Monday, May 4, 2015

Qualified or not?

So, you've been told you are unqualified. Now what?

If I'm not qualified then, what's my purpose? What else can I love? What else can I do? I thought I was going after my purpose. I thought this is what God wanted for me, but now I don't know.

Any of this ring true for you? Do you feel defeated? beat down? useless?

What should you do? It's actually pretty simple. IGNORE THEM!

People may say you are unqualified, but they aren't the ones who get to decide that. God is. God qualifies you! If He says you are qualified, then Ignore those naysayers and keep running your race! What is impossible with men is possible with God! (Luke 18:27)

This happened to my husband and I this past year. We were told that we could no longer be trusted with the ministry of the Gospel and removed from our ministry of 8 years. But, God met us there in that moment, and though it hurt, He healed those wounds and encouraged our hearts. He made us bold in His Spirit, and placed us in a church family where we can use our gifts and where we are wanted and needed. We could have given up, and agreed with them. Instead we stopped listening to the naysayers and started listening to the voice of God and allowed Him to direct us to His perfect plan and purpose for our lives.

Acts 5:17-41 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture this year. I'm not going to get into the whole thing, but go ahead and look it up if you want to read the whole thing.

Basically, the apostles were facing some pretty powerful naysayers, telling them they had to stop preaching and healing in the Name of Jesus. What was their response? They just kept preaching and healing in the Name of Jesus! Here's what they said:

"The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!"

When people tell you that you are not qualified to do what God has called you to do, they are just like the Sanhedrin who told the apostles not to preach in Jesus Name. Your response should be the same, "(I) must obey God rather than men!" and then get back out there and use the gifts the Spirit of God has given you in Jesus Name!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Beauty and Strength in Weakness

There is a restlessness in me. It has been there for quite some time.

One leg of my race has been completed. It is in the past. It was a long one. 8 years to be exact. I was tempted to look back at that part of my race and longed to run back, but if I had kept looking behind me, I'd miss out on what's in front of me, and very possibly trip and stumble and get hurt. I can't run with excellence if I'm laying on the ground injured. Or if I turn around and actually run backward, I won't finish the race going the wrong way. I have to keep my eyes up toward that finish line, and continue running.

What's done is done. It is in the past, and He is doing a NEW thing! Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

I'm not used to living in a stage of undefined ministry. Of sitting quietly with no outlet for what is longing to burst out of me. I'm like that little kid with the biggest secret of her life, and she's not allowed to tell. She's just sitting on her hands, bouncing and wiggling, and can barely sit still. Then finally, someone says, "ok, go ahead. You can tell the secret now." And the biggest smile you'll ever see spreads across her face, and she jumps up, clapping and shouting out the news for all to hear, probably so fast those listening can barely understand what she's trying to say. I feel like that little girl is me, and I'm sitting on my hands just longing to share what is in me, but not exactly sure how and when.

I long for the mundane to become purposeful. For the boring to become exciting again. Don't get me wrong, this time of rest has been so needed and the Lord has ordained this time over our lives. He specifically told both my husband and I that this was a time of preparation, so be patient. He said He was preparing us for something big, and when the time is right He will propel us forward and it will all become clear.

But I feel Him stirring something up within me for this next phase of preparation. I feel like He's ready for me to take the next step of faith in this. I feel like He is making my giftings and passions more clear, and He is telling me it's time to begin picking up the pace. We ran hard for 8 years in this marathon of life and ministry, then we've had the last 2 years to walk and drink some water and make sure our laces are tied, and now He's saying it's time to pick up the pace a bit. Not too much. Just a speed walk for now, and soon we'll start a slow jog.

This restlessness can be frustrating at times, but I'm beginning to see it as a beautiful gift from God. It forces me to not be content sitting still, to not be content to remain where I am or to remain in the past, but forces me to move forward and to seek out His purposes for me.

Those giftings and passions that I mentioned are becoming more clear to me...and yes, they are the very things that in my flesh I would avoid like the plague. And yet what I fear the most seems to very possibly be the thing that the Lord has chosen to use to fulfill His purposes in me and through me. The very things that I feel most unqualified for, God has not only qualified me and gifted me, but enabled me through His Spirit.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

The beauty of this truth is coming alive to me at this stage of my life. The very things that are weak in me, God intends to use to make His name big and to show Himself strong. The very things that I feel unqualified for, He intends to use so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For when I am weak, then HE is strong!

What the Lord has called me to do, He will enable me to do. I can place my inadequacies, fear and insecurities aside and take those steps forward, forgetting what is behind, in confidence that His Spirit will work it out through me ("He is faithful to complete what He has started!! Phil.1:6), and when I am weak then (hopefully) nothing of me will get in the way of making Him big! He has begun my race, and He will finish it. So, here I go, running that race, seeking out some living water to strengthen and keep me pressing on to the finish line. Oh! How I long to complete the purposes He has planned for me, and to finish this race well.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Perfect Love

There is a desire that has been on the increase in my heart for awhile now. That desire is to see women living out their full potential, living in the abundant life in Christ, fulfilling their God given destiny and calling over them with confidence and boldness. I'm seeing more and more women living in defeat, living in fear, missing out on this incredible love of Christ! We, as women, need to rise up and stand together. To lift each other up, and stop comparing ourselves to one another, and begin drawing from each others strengths. To stop being intimidated by one another, but strengthened by one another. No condemnation! No fear! And this, is where this post is coming from. Because I was there. There are days when I'm tempted to go there again, and days when I do go there again. Because the enemy is constantly shouting lies at me, and I need my sisters to stand up with me against those lies and help me to stand firm in the faith, as I will for you.

This post is personal for me. I lived much of my life in depression and anxiety, and this is my heart for women struggling with the same thing.

 Depression, anxiety...and a host of other mental illnesses. Real, personal, suffering, life altering, deep, dark. In our humanness, a hopeless, life long battle. But, dare I say, instead of manageable...conquerable?

For those suffering in this way, what does 2 Timothy 1:7 mean for them? "For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

What does Jesus mean for them when He says, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners."

And what about the following verses?

 Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

Galatians 5:1, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

2 Corinthians 3:17, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

John 8:31-32, "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

Psalm 103:2-4, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with loving kindness and compassion;"

Psalm 71:20b, "You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up."

I struggled through depression for many years. I functioned ok, and I had my highs, but I had extreme lows. When asked to describe how it felt, the only thing I could think of was a deep, black pit with no hope of ever getting out. I felt completely out of control like something was holding me there. I would come out for awhile, but inevitably I'd sink back in. It was a constant struggle. People were there for me when I needed them, tried to be understanding, and show me compassion. And, I needed that! They helped get me through another day. Yet, I remained in my hopelessness. No one offered me hope. No one spoke truth over me, or stood firm in the faith for me. They just allowed me to remain there. They said things like, "God has entrusted this suffering to you" and "how beautiful it is that you push through despite this," and "He is glorified through your depression." Then, as David said in the Psalms, I cried out to God and He answered me.  Jesus broke through. 

Jesus says that He is the "light of the world." He shone a light in my darkness, and He began to speak truth over my life. He began to show me the truth of what God's Word says about me. He showed me what I looked like through the eyes of a loving Father who gave His very Son to give me new and abundant life.

John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly."

The enemy came to destroy me, and began to devour me. But Jesus reminded me that He gave me life MORE abundantly. That little word "more," carries the meaning of continuous increase. I could increase in my depression and continue to sink "more and more" into my depression. I could accept it as my life long battle, and strive to have faith despite it all. Or I could do a 180 and increase in the abundant life that Jesus paid such a high price for. 

Did I need a slap upside the head and a "get over it!" speech? or did I need to be coddled and given the "God gave this to you to strengthen you" speech? Honestly, neither. I needed comfort and compassion, and I needed truth spoken over me. I needed faith instead of fear. I needed someone to step in and begin to break the stronghold of depression and anxiety over my life. Did someone do that for me? Honestly. No. But, I cried out the Lord and in His faithfulness, His Grace and Mercy, He rescued me. He "restore(d) my life again; from the depths of the earth..." (Psalm 71:20b). 

What was that truth that He spoke over me, that He showed me in His Word that brought me up out of that hopelessness?

 He began to show me what I looked like through the eyes of a loving Father who gave His very Son to set me free. He gave His Son to pay for sin and death so I could receive His very Spirit! He began to show me all I am in Christ. I am not hopeless because I have eternal life. I am not defined by depression. I am a child of the living God! I have been seated in the heavenly realms, filled to the measure of the fullness of God! He gave me hope. He gave me purpose. He gave me HIS unconditional love.

In the darkness, there is fear. So much of my life, I spent in fear. Fear that I would never get out of the darkness, and strangely enough fear of leaving the darkness. I began to believe the lie that this was a struggle that God gave me to grow me and show His glory through me. I began to believe that this was something that I would just have to live with the rest of my life, but could be victorious through it as if God had entrusted me with some "gift of suffering" called "depression." My brothers and sisters, that was a lie from Satan! Stop being deceived! We have a faithful, loving Father who has clearly said over and over in His Word that He sent His Son to give us LIFE, and not just a stagnant life, but a Life MORE abundantly!! HIS very life IN us! An abundant life that is meant to continually increase! So, if God didn't give this to me, and I can't console myself with the thought that He ordained this and I can continue to "suffer victoriously" through this, than why am I here in this pit? Take a look at the first part of John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy..." Satan wants us to remain in our weakness, but God says that we go from "strength to strength." If Satan can get us to believe that this is something we have to live with because it's from God, then He can steal the power and authority that Christ gave you. It is YOURS! Don't give it up! Don't hand over your birthright to the enemy! We have to stop looking at depression, anxiety, and mental disorder through the lens of the world, through the lens of our humanity. We have to put on our spiritual lenses and see these struggles through the Word of God. So what does the Word say? 

Ephesians 6:11-13, "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.…"

Through my human thinking, and what the world likes to label as mental disorder, I would look at my situation as a flesh and blood struggle. But God says that my struggle isn't against flesh and blood, but it is against spiritual forces of evil. So, if He says in John 10:10 that enemy has come to kill, steal and destroy, but He has come to give life MORE abundantly, and in Ephesians says that my struggle isn't against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil, then I need to put on my spiritual lenses and stand firm against those schemes of the devil. 1 Peter 5 says that the devil is like a roaring lion, seeking who He may devour. But, He has give us His very Spirit. He has given us HIS armor so we can stand firm, and resist the devil! 

What does this mean for someone with depression and anxiety? It means there is hope! God doesn't expect you to live with this. God says He has given you LIFE abundant! He desires to see you walk in that abundance in Christ, to not just know you have all spiritual blessings, but to experience all spiritual blessings! He wants you to know that He is a loving Father who did NOT give you depression! The enemy is doing that to you! Don't let him! Deliverance can come quickly for some, but for many deliverance is not an overnight thing. It takes time, faith, endurance, patience, and completely saturating yourself in the Word of truth and light and standing firm against the enemy by declaring truth when the lies try to destroy you. There were nights when I was on my knees in the darkness, crumbling under the lies, and crying out with all that is in me "NO!! I AM a child of the living God! You have NO authority here! I have been given ALL authority in Christ and no one can take that authority from me without my permission!" I had to declare the blood of Christ over myself and claim that freedom that I so ignorantly gave away for far too long. For some it is a long road to recovery and complete healing and freedom, but know this. There IS Hope! There IS Light! His Name is Jesus, and He has come to bind the broken hearted and set the captives FREE! "The truth will set you Free!" (John 8:32)

The world calls it depression, but I think a more accurate word based on reading in the Word that this is a spiritual battle, not a fleshly battle, would be "oppression." We are oppressed by the enemy, not by God. But we don't have to be! We, as believers, need to get down on our knees in  battle with those in the pit. To come along side in compassion and love, to show them the love of Christ that surpasses all understanding. To stop buying in to the lies and declare His Word of truth over them. To stand firm along side them, so they too can be strengthened and lifted up out of that pit to stand. "To know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance IN His Holy people." (Eph 1:18) To walk with them through this battle so they can truly know with all their heart what it means when He says, He has not given us a "spirit of fear, but of POWER, and LOVE, and a SOUND MIND."

Ultimately what brought me out of that pit was the unconditional love of Christ! What kept me out of the pit was the knowledge of Ephesians 6:11-13 to put on the full armor of God so I could resist the evil and stand firm.

It was a process. One where God had compassion for me, not condemnation. Romans 8:1-2,"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.…" 
One where He came right down in the depths with me, wrapped His arms around me and showed me with His unfailing love. One where, He held up a mirror and showed me the image of His Son, perfect, pure and righteous. Holy and blameless. One where He drove out my fear with His love, and placed His armor on me so I could learn to stand firm and victorious. We are more than conquerors through Christ! (Romans 8:37)

I will end with a paragraph by Beth Moore, followed by my prayer for you.

"The God who beckons you to love more and more cannot love you more. No matter how you grow in diligence and obedience, you cannot increase His affection for you. No matter how faithful you become, you won't get a boost in your love-ability. At your darkest moment, you were loved to the fullest measure; the same is true at your lightest moment. You and I have no power to affect divine love. It is perfect. All we are left to do is ask to know it more and more. And right there in the increase, a miracle of decrease if forced into play; as we are more and more aware of His love, we fear less and less. For "perfect love drives out fear." (1 John 4:18)." - Beth Moore ("Children of the Day, 1&2 Thessalonians)

My prayer for you in Ephesians 1 and 3:

(photos from Christine Caine's facebook posts)