Running To Restoration, Not Away From Fear

“Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s just deciding that fear isn’t calling the shots anymore”

~ Bob Goff

From Carly,

Fear.

I realize it’s hard to talk about this topic since most people are afraid of being vulnerable. Maybe they’re afraid of saying something they shouldn’t, something that would make them look broken inside or just different.

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How Trials Will Grow You

“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.”

Psalm 42:5

From Carly,

During the writing of Psalm 42, most believe it was the time of Absalom’s rebellion, and David, the potential author, was facing the consequences. David’s enemies persecuted him, spitting lies and forcing doubt into every area of David’s life.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to dehumanize the “heroes” of the Bible. I think they’re better than me. No temptations, no mistakes. The perfect example to live by.

I may be right about one thing. They’re a great example of how we should live. Though David lived many years devoted to the Lord, seeking and serving wholeheartedly, he also went though seasons of doubt, fatigue, grief, and sin.

The wonderful thing about tragedy is that what results from such mess, turns out to be the most beautiful story of healing and spiritual maturity. You’ve heard it before. The Lord puts us through trials to come out the other end changed. Of course, as Christians we know this, but no one is battling for the first spot in line to face impending tragedy and persecution. Tragedy doesn’t just come and go in a weekend, it usually doesn’t even stay for a week. When faced with such important trials, they can rule your entire life, wreck your worldview, causing doubt and fear to fester.

At the time, David was facing such oppression and desperation, that doubt began to win.

“My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?'”

Psalm 42:3

He was questioning whether the Lord was with him or not, whether he would come out of this situation sustained with the life-breathing hope and salvation he once had. I’m guessing we’ve all been in David’s position, or a similar circumstance, at one point in our lives. We always pay attention to the aftermath of such devastation, but what matters most to our God, is how we handle things during the oppression. 

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

Psalm 42:1-2 

David thirsted, hungered, longed for the Lord. To be near Him, to be healed by His presence. This is how he dealt with his grief. Though times were tough and nothing made sense, he knew the only way to get out meant full reliance on the Lord. Nothing more, nothing less.

Doubt can creep up, fear can envelope our soul. It’s what we do during those times that matters the most. Do we solely seek the Lord in our suffering, or do we cower in our misery and surrender to the pain?

“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.”

Psalm 42:11

What tenacity it took to realize his soul’s depravity. To repeat the very words he proclaimed previously. He commanded himself to place his hope and trust in the Lord once again. He vowed to praise his Savior and God. What an example. If David wrote this, we catch a glimpse of how entirely human he really is, not the perfect biblical hero without fault. David was just like you and me, faced with inexplicable tragedy during his short life. If he can resolve to hope in the Lord, to destroy his once-doubtful soul, then we can too. In fact, I encourage you to hunger and thirst for Jesus as much in peaceful times as you do in turmoil. May not only the aftermath, but also the time of oppression be what grows you, what causes you to lean on Him. 

Herding Sheep

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

John 10: 14-15

From Carly,

Let’s talk about sheep.

Weird topic, I know. I’ve been telling myself the same thing. You would not believe me if I told you that ever since this summer, I have not stopped hearing wise words about sheep. Out of all the things the Lord could be laying on my heart, He chose sheep. Most of the verses or passages that I have read lately have mentioned sheep. Many of the books that I’m reading reference these animals. My friends will randomly start talking about sheep. My team name for a camp this summer was “The Sheep.” I hope you find this as weird as I do.

I believe the Lord works in three’s to get your attention, or at least mine. For example, if I were praying about something and the Lord sent three different people to speak the same words of wisdom into my life, I would feel inclined to follow those words. He makes sure we are aware of His everyday presence in our lives. For this particular sheep situation, I guess I’m just not getting the point, because there has been WAY more than three nudges.

“Okay Lord, I get the picture, but what’s so significant about sheep?”

This is exactly how I went to the Lord with my confusion. Why sheep? Why were these super dumb, needy animals showing up in my life all of a sudden? Well, it turns out that sheep are, in fact, very dumb. No, like very very dumb. Think of the dumbest person you know, they’re dumber. Okay, now that you’ve got the point, picture that very dumb sheep as you. I know we’ve all heard about The Good Shepherd representing God and the sheep, His followers, but rather than focusing on the shepherd aspect, or the characteristics of Jesus for that matter, I believe He is trying to show me the true characteristics of the sheep. You and me.

First of all, we are all in desperate need of a savior, a shepherd who can lead us when we’ve gone astray. We’re all extremely unintelligent compared to the indescribable intellect of The Father. As sheep, we not only need physical guidance, but we also need a fully functioning “brain,” if you will, to help us make healthy decisions. Sheep never learn from their mistakes. There’s always that one misfit that continues to run off, every single day, almost consistently. Does this sound familiar? Maybe it’s because we never learn from our mistakes. We are selfish creatures, primarily seeking our own agenda and not the holy and perfect will of God. We keep attempting to run away, only to be placed back into His love and grace. In fact, we’ve never not been offered this amazing grace, we’re just too dumb and blind to see it right in front of us.

This reminds me of the song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury. The phrase in the song, “leaves the ninety-nine,” is such an incredible explanation, or metaphor, for the truth of His desires for us. Ultimately He is willing and able to sacrifice all ninety-nine other sheep to seek just the one out. Luke 15:4-7 reiterates this very concept:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

He longs to find the lost and save those who have strayed. We think we know best, but then He graciously picks us up out of the pit, we dug ourselves, and continues to be a faithful and invested Father. John 10 mentions the fact that the sheep hear and instantly know His voice. This is exactly what I needed to hear. The more we are surrounded by the wisdom of the Lord, the more we are able to hear and discern His voice. We can’t expect to recognize His voice in our lives, let alone comprehend it, if we are not diligently seeking to familiarize ourselves with His character in His written Word.

I challenge you – whatever stage of life you are currently in – accept the herding. Without guidance, distractions will overcome, ignorance will rule, and you’ll never get to your final destination.

Be like sheep. Be herded by Him. Allow Him to rescue you from your own selfish, crazy journeys that you take. He knows what’s best for you at any given point in your life. Be fully committed to being a follower of the One who follows you when you stray consistently. Listen to His voice. Know His voice and learn from it.

Be present and expectant, never doubting whether He will take care of you. If you know His voice, you can know, for certain, that He’s there and you’re safe.

Accept your lack of holy intelligence and place your worries and wonderings at the feet of Jesus, the only one who patiently waits for His ONE lost sheep. 

Bridging the Gap Between His Desires and Mine

“If you abide in me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”

John 15:7

From Carly,

Hey guys! I’m just going to jump right into what the Lord has been teaching me these past couple of weeks. Speaking to all of the high school seniors out there, you could say I’m a little stressed and overwhelmed right now. School just started up and I’m already studying for tests, new work hours are crazy, sports practices are demanding and time-consuming, and on top of all of that, we have college applications, essays, scholarships, and DECISIONS to make extremely soon. Did I mention SOON?

As you can imagine, this summer I was starting to think about my future plans and what the Lord has for me and my life. As a young kid, I’ve always known what I wanted to do. However, recently I’ve felt like those plans could, perhaps, be rooted in my own selfish desires. I’m not saying that they are foolish or sinful. I’m simply realizing that I’ve never asked whether this was the Lord’s plan for my life. He could want something completely different for me.

Something my dad always told me when I would ask questions about this was that the Lord will give me the desires of my heart, so there really is no reason to question my interests. He gave me those specific desires for a purpose. Now, whether or not those are to be used for my life purpose or not is another question altogether.

A mentor of mine recently gave me an inspiring word of encouragement that I still treasure in my heart today. She encouraged me to simply ask the Lord for His heart. I know it sounds kind of funny, but this is what she meant by it: Ask the Lord to unify your hearts, which in turn, unifies your desires. 

Ever since I started asking the Lord for this, He has been more than faithful to confirm that what I’m doing is in accordance with His will and His word. Any faith-based book or study that I’ve read in the past few weeks has mentioned this very request. I’ve read countless letters and book chapters that talk about the Lord redirecting my desires and redefining victory in my life (which was actually by another one of my mentors).

God wants me to desire what brings Him pleasure, what He has planned for me, what’s in His very heart. This doesn’t mean that all of my energy and faithfulness should be spent seeking His will for my life. Absolutely not. Seeking the Lord instead of, exclusively, His plan, is what will bring me closer to aligning my heart with His. The next step is yet to come, but you can be certain that your desire is from Him, simply because it is His!

Doesn’t it just blow you away that the Maker of the universe craves intimacy with us? Like, He actually hungers to know our hearts and for us to know His! Just ask Him for His heart, He’s already sacrificed all of it for you! I encourage you to be open with Him. Ask for the desires of His heart to be the desires of your heart. What He wants for you will be what you also want, maybe you just don’t realize it yet. He will align your plans with His. There’s no greater opinion. There’s no greater option.

If you’ve been patiently waiting for His hand to move in your life, for a revelation to confirm your future, all you have to do is reach out. He’s standing here, arms wide open, allowing you to hold tight so that he can capture your heart.

He’s just waiting for you to accept what He so graciously offers to each and every one of us.

Like David fervently pleads in Psalm 139:23-24,

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Lord would you carefully fuse our hearts together by the power of your steady hand? See to it that there may be no distinction between the two. What’s yours is mine, what’s mine is yours. Would you place the perfect and wonderful cravings of your heart into mine?

Amen.

Seeking Today’s Praise Instead of Eternity on the Summit

“He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.'”

Luke 16:15

From Carly,

These past couple of weeks the Lord has really been showing me how prideful I am.

I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like a rough way to start a blog post. I know. But I promise it gets better. In fact, that’s exactly what the Lord has been teaching me. His grace has already made it all better!

I never even knew I had pride, but He started to reveal how tightly I was holding onto it, so tightly that I never knew it was there.

He gently affirmed my wandering thoughts, and showed me how most of my days are spent seeking approval from others around me. I have to be the best student, athlete, friend, christian, etc. I have to do anything and everything to get the largest, most distinguished award there is, and then tomorrow I need to accomplish an even greater achievement.

“for they loved human praise more than praise from God.” John 12:43

My need for a successful, outward reputation is consuming my identity as a whole.

The Lord graciously showed me that I was living for the praise of the world, but He is standing right here, arms wide open, ready and willing to accept my flaws and my accomplishments. Just as I am.

I don’t have to get the best grades in school, get into the best college or grad school. I don’t need to receive every award and scholarship there is to offer. What’s amazing is that He’s enough, and He sees me as enough for Him. Nothing I can do would ever get me into Heaven. It’s by His incredible grace and the sacrifice of His one and only Son that allows me to live with Him forever. You see, this is not our home. Heaven is my home, so why do I keep trying to be accepted and praised here?

The featured image for this post is a picture taken on the summit of Mount Shasta in Northern California. A week ago, as I was climbing to the summit of this massive 14,179 foot mountain, the Lord impressed something on my heart that I will never forget.

He told me to think about this mountain as my life. We start out at the bottom and slowly climb to the top. In the middle, you may encounter some problems or trials, ones that require an extra reliance on Him, an extra boost of energy or stamina to continue ahead. It only gets tougher, but once you get to the top, not only are you closer to Him, but you also learned a few lessons on the way up too.

If you can see it in the picture, there should be tiny mountains just underneath the clouds to the left. Those mountains look small from here, but when you were down there in the valley, they seemed like massive, unconquerable giants. Now that we’ve reached the top, they look like little bunny hills that you can easily cover up with your thumb. This is exactly what our life is like. The problems and trials we had during our life seem incomparably unimportant to actually reaching the top or end of our journey.

Once we make it to Heaven, I can guarantee that our Heavenly Father is not going to ask us whether we made the dean’s list or achieved the eagle scout award. He’s going to meet us face to face as we talk about our relationship with Him and how we passionately shared that with others.

The praises you and I seek today, the miniature mountains in the distance, won’t matter once we’re on the summit, standing next to Jesus.

Trust me as I walk through this in my own life. I know it’s difficult to give up the pride of success and the desire to receive earthly praise, but the rewards in Heaven will be so much greater than we could ever imagine!

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

1 John 2:15-17