Monday, May 22, 2017

No Surprise

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

Definitely a go-to verse for me. I have to remind myself over and over that struggles are the norm not a strange thing here on earth. I think it’s because when there is an absence of strife or conflict it feels so free and easy to live out a good life full of love. And then gazing on the glory of Christ can make you feel invincible, like you’d gladly go to death for Him! And you so mean it when you say it too. The hard thing is death isn’t the hard part. Not really. Think about how many people you know who would likely say they’d die for you. Do they live for you? Of course not. Nor should they.

Not only are we supposed to give up our life for Christ, we are to give up our lives. There’s such a difference there. Giving up our lives means turning our will over to His. It means denying the flesh, dying to self everyday, refusing sin when it starts creeping in, turning away from the easy road to take the high road and so much more. So dying in the name of God I think I can handle, but when I feel attacked or overwhelmed and Satan has me in his sights I find living for Christ so much harder. I KNOW the victory is won and yet I can still doubt & waiver in my emotions or in my thoughts. 

I tend toward despairing. I hate that about myself. Self-pity can slide in almost unnoticed. I have to fight it. I feel the hurt in my heart swell and threaten to swallow me up. This is how my heart got so hard. I have never known how to fight hurt without protecting myself from it happening again. I have to build a wall. I have to go inside of myself, nurse my wounds and hide away.

But Jesus.

Instead of letting this new hurt bring back all the old hurt and take me back down this road I am refusing to stay there. I have resolved to move past it. I have learned from this. I will grow from this. I do not have to let this person have any power in my life or drag me down with them. My sympathy is not wasted, it simply shows I have a kind-heart. I can leave this situation following God to His purpose in it. I am no one’s savior nor am I expected to be. I have tried. Probably more than I should have. I can let it all go in peace.

That’s what my mind is proclaiming right now but I know I cannot do this in my own strength. I will return to praying over it all and trust the Lord to fight for me. I will look away from this and turn my eyes to Him, only to Him. I will be still.

So I cried it out, wrote it out and opened my Bible up randomly and asking God to speak to me He gave me Psalms 69:20-30.. and as I read through all the wishes for thine enemies I felt my heart say “No, God, I don’t wish this. I don’t want to hurt them I just want freedom from my hurt” and I came to the end of the page where it read:

“But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” 

And that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Problem is..

Every problem is rooted in sin.The problem actually IS sin. Whether it’s their sin, your sin, it’s all sin and it’s at the foundation of every conflict, hurt feeling, misunderstanding, and unloving act. Sin is our problem. It’s your problem.

Do you feel something in you that wants to flee right now? What if I said this to your face? Would you receive it?

It is in our nature to fight against it. We seem to want to point fingers, blame’s not us, it’s them. We have no sin, right? Of course not. Most people will admit that they are a sinner, but they will not own up to their actual sins. Instead we justify it, make light of it, try to explain it away. We call it a short-coming or maybe just a mistake. And everyone makes mistakes.

Why are we so adamant to deny our sin? Satan is the Father of lies

I just listened to a John Bevere video clip explaining that Hell was created for Satan not for man. It was a place for him & his angels. So he is out to deceive and mislead as many of us as he can to join him there. 

A way to think of it may be: It’s the “only thing he has in his life.” Have you ever heard someone use this phrase? Someone is gossipy because they’re bored with their own life. They stir up drama because they have nothing going for them. That’s how I like to think of the Devil. He knows he loses. He knows his fate. So what does he do? He seeks to stir up strife and drama and hate and lead as many astray as possible.  

And you know what his prime target very well may be? Our sin. “Oh it’s not that bad” the thought goes through your mind. I’m definitely a better person than ol so & so. Satan will deceive you and your fleshly pride will say YES that’s right…I’m really a “good person.” Sin isn’t my problem really, it’s dealing with other people’s shortcomings, that is my problem. Notice there that we don’t necessarily want to even label other’s sin sometimes. If it’s someone we care about we especially would rather say it’s something they might have a problem with. 

Christians what if the solution is rooting out, confessing and repenting of all sin, no matter how small it may seem to be in us? What if that word.. SIN.. should be used more boldly? What if making light of sin IS a sin? 

Why not try this: whatever your issue is at the moment, stop analyzing and thinking, and instead of hiding your sin away and refusing to face it actually start seeking it out! Pray to God to reveal your sin to you. Pray that God will help you see the sickness in the heart that is leading you away from Him. Pray to repent of your sins and kill the flesh, the ego, your pride more and more each day. Pray that God would make you MORE sensitive to spying sin in yourself from the start while it still feels "small" to you and not let you make light of it ever again! What power is in that?!

Because deep down, friends, every problem is SIN.. and every problem starts right in the heart. 

And the good news is:
 the answer is 

"Search me O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" Psalms 139:23-24

"if I have concealed my transgressions as others do by hiding my iniquity in my heart," Job 31:33

"Would not God discover this? For He knows the secrets of the heart." Psalms 44:21

"And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord." 2 Chronicles 12:14

"If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him" Job 11:13

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Heart

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 
Psalms 119:10

I used to read verses like this and deep down question myself. Not knowing how exactly to "seek with my whole heart" I would think it must mean I should pray more and read my Bible more. I would look for what I could DO to make this be true of me. My intentions were good, I just didn't understand. 

My problem wasn't for lack of effort really, besides the fact that I only gave God maybe 2% of my time in the grand scheme of things. But I was earnest in my efforts. What was missing was my heart. I knew in my mind the truth and I knew I wanted to follow God's Word. I knew right from wrong and good from evil. So I thought. 

When God took ahold of my heart and called it I found out how little I KNEW anything at all. My heart bent to His Will and I surrendered. This is when I began to seek Him with all my heart. Now I find my efforts simply following my desires. Same as before, I do what I want to do. We all do honestly. The difference is I want something else now. I seek after what I truly want. THE LORD. I have lost interest in this world and have to force myself to put my Bible down the way I used to have to force myself off of Facebook or away from Grey's Anatomy. Jesus has replaced everything else in my life! 

This is obviously NOT something I could have done for myself. I could not have disciplined myself enough to change what I really wanted no matter how hard I've tried to deny my emotions, feelings & reactions. The only thing required of me was to stop trying. I had to SEE that I could not change my heart myself. I had to SURRENDER my life, my control, my self, my will over to God. 100% of it. And even this I didn't do in my own efforts. God led me here. He orchestrated every event that finally broke down my stubborn pride. He quieted my mind over time. He romanced me with His beauty. He brought truth-tellers into my path. He softened my heart and put it in a posture of repentance. He did all of this with my mind scurrying along behind trying desperately to keep up! 

One thing I see in this is that God doesn't work the way we do. He loves to do things differently than we expect. He loves to surprise us. He takes an intellectual, wordy, nerdy girl who leads with her head believing in instinct over the foolish heart and grabs hold of that foolish heart squeezing it just so much as to make her cry out and feel the release of it's walls crashing down in a moment. And when her fear and horror peak He soothes her troubled soul giving her just what she's sought after her whole life. 

I have found the source of all truth and depth and light and peace. I will drink at this well growing more thirsty and yet more satisfied for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

And everything has changed

I find it so hard to put this into words because it's so big, but I can try to sum it up by saying The Unedited Retreat pricked my heart & put me in a posture to truly hear from the Lord. And I am so grateful.
My testimony begins last year at Pine Cove Family Camp when a verse struck me, hard. - Gal 2:20. Not that I hadn't heard it before but that maybe I felt it deeper. 

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

No life of my own? Had I really been living that way? Complete surrender? I started "trying harder" after that.

I attended another Unedited Movement event in the fall with my eternity-friends. 😊 I came home & begged Mike to go with me to visit our Pastor. By God's grace my heart was dug up from where it had been buried under a mountain of hurt, rejection, fear & resentment. I had hidden it away in the guise of self-protection. With this huge weight lifted off of me I began to feel things changing.
Then I came across a podcast randomly that was talking about Christ setting you free from "trying" & learning to rest in the sacrifice of Jesus as your only righteousness. Since then the word FREE has been everywhere for me & strikes my heart each time. So I changed my one word intention and started to notice what a huge theme that had already become in my life. I began to see how much I'd been drawn to that over the past few years in all the changes that had gone on in my life. Verses like John 8:36 & 8:32, Gal 5:1, 1 Peter 2:16 started popping up everywhere and I felt a deeper sense of meaning in them. Inspired by my sister I read the New Testament taking a month to seriously study Revelations (which I felt so much truth revealed in!) Then it was time for the retreat in Washington where I was surrounded by all these beautiful Jesus-loving souls! In prayer after a session I felt God was calling me to listen, to notice. I took that as don't talk so much (ha!) and listen to others, listen to their hearts. I reminded myself that it's not about me or if I fit in & maybe I'm just a supporting role in someone else's story. I wrote in my journal that maybe that's what God was calling me to be is a listener. 

On the flight home I opened up a book I'd been reading with a group that I was two chapters behind on. Where I picked up was hitting literally every topic we'd just discussed at lunch in reflection of the retreat! Since this freaked me out I started slowing down & really paying attention to what I was reading. I felt heavy significance in the words. And honestly felt like truth was being revealed & my eyes opened..maybe for the first time.. 

It said you can't take Jesus as Savior 
...and not accept Him as Lord

Basically I felt you're either ALL IN or you're just fooling yourself, Shannon. My mind racing I thought back on my life raised as a Christian knowing right from wrong and choosing right so I don't get in trouble, disappoint anyone or have someone mad at me. But where in my life did I see me actually giving up my self for Christ's life in me? Did I have a real relationship with Jesus? Or did I just mentally know all this information? The book said Belief in Jesus is not just acknowledging He is real (even the demons do that and they shudder) but instead it's complete repentance that yes MY SIN really is THAT BAD that Jesus had to DIE in such a horrific way to cover it and that no amount of "good" from me fits in that equation. I am completely unworthy of that forgiveness & salvation (my best efforts from me being like filthy rags.) I can not add to or take away from Jesus' sacrifice. It is finished.

I felt everything shift inside in this acceptance. I fully realized my ONLY hope of salvation is in what Jesus did. I can DO nothing. (This information is not new to my mind at all but now I feel it in my very my heart & soul has finally fully absorbed it.) I see now two categories of hearts - those who live to Christ, seeking Jesus as Lord of all and.. those that don't. I see now. And I know I've lived all this time somewhere in the in between. 

They will be known by their fruit. Jesus is my atoning sacrifice. I asked myself are you seeking Jesus as Lord over your life? Or are you dead in your sin, still living to self? Are you just basically "a good person" and "trying hard" and hoping that'll be enough? How do you measure what is enough anyway? Where are you resting? God is telling me that when you truly "get it" your heart responds in obedience and you don't have to seek out conviction for your "lapse in judgement" or cry over your guilt for messing up (because there is none.) There's only Jesus. A part of me feels like why on earth did someone not explain this epic significant difference to me before?! But I know it was God's timing to reveal it to my heart little by little over the past year and it was on the plane that I finally fully received it..and repented.

Honestly if I hadn't gone to that retreat before I read over those chapters I think I would have skimmed right past it & missed God's call. My heart had to be willing to LISTEN. 

This feels so crazy to me to say because I got saved & babptized at age six and have felt sure of my belief, salvation & faith my whole life (even in the depths of living in sinful rebellion for years I've always felt like surely I was "okay.") I remember the first time the concept of having an actual relationship with Jesus dug into me & I remedied that by simply saying His name in my prayers instead of just Dear Heavenly Father

It's taken me so many years of God revealing truth, breaking down my walls, shining light into the darkness.. and overcoming panic attacks, depression/anxiety, learning to forgive, even the people who most wounded me and feeling the freedom from that..that God finally made enough space in my heart to open me up to reveal His Glory. Thank you, Jesus. This experience all feels so surreal and at the same time is the truest thing I've ever known. My whole life, in every area & season I have never quite felt in (anywhere) ..and now I know that I am. And there is peace. And what is important has changed. I get it now. And for the first time, I have a testimony to tell.

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