Lift God Higher

Weeks ago I heard for the first time a song by one of my favorite groups, Unspoken.

The song, “Higher,” speaks of how if life brings me low, I need to lift God higher.

Every time I hear the song since, I tend to sing aloud—sometimes quite loudly—to remind myself of this truth I too often forget as I face difficulties in my life which threaten to crush me.

I realize my most desperate moments come not when troubles bombard my life, but when I lift difficulties above God. I allow them power over me, and I forget how the power of God trumps any trial I face.

When I observe others who face hard times in their lives, I see them lose hope, faith, and even their love for God and people when they fail to lift God higher than their problems. I think, I resided in that place before; you can choose not to stay there. I try to speak to them about this truth, but often they refuse to listen. Instead they speak out loud their problems again and again.

How often I fall into the same trap. And I too can fail to listen to the wisdom of others around me.

One way to lift God higher during hard times centers on worship. How easily I forget to spend time in worship when worry takes over. Instead of thoughts which magnify the Lord, my negative thoughts cause my problems to grow until they seem huge—even compared to God.

Satan gladly supplies the negative thoughts which keep me focused on my problems rather than on the presence, power, and provision of God.

2 Corinthians 10:5 spells out one way to combat these negative thoughts: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Yesterday I visited my daughter’s church where the sermon title asked, “What Keeps You Up At Night?” The pastor brought up fears we battle. Fears, which are close cousins to worry, rob me of my firm faith in a God who loves me with an everlasting love and who possesses the power to bring me through every trial—if I depend on Him.

Satan wants me to doubt two attributes of God: His love and His power. And when I give in, I fail to lift Him higher.

Today I choose worship above worry, and I determine to let thoughts of God’s love and power to override any thoughts which cause me to sink lower and lower. And I want to speak out loud more and more how God blesses me instead of repeated proclamation of my problems and disappointments.

God promises me victory if I allow Him to lead—to be God Most High. And He uses me to urge others to keep Him as God Most High as they see me do it.

“But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ’s victory] and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere”   (2 Corinthians 2:14 AMPC).

I embrace that promise and every other promise He holds out to me. I choose this moment to believe He is who He says He is—God Most High. Joy rises as I do.

“Higher” by Unspoken

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H9SXqzs0oI

Another song that helps me to keep my focus on God Most High: “Magnify” by We Are Messengers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgF4SjdRP3s

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My Good Friday/The Joy of Obedience

I don’t feel like it, I thought.

Besides I no longer have the mike my friend, Julie, let me use before since she lent it to someone else and couldn’t get it back in time. How would I be heard out there with the noise from the wind, the traffic, and the chatter of the tourists?

I charged my amplifier and looked through my bag and found an old microphone. I plugged it in to the amp, and it sounded clear–even better than the other mike with the tiny amplifier box I wore on my waist. I didn’t have a stand for this one, so how would I hold it in my hand if I wanted to play the guitar?

The questions which mattered weren’t, Do I feel like going? or Are there too many obstacles in the way?

The most important question popped into my mind: Did God want me to go?

I sensed He did.

This was the open door since I had to work 12-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday.

Recently a song I heard on the radio touched my heart. I printed out the chords and decided I will sing this song to the people.

Then this thought came as I got ready for my outing to the beach. If I turn on the JOYFM, and this special song comes over the airways, it will be a confirmation from the Lord. I didn’t expect it, but I thought it would be nice.

I heard the last several words of the song as I tuned in on my IPAD, and then the DJ announced, “You just heard ‘What A Beautiful Name It Is,’ by Hillsong–my song.

Thank You, Lord, I said and continued to prepare for my adventure.

Last time I went to Clearwater Beach to sing during Easter week, I rode my bike and brought a small travel guitar to avoid traffic and the search for a parking space.

This time I’ll take either the ferry or the free bus ride, which I saw offered days before.

I drove to downtown Clearwater and parked my car in the free lot near the water. I saw people at the bus stop and decided on free transportation. I waited for the bus for 20 minutes and the it took 20 minutes to get there (on a less crowded day it would take 5 minutes), but I enjoyed the beautiful weather and pretty scenery while I waited and while I rode.

The bus dropped us off right in the midst of the crowds, and I walked the short distance to my usual spot.

I started out playing the amplified guitar and sang as loudly as I could. One of my first songs was the chorus of “What A Beautiful Name It Is.”  After a while I set the guitar aside and sang with the microphone and no music. It felt easy since I knew most of the songs well.  I shared these selections and more: “Just A Closer Walk with Thee,” “”There’s Just Something About That Name,” and “Jesus Paid It All.”

I had tracts to pass out in a hat, and almost immediately people put money in the hat. Other times I played, I wanted tips as an affirmation, but received none. As I sang more and more people gave a tip. (I hoped it wasn’t because they thought me a poor homeless lady who couldn’t sing whom they felt sorry for.) Still, I felt encouraged.

I turned the knobs on the amp to get some different effects ie reverb. The quality of this mike with this amp proved to be superior to my last mike, and it didn’t entail the repeated readjustment I had to do with the other.

I enjoyed the sunshine, breeze, and happy people who walked by. I prayed people would recognize songs or be caught by phrases and the name of Jesus want to know or return to Him.

As I continued to sing, I realized fear of the people no longer plagued me as it did in the past. I closed my eyes for short periods of time and worshipped before the Lord and felt so close to Him.

“God, did you call me out here for them or for me?” I asked.

I sensed the answer: “Both.”

One heckler shouted from a passing car. I waved and blew him a kiss. I said “God bless you” to those who gave tips, to others who smiled or gave a thumbs up, and to people who seemed upset in conversation as they walked by.

As I sang I felt overwhelmingly grateful for all Jesus did for me by His death on the cross.

As time passed, I looked at my watch and saw it was near 3pm–the hour the Bible said Jesus died. I said a thank you, Jesus in my heart and sang songs about the cross: “At The Cross,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” and “Nothing But the Blood.” Joy overflowed in my heart. I celebrated the beautiful life the Lord lavished on me–despite traumas and trials I faced.

As I obeyed God’s command to “go out into all the world,” (Clearwater Beach certainly had visitors from around the world,) this came to mind: the joy of obedience. God wanted me right there at that moment, and I obeyed instead of giving in to my excuses and dedication to my petty agenda for the day. I thought of Jesus’ obedience on the cross and how mine seemed small compared to His. This thought occurred to me as well: His obedience brought me joy, but my obedience can bring joy to others.

After I sang for two hours, I sensed it’s time to go.

I crossed the street to the bus stop and talked to a man about the Lord after he asked about my singing while we waited for the bus.

The ride back proved pleasant and passed quickly as I talked to a sweet elderly lady from New Hampshire.

I plan to go back to Clearwater Beach to share songs and words of encouragement. When? Whenever the Lord calls me to do it. I long to experience once again the blessings and joy of obedience and bask in the knowledge that when I do what God asks me to do, He is pleased with me. After all, when I’m in my right mind, that’s my highest goal–to please Him.

“What A Beautiful Name It Is” by Hillsong

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQWFzMvCfLE

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No Longer A Slave to Fear

Not long ago I heard a song which described my life. The chorus proclaimed, “I’m no longer a slave to fear.”

When I heard the song, I sang along and celebrated the truth of the phrase as I applied it to myself. I marveled at how far the Lord brought me on the pathway marked, “deliverance from fear.”

I remembered back to my childhood and how I often felt paralyzed by fear. Fear of rejection, fear of the dark, fear of future overwhelmed me.

When it came time to make a decision, I felt afraid to do so. What if I made the wrong choice? Surely calamity would befall me.

As I examine my present life, I realize one reason it seems fairly easy—at least compared to years past–centers on this fact: I now allow faith rather than fear rule my day. I believe by faith God loves me and trust He will take care of me. I know how to leave the future in His hands, so I can enjoy the present.

Yes, I sometimes fall back into fear, especially when I interact with others who allow fear to rule their lives. But I now know how to stop the stranglehold of fear.

I look to the Lord and focus on Him. I read His Word and believe it relates to me.

One verse, which I call my life verse, transforms my thought life when it comes to fear. I like it in the Amplified Version of the Bible:

“Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” AMPC

I love the promise contained in the brackets within this verse: “there is nothing to fear.” The rest of the verse explains why with these four phrases: “I am with you,” “I am your God,” “I will strengthen you,” and “I will help you.”

For too long I failed to believe any of these, even as a Christian.

Another verse, Psalm 56:3, reminds me what to do in times of fear. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. NIV” This verse shows me when fear immobilizes me, lack of trust lurks nearby.

A verse in the New Testament also encourages me when it comes to fear: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).

The enemy, the one who tries to push me toward fear, wants me to doubt God’s power, His love, and the sound mind He gives me.

A fourth verse comes to mind about fear: “But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 NIV)

God’s true love and deep fear may not reside simultaneously in my heart. Fear rules when I refuse to receive His love—when I put a wall to block its flow because of guilt, shame, unworthiness, all three connected to fear.

I desire not just to bask in my deliverance from fear, but to help others overcome fear as well—to assist them to believe what God says about fear and urge them to follow His instructions, so they can move toward freedom.

Jesus died on the cross to set me free—from all which binds me. During this Easter season I will continue to celebrate the release from my old title, “a slave to fear.” I remain determined to fully embrace my new title, “a beloved child of God.”

“No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TkUMJtK5k

 

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The Gift of Empathy

Recently God sent an empathizer my way.

After work I drove my car to a church nearby to get closer to the bridge.  I put on a bright yellow shirt over my uniform and donned my sunglasses and hat and headed for the bridge which connects the city of Clearwater to Clearwater beach.

I looked at my watch. Run for forty minutes, my goal ran through my mind.

In about two weeks, the Iron Girl race over that bridge takes place.

So I determined to train after work on a regular basis until race day since I work near the bridge.

Within minutes I headed up the steep grade of the bridge. Thankfully a fence provided safety from the cars that whizzed by. The view proved wonderful as the sun headed toward the horizon and glimmers of light danced on the water in Clearwater Bay.

When I ran on level ground, it seemed simple. Now my legs ached early on. I felt breathless, but not quite as bad as my previous practice run on the bridge. My inability to catch my breath reminded me of when I vacationed in mountains at a high elevation.

I blew out slowly and took my breath in gradually, so I wouldn’t hyperventilate.

Other runners, walkers, and people on bicycles passed me from behind, and some came over the bridge from the other side. I smiled (more like a grimace) or said or nodded a “hello.”

I rejoiced when I made it to the top and looked around in every direction to enjoy the view, and the sky where pink streaks suddenly appeared. I dared not stop to gaze.

As I made my way down the other side of the bridge, a runner came toward me with a grin on his face even though he too appeared to work hard like me to conquer the bridge—not one of those runners who makes it all look easy.

At the moment we approached one another he raised his left hand to give me a high five. I raised mine, and we connected as my hand slapped against his.

Wow! He understands how I feel right now, I thought.  He knows about my battle to breath, and the aches in my legs. He empathizes with the effort it takes to move one foot in front of the other.

Once I made it down the other side of the bridge, I ran until I reached the twenty minute mark and then turned around to head back toward the bridge and up the steep grade again since the race would entail that route.

On the way back up the bridge, I ran into the same runner, and we exchanged high fives, smiles, and empathy again.

My practice run that day felt easier because of that empathizer.

My life feels easier when God sends people who empathize not only with my physical but also with my emotional and spiritual struggles.

But the empathizer who encourages my heart the most calls Himself Jesus.

He came to earth, so He could know how I feel as a human being. He experienced similar battles to the ones I face, and as I draw near to Him I sense His empathy.

Today I looked up the word “empathy.” “The ability to understand and share the feelings of others,” I read in my New Oxford American Dictionary.

In the Bible I found one verse which contained the word “empathize”—Hebrews 4:15, which reads “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” The next verse remains a favorite of mineLet us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Not only does Jesus understand, but He desires to help.

I look forward to my 5K race on April 9th.  During the race I will be surrounded by those who empathize with me. The camaraderie among runners in races always lifts my spirits and causes me to feel connected.

But to have someone who reached out to me on the lonely course of my practice time for the race cheered me up in a special way.

Thank you, Mr. Empathizer. You made my day.

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Trusting God In Tragedy

Five years ago my brother died by suicide. At the time, my heart felt shattered. God healed my broken heart in this past five years. He drew me closer to Himself, and I learned that trust grows in the midst of tragedy.

Here is a repost of a blog I wrote not long after my brother’s suicide. Today I celebrate how far God brought me in the grieving process. He proved Himself to be an excellent Comforter.

I pray that whatever you face in your life in these days, you will reach out to the Lord to be your refuge and Your comfort.

Trusting God in Tragedy/Grief

First Posted on March 11, 2012by elainecreasman

A part of me wants to run away from God.

He could have prevented this. My Lord could have answered my loved one’s prayers for relief from back pain. Certainly He has power to have saved his life—to intervene in those final desperate moments and to shine His light into darkness. He could have caused a different outcome—one where instead of taking his own life, my loved one said, “Here God, I give you my life; help me to live it.”

I still don’t understand how such a tragic event could have taken place. But one thing I know. I have to keep trusting God. That’s the only way I can make it through this valley of grief.

As I’ve determined to cling to God, He brings words of comfort. He has reminded me that in the scope of eternity this sorrow is “a light, momentary affliction,” (See 2 Corinthians 4:17) even though it doesn’t seem so.

He has encouraged me when I’ve agonized that I didn’t do enough and could have saved this precious life:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus Romans 8:1 NIV.

He has brought songs to mind and repeated an instruction He gave me years ago when I was mourning other griefs: “Sing away sorrow.” One song from “back then” is “Be still, my soul” written by Catharina von Schlegel in 1752.

Years back when it seemed life was too hard, too painful, I sang that song over and over after hearing it on a Ginny Owens CD.

Recently I looked up the words.

“Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side/Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain./Leave to thy God to order and provide/In every change He faithful will remain./Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend/Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end…

Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart/And all is darkened in the vale of tears;/Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,/Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears./Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay/From His own fullness all He takes away…”

Other words the Lord has brought are:  “What Satan meant for evil, I will work for good” (See Genesis 50:20). As I trust a God who sees all and knows all, I’m growing in the confidence that He will bring triumph from this tragedy.

Do you believe that about your own hard place?

When I first posted this blog, I couldn’t find the song “Be Still, My Soul” on Youtube by Ginny Owens. Today I discovered it there. How this song blessed my soul over the years and then again today. I praise God that He brings stillness to my soul, no matter what sorrows I face. He can do the same for you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoVkVDjb04A

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Embracing P Words From the Lord

Lately three P words ran through my mind.

Presence, peace, and power.

This truth arrived with those words: if you truly possess a sense of each of these, your walk with God flourishes.

If I sense His presence and know He’s with me every moment of the day, it leads to the next P. I rest in peace. As peace settles my soul, I then realize I have God’s power available to me. Because Jesus lives in me, so does His power. I don’t have to live with a sense of powerlessness, which I see many in my circles succumb to. Belief in His power seems to release it.

Prayer shows I believe in His power.

Verses came to mind in relation to each of these P words.

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 NKJV

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” Isaiah 26:3

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

I guess I came up with a fourth P word today: Prayer.

This verse comes to mind as I think of prayer: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16 (The bolding in these verses comes from me.)

The three P words popped into mind while I worked at my job. Some days I wonder if I possess the strength to continue to work with the mentally ill. Do I still have what it takes? As I age, I also wonder, Am I too old for this?(Another P word just came to mind: Patience.)

What verse goes with patience?

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11 NIV

As I review the 5 P words which now reside on my list, I see how each accompanying verse lifts me to a higher place, where I know I can do whatever God calls me to because of His presence, His peace, His power, the avenue of prayer, and the patience He gives me.

More P words will inevitably come to mind in the days ahead. I determine to embrace each one.

How grateful I feel to have a God who encourages me in so many ways—some days just by three words which slip into my thoughts.

This song lifts my spirits every time I hear it.

“Magnify” by We Are Messengers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgF4SjdRP3s

Don’t forget if you live in the Tampa Bay area, We Are Messengers will be part of a free concert in Sims Park in New Port Richey on Friday, March 24, 2017 at 6pm. This is in connection to the Chasco Fiesta celebration.

 

 

 

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My Good God

Recently I checked out the Wednesday poetry prompt on the Writer’s Digest site. There the poet in charge of the site instructed we poets to write a poem with this prompt: good ______.

I started my poem, but as I wrote down all that came to mind concerning the word “good,” God’s goodness preoccupied my thoughts.

Later I looked up verses that contained the Word “good” in connection with God.

As I studied these verses, I observed in each one a phrase which contained an action.

If I believe God is good, I will act upon it, I concluded.

I confess I’ve waged battles in my mind (I see now the enemy planted thoughts there) in regard to God’s goodness. I believe I serve a good God, but when tragedy strikes, I wonder about His goodness toward me. One lie I believe: I’m not good enough to experience His goodness.

Years ago a young woman I know well struggled to believe in an all-good God after she experienced a date rape which left her in despair. Why did a good God allow that? her mind asked again and again.

Then one day she announced, “God is good because He says so. I don’t get to decide based on what happens to me.”

Her declaration helped me during those days. I began to learn to separate what happens to me from God’s goodness. I saw the good He brought from every trial and tragedy and how if I turned to Him, He comforted, sustained, and loved me beyond measure.

I meet people on a regular basis who turned from God because they concluded (although they may not say these exact words) God is not good. How often I hear these words, “How can a good God allow such suffering in this world?”

As I read verses on the goodness of God, I realized if these people and myself would again and again take the action connected with the “God is good” statement in these verses, they would help us convince our souls of the fact.

Here are the verses:

God and upright is the LORD; therefore He instructs sinners in the way.” Psalm 25:8 NASB

If I allow God to instruct me, I discover His goodness.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8

If I take refuge in God, I discover and bask in His goodness.

For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee.” Psalm 86:5

The question came as I read that verse, “Can I know His goodness if I refuse to call upon Him—especially in hard times?” So many people refuse to call upon God but instead call upon the supposed wise people of this world. How often I fall into that trap.

“Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; Sing praise to His name, for it is lovely.” Psalm 135:3

As I sing praise to God and worship His name, I feel certain of His goodness.

If we do these four actions on a regular basis, our souls grow stronger and move closer to the belief in a God who is good, all-good, and good all of the time:

-Receive His instructions.

-Take refuge in Him.

-Call upon Him.

-Sing praises to His name.

Each of these requires we draw close to the Lord. My greatest battles in regard to God’s goodness happen when I back off from God.

In the midst of my study of these “good” verses, another verse came to mind: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” 1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV

My problem at times centers on my tendency to seek bad company when life falls apart. I listen to those with weak faith or no faith at all. If the above verse is true, then this statement also proves true: “Good company builds good character.”

When I first typed the above sentence, I typed “God company…” That also holds true since God is all-good. “God (or good) company builds good character.”

To spend time with God means His goodness rubs off on me as I seek truth, celebrate His goodness, and determine to walk in His ways. In the days ahead, I want to spend even more time with God–in His Word, in prayer, and in times of worship.

As I spent time with God two days ago, He gave me these truths about how to end my  struggle with doubting His goodness. I pray today and in the future I will daily receive His instructions, take refuge in Him, call upon Him, and sing praises to His name.

A song echoes in my mind, “God is so good. God is so good. God is so good. He’s so good to me.”

Yes He is.

I look forward to my continued celebration of His goodness.

 

 

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