Thursday, November 29, 2012

my Gift above all gifts

Today's Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young is too good not to share.  She writes from the perspective of God.  As if He is speaking straight into our lives, into our very hearts.

November 29
 "Let Me Infuse My Peace"

"LET ME INFUSE MY PEACE into your innermost being.  As you sit quietly in the Light of My Presence, you can sense Peace growing within you.  This is not something you can accomplish through self-discipline and willpower; it is opening yourself to receive My blessing.

In this age of independence, people find it hard to acknowledge their neediness.  However, I have taken you along a path that has highlighted your need for Me; placing you in situations where your strengths were irrelevant and your weaknesses were glaringly evident.  Through the aridity of those desert marches, I have drawn you closer to Myself.  You have discovered flowers of Peace blossoming in the most desolate places.  You have learned to thank Me for hard times and difficult journeys, trusting that through them I accomplish My best work.  You have realized that needing Me is the key to knowing Me intimately, which is the gift above all gifts. (emphasis mine)

"The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." 
~Isaiah 58:11

"He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young."
~Isaiah 40:11

God has been working mightily in my heart over the past month.  Ridding me of unbelief and strengthening my resolve...stretching my faith in areas of mind vs. heart, until they danced together to a chord of undeniable belief.  

Before I even read today's Jesus Calling, I spent some time with Him and His Word this morning and literally felt that sense of Peace washing over and growing within me, as Sarah Young described today. It's amazing, the power of His Holy Spirit at work.  

I look back at my own life, the struggles of the past two years.  The countless, repetitive, persistent prayers that have seemed to go unanswered.  The wrestling of belief and unbelief; head and heart knowledge.  Trust.

I look through my prayer journal and read months and months of the same prayers for myself and others...still awaiting answer.  I see Him between the lines, even though those prayers look alone and unheard on the page.

You are a God who hears and sees, right?
Show me.

And He did.

A close friend.  A slow and steady friend.  A friend like a sister, fighting cancer three times in the past 4 years, asks boldly for prayer a couple weeks ago as her numbers climbed, indicating cancer was rearing its ugly head once again.  Three of us met and prayed, almost daily, over those weeks.  His Spirit ever present, stirring within my heart and within the walls of the very room we met in.  Something about this time around, these prayers being lifted, felt different.  The boldness in approaching His throne ignited belief within me.  It caused me to search out His Word and pray more on my own.  We claimed healing over her and prayed scripture over her, not just believing that He could heal, but that He would heal.  He is a God who parts seas, and shuts the mouths of lions, who rains down manna from heaven, walks on water, and breathes life into the dead.  This God.  The same God.  Who never changes and remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  This God, who by His wounds we are healed.  And saved.  And redeemed.  This God who hears our cries.  Who is present whenever two or more are gathered in His name.  Who, through prayer and agreement, moves into action for our sake.  This God, who is STILL a God of miracles, answered.  

Monday morning I get the text that blood tests had come back and her numbers had decreased.  Not maintained...but DECREASED!  This doesn't just happen.  Without medical intervention, this is unheard of.  But our God, the God who can stop time and make the sun stand still, can do anything, even reverse rogue cancer-prone cells back to a state of wellness.  

And He did.

"O LORD, my God, I called to You for help and You healed me."
Psalm 30:2


After the text I fell to my knees and just wept and poured out Thanksgiving to Him: Jehoveh-Ropheka...the God who heals.  I couldn't stop crying tears of joy and thanksgiving the entire day.  And I've been riding on a God-High ever since.  There's beauty in boldness.  In stepping out of comfort zones.  In sharing our burdens and fears with one another.  Had this friend not done this, I couldn't have rejoiced to the same magnitude that I have this week.  I was given a firsthand glimpse of His very goodness.  The goodness that His Word says He has stored up for us (Psalm 31:19).  The goodness that His Word says we shall see in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).  The goodness that His Word says is chasing after us (Psalm 23:6).
Can I get an Amen?  

I needed this.

My friend mentioned that this answer to prayer has given her new resolve.  I told her it's done the same for me.  And I thank her for sharing her journey with me.  For allowing me to walk alongside of her.  The blessings in this pour out.  I still have unanswered prayers.  But my approach to them has changed.  My faith has increased.   My unbelief is shrinking.

The book of James states that God gives wisdom generously, without finding fault, to all who ask.  But it also says that when we ask, we must not doubt.  For the man who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  He should not expect to receive ANYthing from the Lord.  That he is double-minded and unstable in all he does. (James 1:5-8)

Can I suggest that if you have any doubts about God or His answer to prayer, you first ask Him to rid you of any unbelief.  Ask Him to increase your faith.  He will do it.  He's been doing it within me.  The faith of a mustard seed can move mountains.  Our God is a mountain mover.

Earlier this week, as I am riding on my God-High, spending time with Him in the morning, I decided to look over scripture and to start writing down verses that I could pray over Darcy and I.  Verses that speak to our circumstance (circumstances that we are still waiting to be redeemed and answered).  And as I did, I felt a shift in my Spirit.  I can't quite describe it, but it was as if someone pushed a "BELIEF" button within my heart.  Flipped it right on.  I couldn't get myself out of my Bible.  I took 12 notes of Scripture and felt like my heart and my head were flooded with truth and treasure.  I didn't want to stop, but my poor kids were being neglected.  I looked at my clock and it was 10:45am!  I had been at it for hours, and I think if I would've been able, I could have had my nose in my Bible the entire day.

As I took notes on all of these verses, I bolded the blessings/rewards/answers/actions from God and underlined our responsibility, or our part in being on the receiving end of these blessings, on every verse.  From our standpoint, it didn't seem that hard.  God is calling us to come to Him, to love Him, to follow Him, to revere Him, and to trust Him.  The strength, rescuing, delivering, healing, prospering, hearing, saving, redeeming, providing, guiding, seeing...it's all wrapped up into our LOVING Him with all of our mind, heart, soul and strength.  To wait on Him in steadfast TRUST.  To revere and trust Him without doubt.  And it's in HIS faithfulness and righteousness that He comes to our relief.  Not in our own works.

Today's Beth Moore Bible Study (Week 5 of Deuteronomy: The Law of Love) summed up much of what has been on my heart this week.  Issues of faith and belief.  A remedy of hope. Tied all the loose ends into a bow and connected more dots on my faith page.  We were studying the blessings and curses of the Old Testament.  Ultimately, we are no longer under the curse of the law because Jesus became the curse for us (Galatians 3:13).  However, she pulled out three common consequences to disobedience.
  1. DRASTICALLY DECREASED FRUITFULNESS (Deut. 28:23)  We might find ourselves in this consequence when our prayers go unanswered, we have an ineffective prayer life, and our lives are unproductive or don't produce much fruit.
  2. DEFEAT (Deut. 28:25)  This could apply to any area of life.
  3. DEPRESSION (Deut. 28:66-67) (spiritually-induced...please know this is different from clinical depression) A heaviness of spirit or sin-sickness.  
She explained that these three things often are a direct result of relentless disobedience to God.  PLEASE, don't stop reading yet!  She further explained that we might be experiencing all of the above even while walking in OBEDIENCE.  I felt relief with this because over the past two years I have wrestled with these three things and have been so confused about it all because I have been following hard after God and walking in obedience to Him.  Yet.  It almost felt like we were being punished and it feels like we have been walking in a constant state of defeat.  That somewhere along the road we were doing something wrong and displeasing God.  All the while, waiting and wondering why He hasn't blessed our obedience.  And I've wracked my brain over this, tried to be patient.  I am not talking days or weeks or months...I am talking years of the same unanswered prayer.  Beth Moore further explained that sometimes these three things can also come out of OPPRESSION.  Oppression in which Satan treats us as if we've already done what he wants us to do.  I think we've been living like this.

But there is a remedy to these:  FAITH.

Psalm 84:11 says, "No good thing does He withhold."  I haven't been believing this.  I've felt He's been holding out on us.  I've struggled with feeling that He is not for us.  That perhaps His goodness was only for the afterlife.  That our lot in this earthly life just may not include this.  This is unbelief!  But as I took all those notes of scripture the other morning, every fiber in me was convinced otherwise.  Everywhere in His Word He proves and proclaims otherwise.  And as that BELIEF switch within me went from off to on, I decided to claim this for myself.

While flipping back and forth through scripture today in Bible Study, I came across Galatians 4:4...appropriate for this time of year, but also for the moment of my heart.

"But when the TIME had FULLY COME, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law..." 

My handwritten notes scribbled on the margin alongside this verse read: "He came at the right time.  God's perfect timing.  The LORD knows best for us as well.  When the fullness of time is right for you, He'll show up.  Don't give up if you're waiting for answered prayer or for the fulfillment of His promises."

And so today, I thank Him for those unanswered prayers.  It's through them, and in me, that He has accomplished His best work.  I praise Him for this.  The "no's" and the "waiting" and the "wrestling" and the "unbelief" and the "needing" and the "walking alongside"...all of it has caused me to become so much more of the woman He has intended for me to be. A woman utterly lifeless without Him.  How could I have ever gotten to know Him or my need for Him? How could my faith have grown without the testing of it?  How would I be able to truly count it all as joy (James 1:2)?  Oh, the depth that would have been lost had he first answered "yes."

In faith, and with wide-open joyful heart, I wait.  And I believe in His goodness.  Jehovah-Jireh...The Great Provider.

My gift above all gifts.

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