God Is Not Against Me

“I am for you; I’m not against you!”

Those words poured forth emphatically from my car radio not long ago in a song sung by the group Hawk Nelson. Other songs I’ve heard in recent months gave the same message.

Whenever I hear a song that communicates God is for me and not against me, it touches something deep in my soul. I want to listen again and again to convince myself of this truth. Too often when circumstances turn out badly, prayers go unanswered, and people around me come against me harshly for minor mistakes, I feel God must be against me too.

After all, isn’t He perfect? People around me remind me repeatedly—and angrily–of my imperfections and how far I fall short from being the woman I long to be. Their rejections of me cause me to wonder, will God reject me too?

Yes, I do have a number of highly critical people in my life, but I’m also critical of myself.

Someone told me not long ago that I’m too hard on myself.

I realized it’s true that I can be hard on myself, and when I write it seems to come through. But that day God showed me there are many out there who are hard on themselves and stay in that place. I go there for moments at a time, and then God intervenes. Scores of Christians and nonChristians beat themselves up–sometimes for decades–where they are convinced “I’m unloveable,” and “God is not for me; He is against me.”

As I read a book about prayer recently, I was tempted once again to go to the place that declares, “God is against me.” The message the author put forth was, “I prayed these prayers for my family, and they were all answered.” My thought was “I prayed those prayers too, and they weren’t answered.”

Some of the prayers I’ve been praying for years can still be answered. For others it’s too late. The window of opportunity has passed. So I sat and wondered again, “Why did God answer her prayers and not mine?” It must be something you’re doing wrong, shame’s accusing voice whispered.

Or else God is just against you.

I don’t like to go to that dark place, but God keeps allowing it because so many others are stuck there, and He wants me to help them out.

I confess sometimes when I move back to believing God is against me, I can turn to things of this world for comfort instead of going to God to receive truth to come against that lie.

One of the places I go to repeatedly is to food. That’s where I turned in a difficult childhood when those who were supposed to love me instead were against me—sometimes in cruel ways–and it seemed God was against me too because He wasn’t protecting me.

A better place to go for comfort and truth is to God’s Word. There God convinces me that He is for me, and that He will never turn against me—no matter how many times human beings do.

Here are just three of the many soul-calming words I read recently:

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:28

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (my life verse)

Recently I woke up, and God whispered to me about certain people in my life. “They don’t mean to be mean.” Once again I was reminded they acted out in hurtful ways because of their own hurts. Sometimes I’m the one hurting others because of my pain.

The bottom line is God is not against me. And He’s not against them. He loves us all. The challenge is to continue to love like Jesus even when others don’t act loving toward me, or they make incorrect negative judgments about what I say and do.

I often pray that I want to be like Jesus. And isn’t that what happened to Him? He was the most loving man that ever walked the earth, and yet people judged Him harshly and were mean to Him, even to the point of killing Him.

He did not let people’s mistreatment of Him or harsh circumstances change how He viewed His relationship with the Father. And He did not stop loving people.

Lord, help me to do the same. Help me to remember today and every day that You are for me. You are not against me.

“Drops in the Ocean” by Hawk Nelson

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My Desire: A Soul on Fire

Recently I worked with a fellow songwriter putting the chords to a song I wrote a number of years ago on the National Day of Prayer.

Also I’ve been hearing two songs on the radio that have to do with the same subject: a soul on fire.

Sometimes I say the prayer, “Lord, I want to be on fire for You.” I see this as having a passion for the Lord, putting Him first, fully obeying everything He calls me to do.

I confess some days my passion for the Lord wanes. Weariness leads to letting the flesh take over, and I go through the motions of living and serving. It seems I lose my vital connection with the Lord. I’m listless instead of listening to and for His voice.

I see Christians around me in this same condition.

The song I wrote back when is a corporate prayer to the Lord to relight the fire in our souls.

Light our fires, Lord.
Our embers are burning low.
Bring Your holy flame;
burn away our shame
and set our hearts aglow.

Light our fires, Lord.
We’re sad that they’re so dim.
Give us Jesus’ fire;
renew our desires,
so we can honor Him.

As I’ve been contemplating this whole issue, I realize that being on fire for the Lord ties in with being filled with and led by the Holy Spirit. After all, the Holy Spirit came to the apostles on Pentacost in the form of flames. When I’m on fire for the Lord, I’m letting the Holy Spirit take the lead. When my fire is growing dim, my flesh has taken over.

Do I dare say the prayer again, “Lord, let Your fire fall on me. I want to be a soul on fire for You?”

There is a cost to this prayer. Pain is involved. Here are some verses that have to do with fire.

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:11-14 NIV

These verses speak of our works being judged on “the Day,” but it has been my experience that as I pray, “Lord, let Your fire fall,” He uses His holy fire to judge my works now and to burn away anything that is not of Him.

On the other side of this process, my passion for Him is renewed.

So today, Lord, I ask You to let Your fire fall into my life. Burn away anything that is not of You. Let my passion for You be renewed, so that I’m living my life fully for You. Let Your holy fire free me, so I can be all You have called me to be—a soul on fire for You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

How about you? Is your heart’s desire to have your soul be on fire for the Lord and to serve Him with all that is within You? Will you dare to say a prayer requesting that from Him?

Here are three songs on the subject. The first two have been playing on the radio lately, and the third is a worship song I sang often in church years ago.

“Soul on Fire” by Third Day

“Start A Fire” by Unspoken https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HY3mpbE9SJ4

“Let Your Fire Fall” by Paul Wilbur

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While I Am Waiting

I heard the song “While I Am Waiting” by John Waller on the Christian music channel on my TV recently.

Once again I thought about how many circumstances in my life involve waiting. I also thought of how far I’ve come in my ability to wait on the Lord without panicking and without feeling that I have to try to speed things up and take matters into my own hands.

Yes, for short periods I slip back into these wrong actions in regard to waiting, but I’m making progress.

As I’ve been thinking again about waiting, I realize that in my waiting I’ve drawn closer to the Lord. I’ve matured. I’ve learned to worship in the waiting and trust God’s timing rather than attempt to get Him to submit to mine.

I can see today that the promise in Isaiah 40:31 is true:

“But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.” AMP

Another verse comes to mind when I think of waiting is Galatians 6:9, especially since John Waller writes that one of the things we must do while we are waiting is “faint not.”

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Two other things in the song that we are called to do while waiting are serving and worshiping. My mind can say, “I’ll worship God when this waiting is over.” But as I worship Him in the valleys of waiting, joy rises up in me over who He is and all He has done in my life.

In hard times I can be tempted to back off from serving or just go through the motions. At times I try to convince myself I’m not qualified for Christian service because of difficult circumstances in my life that often seem out of control. Surely I should be able to do something to set them right.

I confess I try, but that is not my job. It belongs to God. Yes, I can do what He commands as I wait, but too often I want to command others to change, so circumstances will improve. At times God wants me to wait quietly. At those times I can slip back into thinking I should be doing something.

While working on my book about marriage, I found a quote about waiting that touched me deeply. It was written by G. Campbell Morgan who lived from 1863-1945. He was a British evangelist, preacher, and Bible scholar.

“Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.”

I continue to pray that I will embrace these truths.

As part of my marriage book I wrote I have a chapter about waiting. I list five things a wife who is waiting for her wounded/wounding husband to change can do. As I reread them I realized these can apply to any kind of waiting.

#1 Keep a journal.
#2 Pray without ceasing.
#3 Develop a grateful heart.
#4 Let God heal your wounds.
#5 Keep your eyes on the Lord.

How wonderful that God gives us assignments while we are waiting. From this song, this poem, and this list He gave me I can achieve much while I’m waiting for prodigals to come home, for loved ones to receive inner healing, for those I’m praying for to be saved, for me to become all God wants me to be, and for what God has called me to write to be published.

How about you? Are you weary of waiting? Remember that You are waiting on the Lord, and He is faithful. A time of reaping and rejoicing will come.

“While I am Waiting” by John Waller

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gjXBMC8-oM (from Fireproof soundtrack)

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Fighting the Good Fight

This life is a battle ground—not a playground.

I confess my heart often wants to reject that statement, which I’ve heard from many preachers over the years.

Fighting. I hate it. I don’t want to do it—even though I get dragged into it on a regular basis followed by this proclamation from me: “I don’t want to fight.”

The truth is I’m called to fight.

Lately I’m realizing there’s good fighting and bad fighting.

Bad fighting is when I contend with those in my life who reject me, disrespect me and resist the Lord, and I use their methods to fight back.

Good fighting is when I use the weapons the Lord has given me.

One weapon He’s given is prayer.

Years ago God gave me this truth to deal with times of conflict. “Pray instead of say.”

Too often I want to use words—sometimes harsh words—to straighten out the stinkin’ thinkin’ of those around me. This only makes matters worse, and the bad fighting escalates.

It’s not that I can never say anything, but the key is to say what the Lord leads me to say—not my own “wise” words or words generated from my negative feelings or me desiring to be in control. The good fight is fueled by faith. The bad fight is often fueled by fear.

When I looked up in two sections of Scripture information about this good fight I’m to be engaged in, some truths came forth:

–When I’m in the battle, it’s not my own strength I’m to depend on. It’s His.
–God will teach me to do battle.
–My battle is not against contentious people in my life. It’s against the enemy, Satan.
–My weapons are invisible.
–It’s important to be prepared for battle by putting on my armor.
–It’s vital to stay alert for the enemy’s attacks.
–Standing firm is an important aspect of fighting a spiritual battle.

“Blessed be the Lord, my Rock and my keen and firm Strength, Who teaches my hands to war and my fingers to fight.” (Psalm 144:1 AMP)

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle (recently I wrote about wrestling and rest) against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance…” (Ephesians 6:10-18 ESV)

OK, Lord. I’m accepting it anew. This life is a battle ground. Help me to win these battles I’m facing. Let me use your weapons and not my own. Remind me to depend on Your strength and not mine. And let me keep fighting the good fight until Jesus comes.

This blog was inspired by the song “Good Fight” by Unspoken

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Wrestling and Resting

Some days it seems I’m in a wrestling match that has no end. People come against the truths I speak to them. Those I love seem not to love me back. Precious ones I care about deeply make wrong choices and reject the wisdom I offer.

The hardest days can be when I’m in a wrestling match with God.

On those days I’m trying to tell God how things should be and give Him some advice on how to straighten circumstances out in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. He ignores my demands.

At times I demand God explain why, and my encounter with Him is filled with heavy sighs.

I find myself wrestling with doubt, and my mind battles against lies like this one: God must not care as much about me as He does her because she is more blessed than me and has the positive circumstance I’ve been praying for for decades.

I wrestle with God about the tasks He has called me to which seem impossible to accomplish for someone like me who is not qualified to accomplish them—for a weakling like me who some days has so little strength and stamina.

As I contemplated this idea of wrestling, God revealed that it’s good that I wrestle before Him in prayer rather than away from Him where if I wrestle with negative thoughts, they could win.

In Genesis 32 (see verse 22-32) I read about Jacob wrestling with God. His wrestling came when God was calling Him to a task that was difficult and even life-threatening—reconciling with his brother, Esau, whom he had deceived.

The tasks before me seem difficult as well: to love those who don’t seem to love me back, to continue to speak truth to those who often reject it, and to reach out with the good news of the Gospel to a world that is bent on pleasure and resisting God.

Not long ago I wrestled with God about the prodigals in my life. I wrote down my thoughts and my prayers in my journal. Then I asked God, What do You have to say? That’s when the rest came in the midst of my wrestling.

Here’s part of what God spoke to my heart: “Receive my peace. The enemy is tormenting you. Your prodigals will return to Me. Remember I am not in time. It’s not taking years. It’s already answered. Thank Me for their return. Repent of pride…”

As I reread all I had written before my listening, I saw that when I wrestle with God, I’m wrestling to try to gain control. Rest comes as I surrender to Him, the all-wise, all-knowing God who loves me and those I love more than I can even imagine.

Here is a quote about wrestling that I found online:

“Don’t wrestle through the night as Jacob did. Acknowledge God’s perfect, loving ways and surrender to Him. Let His comfort renew your hope (Psalm 94:19*). Cling to Him and stand amazed as you encounter the living God.” (Jennifer Benson Schuldt from “Wrestling With God” on Godtube)

Thank You, Jennifer. I’m determined to do just that.

*When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19 NIV

REST = Release Everything; Simply Trust

Here is a song that lifted me up during a time a wrestling recently. It is “Shoulders” by For King and Country.

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Dealing With The Death of Dreams

“Here in this worn and weary land where many a dream has died.”

Not long ago I heard those words in a song, and I started thinking about dreams in my life that have died. Career dreams, ministry dreams, relationship dreams. Dreams for my loved ones. So many issues turned out in ways different than I had in mind—in worse ways, lasting-too-long ways, seemingly impossible-to-deal-with ways.

Recently after hearing someone else who had had a dream fulfilled—one I had prayed and hoped for–I got so caught up in mourning over broken dreams that I started to lose my joy. Self-pity, shame, fear, and bitterness threatened to take over. My faith began to waver as I thought about how God knew what my godly dreams were, I prayed for fulfillment of these dreams, and yet He didn’t fulfill them. And for some of these dreams it’s too late. They must be buried, and I must walk away from obsessive grieving and move on.

Psalm 23 comes to mind when I think of the death of dreams “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (death of my dreams) I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” (verse 4)

The good news is that God is with me and longs to minister to me in times of grieving over broken dreams. He reminds me that although what I dreamed was not fulfilled, He has His dreams for me that are being fulfilled and are a reason for celebration. He has others that have not yet been fulfilled—awesome dreams that will change my world and the world of those around me and will bring much glory to Him.

The enemy wants me to stay in the place of mourning over the death of dreams and just settle for trying to survive the rest of my life. But God has a different plan. Despite the death of certain dreams, He wants me not to just survive but to thrive.

Years ago I had the thought Do I just want to survive, or do I want to thrive? in regard to hard times in our marriage. Thriving is the course I chose, and although resurrection of certain dreams for my marriage haven’t taken place, resurrection of my love and my passion for being a godly wife has. I made it to the other side of certain hard times and am stronger and closer to the Lord—because of triumphing over trials, traumas, and tragedies.

I’ve met many wives proclaiming to be Christians who have divorced their husbands for not being godly enough, sweet enough, or even financially successful enough. They allowed the death of their marital dreams to lead them to divorce and looking for a new spouse whom they imagined was the key to thriving and to making all their dreams come true.

This is not God’s path for when it seems our dreams have died. Drawing close to Him and laying our broken dreams at His feet is the better way.

Today I wrote down the dreams that have died in my life.

As I looked over the list, I saw that some of them could not be “rewritten” because of the death of a person or the passage of time. Others I saw were still possible if I would take out a few words and give those dreams back to the Lord. Here is one about a prodigal:

I dreamed she would remain strong in the Lord and would use her giftedness to minister to many and bring glory to God.

Although she hasn’t remained strong in the Lord but instead has said she’s an atheist, I can pray, “Lord, help this precious one to return to You, so she can use her giftedness to minister to many and bring glory to You.”

I can hold on to that dream and choose to let go of mourning over the fact of her wandering away and her renouncing her allegiance to the Lord.

God encouraged me recently when I took a photo of this individual, and in the background there appeared a cross. Where did that come from? I wondered as I studied the photo. The cross was formed by the window frame, but only certain parts of the frame showed up and were lit up. The image of that cross is at the beginning of this blog.

Today I’m determined to let go of grieving over the death of dreams. Instead I choose to celebrate dreams that have come true, to thrive and not just survive, to be grateful for what I have rather than focusing on what I don’t have, and to rejoice for all the ways God has blessed me.

I truly have a wonderful life, and God has given me amazing opportunities to bless people with writing and music. He has given me the gift of speaking words of encouragement as I minister to others who have broken dreams. The bonus is I can speak from knowing how they feel.

I can’t help but think of what my friend said to me years ago as I was back then grieving over some broken dreams: “God never wastes our pain.” How true I have seen that to be as I bring my pain to Him and ask Him to use it for His glory.

How about you? Are you mourning over broken dreams? Does it seem impossible for your joy to be restored? Bring it all to the Lord, and He will restore and show you the dreams He has for you and for your life. He isn’t finished with any of us yet.

The song for today is “Thrive” by Casting Crowns

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His Promise of Peace

Last night I found a “prayer” card on the kitchen table where my father sits. It was familiar to me. Dad received it several days after his cervical fusion surgery over six years ago when the pain he was suffering seemed unbearable. I sat in the hospital room with him when the volunteer came and offered him the card. My reading it out loud helped us both and my mom to deal with the despair of the moment and the wondering if my father would recover from this surgery.

On this prayer card, which is worn around the edges from Dad holding it and rereading what’s on the back, is a rendering of Jesus hugging a man. Only the back of the man is visible, but there is Jesus’ kind, loving face in full view.

On the back of the card is not really a prayer, but an admonition entitled “Peace,” which can be turned into a prayer:

“Do not look forward to
What might happen tomorrow;
The same everlasting Father
Who cares for you today
Will take care of you
Tomorrow and every day.

Either He will shield you
From suffering
Or He will give you
Unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then and
Put aside all anxious thoughts
And imagination.”

As I read the words once again yesterday evening, once more they were just what I needed. Lately I fought a fresh battle with blame, shame, self-pity, and resentment in regard to circumstances I could not control. Just as I had wondered if my father would ever recover, I had been wondering if other loved ones would ever “recover.” Would they make it through this time of excruciating emotional pain which caused me to hurt as well? Would they ever cry out to the Lord as their rescuer and source of peace?

Just a few days before I had rewritten an article about peace and sent it out. The three points I brought out about maintaining peace came back to mind. They were: Focus on the Lord, Make Peace with the Past, and Pray for Peace. I saw how often I did the opposite. I focused on problems, I got trapped in regret and resentments connected to the past, and I failed to pray.

Philippians 4:6-7 came to mind once more—for the thousandth time in connection to these ongoing difficult circumstances. And once again I knew that going to God was the key to receiving peace.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The song, “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” which I had sung not long ago came to mind as well. I knew that just as I had been failing to pay attention to the instructions on that card my father kept to help him through hard days of ongoing pain, I failed to fully embrace the words of that old hymn written by Joseph M. Scriven way back in 1855.

“Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

So I did pray lifting up my burdens to the Lord, and what followed was His peace, the way it always has. I want problems solved, progress made, and at times perfection. But He gives peace. Lord, I praise You for Your peace. Let me bask in it and in Your presence. Let that be enough.

“What A Friend We Have in Jesus” sung by Kathryn Scott (with some added words)

To listen to the inspiring story behind “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” click below.

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