Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I don't want to be a chariot truster.

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God" (Ps. 20:7, KJV).

This verse came to me this morning. My husband and I are under intense spiritual attack right now. We knew the attacks would worsen once he was ordained as a pastor a few weeks ago, and we thought we were prepared. Spiritual warfare, however, has been taken to a whole new level, in multiple ways. Attacks have seemingly been coming from every side. I started thinking about what I could do to head off the attacks, how I could fix things, what I could do for plan B, who we have in our lives that could help us. Then I remembered this verse.

There have been two other times in my life, besides now, where this verse got me through. One is a time before I knew God- but looking back in retrospect, I saw God working this promise out in my life even before I was willing to accept Him- because He loves us even when we refuse to love Him. It was in 2008, when I was at the height of my drug addiction. My life was a disaster - in and out of jail, I had lost custody of my kids, hopelessly addicted and had just finished my 13th drug rehab (which I only went to avoid prison time) and I had criminal charges in five different counties that I was on probation for. I had no job, but my boyfriend did. At the time, he was my only reason for wanting to continue to survive. Then one morning in May I woke up and found him hanging by an electrical cord around his neck from the rafter in our basement. 

His suicide made me lose the small reasoning I had for trying to hold on to life. I was done fighting. I had no will to live, and had no idea how I could live even if I wanted to. I had no idea where I would live now that he was dead and couldn't pay the bills, and none of my relatives (rightly) trusted me to be in their homes - especially since his suicide made my instability that much more unstable. I had no idea how I was going to eat, how I was going to pay off my probation fines every month (which meant going back to jail), but most importantly I had no idea how it would ever be possible for my life to be redeemed from that point if I was forced to continue living. 

I remember sitting besides his casket at his wake, hopeless and distraught, with those thoughts running through my head. Then, clear as day, I heard a voice tell me that it was going to be okay. As I stared at my dead boyfriend in the funeral parlor, I remember screaming to myself "how is this ok? This is the furthest away from ok that you can get! There is no fixing this!"

And I was right. I couldn't fix it. No human could. 

Not too long after, however, I learned that God specializes in fixing the impossible. It was through my boyfriend's death that I ultimately got desperate enough to surrender to God, and he made a way where there was no way. He placed me in a Christian restoration home where I was not only taken care of, housed, and fed, but I was able to get to know Him in a way I never would have been able to otherwise.  He used that horrible time in my life to draw me to himself, healed me from drug addiction, gave me joy and a purpose again, turned my past from something to be ashamed of into a testimony to help others, and gave me a family. It was a long road, but He showed up. I would have never have dreamed that day in the funeral home that God could turn that situation around. But where I only saw problems, God had a plan all along. I was just too entrenched in my circumstances to be able to believe it. 

The second time in my life this verse really got me through was when my husband and I moved to Marshfield from the ministry we had been in for years in Milwaukee. When we came up here, we had nothing but our bibles and some clothes. We didn't know where we would live, how we would pay bills, how we would get furniture or food, or how we would get around with no car. We had no idea what we were doing here, but we went because God told us to go - and take nothing with us. And He provided in more ways than we could imagine, even when we didn't see how it would happen. Even when WE couldn't make it happen. 

Both times, God showed up. He provided. He says He will never leave or forsake us. And He doesn't lie. 

God had it all along. He always will. Why I act like an Isrealite so many times in my life and start wondering if God has freed me from Egypt just to let me die in the desert is beyond me. He has proven his faithfulness over and over again. Everything comes through Him- every help, every escape, every resource, every open door. And He has a good plan for my life, even when it makes no sense to me. He has shown me that over and over again, and I feel like he is using our current situation to remind me of that and my need to be dependent on Him and Him alone, because He is more than enough and can make a way out of no way. 

When we try to make things happen or worry or look at the resources around us and put our faith in those things instead of God, we are trusting in chariots. When we trust in credit scores or bank accounts or manpower or battle plans or our own self reliance, We are trusting in the created instead of the creator. We are thinking about how we can take care of ourselves instead of trusting in the one who holds the world in the palm of His hand, and whose thoughts are too wonderful for us to understand. 

Sometimes God closes doors because He doesn't intend for there to be a human solution.  He wants to show up in a way where there is no doubt that it was Him, and Him alone that brought you through. He wants to build our faith, show His glory, and display just how much He loves us and is willing to step up for His child. 

Here’s what’s interesting. Although their enemies used horses and chariots in battle, initially God prohibited the children of Israel from even having horses! (Deut. 17:16). 

Imagine the terror the people of Israel must have felt whenever they looked across the valley and saw their enemies lined up in these menacing machines of war, ready to attack.  I know I can feel that way when circumstances are out of my control and I have no idea how I will make it out. Yet look how God instructed them to face their enemies on the battlefield:

"When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. ... For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you" (Deut. 20:1, 4).

You would think that not having horses or chariots would have made Israel extremely vulnerable against her enemies. So why did the Lord forbid them to multiply horses? The Word tells us why:

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright" (Ps. 20:7-8).

God wanted Israel to trust in Him, not horses and chariots, and not their own battle plans. When they faced their enemy on the battlefield, they were to remember how He and He alone - not their weapons, not their intelligence, not their self sufficiency, not their manpower - had delivered them in times past. They were to remember how He delivered them from Egypt’s chariots at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:7). Their faith was to be in Him, not their own ability  (that's why God became so angry at David for taking the census in 1 Chronicles 21- he turned his faith from God to his army). God alone was their battle plan. 

As they remembered Him, they put their trust in Him. And He delivered them. He has done so for me too, and will again. 

When we are in the heat of the battle and it looks like the enemy is closing in, we need to go back and remember all that the Lord has brought us through. He has not changed. Just as He brought us through the trials of yesterday, He will bring us through the trials of today and tomorrow too.

I don't want to put my trust in chariots, though it is the first reaction of my flesh. Chariots have no power. God alone does, and He is the only one who can save. I pray that God gives me the strength to rely on Him and Him alone, because He is all I need, and has a solution for every battle I face. 

"Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:13-14.

Monday, July 18, 2016

You will always have a Peter and you will always have a Judas.

With all the craziness the past few days, I realize just how wise Pastor Cano (the one who discipled me) at Victory Church was. He told me once that in ministry, you will always have a Peter and you will always have a Judas, and both are necessary and part of the plan. That man was truly wise beyond his time. I'm thankful for all of the Peters- those that support us, have grace for us, and speak life into us - the armor bearers who wage war against darkness as partners with us. I'm thankful for an amazing pastor (who is also wise beyond his time) who walks through messy ministry with us, takes the time to have multiple hour conversations and fellowship with us, and realizes we are human. I'm also thankful for those who don't extend grace and mercy to us, those who are determined to see bad intentions or accuse, because it reminds us just how important it is that we extend the grace and mercy we don't receive that much more to others, and reminds us that God uses all things for good and His plans can't be thwarted. Thankful that God exposes the motives and intentions of the heart, that he removes and prunes but also provides. Thankful that Satan may accuse, but God will always justify when you are in his will. I'm Thankful for the negative things people may say or imply, because it only makes me that much more determined to rely on God to fight for me, and to justify. I'm Thankful for attacks because it reminds us we are a threat to the enemy. Ministry is messy, but God will always make a way, and fighting for the kingdom of God is always worth it. When the enemy comes in like a flood, God will raise the standard. That I know for sure. I am grateful for this journey, and to be counted worthy to be a small part of God's plan. I'm thankful for the Peters that make this journey easier, and for the Judases who keep us on our toes and renew our determination to keep pressing on with God's plan despite any and all adversity, and for reminding us just how seriously we take our commitment and calling.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wise counsel lessons from Job

I was talking to someone earlier about the book of Job. The thing that stands out to me the most in that book, aside from God's redemptive power, is how confusing the whole situation looked to outsiders. His wife told him to curse God and die, and his friends accused him of sinning and being punished by God. They were too spiritually immature to realize that all of the negative circumstances were in fact being used by God as an Avenue to bless him more than before, for How's glory to be shown in his life, and to strengthen his faith. They didn't know God well enough to believe that he uses everything - even the bad things - for ultimate good, and that he is Redeemer of all who will never leave or forsake us. They accused Jobs of doing wrong, when in reality God allowed those things to happen because he knew Job was trustworthy of handling the adversity and remaining faithful to worshiping God  even when he wasn't being blessed by him, where others would turn their back on him. So many follow God for the loaves and the fishes - but God wants soldiers who will follow him even though adversity. If Job would have listened to them, he would have lost faith. Instead, he ignored their negativity and kept his eyes on God, and was better after the tribulations than when he went in. Moral of the story : be careful whose counsel you listen to. Don't let the enemy speak lies to you through other people's opinions and speculations. Listen  to those who know God, who have been through horrendous storms that have brought them incredibly close to God and allowed them to witness his faithfulness. Those who know that he will use all things for your good. Not everyone realizes that God works through the valleys even more than he does the mountain tops. Not everyone has been through a deep enough valley to have seen God's redemptive and saving power. I know that God is faithful, as he has seen me through some tremendous valleys and blessed me on the other side. Job's friends looked like fools in the end, because they couldn't see that God was working behind the scenes all along. Don't have people in your life who tell you to curse God and die, kick you while you are down, or whisper and gossip about your misfortune and speculate about God's not loving you, or what you did to cause it. Surround yourself with people who know God well enough to know that he is orchestrating all of your circumstances - even the negative ones - for good, and who will remind you of that when you are weak. I am so thankful that I have those kinds of friends in my life. Those who know that God has plans to prosper, and not to harm. Those who speak life instead of death. Those who stand stand beside you instead of abandoning ship because they think bad things are happening because you did something wrong. Those who truly know God's heart. They are few and far between, but with friends like that, a few is enough. That is a blessing far and beyond anything money can buy.  God is good, all the time. That I know, and that they remind me of. For that I am grateful.