His Strength, My Weakness

This is a banner that hangs in the stairwell at work. I see it every day on my way up to my office. It is a favorite verse of mine and a good reminder each day that I live my life not in my own strength, but in God’s and in the power of His Spirit.This verse is a big part of my testimony as God used it to remind me that His grace is sufficient for me, and His strength is made perfect in weakness. I praise Him for tangible reminders and encouragements in my life of this truth.

My Rock

Psalm 18:1-3:
“I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies. ”

Thankful today that 5 years ago today, the Lord gloriously invaded my world and revealed Himself to me as I had never known. He is an awesome God, my Rock, my strength. Praise Him!

Lifesong

I wondered tonight what I should write on, reflect upon. I thought that as I did my Bible study, the Lord would reveal it. I first read through some old journals as I was looking for something else, but I was struck as I read those journals about how much the Lord had used Isaiah 40:28-31 in my life. These verses tell me to trust in Him, to wait upon Him, to hope in Him. He gives strength to the weary, power to those that trust in Him!

I then proceeded to do my very last lesson in Breaking Free, a 10-week Bible study by Beth Moore that some friends and I started months ago (we stretched it out)! What (among other things) did she talk about in this last lesson? Isaiah 40:28-31!

Beth asks the reader to offer feedback concerning the relationship between weariness and self-effort or renewed strength and the presence of God. Doesn’t it seem that it is often the weariness in self effort that ultimately brings us to the end of ourselves and to God? A few years ago, God very vividly showed me that I lacked strength, but that His strength was perfected in my weakness. (II Corinthians 12:9-11). I often think of this concept of His strength in my weakness as my “lifesong.”

As literally everything I do and am is under Him and His authority, I am dependent on Him and accountable to Him for everything, from the breath I breathe, to the thoughts I think, to the actions I take. His Word provides me with everything I need for life and godliness. His Spirit guides me into truth. I am filled with hope because He has given me all I need and truly gives me the strength to be and do what I cannot in my own strength.

These truths have changed my life, and I want others to know these truths, too, and to not miss the exciting walk of faith God has for us as we trust in Him and allow Him to be our strength. I hope to share a story of one way He has shown me this in my next blog entry this week.

Isaiah 40:28-31:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.”

The Spirit-Filled Life

As I’ve reflected on my last post, I think I’ve combined two separate ideas: how God reveals Himself and His character to us and how God speaks to His people. I think one point I was hoping to establish is that God is vast and boundless and not restrained to act just as our minds can understand. He is above the natural, and it’s incredible when you find Him invading your life in supernatural ways.

The way God has most powerfully revealed Himself to me is as my Rock and my strength, which are parallel Hebrew words. This was on April 27 and 28, 2005 (which I wrote about in an earlier post). He is also a God who can speak and act in our daily lives through His Word, prayer, and the power of His Spirit. Since April 28, 2005, He has shown me this again and again, but prior to April 28, 2005, I would have been skeptical and reluctant to believe that.

One example jumps to my mind. A couple of years ago, I was at a friend’s house and we were watching the kids play in her yard while we shared what God was doing in our lives. When we started to pray, she felt led to pray a psalm for my husband. This was not a familiar psalm to me. I thought that was sweet. A few weeks later, I was waking up one morning and my husband had been awake for a while. He said he woke up in the night and felt led to read his Bible. He had been drawn to a particular psalm and couldn’t explain why, but felt like God was showing him this. This was the same psalm my friend had prayed for him a few weeks prior to that.

Those kinds of stories are just unmistakable evidence to my heart of a God who speaks, who is intimately involved in our lives. In many ways, I think I’m writing this blog to recount His work in my life, to remember what He has done, to praise Him — but I also find I want to encourage those who might have grown up in a way similar to me. I not only had no expectation that God would speak to my heart through His Spirit, but I also rejected any notion by anyone else that He did.

But look at the promises of God in the Bible! I was missing something so wonderful, so amazing, and I never even knew! It’s called the Spirit-filled life. It’s not one that’s directed by me, dependent on me. It’s one directed by the God who has saved me and rescued me from death and the power of sin and raised me up with Him, given me new life, and given me the gift of His Spirit! The very moment I believed Him to be more than I thought or understood or could mentally manage, He absolutely revealed Himself to me that this was true!

Another thing I want to clarify is that I am talking about something here that is on the other side of salvation… after we are saved. There is only one way to God… Jesus! His shed blood on our behalf. For those who believe on Him, they are given eternal life and their sins are forgiven. He died on the cross to bear our sin and take our punishment so that we could live. And He was able to do that because He was sinless, fully God and fully man.

But I do believe that many people stop there. They believe the gospel, pray asking God to forgive them and save them, and then go on living the same way. That’s what I did. And I thought I was doing pretty good because I acted nicely, behaved well, and did what I thought was right (in my own eyes) and what I had learned by being in Christian circles. But I was missing so much!!

Christ came to transform us, to mold us into His image, to sanctify us. As we seek Him daily through the Bible and prayer, His Spirit is at work to do these things. We yield our lives to Him, and He fills us with His Spirit. And He is not confined by any limitations that we want to set upon Him.

This morning, I praise God because He loved me and saved me. And I praise Him for opening my eyes to see and know more of Him.

The God Who Speaks

I love that we have a God who reveals Himself to His people. He is so personal with each of us.

As I studied Genesis and Exodus a couple of years ago, I couldn’t help but notice all the names of God that are introduced and how He spoke so personally. In Genesis 17, He said to Abram, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.” This was the first time God used the name Shaddai for Himself. To Hagar in Genesis 16, He revealed Himself as El Roi, the God who sees. And in Exodus 3:6, God revealed Himself to Moses as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Later in verse 14, God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” declaring Himself to be the Eternal One, uncaused and independent (according to my Bible notes).

Those are just examples of the ways God revealed Himself in those days, and yet today, He is still a God who speaks and reveals Himself. He does this first and foremost through His Word and through His Spirit. And He can do this in innumerable ways because He is so vast and beyond comprehension; God cannot be put in a neat box that we can understand. I am stunned by the personal nature of how He speaks and reveals Himself to His people.

One way God ministers to my heart is through music. This is something that began in April 2005 after I really surrendered my life to Him. I was so thrilled by what I was discovering about God and so sick of being “lukewarm” and having a faith that God would want to spit out of His mouth, that I went around ecstatically proclaiming what God had done for me everywhere I went. I remember our small group meeting at our house, and I just went on and on about it! I started to wonder if I was being a little overboard with all my gushing. The only thought that kept going through my head though was “If you don’t praise Me, the rocks would cry out” (a reference to Luke 19:40).

I traveled to Memphis that next week in May 2005 for Mother’s Day and to see a friend whose son had just been diagnosed with leukemia and was being treated at St. Jude. At church that Sunday morning, the anthem was about this very thing that had been on my heart all week:

“If we keep our voices silent,
All creation will rise and shout,
If we fail to praise you, Father,
Then will the very rocks cry out!”

I’d certainly never heard this song or an entire anthem declaring this message. In the past, I would have questioned “coincidence”? But God had been revealing Himself so clearly in so many ways, that I didn’t doubt this was from Him.

I flew back home and was feeling led to do a neighborhood Bible study that summer. As I prayed about it, there were so many ways that God answered and led so clearly. I did though wish after my quiet time one morning, “I’d love to have a song for this, but I know there aren’t really songs about your neighbors!”

As I went to start breakfast, I turned on the radio in the kitchen, and the words to the song that were playing by Steven Curtis Chapman were: “Wake the neighbors! Get the word out! Come on, break out the music, climb a mountain and shout. This is life we’ve been given, made to be lived out… so live out loud!” That became my neighborhood Bible study song.

I literally have a song for most major events in my life. And when I hear them, I can remember how actively God revealed Himself during a time in my life (my grandmother dying, selling our house, my son’s broken wrist, etc.).

One last quick song story. I have a benign kidney condition where my kidneys are misshapen and I therefore have lots of stones and diffuse calcification throughout. After being diagnosed a few years ago and finally figuring out the source of the pain, I was told I’d need lithotripsy every year or two to manage this. Each checkup revealed more stones and more concerns from the tests they had done.

As I was preparing for my next visit, my quiet time that morning was in Habakkuk 3. As I finished, I decided that whatever I learned at my doctor visit, I would need to give the Lord praise. I then started ahead on my day, but then realized, no, I need to know specifically what I am going to say because otherwise, I will forget to praise Him, especially if the news isn’t good (which is what I expected because I was hurting). I went back to Habakkuk and noticed 3:2: “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day…” So the phrase I took to remember was “I stand in awe of You.” No matter what I’m told, Lord, I will say “I stand in awe of You” for You have done great things for me.

Later at my doctor visit, I sat waiting. The doctor rushed in with one of my reports and sat down. He then proceeded to tell me how wonderful it was: “What are you doing? How has this happened?” He went over every level, with each one saying how great it was! I felt like a school kid being praised for doing well on a test. He kept saying how great this was and how this was the best report he had seen from a patient with this condition, on and on. I just started saying in my heart, “I stand in awe of You! I stand in awe of You.”

I left and went to get my kids at a friend’s house. As I was telling them the story and how we needed to say thank you to the Lord, and I was describing to them how I praised God with “I stand in awe of You,” I could hear the music playing on the radio in the background. It was playing an old, but familiar song “I stand in awe of You:”

“Yes, I stand in awe of You, Jesus,
Yes, I stand in awe of You.
And I let my words be few… Jesus I am so in love with You.”

Now, I did still have stones, and I’ve not been healed, but each subsequent visit has held a good report: “This is awesome!” a nurse told me at the next visit. Awesome, indeed.

I love it that God speaks through songs. I’d love to hear the ways He speaks to you, too. He is so personal, so real, so near. I praise the God who speaks in such personal ways!

To Know Him

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As we began teacher & staff orientation and training at school last week, we began by each of us sharing our personal testimonies of how the Lord had drawn us to Himself and to the school. What an amazing, beautiful thing to sit and hear testimony after testimony of what God had done in the lives of those around me. This was a great way to start our year!

We also reflected and remembered what God had done to start the school by hearing about its history and its vision. God tells us in the Bible to remember the things He has done lest things are going so well and we are so full of the good things that we forget that He is the One who did them (Deuteronomy 8). We stopped to talk about those “stones of remembrance” (as in Joshua 4) God has given us, while acknowledging that each one is to the praise of His glory, not to us (Psalm 115:1).

How was I drawn to God? The answer was so clear — through His Word and the power of His Spirit. As I have written before, when I began to spend time daily in God’s Word, I began to understand and learn, and over time, He began to change my heart. As He promises in Scripture, He will reward those who seek Him, and He did. In His perfect time, He revealed Himself to me in power, and I found a joy I had never known.

On April 27, 2005, we were concluding Women’s Bible study for the year at my church by having a brunch. At that time, women would be offered the chance to share what they had learned during the study of Mark and Judges that year. We were told in our groups for a few weeks in advance to be thinking about what we might share. I, of course, would never dream of sharing to several hundred women at once, so I never even considered that!

The day of the brunch came, and I woke up early and felt like I was supposed to speak. “But that’s crazy,” I thought. “I don’t speak publicly, and I have nothing to say.” But the sense was so strong, I decided to just go look at my notebook from the study and see if anything jumped out at me. Well, to my surprise, it was so clear exactly what I was supposed to say! There was a prayer at the beginning of the study that I had written, and an answer to a question at the end of the study, and that’s what I was supposed to share.

The gist of the prayer was something like, “I’ve wanted all of Your blessings and benefits and none of Your sufferings, all without seeking you daily and counting the cost. I’ve put other things in front of you, like my kids, TV, our health, and not been wholeheartedly consumed with You. I want to do what You’ve called me to, …” Then the prayer at the end was written as I considered the cycle of sin that the Israelites went through in the book of Judges. I wanted to change the way I lived and do what is right in God’s eyes, not mine, and move forward in faith, not fear.

I wrote these things down on an index card to further consider whether I should really share. God had never “spoken” to me in this way before (not that this was audible, but with this strong sense that I was to do this), so I wanted to know for sure.

As I began making my bed, there was a song I was singing — you know, the kind of thing where you’re singing and don’t even realize you are, but then you realize it and stop to hear what you are singing? I was singing, “Your grace is sufficient for me; Your strength is made perfect when I am weak. All that I cling to, I lay at Your feet; Your grace is sufficient for me.” So I wondered, “Lord, are you telling me that I am weak, but You will be my strength?” Again, I doubted, “no, He doesn’t speak this way to me.”

I went on with my morning. I was supposed to bring donuts to my daughter’s class that morning (both my children attended the children’s ministry that met while the women’s Bible study met). As we drove down the street to Dunkin Donuts, there was a song on the radio: “Give thanks, with a grateful heart; give thanks to the Holy One; give thanks, because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son…. And now, let the weak say ‘I am strong,’ let the poor say ‘I am rich,’ because of what the Lord has done for us; give thanks.” I pondered again this theme of His strength and my weakness. Different song, same message.

I went in Dunkin Donuts, and the same radio station was playing in there, and the same song continued. As I stood in line waiting, listening to, “Let the weak say ‘I am strong,'” I decided I would have to share. This was too convincing.

I went to drop off the children in their classes, and as I did, I turned back to my son and said, “Did you memorize your verse.” He responded, “Yes, Mommy; ‘this is love for God, to obey His commands.'” Aaahhh, that went straight to my heart — “this is love for God, to obey His commands!”

It wasn’t so much what I would share, as much as whether I would just stand up and say it! It almost seemed like a test of my faith — do I really believe Him enough to get up on my feet and speak? I had never had this kind of sense that He was leading me to do something so strongly, and if He does exist and is true, then He could certainly nudge me in this way. I almost felt that He just wanted me to obey Him.

By this time, I had entered the large gathering hall for the brunch, and was starting to feel nervous, but very convinced this is of the Lord. I nervously got my food, and sat down by myself at a table to think. As I did, I looked at the program that was sitting on the table. I flipped it over, and there on the other side was a printed song, Give Thanks! “… and now, let the weak say ‘I am strong‘; let the poor say ‘I am rich,’ because of what the Lord has done for us, give thanks.” Wow! 3 times, same message in 2 songs.

As the brunch began, I knew I needed to stand immediately as soon as they asked if anyone had anything to share. My legs didn’t want to stand — I don’t like public speaking — but I knew it was just my telling the Lord, “I believe You, I want to obey You.” I stood to my feet and with tears read my index card. That was it; nothing earth shattering; I simply said what I knew God wanted me to.

As ladies continued to share, a lady from my small group that year whom I had not seen that morning, stood up at another table. She said, “This is not what I had planned to share, but you know how sometimes, God just speaks to you and you know this is what He wants you to share. Well, I woke up at 3 a.m. last night, and this is what He said to me, well, you all know it, from II Corinthians 12:9-10: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness….'” Wow! Those are the words to the song I was singing when I made my bed, and God had spoken this to Jan in the night to speak today; I couldn’t believe it!

Another girl shared how it had been hard being a mother; at the end, she threw in the words as she sat down, “He’s strong when I’m weak!”

At the end of the brunch, we all stood to our feet and sang Give Thanks, the song on the back of the program. I was just stunned with this same message over and over. I went through the day pondering it, feeling so blessed. I took my son to afternoon kindergarten, then drove to Starbucks with my daughter to get some gift cards. As we sat in the car in the drive through, I put on a CD that a friend had given me a few months back, a homemade CD, one I was not familiar with, and not of the greatest quality. I couldn’t hear the song that came on, so I just hit the arrow button to jump to a new song. The car was dead silent as I waited for the song to come on in that drive through. Suddenly, it burst out into the car, “Your grace is sufficient for me; Your strength is made perfect when I am weak, All that I cling to, I lay at Your feet. Your grace is sufficient for me.”

I know these are not the kinds of things you can write about and it even make sense to the reader; it was one of those moments God had prepared for me, and I was stunned, in awe. I felt I had nothing left to do but give Him my life entirely. I had known all about Him all my life, but not really even known Him or what He wanted of me. But that day, after hearing the same message 7 times, I knew I needed to believe Him and follow Him fully.

The next morning, I knelt beside my bed, and I must say, I did think, “This is going to be boring” as I committed to give up TV (not because it’s bad in and of itself, but because I was addicted to it!), to seek to know and obey Him and His ways, to read my Bible and study it, and so on.

But the truth is, I’ve never been bored since! I haven’t missed the TV at all. Such joy poured out over me that I had never known in all my previous 35 years! The path of obedience and faith is the path of blessing. When I obey God by doing what He commands in His Word, I demonstrate that I love Him. But I won’t obey Him if I don’t believe Him. That day, I believed God, and by His grace, I pray I will the rest of my days!

From April 27, 2005 on, life has been an amazing adventure. I realized He rewards and blesses those who seek Him, not what He can give. He has revealed so much to me and I’ve experienced things that I never had before. I have found that God does speak and reveal Himself to His people, yes through His Word, but also through the indwelling Spirit! What a gift!

I am humbled to be His child, His servant, that He would save me through Jesus’ shed blood, and I want to live for Him. This is what the blog is really about, proclaiming who Christ is and how He can change a life. He is full of power and might and has done great things! I stand in awe of Him!