I Almost Slipped into Ungodliness

Woman on bench at chapel“My feet came close to stumbling. My steps had almost slipped into ungodliness.” Psalm 73:2

I found myself battling once again on the battle field of my mind. It reminded me afresh of my fleshly tendencies. This time my thoughts began with defending myself if the occasion should arise to have a real dialogue with a person or two. I crafted a reasonable conversation within my mind thinking I settled it.

However, it wasn’t enough. I needed to bring more passion to the conversation within my mind standing firm in my justification of my position. Once again, it wasn’t enough.

Oh, my goodness how I should have stopped myself sooner because I scratched those two drafts and started a brash one that would mow down anything standing in my way.

My thoughts became unharnessed and were not led by the Spirit.

It wasn’t until I came to God, completely undone this time, that I realized I had drawn away from Him. I became consumed day after day with the battle of what I wanted to say out loud, but was not able to. My fleshy desires placed a void between me and God.

I found that Psalm 73:21-22 put my experience into harsh, but accurate words.

“When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant, I was like a beast before You.”

Have you drawn away from the Lord with just one thought that led to your complete senselessness?

Maybe your thoughts of defending yourself led to bitterness in your heart.

Maybe your thoughts of walking away from a situation created a hardness in your soul.

Maybe your thoughts of becoming self-sufficient led to isolation.

Nonetheless, if you are in Christ He is still there to help you. God won’t leave you alone in your beastly mess. You only need to recognize He hasn’t left. He is waiting to take you by the hand to help you have victory on the battle field of your mind.

There is a Psalm of Asaph that conveys a truth about God and ourselves that reminds us of this truth.

“Nevertheless, I am continually with You. You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward, receive me to glory (or with honor). Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 74:23-26)

No matter what kind of mess you may be in God is with you. He will guide you through your pitfalls of life, and will not let you go. Open your heart and mind to God! His plan for you is to have a steadfast peace as you fix your thoughts on Him.  If we look and focus in any other direction we will become senseless and our hearts will fail us.

Maybe your feet have come close to stumbling and your steps have almost slipped into ungodliness like mine almost did, Psalm 73:2. If so I implore you to STOP crafting those conversations within your mind and go before the Lord. He will guide you to victory. God will strengthen your heart like He has mine. Consider lifting your right hand up even now asking God to take hold of you and of your thoughts.

Don’t give up! The battle may be intense, but our God is greater than any enemy you are battling right now. It does not matter if the battle is taking place within or from outside, God is able to overpower all opposition to Him.

The nearness of God is good and when you receive peace, and newness of mind then tell of God’s great work so others may seek Him for refuge, help, and hope, Psalm 73:28. I just did, and would love to hear from you when you experience how good and refreshing God’s nearness is.

Blessings,

Jodi

 

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Following Jesus Takes Grit

Have you ever made a promise to God not knowing what kind of resolve it would take, but you were all in?

In my late twenties, God called me to follow Him into ministry. In yielding to His calling I promised God I would never turn down an opportunity to share with others about the mercy, grace, and redemptive power He granted me. I committed to following Him anywhere, anytime, and at any cost.

Little did I know what kind of grit I would need to keep my commitment.

There have been seasons when I wanted to retract my promise. Seasons that were too hard, too overwhelming, and too painful to forge ahead.

Have you ever wrestled with keeping your promise to God?

Click here and join me over at Contagious Joy ministries to read the rest of the story.2016-06-27-abigail-keenan-barnimages-008

 

Let God’s Voice Be Louder Than Your Fears

 Woman and rain shower

Have you ever felt lost while traveling? You call out for help, but no one answers. My husband had military orders to move to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and we decided to save money by moving ourselves. He drove the U-Haul truck full of our meager belongings, and I followed in our car. We were all set to communicate freely via the CB radio and use an atlas to navigate. This was before cell phones, y’all! I knew if I could keep the truck in my line of sight, I would be okay. Before we would approach a turn, Chris’ voice would come over the CB radio giving me a heads up. I was comfortable following his lead, trusting he knew the path we needed to take.

It wasn’t until nightfall my comfort turned into intense distress. The heavy traffic caused us to separate, and I could no longer see the truck. I called Chris’ name over the CB radio several times. Panic gripped my heart when I did not hear a response. I had no idea where I was, the traffic was pressing in on me, and I started crying hysterically. My fears of the unknown jammed my logical thinking, and I became a wreck.

Have you ever felt alone in a situation and panic set in?

Have you ever cried out for help and felt like no one could hear you? It’s possible this is something only I have struggled with, right?

When we allow fear to grip us, we tend to react illogically. Analyzing what the outcome could be, we can get overwhelmed and let negativity sidetrack us. The noise we create in our panicked mind blocks us from hearing anything other than our inner voice. This can leave us feeling unheard, alone, and lost.

But here’s the good news: God’s word can comfort us and bring us to a logical state of mind:

  • Be mindful God hears us.

 In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help;             He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears. (Psalms 18:6)

  • He calls us to be still.

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)

  • He alone is our calm.

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations delight my soul. (Psalms 94:19)

  • He is always before us and will never leave us.

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I am a little embarrassed to admit, but that night on the dark highway, when I was gripped by fear, I was not calmly calling out for help-I was screaming! I was screaming so much so that I had to force myself to breathe before I passed out. It was at that moment I heard a voice.  It was Chris calling my name, “Jodi I hear you. You are okay. Please calm down.”

He then proceeded to navigate me to an exit where we reunited. I was so busy crying out for help I did not stop long enough to hear his response. Sometimes we do that when we are crying out to God and wonder why He has not responded. Perhaps during our crisis, if we instead paused long enough to listen for God’s response, calm and peace will fill our hearts and minds.

Let God’s voice be louder than your fears and louder than your inner voice. What He has to say will help you get back on course.

If you are like me and lose sight of God from time to time, just remember He is right there beside you. He is willing to respond to your cry, quiet you with His love, and navigate you to a place where you can become still and know He is God.

He’s got the wheel, and He’s got you, friend!

 

 

 

I See You, But Do You See ME?

i-see-you-but-can-you-see-meHave you ever had life circumstances hit you hard? I have. A while back I was blindsided by some circumstances causing me to become emotionally unstable, stressed, and weary. My thoughts were confusing and irrational. The more I tried to think clearly, the more deeply I fell into despair. I prayed, journaled, spoke with others, cried, and exercised hoping for a reprieve. I believed Isaiah 26:3 to be true so I pressed in and rolled the words over and over in my mind, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” But instead, my thoughts were inconsistent. I felt like my world was falling apart.

Can you relate?

Have you ever been desperate for God to speak, “Peace, be still,” so that your circumstances would miraculously change for the better?

During one of those trying days, God used a simple penny and a song to speak peace into my soul. He may not have spoken audibly but I heard Him loud and clear.

I made a trip to the store and prayed before I got out of my car, “Lord, speak. Help me.” I had hoped to make it in and out of the store without anyone seeing or speaking to me. As I pushed my cart along the side of my car a penny on the ground caught my attention. (Side note: The inscription on pennies, “In God We Trust,” reminds me to trust God. I always keep them as a reminder.) As I looked at the penny it was as if God said, “I see you, but do you see ME? I did not want to be honest with God but I was and told Him “No.” I was blinded by my circumstances, emotions, and confusion. I asked Him to open my eyes and mind to be able to see Him. After loading my purchase in the car, I got in and the radio was playing, “Just Be Held,” by Casting Crowns. Here are a few of the lyrics that spoke to me:

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place…

If your eyes are on the storm

You’ll wonder if I love you still

But if your eyes are on the cross

You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted

In time, you’ll understand

I’m painting beauty with the ashes

Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes

In the storm is where you’ll find Me

And where you are, I’ll hold your heart

I’ll hold your heart

Come to Me, find your rest

In the arms of the God who won’t let go

This experience opened my eyes to see Him. To see that He was with me. To see He was in control. To see He was working my brokenness into something useful. To see He is holy and still on the throne. I began sobbing because I felt God’s love and His presence.

I was doing what had brought peace to me in the past: praying, journaling, seeking counsel and exercising. I was trying to trust God with words but not with heart.

When we completely trust in God with ALL our heart, He exchanges our unrest for peace. As I fully abandoned to God my self-reliance, expectations, control, and grip on my circumstances He graced me with peace; A peace that immediately calmed my storm. Though my circumstances did not change, I changed. And because I changed, I can now walk in Isaiah 26:3.

Because I trust in You God, You will keep my mind in perfect peace. (my paraphrase)

Do you see God? He sees you.

Ask God to speak, and then listen and look for Him in the simple things. He is there!

Winning Ground in the Battle Field of the Mind

seeds-in-handsMy greatest battle takes place within my mind. It is where truth and lies, right and wrong, reality and fantasy fight for ground; Ground that is fertile, ready to sprout whatever seed is planted.  My mind is fragile and I must protect it! I fight to keep it in perfect peace which only comes from trusting God with all of my heart, mind, and soul.

Are your greatest battles fought within your mind?

Maybe you struggle knowing what the truth is anymore because the lies of the enemy have taken root.

Maybe you find yourself analyzing things to the point you become confused not knowing right from wrong.

Maybe your reality is fogged with fantasy in hopes to release the pain in your life.

The battle is real y’all and it can be exhausting as we fight to protect our minds. But wouldn’t you much rather fight for peace than live in bondage? As Christ- followers, God has already given us peace but we forfeit it when we stray from keeping our minds fixed on Christ. The verse I love to pick apart as I battle is Philippians 4:6-8.

“6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praisedwell on these things.”

With that scripture, I am reminded to pray with all of my heart, trust God for His promises, praise and exalt Him for who He is.  That is when my soul is revived with His peace.

As I was reading Deuteronomy 11:18-22 it reminded me of the importance God placed on the Israelites to impress His words on their hearts and souls. He instructed His Word to be seen and taught throughout the day as a reminder. I laughed as I realized our 3×5 cards and sticky notes with scripture was not a new concept. 😉

It was so important to God for them not to lose the battle of the mind! He had them place His commands and promises all around them in the following ways:

  • On your hand and frontals on your forehead
  • When you sit- teach them
  • When you walk- teach them
  • When you lie down-teach them
  • When you rise up-teach them
  • Write them on the door post
  • Write them on the gates

If this was an effective strategy then, I believe it still is for us today. Though it may look different, the concept is the same. God knows what we battle. He knows our thoughts. He also has equipped us to have victory. Don’t give up! Your mind is fertile ground and you get to choose what kind of seeds sprout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Steps To Keep Yourself In Check

woman-on-stepsHave you ever been caught in the middle of a conversation between your doctor’s office and your insurance company? What a nightmare! What the doctor’s office knew to be normal procedure did not apply in my case. I only needed them to call the number the insurance company had provided, but they would not. I felt anger and indignation rise up in my heart.  I wanted to prove that I was right and defend myself. I wanted them to care and respect me by making that phone call. I felt my face getting red and heart beating faster. My frustration level was maxing out!

Can you recall a time of emotional frustration? Maybe with a friend, family member, neighbor, or in regards to a bill… You knew you were right in the matter, but the other person was stiff-necked, prompting ugly emotions to rise up within you.

We can allow our emotions to drive us to say or do things that are contrary to our character. We can even justify our actions and feel righteous. With this confidence, we may even stand taller with chin lifted, feeling good that we showed them who was boss.

God’s word has challenged me regarding this kind of assertiveness and pride. Because I was feeling weary and burdened by all of this, I opened the Word to Matthew 11:28-30.  I had read it many times but on this day, something caught my attention.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This is more than exchanging yokes with Jesus. We must also learn from Him how to have a gentle and humble heart. Then, we will find rest. That is a tough one! I knew I was not displaying this kind of heart and knew exactly what I needed to do.

I have a three step process to keep myself in check. I love how my husband says, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” 🙂

  1. What is the condition of my heart? Is it clean or is there sin I need to repent of? What are my motives?
  2. I ponder the truth from the word. In this case, I asked myself if I was displaying a gentle and humble heart. Am I being Christ-like in the situation?
  3. I put into action what God has revealed to me. Sometimes I need to repent for wrong heart motives. But the greatest action to apply is loving others as God loves them.

By the third step, my entire attitude and heart has changed towards that person or situation.  Instead of letting our frustration level max out, let’s aim for a gentle and humble heart so we can remain a light in this dark world. Confrontation does not have to be ugly when you approach it with a gentle and humble heart.

Are you keeping yourself in check today? What scripture are you pondering to do so? I would love to hear from you.

 

 

Romanticizing The Past

romanticizing-the-pastHer eyes danced with wonderful memories as she reflected on the good ole days; days full of happiness, fun, adventure, and freedom. I could tell she was reliving some of the fun when her mouth smirked with a grin. She knew that God had led her to where she is today, however, her present hardships left her thinking that maybe the past was not so bad, after all.

Has God ever delivered you from a difficult, painful, or unhealthy situation and yet you find yourself grumbling in your present circumstances?

  • Maybe you are minimizing the pain of a previous marriage because the new one feels hard.
  • Maybe you are minimizing the toxic relationship you were once in because you now feel lonely.
  • Maybe you are minimizing the difficulties of your childhood because being an adult stinks.

When the present feels difficult, we often romanticize the past. 

For a moment, we can forget we were once crying out to God for deliverance, begging Him to rescue us from our darkest time.

The Israelites forgot the bondage from which they had been delivered, and consequently, rejected a Holy God.

Their deliverance:

God heard their cries for help and saw their affliction. He delivered them from bondage, oppression, and great sufferings. As God led them to freedom, they journeyed through the desert and wilderness experiencing His presence, protection, and provision.  In their forty years of traveling, they never once ran out of clothing. Their shoes remained intact. Their feet did not swell, and water and food were provided.

Their rejection:

They felt reprieve as God led them from all their hardships. But something happened that caused them to romanticize their past.

They focused on their provisions instead of their Provider. This is shown throughout the book of Numbers.

We read in Numbers 11:5 how the Israelites recalled the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic they received in Egypt because their stomachs were tired of eating the manna and quail God had provided for them. They felt so deprived of the luxurious foods that they wished they were still in Egypt. Their time in Egypt was full of traumatic experiences and yet they felt it was better than their current circumstances.

I have a name for them, “Whiney Hineys!”

Let’s not be too quick to judge them, though. Have you been a “whiney hiney” lately? Are you romanticizing your past instead of remembering your deliverance?

When we begin to feel our current circumstances are worse than our past ones, we ought to turn to God. Ask Him why. Ask Him to show us the good in the NOW. Ask Him if our feelings are lying to us. Seek Him in His Word for truth, direction, and wisdom. But, what we should not do, friend, is reject God by romanticizing what He has delivered us from. When we do that, we are saying to God that He is not worthy to follow and that He has made a mistake.

Is that what you really mean to say? I hope your answer is no.

So, let’s stop minimizing what He has brought us from, and start maximizing what He is seeing us through, NOW! He is worthy! He is forgiving! He is in control! He is who you need Him to be right now so, cling to Him like never before and rest in Him. And by the way, God never makes mistakes!

What are you thankful for in your present circumstances? I would love to hear from you. 🙂