The Battlefield of the Heart is the Lord’s

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Oh, that her heart would change. That his heart would turn from bitterness to joy. Even that my own heart would be more patient. I try. We try. But we come to the battle with no weapons save our own will.

Paul knows a thing or two about how effective a weapon our wills are:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15.)

When it comes to matters of our hearts, the battlefield is the Lord’s alone.

There is nothing in our flesh able to defeat the power of sin. Nothing in us can be nurtured to overcome our sinful natures. Indeed, our inclination towards sin makes our efforts to eradicate our sinfulness futile.

Even when we win, we lose. Even when our wills triumph over that one sin, another must take root. To beat out impatience, we use pride. To defeat our sense of discontentment, we turn to worldly comforts like gluttony. Fighting the battles of the heart on our own leaves us lost in thick of it, swapping out old battles for new battles.

To win battles of the heart, the Lord has to be in command. His power must slay our sin. And His Spirit must stand in its place and restrain us from fleeing after the enemy again.

Beyond the battles of our own hearts, this is true for those we love. I can’t speak for you, but I can say myself that I’ve tried to free others’ hearts from tyrannical sins…unsuccessfully.

I’ve tried to reason with loved ones’ crushed by doubt and disappointment. Upon seeing other stumble into sins of indifference or apathy towards the Lord, I’ve charged in, Bible waving. It’s hard to see others at war in their hearts –especially when they are losing.

But, just as I can’t win against my own flesh, I also can’t win against theirs. I can’t change her heart or heal his anymore than I can manufacture true patience from my own filth.

Isn’t Christ’s coming clear? “The battle is not yours, but God’s.” Though we are to fight the good fight of faith, it’s fought in the Spirit, on our knees, as followers of the one who the victory belongs to. That victory is His because the war is His. He’s the only one who could win it. It remains true.

When our hearts can find no peace from the wars waged inside, we must step back from the front lines and let the Lord fight for us. When our loved ones are locked in a stalemate with themselves, we must first call on the Lord to end the war.

We’ll all lose. And that’s how we’ll win.

He shares the victory. He knows what’s best. He made the heart, and He’s made it anew. When we race to put our wills’ to work and our rationale into force against theirs’, we rush into wars that we can’t win.

Clear the battlefield, my friends, our victory is ready. (tweet this!)

There is no heart He cannot reach, and we do better in the trenches of triage, where lies the true fight of faith.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, #DanceWithJesus, and #LifeGivingLinkup.

Saved From Self-Condemnation

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“This is how we know that we belong to the truth

and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:”

-1 John 3:19

            Oh, those words. That verse. How enticing it is to our souls. To mine, at least. A person naturally quite keenly aware of her sin, it’s never been as natural to me to find myself at rest or at peace with anything.

But rest, peace, and a sense of belonging are what I long for. They led me, years ago, to take up an independent study in college. The individual class was designed to answer this question:

how, in a broken, sinful world, are humans able to find solutions to problems besides simply Christ?”

Although an academic study on non-profits in practice, in truth the matter was personal. I’m a fixer. I’m a problem-solver. And I’m a sinner. These conditions are contradictory.

I’ve been executor and witness of the problems I have “solved” falling apart over and over again. My response, rooted in fear, used to allow my awareness of my own sin to hold me back from trying to fix anything for fear I’d make it worse.

Inaction marked all that mattered to me. If “it,” whatever “it” was, might be Spiritual or impactful, I’d gladly leave “it” up to another sinner. I didn’t want the mess of trying to do good without having any goodness in me.

You are letting your fear of sin overrule your fear of Christ. That’s what my professor said when it became apparent in conversation that the study was hitting me personally. He said it more kindly, and in more words. But the sentiment has long remained.

The truth of what He said was undeniable. Choosing inaction, choosing fear, was just as much a sin I wanted to avoid as the sin of not offering adequate solutions.

My lack of a sense of belonging to God changed. My restlessness with what to “do” in life turned to resting in His presence. My heart found the peace I was rejecting before my Savior, because I understood the rest of the verse:

“If our hearts condemn us,

we know that God is greater than our hearts,

and he knows everything.”

1 John 3:19-20

We can’t solve anything without Jesus. Not really. None of us can adequately offer hope or joy or righteous change in this world apart from Christ. We don’t have it in us, we are sinful. But He, within us, can.

Our hearts condemn us because we know the sin in them. What we forget is that the God who is greater than our hearts works in us and through us. He works through the sin and the muck to solve and fix and heal.

He knows how to save and redeem every bit of this world according to His will. That’s why we can belong to Him. That’s how we can put our hearts at rest in Him. There is no need to act in fear, even when the fear is rooted in our knowledge of self.

The Lord knows, and He wins even the battles in our hearts.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory


			
					

Letting “It” Be

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Moving from a place of resignation to the holy space of accepting God’s sovereignty joyfully and humbly isn’t easy.

One of the benefits of resignation is that we get to give up responsibility and keep complaining anyway. We get to say “it is what is” and then harbor bitterness and doubt. That’s easier than facing hope and change, which come with risk and a lack of control.

But for those of us who end their resignation, the risk proves worthwhile. When we choose to accept God’s reality we are indeed humbled –but also overjoyed. We can, without bitterness or doubt, let “it” be (whatever “it” is.)

Surrender isn’t just “I’m done fighting.” Surrender is saying “Have your way.” (tweet this).

It’s a form of losing. Letting it be, surrendering, means giving up. But for the believer, it’s also the greatest gain. To let it be, we have to leave “it” elsewhere. To give it up, we have to give “it” to someone.

Instead of making what we’ve surrendered to as a master, we surrender it to our master.

No longer our own, “it” is in the hands of the same One we belong too. “It” is no longer ours to be bitter about or complain over. Rather, the “it” that’s been weighing us down and keeping us stuck is turned into a sacrifice of praise.

When we surrender to Christ, we do more than resign ourselves to failure –we give ourselves to His victory. As James 4:10 proclaims:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, #DanceWithJesus, and #LifeGivingLinkup.

It Is(n’t) What It Is

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The phrase has been floating around for years. It came to my attention as friends of mine from different circles and walks of life spoke the words. I noticed the phrase on television and the radio. Then I saw it on decorative signs in a couple of stores.

So I tried it on for awhile.

What I found was that “it is what it is” can be a euphemism or a platitude that keeps us from recognizing what “it” isn’t. There is nothing wrong with accepting reality –except that so often our sense of reality isn’t the same as the Lord’s.

The words “it is what it is” bear the sort of powerful finality and magnitude as God’s Words: I AM who I AM. They suggest to us that our circumstance are sovereign and all that is to be done in response is to obey. If only we responded to the Lord’s declaration of sovereignty with the obedience we give to this phrase.

When we speak that much loved phrase, we are often actually saying:

  • So deal with it
  • Suck it up
  • Forget changing anything
  • Not my responsibility
  • Too much work to alter this reality
  • There’s nothing to be done about this
  • If it is, that must be God’s will and I’m stuck

I struggle to find support for these attitudes -as enticing as they can be- in Scripture. And believe me, as one whose biggest pet-peeve is complaining about something you are unwilling to change, these words are tempting.

This phrase appears to relieve us of the need to stress out, to fight what we can’t beat, and to fret over what we don’t have control over. But so do these (much more powerful) words:

  1. IT IS…All The Lord’s
The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” Psalm 24:1
  1. IT IS…Up to the Lord
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.” –Daniel 2:20-22
  1. IT IS…In the Care of the Lord
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” –Colossians 1:27
  1. IT IS…Present Before the Lord
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” –Philippians 4:6

…Not only is “it,” but so are you and I.

As we read these statements, we are reminded that what “it is” is His.

When we begin the phrase “it is,” there is more power in remembering that things can change.

That there is one in charge.

That He cares to hear our prayers and concerns.

That the war is won.

That when we need to live through difficult things, we need not live resigned- “it” can be well with our soul because He is I AM.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

We Need to Witness to Believers Too

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“Witnessing” and “testifying” are words generally reserved for evangelizing. It is by hearing a testimony that many people become interested in the Lord. Through the witness of Christians, many have been convicted by the Spirit and accepted Christ as their own.

But there is also a place for witnessing to other believers.

1 Thessalonians 5:10-11 tells us that:

“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

When we think of encouragement, our testimony isn’t often what first comes to mind. But encouraging one another isn’t just about pointing out strengths and speaking hope into hard situations.

The sleep referenced in this verse is similar to falling asleep physically. It’s the same word used in Scripture for the sick “dead” child who Jesus said was actually just asleep.

Although some suggest otherwise, this “sleep” does not indicate that one is in hell or unsaved (Mark 5:39). In fact, the writers of 1 Thessalonians are writing to believers in a church.

Of course, this simple falling asleep and being asleep is a metaphor still. It is described as a metaphor for “yield(ing) to sloth and sin, and be(ing) indifferent to one’s salvation” (BibleHub).

Here our testimonies have a great but often overlooked purpose: spurned the saved to live as though saved.

One of the best forms of encouragement we have as Christians is our testimony –both in the big and the little things. It’s through this encouragement that others are woken up to the possibility of living their new life in Christ now. Whether in a deep sleep of faith or a taking a little nap, forgetting to keep our eyes fixed on Him all the time, we all have times when a wake-up call to faith is needed.

The call isn’t always loud or startling. Our testimonies don’t have to be either. What we witness about doesn’t always have to be a matter of life or death (especially when talking to those who will live forever, asleep or awake!)

We can testify to the Lord’s desires for our lives through simple stories. Sharing our little victories in the faith serves as a witness to others of the Lord living out His promises. Salvation first. But also the Holy Spirit. Also His presence with us. Also His best plans for each of us.

Every day that we spend in fellowship we have opportunities to witness to other believers by sharing about answered prayers or things the Lord is teaching us. By testifying to how He works in our lives, beyond saving us in the first place, we remind each other that He is alive here and now too.

That matters. That testimony stirs us to wake and to live the life He has for us now. It’s no surprise that Scripture is clear on this: giving a wake-up call is one of our callings in fellowship as believers in the body of Christ.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.

The Nuts and Bolts of Building Your Faith

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You know the monumental moments of your faith.

When you take the first step of faith and your foundation is laid in Christ.  Days, months, years later when crucial decisions arise and you find that you indeed want to live with Him as your cornerstone, it’s big.

There are moments of obvious growth and transformation as piece by piece you’re built, a temple to glorify God. The moment when you gave up on a certain sin and it stuck. That time when the Lord provided something extraordinarily spectacular.

But in the building of your faith to His glory, there is more than just the big, memorable, and obvious. There are also the nuts, bolts, screws, and drops of glue. Little victories -these are what hold all of the major framework in place.

Little victories are as simple as:

  • An unspoken prayer answered
  • A silly picker-upper in your day
  • A call at just the right time
  • A gentle kick in the pants when you need it
  • A reminder that you get to choose your attitude
  • A verse that stays in mind
  • An extra three minutes with nothing to do but get quiet with the Lord
  • A song on the radio speaking to your heart
  • A gift you needed but never asked for
  • A smile and a hug, just warm and full of love
  • A step out of bed when you feel you can’t get up
  • A sunrise you wouldn’t want to miss when you didn’t want to wake
  • A moment of clarity in a pattern of mess
  • A laugh by yourself that just has to be loud
  • A sense that you are not alone, even when you kind of are
  • A little conviction from the Lord, coupled with grace
  • A broken bad habit, maintained
  • A Friday waking up to realize that you’ve formed a good habit in just a few days
  • A glimpse into what may be coming, filling you with hope

Simple. So simple are these. But they are the thousands of “littles” that make for big faith. Remember the verse?

If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in large ones. (Luke 16:10)

Even a house with big beams and solid boards breaks and creaks if little screws haven’t made the planks a secure resting space.

Look on your little victories as faith builders, not “almosts” or “steps.” They have a purpose too. Tack them in. Drill them in place. Hammer away with gratitude, with recognition, and praise. Those little victories are built to last.

When your house of faith rocks and shakes…

When you climb its steps and enjoy the view…

When another large addition is in progress…

When the Lord wants to show off His handiwork…

You’ll be glad for every short moment you spent ensuring that you saw the victory, the gift, and put it to work in your faith.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

HE is More Than [Fill In the Blank]

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We need to “love the Lord, not just the idea of the Lord” said my dear friend (SkillzUSA).

AKA: Don’t reduce God to some idea you have about Him and miss out on His whole person as a result.

Our ideas tend to address issues in reactionary ways, focusing on what isn’t and instead of what is. We come up with ideas to solve whatever’s bugging us. Ideas are tools. They are created, manipulated, and guided by the things we face. Ideas are dependent on people, and they revolve around people. They aren’t about what is, they are about what can be (and are usually in our favor).

More than that, ideas aren’t alive. They don’t interact with us. Ideas have no will apart from ours, no abilities that we haven’t fathomed.

When God is diminished to an idea -like a method for comfort when someone dies- we act as if God’s character depends on us. And what we want. And what we’re dealing with. We never get to what matters, we never open ourselves to a Lord that can surprise us and reach us even when we’ve forgotten He exists.

He is I AM. Done. Boom. From before time began. He is a living being who is more than anything you can fill in the blank with. Good news!

God doesn’t depend on you or I. He isn’t an idea. All those cautionary words and metaphors pointing out that God “isn’t just…” are pointing towards a complete truth that confronts the nature of man and brings us into a redemptive relationship with the one who IS.

In our attempts to be like God, we reduce God to something we feel we can control, alter, and direct. Just as in the garden the first people were tempted to become like God…by reducing God into something attainable, someone who can merely recognize good and evil.

The Lord, however, DEFINES good and evil. We can’t do that.

The Lord knows this is our tendency. He knows that we’d like Him to be an idea rather than active and outside of our control.

He protects us from a resulting sin, saying Exodus 20:4-5 the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…

When my friend differentiated between enjoying the idea of God (and our ideas about Him) rather than loving Him as He is, a question came to mind:

What ideas do we have about the Lord that we hold in higher esteem than the person of Christ?

Which ideas about the Lord do we use to justify our sins?

Is it the idea that He’ll always be there that we cherish more than His presence right now? What about instances in which the idea that He is so loving causes discipline and hardship to challenge our belief in His love?

What ideas do we have about God that our circumstances can shake? Those ideas aren’t who He is. Because He is more than (Yes. Whatever idea you come up with).