God often speaks to me through pictures! In fact, I've discovered that the clarity of His thoughts towards me intensifies as I reflect on the images He brings to my mind. One memorable example of this is a quiet time I had in John Chapter 3. I came to the part where John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and told his disciples, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I paused at that statement, and started imagining what it would look like for God to increase in my life, taking more and more room in my heart, as my own worries and fears and awareness of self took a back seat. I thought of Jesus growing larger in my line of sight, blocking out all other thoughts, and then a memory stirred in my mind.
In a scene from the movie Apollo 13, three astronauts are trying to land their damaged ship back on earth after a catastrophic accident. Capt. Jim Lovell, played by Tom Hanks, is on the radio, trying to get the critical reentry procedures from Mission Control. The scene is a tense one, with everyone desperately aware that they are running out of time to safely implement a plan. After peering anxiously out the small window at his side; a view of the earth looming large in the center, Lovell pleads with the team in Houston to act. In a voice tinged with exhaustion and barely contained tension, he says, "We’re all a little tired up here. The world’s getting awfully big in the window.”
That line, and that image of the earth in the astronaut’s window, gave me a visual picture of my relationship with Jesus. As I get closer and closer to the things that are most important in my life, they loom larger in my window. They become all that I see and I order my life around those things. If the challenges of life are all I focus on, then they take up my whole window. I see nothing but the problem, and the more I focus on it, the bigger it gets. I draw closer to the problem and, as it fills my window, it blocks my view of Christ. On the other hand, if my focus is on Him then He is what fills my view. What I focus on is what I will see.
I want Jesus to fill my window. So I made some notes in my journal: "Keep looking up. Keep my eyes on Him, even when the world looms large in the window. Tell Him, 'Lord Jesus, You are completely trustworthy. I will put my faith in you.' Make a conscious choice to replace thoughts of self with thoughts of Him. When He is all that I see, then I’ll find peace, no matter what the circumstances."
by Cris Paulson www.HopeAhead.org
I often hear some version of this question in counseling:
Why isn’t God making it easier for me to change?
Why is everything so hard?
Why can’t I fix other people?
As women, especially Christian women, we often take too much responsibility for things around us—for making people happy, for solving everyone’s problems, for being perfect and never failing. We think we can keep bad things from happening, we think we know what people should do and say, we think we have a perfect plan for our life and everyone else’s. Do you see that those can’t possibly happen?? Our “perfect plan” stalls out and dies a painful death—then we blame God for it!
In our book Hope Ahead (Chapter 8), Barb and I discuss What has God done for you? At the moment you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, He FOUGHT for you!
FORGAVE all your sins,
OVERCAME the enemy and crushed sin’s power over you,
Made you UNIQUE, with special talents, gifts and purposes,
Gave GRACE, divine power and kindness to live,
Gave the HOLY SPIRIT, the indwelling Teacher, Guide and Comforter,
Gave TRUTH in the Bible that sets you free.
The BIG things—the works that are beyond your ability—these are things God has done for you:
Forgiveness comes from God, who alone can forgive, wash you clean and give you a fresh start. Big forgiveness at salvation, then daily forgiveness to stay clean.
At salvation, when God places His divine nature in you and you become a new creation, God crushed Satan’s power over you. You stepped into His supernatural power that can conquer every evil and have victory in every situation. You no longer have to be controlled by old sins.
You couldn’t make yourself, but God formed you in wonderful ways, perfectly suited for the plan He has for your life. He created you with just the combination of personality, desires, hopes, dreams, and skills He wanted you to have.
God’s Grace is a sweet breath of life. It is His patience when we fail and His gentleness when things are hard. He encourages us to walk away from sin and run to Him.
God pours out the Holy Spirit of love in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). Jesus went back to Heaven, but the Holy Spirit lives inside you, helping, teaching, changing, guiding and comforting. He shows us wrong or right. He gives us wisdom and strength.
God’s Truth is the Bible—unchanging, perfect, eternal, and powerful. The truth sets us free. Wisdom for our choices, examples of faith from other believers, stories of God’s hand in history, prophecy, letters, poetry…The Bible is to learn, memorize and study, but also to DO! (James 1:22-25) God always speaks truth.
FOUGHT! This is just some of what God has done for you, set in an acronym to remember.
What is your response to all God has done for you? You FIGHT from God’s victory!
FAITH means trusting God’s ways, even in baby steps.
IDENTITY means you live as a loved child of God, work in what He created you to do.
GRATITUDE is how you respond to God’s gifts and His care.
HEART means see the battle within- between flesh and Spirit. Confess sin, forgive.
TELLING—your calling to share the good news of the Gospel. Pass on your faith.
Because you have been saved and rescued from darkness and death, you FIGHT from that victory! You FIGHT to stay in life.
Faith replaces frantic efforts to control. Faith trusts God’s sovereign control, His goodness and His wisdom. Faith is your expression of trust in your good Father God. Trust Him on things you can’t control.
Your Identity is God-given, and totally unique. You were not created like anyone else. You respond to God’s gift of uniqueness by being who you are! Knowing God loves you exactly where you are now, and trusting Him to grow you and change you every day.
Gratitude is a Christian’s response to the world. Thanking God in and through every situation, thanking God for His nearness and faithful help. Thanking God for the good things, instead of focusing on the bad.
Your Heart is Satan’s battlefield. Your job is to kill the old nature, the old desires toward sin. God has broken the power of sin, but your job is to break the practices. The more you surrender to Jesus, the stronger you will grow. The less you listen to the old sinful desires, the more powerful you will be.
Then, you TELL others! You share the joy of knowing you have been forgiven. You explain the power of forgiveness. You invite others to meet your Jesus. You talk about God’s grace at every opportunity.
Remember—God has already done His part for you. But He will not do your part for you! His part is completed, finished and available, but your part is a work in progress. We FIGHT every day, sometimes weakly, sometimes with power.
So to answer the question from the beginning, Why isn’t God making it easier for me?
God has done all the important stuff you need. He has laid out a path for you and made you as a perfect match for it. Perhaps it’s hard for you because you are not taking up your jobs. Perhaps you are busy working in other people’s lives instead of working in your own soul? Perhaps you are waiting around for God to do something you are supposed to do? Perhaps, in your anger and stubbornness, you are not listening to His voice? Start fighting the right way, and all that could change.
God’s blessings on you!! FIGHT in Victory!
By Jennifer Lee Smith www.jenniferleesmith.com
Have you seen the AT&T commercial where the cute little girl makes us laugh with her line about how “if you like it, you want more”? That was totally me. Actually, I think we all “want more.” People are born to be passionate worshipers, but what we worship makes all the difference. For years, I lived as a prodigal—passionately seeking the wrong things, having experiences that only temporarily satisfied me. But I always wanted more. In trying to fill the void, I went from being a recreational drug and alcohol user (for 13 years) to a daily user of methamphetamine (for another 6 years).
“For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” Jeremiah 2:13
For the last 4 years of my drug addiction, I regularly cried out for the Lord to deliver me. While it was a process, the Lord did not waste one iota of that time. As promised in Romans 8:28, He worked all things together for my good. I grew in the grace and knowledge of Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and during that time He changed me from the inside out and brought deep healing. Here are some of the radical truths that helped me:
14 years later one thing hasn’t changed: I still want more. But by His grace, I just want more of God.
by Amy Meyer Allen www.aredeemedmarriage.com
When God gave me the vision for The REAL Conference my first reaction was no thanks! But eventually because of my love for Him and thankfulness for Him saving my marriage, I said yes. It hasn't been an easy journey, but it is fulfilling because of how He is using the conference to help others and give them the same hope He has given me.
I want to share a video which tells the story of how God redeemed my marriage. But first, I want to give the back story of how this video came to be. It proves that God can meet us exactly where we are and that nothing is too hard for Him.
My husband, Tim, and I had filed for divorce just before our 8th wedding anniversary. However, during our six month separation, God held back the divorce papers long enough to bring us both to a place where we accepted Him as Lord of our lives and marriage. Shortly after getting back together, we learned we were moving to Thailand for two years because of Tim's job. Having Tim just come out of a sex addiction and being sent to the sex capital of the world was very scary for both of us! But God used it to bring us closer to Him and each other.
Once when I was on a trip to Washington D.C., I met a woman who worked for The Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) as an editor. When she heard my story, she asked if Tim and I would consider being on a program called the 700Club to share our testimony. I was all for it, but understandably, Tim was not. Over the next seven years, she contacted me at least once a year to ask if we were ready to share our story. Finally in 2011 after we had moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, she asked me again. Thinking Tim would say no as usual, he surprised me by saying, “Let me pray about it.” In the meantime, I found out the program was sending a producer to film us in our home! When I told Tim this news, much to my surprise he said, “Ok I'll do it.”
The reason why this is so remarkable is because after the filming, Tim confessed to me that he had been talking to God about this interview. He had given God two conditions. Number 1: He would not go to Virginia where the 700Club is located. (This was because years before he had been to their studio with a friend who was being interviewed on their show and found it to be too much like what he called a “Christian Disneyland.”) and Number 2: He would not spend any of his own money (i.e. fly to Virginia). So when I told Tim the producers were coming to us, he knew God had met his exact conditions and he couldn't say no!
The other incredible outcome of this situation was that after we had filmed, God kept bringing a verse to my mind from Genesis. It had to do with Joseph – the very story God had used in my life when Tim and I were separated to give me hope and show me that God not only allows trials in our lives but He uses them for His good purposes. Part of the verse I already knew by heart, “What you (Joseph's brothers who sold him into slavery) meant for evil, God meant for good.” When I looked up Genesis 50:20 that day, the last phrase jumped off the page “... and for the saving of many lives.” I pondered why this was important until our producer called us about a week after our segment had first aired on the 700Club. He said hundreds of people called in for prayer, but in particular 619 had called in for salvation! 619 people came to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior because of our story! The reason I will never forget that number is because my Mom's birthday is June 19 (619) and she had been faithfully praying for us for years.
I hope this little pre-story encourages you to say “Yes!” to God and let Him do in and through you whatever He calls you to. I promise your life will be more exciting and more fulfilling than you could ever imagine!