If you haven't taken a moment to listen to Hillsong United's new song "Touch The Sky," you are missing out! One of the ways I am able to stay alert and focused in my time with God in the early mornings is by starting with a worship song to calm my mind. Lately, this is the song I start with every morning and ironically enough, it's all about how I experience His beauty and grace (touching the sky) when my knees hit the ground (surrender).
One thing I have struggled with being content with giving God 95% of me instead of 100%. Have you ever stopped and thought about that? In my most recent video I shared how I would tell God that He can be the author of certain chapters in my story. I would say, "God, you can write the marriage chapter, career chapter, friends chapter, but when it comes to my health/fitness, I'll take back the pen for that part...." It becomes comical when I am giving God the pen but my pinky is still trying to grab hold of it at the same time, or I take it back anxiously and then try to give it over again.
I can say with absolute confidence that the chapters in my life where God had the pen fully have been the most peaceful, joyful, and fruitful! I experience HIM so much more when I am fully surrendered to His way. I can't even express it well enough on this blog!!!! I just want to yell it from the roof tops...DON'T FEAR GIVING UP CONTROL! God is the author of your story! He created you! He knows you better than you know yourself...so why would He write chapters to harm you? Will there be some difficult chapters? Yes. Will His presence be with you through it and give you victory in it? If you surrender to Him, YES!
Do you want to experience God more closely and intimately? It requires exactly what the song says, I touch the sky, when my knees hit the ground.
Surrender: To abandon oneself entirely to a powerful emotion or influence.
An agreement to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc. because you know that you will
not win or succeed.
The action of yielding one's person or giving up the possession of something
especially into the power of another-Merriam Webster
I will post in more detail on Wednesday (4/29) how my personal journey of surrender continues to evolve but let me encourage and challenge you with this: Walking with God requires a daily surrender. Every day I have to intentionally lay down my dreams, job, marriage, desires, plans, etc. and flex my faith muscle by *TRUSTING* God in the every day normal situations because that the more I trust Him the easier it is to surrender.
I was blessed to have breakfast with a friend recently and talk about one of my favorite scenes in the Bible. It's where Jesus reminds Peter of his purpose, potential, and challenges him to re-evaluate his priorities.
You remember the story: Jesus tells Peter he is going to deny him three times and Peter is like, "nuh uh, no way, I will die with you (my translation)." What does Peter do when pressure kicks in? He denies him...three times. Fast forward and Jesus is crucified and then three days later RISES AGAIN! Now in John 21 we see that even after Peter had seen the risen Christ, he told his buddies that he was going out to fish. Why is this significant? Jesus specifically told Peter he will be a fisher of MEN. Yet, Peter goes back to his "old" self... his comfort zone. I mean, he already "failed." He thought he would never deny Jesus and he did. I am sure if I were in his shoes, I would do the same thing. The guilt and shame would kick in and I would go back to whatever I thought I was good at. YET, Jesus meets him and the other disciples on the shore. Peter recognizes him, and being the awesome bold/impulsive guy that he is, jumps out into the water and goes out to see Him. Jesus doesn't rebuke him. Instead:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15)
There is so much to unpack and I could write about it all night so I am going to pause with this question Jesus asks Peter. First of all, notice how Jesus addresses him; as Simon...not Simon Peter...just Simon. Jesus uses Peter's old name meaning small pebble. Jesus had given Peter a new name (Cephas which translates to Peter) meaning BIG rock, which was a foreshadowing of his potential and purpose. I always wondered what Jesus meant by more than these...these what?
I decided to put my name in the passage:
"Caren, do you love me more than...money? Career? Your image? Your body? Your husband? Your family? Your friends? Your social status?
Taking it a bit deeper, the word in the greek that Jesus uses for love when he asks "Simon" is the word AGAPE, which is a sacrificial love. So really, "Caren, do you love me more than your life."
Brothers and sisters, are willing to give up everything for God? Because there will come a time when we must be ready to make a decision. As Peter continued walking with God, his love for the Lord only grew and transformed into AGAPE love to the point where he was crucified for Christ. The question isn't just do you love God but do you love Him MORE!
Most of us are familiar with the greatest commandment from Matthew 22:37-39 to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and the second to love our neighbor as ourselves
What about this one from 1 Peter 4:8?
"And above all things have fervent love for one another, 'for love will cover a multitude of sins.'"
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is nothing without love. Every disciple should have and exercise the power of life. The word says that he who does not love does not and never did know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8).
Before we can live a life of love we have to understand what it means and what it costs. Do you know where I am going next? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (AMP):
"Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. As for prophecy (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth]."
From this passage alone I can confidently say that love is not a feeling but a decision.
Back to the greatest commandment: Before we can love ourselves and other people well, we must learn to love God with our WHOLE being. On Wednesday I am going to be digging into a question that Jesus asks Peter in John 21: "Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?"
What do you think Jesus meant by "more than these?"
Psalm 8:2-Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the for and the avenger
When we praise God we acknowledge that he is in charge - he can do what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants. I believe it's one weapon against Satan that he has no defense against! Not only is praise acknowledging God's goodness, faithfulness, and omnipotence, but it's also ACCEPTING whatever God allows to come our way...good and bad. All praise is precious to God...but there is something extra special, I feel, about praise we offer when things are not going our way just like we have seen in our two spotlight guests on the blog (Graham Fehr and Hope Owen).
I'd like to share with you one of the most powerful ways praising God has transformed how I perceive the present. Praising God in the MOMENT is one of the hardest things for me. What I have learned is that praise is rooted on a total and joyful acceptance of the PRESENT while trusting God's loving and perfect will. For too long I attached praising God with what I thought should happen in my future. Quickly, I learned that I should be praising God, not for what I expect will/should happen around me, but for who He IS and where I am now.
Do you have a hard time praising God for the present? What would it look like if we praise Him for Who He IS and what He has done/continues to do?
Want to know my secret weapon when I am going through the valley? PRAISE!
It's not always easy. Just 2 weeks ago I visited my parents and my mom instantly could tell I wasn't okay. I didn't even tell her anything but the Holy Spirit spoke to her and then through her as she prayed over me. What did she pray? Exactly what I am posting about; to learn to praise God through the storm and glorify His Name in ALL circumstances.
Psalm 42:5 is a current verse I am memorizing because I often need this reminder:
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet PRAISE Him,
my Savior and my God.
Anyone else learning to praise in the midst of their storms?
I want to do a final post on the focus word of the week (TRUST) before the new post coming later today about my new focus word of the week! In 1 Kings chapter 17 we meet a widow who had two children in the midst of a famine and was ready to bake her last loaf of bread with her last little bit of oil in preparation for her and her son's to die.
Who shows up? Elijah. What does he ask? For her to bake with the last bit of yeast and oil she had...for him. Now she has three hungry mouths to feed. What would you have done in this situation? How would you have responded to Elijah? You can also look at this scripture from Elijah's vantage point. Elijah chose time and time again to trust that God will provide, even if he wasn't really sure how and in 1 King 17:9 we see God say to Elijah: Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.
Elijah goes. No questions and no complaining...it was a long journey but he was obedient. I can be so quick to complain when God asks me to go on a journey with him that can be physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting.
Back to the widow, if you read the story (which I know I am not going very deep into it right now but I really want to challenge you to read it for yourself) the widow gave all she had. ALL of it! And what happened? God supplied their need for those years of famine.
Here's what I want to leave you with, friends. More often than not we may not understand God's provision for us, we may not understand His ways, but we need to trust Him that He actually knows. Just think about it...God sent Elijah to a widow who had no possible way of providing for him and yet God came through! Though the widow had an empty barrel God always ensured that there was enough in the bottom for every meal for those years. She was blessed for her obedience and so was Elijah.
Are we obedient only when it makes logical sense or will we learn to have simple faith, simple trust, and simple obedience that His way is higher than our way?
C: When would you say you truly decided to follow Jesus and own your faith?
Hope: I have had a relationship with Jesus since I was 6 years old. I have always been close to Him; especially through high school, but it really wasn’t until this past summer that God started revealing himself to me in a whole new way. I had some major decisions to be made. It was through this process of trusting Him and praying literally non-stop that my relationship with Jesus became something I wanted to make mine. Not just mine until my prayers were answered, but mine for as long as I live.
C: Were there any moments on your walk with God where you found it really hard to let go and trust Him?
Hope: Since the summer before my Junior year of High School, my plan was to be a Dental Hygienist. I was going to get my gen eds done at NKU for the first two years and then either transfer to the University of Cincinnati or the University of Louisville for the remaining two years. One by one, the doors the these colleges were slowly but surely being closed. First it was Louisville. I was crushed, but decided that I would still apply to UC. Then I was told that there was not a good chance that I would even be looked at to be accepted into the dental hygiene program there. It was at this point that I just cried my heart out to Jesus. I didn’t have a backup plan. UC WAS my backup plan. I feel like all I did was pray 24/7 during this time. I had my friends and family also praying that God would give me direction. All I wanted was direction! After praying and crying out to Jesus for what seemed like a lifetime, I finally heard His voice. I was volunteering at a student conference at my church and it was during a time of worship that Jesus finally answered my prayer of direction. I have felt impressed upon by the Lord before but never felt like I have audibly heard His voice. I was standing in the back of the room watching the students worshipping and pouring their hearts out to the Lord and it was then when Jesus told me that this is what I was going to do with my life. Youth Ministry. He didn’t reveal everything to me but to be pointed in the direction HE wanted me to go in was beyond worth the sleepless nights of crying to Him. In that moment I was truly grateful. I am STILL so so grateful. Letting go of MY plans and accepting the plans HE has for me is the easiest and hardest thing I have done. Staying faithful even when we can’t see what the future holds is difficult but I know that in His word it says that we are safe under His wings. That’s where I want to be: under His wings.
C: How have you seen God bless you as you continue to trust Him?
Hope: God has blessed me BEYOND belief with the friends He has given me. It was back at the end of the summer when I dove in head first that He began to place these people in my life that I now couldn’t imagine my life without. As I continue to trust Him, His blessings keep pouring out and it fills me with joy!
C: What are some verses that you often cling to as a reminder of His goodness?
Hope: I would say to get into The Word and meditate on His promises. There are so many times in the Bible where He fulfills what He says He would do. If he stayed true to those promises then, who’s to say that He won’t keep those same promises with you? Even if you don’t understand why things are happening (or not happening) if you stay faithful to Him, your life will be so much better than you have ever planned or hoped for! Jump in with feet and trust Him with the beautiful life He has for you!
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
-Oceans (By Hillsong)-
Many of you are familiar with this lyrics and they are what have been playing over and over in my head as I continue to invite God to challenge and discipline me in my walk of faith and trust. It's a bold prayer, you know...to ask that He lead us where our trust is WITHOUT borders...what would that look like for you? For me, it means I have no control, no say, no limits, no firm grip...I let go and follow whole heartedly. Our faith will become stronger as we boldly trust our Savior and walk toward Him. Trust allows our faith to moves us forward.
I asked a question in my last post: Which is harder, faith or trust? Personally, I find it is to trust. I have faith that God is, was, and always will be my King, my God, my Savior, my Redeemer, Healer, Provider, Shelter, and the Great I Am. With that said, trusting Him in my day to day activities, anxiety, uncertainty, and routine can be challenging. I have a type A personality. I am a planner and like to be in control. To trust Him and let go can be so challenging for me but I can honestly say I have never regretted it. I want to prepare you for a story I am going to share with you later this week. If you have time, check out 1 Kings 17:7-4 and meditate on this: when we trust God's instructions, we will be blessed.
May God's peace be with you.
This morning, Graham and I were blessed to attend Grace Chapel Church's Easter service and it was so incredibly inspiring, challenging, and encouraging. I will be writing about this more throughout the week because it goes right along with my new focus word of the week.
You may wonder how faith and trust are different. I find them very different and yet completely intertwined. I see faith as a noun whereas trust is the verb that builds, deepens, and strengthens the noun. How? Think of it this way, I have faith that God is my Provider. Faith here is the noun. It is defined by dictionary.com as a confidence in a person or thing. Then there's trust. Trust is the active step I decide to make, which is propelled by faith. I have faith that God is my provider, therefore, when I come up against financial strain and the offering plate comes to me at church, instead of being afraid I will TRUST that God will provide and joyfully offer what I may have.
Sound familiar? You remember the woman in the Bible who gave all she had in the offering plate? Here it is incase you need a reminder: Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12: 41-44)
Do you see it? Trust is what moves us toward God...it's a commitment...it's a movement...it's action. Trust brings our faith to life in a tangible way. We can have faith in God for all things, but learning to trust God for and in all things is another matter.
Which is harder, faith or trust? What do you think?
A Bit About ME!
Hey friend! My name is Caren and I am so glad you stopped by! This blog is a bit of my corner on the internet where I share honest thoughts about my faith journey, fitness journey, doctor wife journey, and motherhood journey. ALL of it! The good bad and ugly! I pray that something I share encourages you today!