I saw my friend with ‘new eyes’, and an attraction developed. God gave me a number of confirming signs that this was the man He had chosen for me, and I began to expand on the love I had for my friend. The reality of our life together has had higher highs and joy than I had ever envisioned in my previous ‘controlling’ dreams. Of course we have been through some rough times, but I have confidence in God’s dream much more than I ever had in my own, no matter what the future holds God is trustworthy. In all areas of my life I can trust in His loving provision, believing He will have more in store for me than my limited imagination can conceive.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Prov 19:21 (ESV)

Control is an illusion anyway! If we have faith, we know that God already knows what we are going to do, and what we are going to choose in our daily walk, and He knows what He is going to bring our way in relation to our choices. His Will, will be done after all. If control is in fact an illusion, why not work with God by submitting to His influence over our lives? We have been given free choice, and it is a free choice to choose His way over our own.

Letting go of our own dreams allows Him to bring us a new dream, His Dream.

By using both hands to hold tightly to the steering wheel of my own dream, I had no free hand to accept all that God had in store for me. If we rest this life on an open palm, we allow God to take and to give, then we can experience His blessings for us. I promise that He loves us so very much, and if we give Him the chance, He is faithful to blow our minds with a miraculous reality that only He can create.

‘Control’ is the 4th post in the series ‘Gaining Help from Above’, which I am writing for a friend, who reached out to me in her hour of need. Here are the links to the previous posts in order from the beginning – ‘Connection, ‘Accepting an Encounter’, and ‘Security’Here is the link to the next post. Blessings to you all!

23/11/2012

Gaining Help from Above – Accepting an Encounter*

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:24 am by The Water Bearer

This is the second post in the series ‘Gaining Help from Above’, please check out the introduction post if you haven’t already.

Accepting an encounter with God, changes not only our level of faith and our perspective in many areas of life. It is the first element in the foundation of our relationship with Him. This is vital if our faith is going to stand against the many trials it is sure to endure, right up until we reach the potential that God has in store for us.

From the age of 6, I spent a couple of years attending a Baptist Church with my family. I could recite scriptures and knew exactly what to say to my Dad and our Pastor or other members of the church when asked about Jesus, sin, or stories from the Bible. Yet I can’t recall any encounters with God from that time. Honestly my first steps on the floor of faith were not experienced within the walls of church.

When I was a young girl, I was notorious for hiding the mess in my room. If my parents weren’t paying close attention they may think I wasn’t this messy child. Yet if they opened a cupboard, a drawer, or looked under my bed they would be appalled by the jumbled clutter they’d find.

One day, my family was heading out somewhere special, I was always adamantly fussy about my clothes and insisted on wearing only things I really liked. I had a favourite pair of shoes at the time and had arranged my outfit to match with them perfectly. Only problem was everyone was getting into the car and I had only been able to locate the right shoe.

For the past half an hour I had been flinging crumpled clothes, toys, sneakers and books over my shoulders as I dived into my wardrobe and under my bed, searching urgently for the matching shoe. I could hear my mothers voice changing tone, calling to me from the front door as she grew frustrated with my tardiness. My chest tightened as I hunted harder, faster, knowing her patience wasn’t going to hold much longer. I knew she would soon stomp in here, find any pair of matching shoes, amongst the disaster zone that I now called my room, and she would make me wear them even if they didn’t match my clothes. That thought made me spin with desperation.

Suddenly I sensed a deep inner place and I remembered that I knew of this guy called Jesus and His Dad, God. So I called out in faith, “Please, pretty please, if you are really there, help me find my other shoe Lord. I promise I will try to keep my room tidier, just please help me. If you are real then you know where it is, please show me where.”

I went around the other side of my bed and reached underneath, I lifted a shirt with a horses face on the front, and underneath it was my shoe!

As I look back on that prayer it seems such a silly thing to pray about, however, I realised at that moment that God was real, that He was just like a loving parent who answers even the silly requests of His children. I had child-like faith. I have never doubted God’s existence since, even when I struggled through life and didn’t always understand His reasons, even when I strayed away from Him, I still knew deep down that He was waiting for my next heartfelt prayer.

Let me be clear here, God may not always answer every prayer as simply and immediately as this one. He knows what is BEST for us, and if our prayers line up with His will for us He will always answer them. If our prayers are outside of His will for us, He would be doing us an injustice to use His might and power to act like a ‘Genie in a bottle’, granting our every wish. For example, if we pray, asking God to help us win the Lotto, God knows that those riches will distract us and taint our faith in Him, because we will put our trust in our money and not in Him. Then that would go against everything He stands for.

You may be asking at this point, why it was in God’s will to find my left shoe? So may I draw your attention to a couple of things in my childish prayer, that I think are important?

Firstly, it was the first time I questioned in my heart if God and Jesus were “really there”. I imagine a Father looking down on His daughter with intense love, wanting desperately to have a genuine connection with her and hearing her ask, “Are you really there? Really?” The answer any loving Father would give is “YES! YES! I am really here!”.

Secondly, I made an agreement, a contract, a covenant with God. I promised I would try my best to keep my room tidier. To show Him I was willing to do some hard work in return for His faithful answer to my desperate prayer. God is all for discipline, He knows that self-discipline with His help, is the only way to overcome our flesh. The very flesh which leads us to follow the ways of the world and not God’s ways.

“The proverbs of Solomon, David’s son who was king of Israel, {given} to grasp wisdom and discipline, to understand deep thoughts, to acquire the discipline of wise behavior” Prov 1:1-3 (GW)

Thirdly, in my childish way, I demonstrated a level of faith that I didn’t even realise I had. When I said “If you are real then you know where it is”, it showed that I was willing to accept how broad and wide His power reaches. It showed God that I did not limit Him, and I gave Him a chance to show me that the tiny insignificant details of my life, including the state of my room, were important to Him.

My faith moves me to understand that He knew that I was at a crux which was vital to the foundation of my faith. It was tremendously important to Him that I believed He existed and was powerful enough to show me where my shoe was, and that He cared a lot about the details of my life.

If I had not been desperately open-hearted and actually reaching out to Him with my heart, then He would have known it was not in my best interests to answer my prayer. He knew my heart was open at that moment.

“But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jer 17:10 (NLT)

I have taught my girls to pray with one important clause always to be acknowledged, and applying it shows a mature relationship with God, based on trust.

“Dear Lord, I would really appreciate you answering my prayer, but if it is not within your will, I will trust that you have your reasons.”

Accepting an encounter with God can be a life changing experience. If you allow your heart to open up to it and value it, it will be the first of many even more miraculous encounters in a life time of faith.

Obviously there is much width and depth to the subject of gaining help from above, which is why I need a series of posts to write about it, and why many people spend a lifetime devoted to gaining a better understanding of God and building an intimate relationship with Him. These steps I am mentioning throughout this series, are some of the basic foundations from which to build faith from, and here is the link to the next post....

21/11/2012

Gaining Help from Above – Connection*

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:11 am by The Water Bearer

Don’t you just love how a new connection with someone can bring some clarity and meaning to your world? I have made many wonderful new connections in the Blogosphere and I am so grateful for you all. For the first time in my faith walk I feel more connected to the (too often divided) ‘Body of Christ’ than I had been able to perceive before. I feel greatly blessed by that.

I have also made a few new connections in the ‘real world’ recently as well. I love how people challenge me to wrap my head around their unique perspectives, established by their own personal journey, and yet also how many common elements we share.

How awesome is our Lord to be able to create such different and individual experiences, yet still bring us across people we share so much common ground with! It blows my mind!

I was sharing recently with one of these ‘new connections’ and was grateful for the honest way she opened her heart to me. I felt it may have been unfamiliar for her to share her weaknesses without fear of judgment or condemnation.

This world teaches us very quickly to hide our imperfections from others, yet when we share them in a safe place, the deep affiliation felt can be extremely healing.

After some time spent sharing, she asked me about the most priceless connection anyone can ever make: She asked…

“What can I do to gain help and guidance from God?”

It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to realise how complex this question is, yet I softened my heart to her situation and tried to remember what it was that struck a chord within my own heart before I let God take more control of my life. I spoke for a few minutes about a number of things, which I can hardly recall to share here, however after I left her I found a still, small voice adding to our conversation in my thoughts. So I decided to let it flow out into the Blogosphere.

I hope that in my response I spoke to her about the limits we place on God. We often assume that He is simply too busy to be bothered with the details of our personal lives. We imagine Him as very far off, we don’t see much opportunity to reach Him and make contact. When the truth is that He is pressing up against our lives, closer than you or I can imagine, waiting patiently to connect with us. Without previous awareness of His involvement in our lives, or an experiential spiritual perspective, it can be difficult to know how or if He can even help us.

So in order to genuinely connect with God, first we need to recognise that He is abundant and has NO LIMITS, we simply can’t conceive that in it’s entirety from our human mind. It is a humbling event to acknowledge that we do not know how much He knows, or why He does what He does and doesn’t do, or how many arrangements He has made behind the scenes of our lives, setting up every situation to encourage us to a place of soft-hearted humility so we will be more open to Him and His will. We can speculate and study, we can debate and discuss theology, we can assume and guess, we can war and argue, but we are unable to completely understand as long as we are trapped by the limited mindset of humanity. It is hard to comprehend His intense love for us and His unlimited power, because we are trying to expand our thoughts to a point which we have no mind power to reach. It takes much more than knowledge or understanding, it takes Faith!

We often become very confused about God because we have so many mis-perceptions of sin and forgiveness, blame and innocence, which we let distance us from Him, and we regularly miss the subtle yet more important reasons for any feelings of distance… For instance, when we try to be our own ‘God’ by holding tight control, rather than trusting Him with the choices and direction of our lives. Or when we hold bitterness towards Him for our own, and the rest of the world’s, suffering. Without any understanding of the systems outside our physical lives that are being empowered for our own good in the long term, in other words, our salvation and spiritual position. We let that bitterness become our reasoning not to trust Him….

We take away His power when we think we understand more than we do and believe we have enough will-power to not need to rely on Him.

We believe quotes that claim ‘life wasn’t meant to be easy’, yet we get angry at God when it is hard.

An imperative aspect to gaining Christ-likeness is the willingness to suffer for moments in our lifetime and trust that there are reasons we do not yet understand. Better that, than risk losing our possible position in an eternity of basking in the awesome presence and love of the Almighty, due to our own gall.

St. Anselm of Canterbury wrote –

“I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe… but I believe in order to understand.”

Here is the link to the next post in this series…There’s much more to Gaining Help from Above….

30/07/2012

The Emotional Hangover**

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:40 am by The Water Bearer

I am coining this as an official title,

“Emotional Hangover”

I am beginning to see a pattern form, of getting an emotional hangover after a day of emotional battle, a day of raw exposed fear. The kind of inner battle when you can’t control a thought in your head or a word from your mouth. When you are so overwhelmed with the onslaught of emotions that your clarity of thought isn’t even in the same suburb as you! Tears are shed, hearts crumble under the painful attacks of fear and guilt, words are rambled and all capability is lost. Many psychological conditions bring on these bouts, such as Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder, Cyclic Mood Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc. The battle itself is difficult at best to get through, however I have noticed the next day or two I am exhausted and extremely sensitive. I feel like I’ve been through hell and back.

Every ‘Drinker’ knows a real ‘Hangover’, you may as well write-off the whole next day because you know you are going to be useless. Getting out of bed is like lifting a wreckage from the bottom of the sea, that first sip of warm Coffee or Tea gives you slight hope, which only fades as the cup drains. The second cup doesn’t hold the same potential as that first hopeful sip, regular responsibilities are unbearably weighty, if you can manage anything at all then you’re grateful.

Not too long ago, I suffered from this type of “Emotional Hangover”.

Getting out of bed caused an argument with myself, until I managed to drag myself off the mattress.

I snapped at my family members when I saw the rubbish overflowing onto the floor, spewing out of the bin which was well over capacity.

I cringed and growled out loud “ARGH!” when I saw the heavy rain fall onto my work uniforms as they hung neatly on the washing line.

I could barely hear my children speak to me through the thick fog of unfathomable thoughts, and each question they threw at me squeezed into my mind which was as full as the rubbish bin. When I tried to conjure a response, the pressure inside my mind became too much and only something regrettably negative burst from my mouth.

I stood in front of the pantry trying desperately to come up with a side dish I felt able to make with dinner, I slid down the cupboard door behind me until my backside hit the floor, looking up at the shelves of food begging something to cry out “I am easy to make, you can manage to make me”. Only to give up and go to bed for an hour or so.

My head was heavy, my heart was heavy, my body was heavy, my mind was mush under a heavy fog. I’ve felt this before, many times.

I was very grateful to read a fellow bloggers post Mental Fatigue. Which let me know I wasn’t alone, every word rang true as I read, my realisation sparked this post.

I began to remind myself that these battles haven’t been so common recently, that I have been much better for many years, even though I do still get hit randomly, though not as often, but still HARD. An overflow of the inner war I discussed in a previous post Why so Fragile? I know that my inner enemy is using fear to deter me from writing…again. This time bringing out the ‘Big Guns’ of my psychological disorder to dissuade me from exposing these tactics.

The details might be different for everyone, but my deep personal fear is similar to many. Fear of being unloved, fear of being rejected, fear of being worthless, fear of temptation, fear of failing, fear of suffering, fear of regret.

I pray more than ever in these times, I instinctively reach for the powerful words of my Bible. My faith will get me through, I know this. He is my strength when I am weak.

In a confident state of mind, and a trusting, loving connection with God, these fears are irrelevant. I know I am loved by my Heavenly Father, that He will never reject me, I know how valuable I am to Him, I know my sins are forgiven, I know I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me, that I can endure suffering and be better for it, and that my regrets are what improves me.

I Know this! I Know this! So why do we still get attacks of feeling this way, believing these lies, folding under the fear? Whether for days on end, or just for one day here and one day there?

Because in this fragile state, this knowledge is hidden behind the heavy fog.

I used to think I was alone in this until I began sharing my story, I have found there are many of you out there, many like me who battle these inner enemies at various times in your lives.

So why does God let all this happen to us who love Him, who trust in Him?

I believe He wants to make us avid opponents to His enemies, He wants to strengthen our abilities on the battlefield, this fragile state of mind forces us to stretch our faith and reach further for His hand, to bring Him into our circumstance. These difficult times remind me to be vigilant in wearing my Godly armor, and to keep me truly hungering and thirsting for His word. What about you? Do these types of battles diminish your faith in His protection, or do you understand that He uses all things to bring about His design and build our relationship with Him and our strength of faith?

I watched the film “The Vow” recently, it touched me so, and a part of the story fits in here. The husband tells his wife who is suffering from amnesia that He will make her feel the love they once shared, that it will be like reading her favourite book for the first time. She will get to experience the most amazing feeling in the world again, the feeling of “Falling in Love“.

I feel like that when this fog lifts and I am saved by my Loving Father in Heaven! I fall in love with Him over and over again. I feel the safety of trusting in Him return to my awareness, I marvel at His demonstrations of Love when my prayers are answered. I am humbled by my weakness and encouraged by His strength. I am uplifted and enlightened, yet mystified and amazed by His complex puzzle for life and growth.

It may seem confusing but He knows things we don’t, He sees around the corners of life which we have yet to view. He uses these times to refine us as one would remove the impurities of precious metals, heating up the rocks with the hottest of fires causing the imperfections to rise to the surface and be removed!

“I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’

Zech 13:9 (ESV)

What about you? Do you also struggle and battle with fears similar to mine?
Do these types of battles diminish your faith in His protection?
Or do you understand that He uses all things to bring about His design and build our relationship with Him and our strength of faith?

02/07/2012

The Two Voices of Guilt**

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:54 pm by The Water Bearer

When I posted ‘When will we feel good enough?’ recently, I received a comment which sparked an outpouring of my spirit. One of my readers mentioned the guilty feelings of self-condemnation which still linger in her mind even after many years of learning to “lay off” and stop criticising and punishing herself for not being perfect. As I attempted to reply underneath I found the keyboard took on a life of its own and after a few minutes I had written this blog post (I thought it a bit too important to hide in the comment box and not share openly with you all). It has more ‘Theological talk’ than I usually like to put into my blog, as my aim is also to reach those outside the church. I am sorry if this is too ‘heavy’ for anyone and I am happy to try to answer any questions about the things I’ve explained here.

Dear Reader,

I understand how this feels, it took a car accident and nervous breakdown for me to address viewing myself through the judgmental eyes of others, or even the condemning eyes I had been viewing myself with for so long. It is a hard habit to break indeed, a lot of therapy and a long faith walk, yet it still hovers in the back of my mind. That is up until I address it, I now know that I need to go back and read my prayer journal and remember all the things I have learned about myself, about God, about my inner enemies and my army of inner angels.

I have come to find there are two ‘voices of guilt’.

One is the Holy Spirit convicting our hearts when we are in fact guilty of something which is causing a blockage between us and God. I have found usually pride is the one hardest to see for ourselves, and its easy to also avoid recognising more obvious ones, such as sinful anger, lying, idolatry, bitterness, and self-indulgence just to name a few. When we are guilty of anything, the Holy Spirit is sent to help us feel it accordingly. Through repentance of sin, explained in my previously mentioned post, we can be absolved of these sins and set free by God’s love, mercy and grace, to feel ‘Good Enough’.

When the Spirit of God is being nurtured inside us, we desire to be perfect. This is because the Spirit of God is perfect but is housed within our imperfect human hearts. The spirit is desiring to be perfect rather than actually feeling it’s pure perfection, due to being covered by our flesh (sin). Flesh became the access point of our inner enemies when Adam and Eve ate the ‘fruit’. This is why the saying “The flesh is weak” is so common.

So therefore the other ‘voice of guilt’, is the false guilt of our inner enemy, whose purpose is to gain access to us and deter our hearts from being open to God’s all powerful, healing Love.

Our inner enemy does not want us to feel God’s Love because it will weaken both the enemy within, and strengthen our flesh, time and time again. The enemy can’t allow that to happen without a fight because he will increasingly lose access to us, so we are fed lies of guilt and thoughts of not being ‘perfect enough’ in an attempt to dilute our faith and trust in God’s love.

So while I still hear the voice of guilt as many others do, I understand that I must discern which voice is talking to my heart and take the appropriate action. If it is the enemy trying to falsely condemn me then I need to use my inner angels to fight him off, and focus hard on God’s love for me. I recommend we all try this method when dealing with false guilt.

Prayers & Blessing to you.

This post is another one super hard for me to publish, while I have been brought into an understanding of these things, I have spent many years avoiding sharing these insights with anyone, except for some family members and 1 or 2 faithful friends. This is because it is usually too heavy and complex for those outside the church, and I come across too young and secular when discussing within the church. I often feel I have no audience for this type of talk and therefore just try to keep it to myself. I pray my reader  is helped a little by it.

27/06/2012

When will we feel ‘Good Enough’?

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:06 am by The Water Bearer

So often many of us want to crawl into a hole when faced with the reality that we aren’t perfect. There are so many more complex points I could write on this topic, but in this post I will just try to touch on a few basics. There is a cloudy grey area between being perfect and being good enough, and many of us feel if we fall short of perfection we must not be good enough.  Sure we tell ourselves over and over again the cliche that “Nobody’s Perfect”, we try to convince ourselves that we are ok with that, but it only seems to distract us for a moment and before long we are back wondering how we can feel good enough for longer?

Self-indulgence seems the most common way to distract ourselves for longer, things like overeating, retail therapy, casual sex, drinking, drugs, gambling, any form of a good time that helps us enjoy ourselves and takes our minds away from the disappointment of feeling like a failure. Only problem is all these can leave us with feelings of regret when we either drink too much, spend too much, eat too much, or sleep with someone we wish we hadn’t, making worse the feeling inside that we were trying to deal with in the first place. Other non-destructive ways are also attempted, like being overly ‘good’, perhaps we go on health kicks, take up a new hobby or volunteer for the school P&C, church craft stalls, food vans, fundraising etc. Obviously these are fabulous gestures when coming from the heart for the right reasons, but when they are to distract us from that feeling of still not being good enough we often find the feeling is still there not long after we hang up the Good Samaritan shoes.

I can relate to this in so many ways, in my own private thoughts I always knew what was expected of me, and that it was out of my reach. I had all these desires which I knew I wasn’t meant to have, I too dealt with my emotional thoughts in ways I knew were bad for me. I craved a brief moment of relief, where I could feel good enough already. I believed I knew what was ‘right’, but no matter how hard I tried, I still managed to find myself doing the wrong thing.

Strangely enough, I felt the exact opposite when I compared myself to those around me. If my ‘goodness’ was challenged by anyone, I could quickly dispute their claims by defending and justifying my actions, and pointing out how much worse they were than me. If I ever saw someone do anything ‘wrong’ I stored it in my memory bank, ready to remind them if ever my virtue was challenged.

I teetered between these two states for a number of years, unaware of what I was actually doing. I believe this battle is going on inside many people, and I feel the urge to tell you all that it is a sneaky, deceptive trap.

I was discussing this topic with my dear Sister recently; we were deep in the thick of analysing the elements of right and wrong, guilt and innocence, sin and forgiveness, among other things. I was recalling what our Dad had said to me in my early twenties; those words of his which had helped me see the truth about myself.

He helped me identify the lies I had believed all my life. Do these sound familiar to anyone?

*Good intentions are good excuses for undesirable behaviour;  –

Dad showed me that doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is still the wrong thing (doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is just as bad) Focusing on all the good things we do often, (good deeds, favours, gift giving, praying, loving gestures, hard work, fortitude through suffering etc) must make up for our impatience, our self-importance, bad temper, self-indulgence and emotional tantrums. Dad helped me accept that focusing on the good I saw in me distracted me from owning up to my true flaws, while focusing on the bad in others reinforced the belief that I was good and didn’t need to change.

*If we can convince those around us that we are good enough, and convince ourselves that we are good enough, then that must mean God thinks we are good enough too, right?

Dad showed me that God would in fact rather us be low in reputation, humble and even persecuted by man for His names sake. (He can certainly make us thought of highly by others, but only when it means nothing to us anymore.) In my understanding He does not encourage self-importance. Ordinary Man – Extraordinary God!

*We also fall for that age old trick of building our knowledge, and relying on our own understanding of right and wrong, to help us be more on to it.

Dad reminded me of the tree which Eve ate the fruit from, the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’. Isn’t that the same thing we are doing in this instance? Trying to know what God knows, rather than simply depending on Him?

If we look closely we can see that all these lies aim to convince us to lift ourselves up, in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, as apposed to lifting up God with honour. If we lift ourselves up, trying to meet God in His righteousness, we only get self-righteousness and we make God smaller in our minds.

Obadiah 1:3 says The pride of our hearts deceives us.”

I was so deceived! I thought I deserved forgiveness for my sins because they weren’t ‘that bad’, and I was making up for it in other ways (Saved by works!), yet I came to see that I could only receive forgiveness when my heart became ashamed and was met with Grace. My repentance came by admitting that my heart is prideful, selfish and conceited. I acknowledged my sinful nature and begged for God to understand that I could now see how wrong I was. I came to see that we are all capable of good deeds and bad, and it struck me that if I still found myself doing things I swore I never would, even though I thought I knew what was right, so others must do also. God allowed me to stumble over my own sin so that I would learn to depend on Him for His strength and His righteousness.

By showing Him my willingness to suffer the pain of being unworthy of forgiveness, I began to earn that very forgiveness.

Let me ask you this….

If someone does wrong by us and comes to us demanding we forgive them because they have a good explanation and because they can list a number of ways we were at fault as well. Don’t we feel that they aren’t truly sorry, and will probably just go ahead and do the same thing again in the future? We would be unwilling to forgive and trust them completely, wouldn’t we?

Yet if someone comes to us admitting how wrong they were, bowing their head in shame and saying they understand if we don’t forgive them, stating that they don’t even deserve forgiveness, they just want us to know how very sorry they are for hurting us. Then wouldn’t we feel more inclined to forgive them and allow them to earn back our trust?

Perhaps we could keep these obvious differences in mind when considering how we approach God when looking to receive forgiveness?

“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12)

If someone hurts us or does us wrong and is truly remorseful we need to show forgiveness, because no matter what they have done, we need to remember that it is possible for us to do that very same thing if similar circumstances and weakness occurs in us. By no means am I suggesting we should put ourselves into situations where we allow them to continue to hurt us!  (True change must be evident and trust rebuilt when sharing our vulnerabilities. Another post for another day!) I am suggesting accepting their apology and letting go of the bitterness we feel toward them for their action. If they don’t apologise or acknowledge their faults, then we can assume that they can’t see it or admit it to themselves, just like we couldn’t in our own lack of self-awareness. Even though it is difficult, we can then offer an element of forgiveness and let go of any grudges, because as Jesus said on the cross “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

We are able to be forgiven because of God’s mercy and grace, and because of what Jesus did at Calvary. By acknowledging this we make ourselves tiny in our own eyes and God becomes HUGE! As a fellow blogger The Peaceful Wife put it, ‘My picture of God before was so wimpy and small. I had to see He was big and I was tiny’.  So very true, and I like having a BIG GOD!

Here I was trying to prove how good I was, yet as soon as I admitted how truly wrong I was, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It invited God into my situation and I found Him keeping me from doing things, one by one, that I had been trying not to for so long on my own. I found that many of the things I thought mattered actually didn’t matter at all, I could be released from self-condemnation because of feeling God’s love, and I came to experience genuine moments of inner peace. I still have to keep my heart guarded to discern the pride which tries to creep back in each day, trying to deceive me into covering my sin. Yet I now find it much easier to see myself clearly, by keeping my heart softened to His voice and truth, and try to confess in the instant of awareness.

When we truly repent and run away from pride, we can rejoice in feeling the freedom it brings. Feeling God’s forgiveness, His help, His love, and finally feeling FREE to be GOOD ENOUGH. AMEN!

21/05/2012

God….Really?*

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:23 pm by The Water Bearer

Most people who know me know that I have faith. I often get called ‘religious’ which progressively makes my skin crawl. These days I am quick to correct them, stating that “I am faithful, not religious!” I love to share stories about the wonderful things God has done in my life, but sometimes my stories are simply laughed at and dismissed.  I am not surprised by this anymore and I try not to feel any offense. I realise the damage that has been done to the reputation of God through many years of worldly disagreements and disappointments, which led to war and doubt.

It saddens me that the God I know is getting a bad rap because His name is too often used as a front for ‘religious humans’ to hide behind. I believe most church goers mean well, but with all their influence, why are so many people increasingly deterred away from God due to their opinion of the church? For example I do not currently attend church and neither does many of my faithful friends and family. Ask yourselves honestly, how common is the reaction to want to run when someone introduces themselves as ‘A Born Again Christian’?

Is it simply that we may have had an experience with ‘religiosity’, or ‘crackpots’, rather than with the awesome and abundant love from God?

Isn’t it possible that someone who claimed to represent God to us may have let us down, betrayed our trust, or even caused us or someone we love pain? Therefore we may mistakenly apply the onus to fall back onto God and not the mere human using His name.

I personally would rather the onus fell back onto the enemy within the church, rather than blaming God for everything. So that we would continue to pursue His internal voice and build a relationship with Him, no matter what this world could do to us to try and cause lack of faith.

The Apostle Paul, wrote in the book of Thessalonians that the enemy of God would sit at the head of the church claiming to be God. (2 Thess 2:4 “The son of destruction, who puts himself against all authority, lifting himself up over all which is named God or is given worship; so that he takes his seat in the Temple of God, putting himself forward as God.”)

Are we searching for God and finding His counterfeit?

I believe this counterfeit is fooling masses. If this enemy is actually an ‘angel of light’, he is not quite the obvious “red-horned” ugliness which we imagine we should be aware of. Thinking about it, I believe the enemy knows God very well, he was the Lord’s right-hand man, His closest associate. Who else could portray our Heavenly Father so convincingly, yet destroy faith in Him in the process?

I believe we need to seek into our own hearts where the true spirit of God lies and ask Him to show us His TRUTH. We need to strive to not settle for anything less, refusing to allow ourselves to be seduced by an easier, more attractive, and yet less righteous path.

We can test it by reading the Bible and researching to see if what we are led to believe lines up with what we read in God’s word and be humbled under His authority and virtue. If nothing else it’s a good read and a great guide for ways to handle the ups and downs of life.

I used to read the headlines from the back cover of the Sunday Mail every week, and every week the title was too appropriate for what I needed to hear. There are too many for me to mention but you would spin out if I could remember them all. My Dad and I used to laugh and shake our heads at the level of coincidence that was beyond almost any understanding, except that of a divine message. One Sunday morning, my husband asked me to grab him a paper while I was at the shop. It had been many months since I had bought the paper or read any ‘headlines’ and at that time I was feeling particularly distant from God. As I drove I spoke to Him in my heart, “Lord, have I slipped away? Have you still got me?” The radio was playing in the background, and as I pulled into my driveway a new song was introduced, as it started the melody caught my attention, as music often does, and rather than turning it off I sat in the car for a moment to listen. While I sat there, I remembered the paper and the headlines I had once applied to myself, so I flicked the paper over to see “I WON’T LET YOU DOWN” sprawled across the back page in huge black letters. I looked up and smiled, the chorus of the song kicked in and the male voice sang in a country twang “I won’t let you down!”

If God wants us to be convinced that we have come into contact with Him, He can make a confirmation appear in any unlikely place, wherever 2 or 3 witnesses (signs) confirm a word from the Almighty, you then know you have struck something directly from Him!

Many can inspire us, teach us, and guide us, and the enemy is always out to trick and deceive us, I recommend we never stop testing the things we are led to believe, never stop asking God questions and let Him be the only one we trust to show us His TRUTH!

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