Remember that episode of Friends where Ross thinks he has this thing called Unagi? He received Unagi while training in Kay-Ra-Tay. It is a conscious state of TOTAL awareness where a person is keen to all things around them. A sort of “sixth sense”, if you will, or what we who love Jesus might call communion with the Holy Spirit.I had an Unagi moment yesterday.
Life is always a mixture of ups and downs. Good stuff, bad stuff… it all comes with the package. Sometimes we just have to roll with the punches.
But yesterday, I was complaining a little, I will admit.
I just can’t do this anymore! This is impossible. There is no way I can handle this. I CANNOT DO IT. CANNOT. NO…. NO NO NO!!!!
And then Unagi:
“I trust you,” He says.
At first I think it is me praying these words out loud. Because that is something you PRAY, not something Jesus says to you… or at least He wouldn’t say it to me. But then I realized that I have a ton of trust issues and so that couldn’t have possibly been me who made this statement.
What the heck does that even mean?
“I trust you. You can do it. I picked you and that means you can do it.”
Ummmm…. No. No, I cannot.
“Well, not without me, you can’t. But you have Me, so you can.”
This doesn’t even make sense. What the heck is happening right now??
But something weird did happen. All of the pent-up anxiety that I had been feeling all morning just left. I felt this rod in my back, strengthening me, straightening me. I felt taller (those who have seen me might find that hard to believe).
He trusts me……… You trust me? ME????? WHY????
It’s funny how one word from God can change everything. It’s a suspicious word, I know. But His words bring life and I know that it was Him because that phrase brought life to my heart. That was the only thing I needed to hear. That He thought I could do it. No, that He KNEW I could do it.
Next time you give a word from God to someone, think about whether that Word will activate something in their heart. Will it bring life? Does it seem impossible or possibly ridiculous? Does it not make sense to you? Do things not line up with what you see? Then, baby, it is probably Unagi… errr Jesus. That’s how He rolls…. In the impossible.
Anxiety. It’s like this heart crushing phenomenon that happens to me every-once-in-awhile. Like today. You see, I’m leading the last worship set at our church this Sunday before we go to two worship services the following week. We haven’t even had practice for it yet and I am a bundle of nerves… I’m even nervous about the practice tonight! My heart is pounding, and I get big red blotches on my neck as anxiety overwhelms me. I just can’t seem to RELAX.
Yesterday I came home from Grace and instead of working out with a friend and then going to a barbecue I instead huddled under some blankets and prayed for God to give me peace. I called a friend from long ago who could totally relate to what I was going through and I shared my anxieties with her. She prayed for me. I loved her for it.
I opened up my Bible… the one that has actual paper and a cheap bonded leather cover, not my iPhone, and I turned to Psalm 23. I read it out loud and then stopped when I got to, “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”, this peace came over me. I asked for more of it. More of it came. Unbelievably, after a whole day of fighting fear and anxiety I was actually able to fall asleep about a quarter to ten.
But then I woke up at 4:15. 4:15 is early for me. It’s like I would rather die than get out of bed at 4:15. But I woke up anyway and as soon as I opened my eyes the anxiety was palpitating. I scurried from my bed and turned one of my favorite Bethel albums on. I paced up and down in my living room and worshiped, singing the words out loud and not caring too much about the neighbors at that point (they still love me though). But I knew there was going to come a point when I needed to turn the music off and listen to His heartbeat and fight through what I was feeling. So many things were fighting to distract me from my pain but I knew this was an opportunity for Jesus to work.
God just come. Come heal my heart. It hurts, Jesus. Come sit with me. Come be with me. Touch my heart, Jesus.
I cried. I felt Him come. I felt His presence. I prayed. I believed the things I prayed for.
Peace came again, flooding me, filling me with hope.
As the day wore on, I tried to fill my mind with Him. It’s not always easy at work. You’re around people that don’t understand relationship with Jesus. When you have to stop mid-keystroke because you have to ask Him for peace (silently), everyone is like…. uhhhh what? That anxiety will come in waves, cresting during very inopportune moments. Push through it. Ask Him to come. Focus on His heart. Focus on His plans and promises. Sometimes I imagine myself curled up in the crook of His arm. Tiny little me, and great big Him. Look at who He is and You won’t be disappointed. Feel the rush of His love and His kindness and His goodness. Just sit in front of Him. Just sit.
Who is this coming up from the wilderness
leaning on her beloved? Song of Songs 8:5
This morning I caught myself praying some sort of twisted prayers… “Jesus, make me like ‘this’ so that I can do this.” If you saw what I had asked for which was really just that I would love well, you probably wouldn’t be very shocked. It sounds like an honorable prayer… like something that would be good to pray. But I felt the Holy Spirit tap on my shoulder because in that request was a hidden agenda that I had somehow missed. He started to talk to me about Saul and David and how Saul always had an agenda and David just loved. He just loved and obeyed and that was it….
In my head came images of my time in Kansas City, sitting in the then-blue chairs during my internship and feeling the presence of God on my heart. All of that time I got to waste on loving Jesus with no agenda. It was before I was singer, before I was a prayer room team leader, before I led in the student internship. I can’t tell you how amazing that time was for me and how much it changed my life. But along the way ambition and the need to feel in control of my life kicked in. It came on me subtly. We can always use the excuse that we are “building the kingdom” and I guess this is true but is God really pleased with our service if it’s not done completely out of love for Him?
As I was reading my 1998 version of Mike Bickle’s Song of Songs manual, something he said hit me,
She sees her strengths as that which can hinder her in her deep life in the Holy Spirit unless they are consciously submitted to Him
I don’t know if you subconsciously do this but I think I can take some parables out of context like the parable of the talents and believe it’s all up to me when God gives us a gifting or “talent”. But I’m feeling more and more that as we lay those things down and allow Him to fill us back up with Him, He can actually use us to build His kingdom through that gifting. It’s like we completely empty ourselves of anything that is out of our own ability and ask Him to fill us with Him so that true anointing can flow. Not only in a skill but in relationships, friendships, creativity, career, communication… it all works the same way.
Oh God, that I would learn to allow You to be my strength and to not withhold anything that is myself from You.
There comes a day in all of our lives where we say to ourselves, “oh, I know why I don’t feel that same tenderness in my heart toward Jesus. I’m distracted! I’m unfocused!”. That happened to me this week. I had been frustrated at the feeling that I seemed to not be connecting with the Lord in worship and I definitely hadn’t felt as much motivation to talk to Him and spend time with Him.
Over the weekend our worship pastor had a conversation with me about preparing me to lead worship more often. I am thrilled that this is happening because I feel so alive when I lead people into the presence of God. I believe it is something He has gifted me with and called me to do. So this new revelation about distraction and lack of focus couldn’t have come at a better time.
Anyone who serves the body in a ministerial capacity understands what kind of responsibility they have to walk under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Whether you are teaching, preaching, leading worship, or greeting new people at the front door, diving into the heart of God is of primary importance. These people need to encounter God. When you’re distracted and your mind and heart are focused elsewhere it becomes a deterrent to your ministry.
Sometimes God removes our distraction for a season out of mercy and because He loves to build His kingdom… and He needs focused people to do that. If we have unsurrendered areas of our lives, we aren’t focused. Even though I felt a little jostled when God disrupted my life this week, as I spoke to the Lord about it, I felt relief when I realized… “wait a second! My mind and heart are now freed up to go DEEP with Jesus. This is exciting!” I instantly felt the presence of God rush in and began to hear His voice again.
Stay focused on Him and He will set the boundary lines in place. He is always faithful…
But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Matthew 13:6
Today I was thinking of the many people I know who once claimed to follow Jesus but for various reasons of their own, fell away. Some of them will return. Some of them won’t. Either way, it makes me sad that they aren’t part of my family right now. The family of God, that is. Prodigals hurt my heart. It causes me to wonder how they became prodigals in the first place.
This parable in Matthew, better known as “the Parable of the Sower”, kind of explains what actually happens when prodigals fall away. I guess I have never thought about this parable at any great depth but tonight as I pondered the “falling away” of old friends and family members, I decided to ask Jesus about it.
Roots… it wasn’t just a famous mini-series from the seventies. I think all of us learn in second grade science what an important role roots play in the life of a plant. Roots gather nutrients from the soil, allowing the plant to grow and remain healthy. Without roots, a plant will not survive.
It’s a perfect example of what happens to us when we don’t gather spiritual nourishment from Jesus. And when I say spiritual nourishment I don’t mean memorizing Bible verses, reading your 10 chapters a day, having “spiritual” conversations, or watching corny Christian movies. When Jesus is talking about roots in this passage, I believe He is talking about Himself. He’s the root system. He is the Life-Giver.
When people fall away from Jesus it is because they either haven’t really known Him or the distractions of this life have caused them to forget who He actually is. You see, the most important part of discipling someone isn’t just to teach them to read their Bible, to ‘obey’ God, and to get their butt in church. The first, and most important aspect in discipling a new believer is to teach them to sit in front of God and learn who He is, what He’s like, and who they are to Him. To help them gain understanding that Jesus loves to hang out with them and that they can discover for themselves how exciting He is.
I think so many are afraid to talk about this most important part of knowing Him because they are bored with God, themselves. But if we call ourselves “Christians” and are still fumbling through the law and refusing to embrace the cross, than why would I even want to be a Christian? I mean… really what’s the point? Blah! I wouldn’t want to stay a Christian if that was all that my life would be about.
I went through the whole ‘prodigal’ thing for a little while. Thanks to the grace of God, it didn’t last long. And I believe the reason it didn’t last long is because I had some ‘roots’ leftover from my teenage years. I realized that God was actually way more addictive than any substance I was drinking or any boy I was hanging out with. It helped that Jesus pursued me in some pretty incredible ways but that longing for Him, that dull ache in my chest grew the more I wandered from Him. It really is true that nothing else will satisfy this ache in our hearts… and it eventually made me want to come back for more of Him.
Before you start out in ministry or in life, be sure that your root system is set. Be sure to establish true intimacy with Jesus before you are thrown to the lions. I believe we’ll all need this sustenance in the days ahead more than ever history. Believers in communist and Islamic countries don’t suffer torture and martyrdom because they think it’s the ‘right thing do’ to not deny Christ. They suffer simply because they are in love and only lovers die for the ones they love.
Just like plants, without roots, we die.
I’m not a fan of rhyming unless I’m writing a song but I thought perhaps it would add a tiny amount of amusement to a semi-morbid post on depression. Okay… So maybe it’s not as funny as I thought it would be.
This morning I listened to Mike Bickle’s message on encountering God in depression. I think most of us have experienced times of despair and depression… or maybe I’m just saying that to make myself feel better. Just imagine a really crappy modern scenario and you might begin to understand what David was feeling when he hid in the cave of Adullam. Imagine you ran from your murderous wife and all of your friends have abandoned you because they’re too scared she’ll come after them with a butcher knife too! On top of that you’ve been fired from your job and there is little hope that your career as CEO of the most powerful company in the world will be renewed. Your house was foreclosed on and now you are living in a cardboard box in Bedford Sty and your only friends are a band of raggedy, wild hobos who have been discarded by society and no one… absolutely no one understands what you are going through… well except for God, of course. But does He really understand? Because you haven’t been feeling Him around lately. You haven’t heard any direction from Him. You haven’t heard Him speak words of hope to you in a long, long time. His presence doesn’t seem to be a part of your daily routine anymore. So maybe He doesn’t understand. Oh happy day!
Who wouldn’t be depressed after something like this? I have to say, I have had a few moments in my life similar to this and I have to consider that God might be using these situations to train me and strengthen me for greater things. In Psalm 142, David is clearly depressed. This Psalm sounds like a great big complaint. A list of whines to God. But as Mike says in his message, it’s better to complain to God than complain to man. When we complain to man it’s sin but when we complain to God, it’s called prayer. Throughout his Psalms David repeats over and over who God is to Him, even in the midst of terrible events. He cries out to God to deliver him from those that are pursuing him and finally, he declares his future promises over his own life.
Because of Saul, David wonders if his promise to be king will ever be fulfilled. He wonders if God has broken his promise as Saul doesn’t seem to think David will ever be king while he’s alive. In the midst of pain, depression, and despair don’t allow ANYONE to tell you the promises spoken over your life are not from Him. In fact, during these moments use those promises and prophecies to keep you pushing forward. That’s what prophecy is for! And most importantly, say out loud who God is to you. He is your refuge, your strength, your deliverer, your defender, your high tower, and your peace. Pour out your complaints before Him and watch as He meets you in the center of them.
God hates sin. I don’t think there are many believers that will argue with me about that. The one thing that can strengthen us to keep ourselves from sin is the power of the grace of God in our lives. Without grace, which was provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are helpless to combat sin.
So why is it that we have such trouble with it? Well, sometimes it is just plain rebellion. We like to sin because we lie to ourselves that feeding our flesh is worth the damage it does to our hearts. Even empowered by the grace of God, we still have the choice to give into that flesh. And as we continue to choose sin over grace, He decides to pull the grace from us… and shows us just how “fun” it is to live without His power in our lives. So we sin and then sin again… and then we mess up SO bad that we are forced to see the wickedness that lies in our hearts.
Many famous revivalists and preachers lived a life of supernatural power with effective ministries but were secretly living in sin for years before they were exposed. In their spiritual pride they chose to continue in sin, thinking that their superiority in spiritual matters cancelled out their secret sin. Awhile back, I confronted a guy that was a fairly known preacher. I spoke to him about his judgmental attitude and the bitterness that he carried in his teaching. Instead of trying to walk in humility and admitting his actions he chose to deny it and responded by giving me a list of his “credentials”– all of the famous preachers he has worked with and ministered with. Really? Because you have worked with all of these people, you think you’re getting off scott-free when you continue to lead others into the same sins you are committing. It’s arrogance.
You see, we need to stop depending on ourselves to overcome sin. Spiritual pride and other forms of pride keep us from seeing the real issues in our hearts and worse yet… they keep us from relationship with God. Leaning on our Beloved to help us overcome sin is one of the most intimate experiences we can have with the Lord. He loves the vulnerability we have with Him when we acknowledge our weakness before Him.
I love some of David’s Psalms when I am combating shame in my life. He is so raw and honest before God. And I love this the most because David knew the heart of the Lord more than any person of his time and yet he was so… human. He was weak and frail and acknowledged this easily to God, constantly asking for His help. David was the mighty leader and king of Israel yet he was humble enough to become unglued before God and admit his sin.
A lot of us say we want to be like David but when we say this we are usually talking about the loving, worshiping David who had so much freedom before the Lord. Rarely are we talking about David’s vulnerability. Rarely do we speak of his humility. And rarely do we admit that we are as frail and weak as he was. Rarely do we admit how much we need Him.