Now We Who Are Strong–

Romans 15:1
Now we who are strong–

Stop right there!

You may be familiar with the five words that start the chapter, the one whose subtitle (in the AMP translation) is “Self-Denial on Behalf of Others.” Unfortunately, I’m stuck (still) on that first part, the self-denial. How can I do anything for anyone else if I can’t do it for myself?

What about when I’m not strong? I feel this is most of the time, which I guess is understandable given these past nine years of recovery from so many things. Others have been helping me more than I’ve done for them. I think?

So, I googled, “Verses when I’m not strong,” and re-examined what I thought I knew about it. Of course, Philippians 4:13 and Isaiah 40:31 came up in the search results. These are well-known and written about a lot. The one that really spoke to me today was

“My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness.” …
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When I have lost my strength and my endurance is gone, what do I need to do? I must be reminded to remember to look toward the source of everything and more. He is my source. He is strongest and most powerful when I am weakest and unable to help even myself.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.
Now may the God who gives endurance and who supplies encouragement grant…
Romans 15:4-5

Sometimes only a prayer can tell what I’m feeling inside. Here’s mine:

Heavenly Father, Almighty Creator God, Master Designer and Crafter of the universe – and more! I like to pretend and play at “knowing” you. I try to sound and look confident in all that I have “learned” about the world and your heaven. I want to be seen as “strong.”
And some days, I am assured, I can feel re-assured. But, really, sadly more often that not, I am merely trying to believe; trying not to doubt what you say and show to me.
(Yes, yes! I am sure that you have messages and give blessings to me.)
When I get to thinking I can and I am able, then, without question, I have forgotten again this very lesson. And naturally, I run smack into the wall of human impossibility. James 4:15: Instead, I ought to center myself and every effort on your control of the attempt and the outcome. Everything and more!
When I forget, I run and hide, hoping to escape the inevitability of your promises. Always, everything – and more – comes back to, returns to, You. This is Your story. Your rules. You have all control, all power.
I have one thing: the choice to believe, to trust, to make this prayer by the moment, and twice as often when I doubt. The choice to hope, to rest in Your good intent. Because that is the real question, isn’t it? Not, “Is there a Creator or not?” But, “Do I believe the Creator loves me, loves us, as He says He does?” When this is what I’m sure of (and not the things I do), then I can ‘release all my held back tears,’ and let You, God, carry me through whatever I face. Lord, I  believe! Help my unbelief! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Here is one of my very favorite songs, which I first heard very early in this journey God has me on. Whatever You’re Doing (Something Heavenly) by Sanctus Real (YouTube with lyrics). Buy the digital download here.

And here’s the songwriter’s story behind one of my favorite new songs, They Just Believe by Josh Wilson. Buy the download here.

Tipping For Hope

“So, what do you do?”

imageDo you dread the question? How do you answer, when asked about what your time on earth is worth? I know what I want to say, but I also know how crazy it sounds in this modern, post-Christian world. “I live for Christ, to tell of the Good News, however I can. I blog. I worship. I teach. I Share God’s Story in my life. But, oh yeah, I gotta work this ‘job’ to pay my bills because I don’t get paid in money to do those things .”

Maybe it’s the question. “How do you earn your living,” is inquiring about one thing I do. “What are you so passionate about you do it for free (but would accept donations for),” asks something completely different.

Let me be perfectly clear. I am not selling hope. I refuse to. How can I determine a price that you should pay for “the life which God has promised?” (James 1:12 GNT) “I want to give a little hope to you.” (Third Day, Tunnel) That’s why I proclaim:

Come and hear, all you who fear God. Let me tell you what he has done for me.
Psalm 66:16

…be doers of the Word.
James 1:22

I alone know the plans I have for you,
plans to bring you to prosperity and not disaster,
plans to bring about the future you hope for.
Jeremiah 29:11

I want to broadcast the evidence of my life that proves to me that God exists and that Jesus Christ is everything the Bible says he is. First, he is life-saving, he’s rescued me from multiple rock-bottoms. He’s life-changing, making new life possible. Then he’s life-giving. I have another chance through and with him. Last, but certainly not least, he’s life-filling. Saved, changed, reborn, I have new purpose and new value (and values).

And I disclose, freely, that he – my faith, my belief in him – is what keeps me alive, what keeps me going, through dialysis three times a week, through endless temptations to think and look and touch lustfully, through days when I want nothing more than to hide under the covers. And, oh yes, through times when I feel like and think seriously about quitting. But, I believe! He helps my unbelief.

Jesus will do this for anyone. Everyone. What can I tell you about him?

Is sharing a two-way street? What is new life worth to you? Would you tip for hope?

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Featured Music: Josh Wilson

Hi All,

It’s Worship Music Monday and a Fascination With God post is due! I want to tell you about an awesome artist, Josh Wilson. At times, he’s a loop-pedal performer (that is, he records alone live-on-stage multiple parts of songs), and at others he’s playing multiple instruments on his studio recordings.

I’ve seen him live once, opening for Third Day a couple of years ago. Recently, during one of my many 2-week hospital stays, I dove in to explore more of his music (other than the one song I’d heard on the radio, “I Refuse”). I ended up downloading 3 of his albums.

If you like deep lyrics (“head music”) and catchy pop melodies, Josh is for you!

Here’s a youtube with lyrics of the song that’s currently stuck in my head:

 

Official Website:

http://www.joshwilsonmusic.com/

Finish What He Started – Mercy Me

Here’s a great song based on Philippians 1:6

Finish What He Started

Verse 1:
I don’t have to know you
To know that you will go through hard times
It’s just part of life
Don’t let that moment blind you
And don’t let it define you
Take heart, that’s not who you are

Pre-Chorus:
Our God is able, more than capable
And to be faithful until the end
And finish what he started

Chorus:
No matter what you’ve done
Grace comes like a flood
There’s hope to carry on
He’ll finish what he started
No matter what you face
His mercy will not change
He’s with you all the way
He’ll finish what he started

Verse 2:
Remember you’re forgiven
So there’s no need to give
Into the lie, you’re disqualified

Bridge:
This work he started in you now
He is faithful to complete it
The promise was sealed when he cried out
It is finished

Ending:
What he started (What he started)
What he started (What he started)
Oh, He’ll finish what he started

What Can I Do?

When I find myself in times of trouble – I don’t listen to The Beattles. I listen to Praise and Worship!

What Can I Do? from Paul Baloche and Graham Kendrick is one of my favorites, because it asks (and answers!) the simple question I am usually struggling with in those moments. (Except, of course, I’m not able to see the simplicity until I sing it out a few times…)

What Can I Do?

When I see the beauty of a sunset’s glory
Amazing artistry across the evening sky
When I feel the mystery of a distant galaxy
It awes and humbles me
To be loved by a God so high

What can I do but thank You?
What can I do but give my life to You?
Hallelujah, hallelujah
What can I do but praise You?
Every day make everything I do
A hallelujah, a hallelujah, hallelujah

When I hear the story of a God of mercy
Who shared humanity and suffered by our side
Of the cross they nailed You to
That could not hold You
Now You’re making all things new
By the power of Your risen life

What can I do but thank You?
What can I do but give my life to You?
Hallelujah, hallelujah
What can I do but praise You?
Every day make everything I do
A hallelujah, a hallelujah, hallelujah

What Can I Do? (YouTube)

Obstacles, Then and Now

Obstacles, Then and Now

My 1-year-old grandson is fearless. He toddles headlong towards the stairs – with no knowledge of how to go down them. Watching him, it occurs to me that we humans learn fear as part of growing up.

We learn to fear many different kinds of things. Some of these are physically painful like lions and tigers and bears, flames, and running with scissors. Some leave emotional scars like rejection, being lost and alone, not being loved. Some are are just really, really scary like failure and the unknown.

At first, we learn from first-hand experience, but then we cleverly get to seeing what others go through and can transfer ourselves into their shoes. Perhaps this is one of the marks of maturity: a sense of Rational Deductive Cautiousness.

But as with everything I do, I found the danger in the extremes. I tend to get obsessive. And, in my past, this led to the strangest fear of all: the fear – not of failure, for I was overly comfortable with that – but of success.

Is this the hardest of all fears to find? Perhaps. It certainly takes the longest time to develop. This is because it is the result of conditioning – a seeming lifetime of negativity. I arrived at a point where I expected misery and loss, and therefore kept minimal expectations.

And I even put obstacles in my own path. I self-sabotaged, self-condemned any attempt before it even began.

I discern two reasons for this happening. First, the root cause of fear of success is the idea – what I thoughtknew – that I was not worthy of succeeding. I did not deserve it. Feeling unloveable went hand in hand with that.

Another long-term effect of being afraid of any happy ending is that I just “got used to less.” Success became a strange and foreign thing, something completely different, unfamiliar and potentially uncomfortable (or so I thought).

“What do you fear, my lady?”
“A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them
and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.”
LotR

The solution, which I continue to discover in my journey of healing and transformation, is
#1: accepting The Maker’s love for me. “For He so loved the world...” He created me. He knows my name, and everything about me. And this is a very good thing!

#2: Quite plainly, the evidence of my life backs this up. I remain alive – for something good. I am clearly blessed – in spite of all the material things I lack.

#3: My fear is the result of leaning on my own understanding and abilities, instead of trusting in the Lord with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5)

#4: 1 Corinthians 10:13:

…He will also provide a way out…

I’m guided to that way out by ‘landmarks’ carefully placed in my everyday routine. These are obstacles – not to my success, but the means of blocking my falling and failure. That was then. This is now.

In valor there is hope.
– Tacitus

In other words, these days I work to put obstacles in the way of relapse, to prevent old habits and patterns from returning. These are things that I would very consciously have to step around in order to do ____. Their presence gives me pause, a chance to think carefully about what I am thinking about doing. I have a moment “to test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2)

And, sometimes, these days, I am “strong and courageous… not afraid or terrified… and I know God is with me… will not fail or forsake me” (Deuteronomy 31:6, 1 Chronicles 28:20) and I can pray, repent, turn back to Him.

Obstacles to relapse will be different for everyone. Here are some examples of mine:

– we keep no alcohol in our house
– in the early days of recovery, I changed my driving routes to avoid old haunts
– computer monitoring apps/software keep me away from tempting sites
– I deleted all RPG video games
– I cleaned house of adult entertainments and toys

And, what I call OMKIP: On My Knees In Prayer.

As I’ve recently written about, nightly I get on my knees in prayer, thanking God for His blessings and mercy, and begging His protection from thoughts, visions, dreams, fantasies, and memories which would entice me away from how I offer my body as a living sacrifice, whole, holy and pleasing to Him. (Romans 12:1)

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, STAND FIRM.
Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves FULLY to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58

I Know Who I Am

I Know Who I Am by Israel Houghton and New Breed has been stuck in my head for days now, so I have to post about it. It’s a great worship song, very simple and easy to learn. It’s infectious and will brighten any mood!

Enjoy!

CHORUS:
I know who I am
I know who I am
I know who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

I know who I am
I know who I am
I know who I am
I am yours, I am yours

And you are mine
Jesus you are mine
You are mine
Jesus you are mine

VERSE:
I was running and you found me
I was blinded and you gave me sight
You put a song of praise in me

I was broken and you healed me
I was dying and you gave me life
Lord you are my identity
And I know, I know

BRIDGE:
I am forgiven
I am your friend
I am accepted, I know who I am
(I know who I am)
I am secured, I’m confident,
That I am loved, I know who I am
(I know who I am)
I am alive
I’ve been set free
I belong to you and you belong to me

Oh oh
Oh oh
Hey