Whatever it Takes

It’s early morning and I’ve been up since 3:30.  I’ve been awakened by a song, Damaris Carbaugh sings called, “Whatever it Takes”.  Sometimes God wakes me in the middle of the night because He wants to talk to me.  This song is running in my mind over and over.  The words are so haunting, and it causes me to stop and re-evaluate my relationship with Jesus.

There’s a voice calling me from an old rugged tree
And it whispers, “Draw closer to Me;
Leave this world far behind, there are new heights to climb,
And a new place in Me you will find.”

CHORUS: For whatever it takes to draw closer to You, Lord,
That’s what I’ll be willing to do;
For whatever it takes to be more like You,
That’s what I’ll be willing to do.

Take the dearest things to me, if that’s how it must be
To draw me closer to You;
Let the disappointments come, lonely days without the sun,
If through sorrow more like You I’ll become.

Take my houses and lands, change my dreams and my plans,
For I’m placing my whole life in Your hands;
And if You call me today to a land far away,
Lord, I’ll go and Your will obey.

I can hear Damaris singing, with her deep, rich, alto voice resonating in my mind, and my heart is stirred within me.

I used to sing this song, without much thought to what it really was saying, not really applying it to my life.  But, one day my first husband asked me if I really meant what I was singing. Then he said, “You’d better be sure, because you don’t know what the future holds or if God will hold you to the words you sing.  Do you really mean, “Whatever it takes”? His statement and question caught me off guard.  I hadn’t really considered the fact that what I was singing, God may some day require me to prove my words.  Shortly after that my husband and I went through a very long trial. He had two strokes and became an invalid and I had to put him into a nursing home.  I had to carry a full-time job, try to manage all the things he had always taken care of, take care of him, and try to keep my head above water financially.  After a very long illness of seven years, God took him Home.  Then I spent six years alone before meeting my second husband.

I learned what those words meant! My second husband calls it my Job’s Trial. They were very dark days, but as I wandered through that haze of feeling nothing, I found out something. I found out that deep down inside, I really did mean those words.

It was so hard, but God showed me how I could trust Him with everything. I found that I had no one else to turn to, not in the way that I needed. Yes, God brought people into my pathway to help me, but they couldn’t be the Rock I needed to keep me standing.

So, as I listen to this song in my mind, I question, why is this song running through my mind now? It’s been a very long time since I’ve played the CD on which it is listed. God, what are You trying to tell me? I searched for Scriptures where Jesus is asking us to draw closer to Him and I found Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” (NASB) Then the thought crossed my mind, “Am I about to go through a trial?” I don’t have to fear, because God has already proved Himself strong, and I know that whatever He asks me to do, I will be able to accomplish with Him by my side.

The verse talks about taking up our cross. Crosses are heavy. They are burdens we carry and can be almost anything that drags us down or brings us to a point of desperation. Do we try to carry them ourselves, or do we go to the One who says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NASB) Rest, that’s what we find when we draw closer to Jesus. Peace floods our soul as we lean upon Him to carry those things that overwhelm us. The closer we get to Jesus, the easier it is to carry the burden, because we are not carrying it alone, He is taking the brunt of the weight. It is much like oxen who are tied together in a yoke, they each carry a portion of the weight as they pull the plow across the field. The burden is lighter.

So, as I think about the words to this song, I can say, “Yes, Lord, whatever it takes, because You have already proven to me that You are faithful, and I have nothing to fear.”

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Do Not Fear

There are many things that make us fearful. We can be afraid of anything from snakes and creepy crawlies to fear of being in a crowd, or fear of heights. I was curious as to how many phobias existed, and according to what I found on the Internet, there are more than 500 phobias, things that are legitimate fears and those that are not so much. Our society today is troubled by fear. We see it everyday just in the news reports alone. People are afraid to walk out their front door for fear that they will be harmed by violence. Fear permeates almost every area of people lives and some are so fearful they can’t function in society.

The children of Israel had a fear. They had been across the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land and now they were standing on the banks of the Jordan getting ready to cross over into the Promised Land. The spies were sent to scout out the land. When they came back to give a report to the people, the spies said that the land was rich with good things, but said the land was filled with giants and walled cities. They were so afraid, that they gave a bad report, and made the people fearful as well. However, Joshua and Caleb, who were with the spies, gave a good report and implored with the people to not be afraid, but trust God. They told the people that God would go before them and give their enemies into their hand. But the people became rebellious to the point of wanting to stone Joshua and Caleb. Joshua and Caleb told the people, “Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:9) God was angry at the people’s rebellion and they paid for their disobedience. God made them wander in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation of fearful, disobedient, rebellious people had died.

Fear can rob us of so many things. It can rob us of peace and joy. It can make us see only what we are so fearful of and gets our eyes off God. We forget that God has promised that He will always be with us. There are at least 20 verses that remind us that God is with us. Even His name, Immanuel, is a reminder that He is with us because His name means, “God with us.” One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 13:5,” …. I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you.” (NASB) He promises to stay with us always!

When we get our eyes off God and look at the circumstances around us or the thing that has us entrapped in fear, all we see is that fear, and God becomes so small. There is a saying that my husband uses that says, “Big problem, little God, little problem, big God”. The idea is to remember that no problem is bigger than God. When we focus on that problem, we make God so small that we see no way that He could ever solve the problem. But when our eyes are on God, He becomes bigger than any problem, and our faith is increased as we watch Him work on our behalf and remove that fear, that thing, that problem that has us entrapped. We must remember that our God is not a little God, He is greater than anything you may face!

When we give our fears over to Him, He releases us from what the Devil has had us bound. He breaks those chains, shows Himself strong, and delivers us from the fear that surrounds us. Peace begins to flood our soul, real joy begins to bubble up, and we find we can rest in His arms and allow Him to bring relief. The prison we have been in is opened and we can then walk in freedom. The chains of fear are broken!

How Long O Lord?

 

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Psalm 13:1, How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” King David is questioning in the midst of a very difficult time in his life. He feels as if God has abandoned him. He doesn’t feel God’s presence, he prays and hears nothing. We’ve all been in that circumstance, haven’t we?

Life gets hard, God seems far away, our prayers seem to hit the ceiling and bounce back to the floor. “Where are You God?” I’ve certainly been there. I’ve recounted before the hardest time in my life when my first husband was so sick and eventually passed away. It took a long time for me to actually sense God’s presence and working in my life. But once I did, I was amazed at what He had been doing even though I, at the time, couldn’t see it.

David must have been very depressed, but despite his searching and feelings of being abandoned, if you read the rest of the chapter, David ends up rejoicing and worshipping God. The verses that really jumped out at me were verses 5 and 6. “But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Even though he felt like God left him to fend for himself, he realizes that he must trust God and His plan.

I love this about David! He spends the majority of the chapter pleading and complaining and then it’s almost like he comes to himself and remembers that he must trust God no matter what he is going through. How like David we are, aren’t we? We gripe and complain that God isn’t doing anything, or He has abandoned us, or isn’t working in our time frame and then it’s like we need a good smack in the head to remind us that no matter the situation, the first thing is TRUST GOD!

We forget to pray, or if we are praying, our prayers can be full of impatience or sound like a 2-year old temper tantrum…” I want it my way, and I want it now!” Never remembering that all things are done in HIS timing, not ours. He sees the big picture, He has a plan for our lives and sees the end from the beginning. All we can see is what is just in front of us.

Trusting is sometimes so hard to do, especially if we have been in the position of trusting someone only to have them leave us standing on our own without what was promised. We tend to not want to trust them again. We can only get left hanging for so long before we realize it isn’t worth the hurt and pain to trust.

However, God is always faithful! He never goes back on His word. If He has promised it, He will do it, and we can rely on His word. Sometimes it seems like He has moved far away, but in reality, we are the ones who have moved. He is always right at our side, holding us, walking with us, guiding us in the right way to go. It is up to us to stay with Him, to follow His leading. And, in those times when we feel He has left continue to trust whatever He has planned for us. Resting in His arms is the best place to be.
Sometimes God allows the hard times to build our faith, to make us stronger, or to prepare us for something that is coming down the road. We can look back and say, “If God could bring me through that, He can bring me through this.” Our strength comes from trusting in His Divine Plan for our lives and allowing Him to work through us and in us.

So, if you are going through a difficult time, remember it’s ok to ask, “How long, O Lord?” Just remember, He hasn’t abandoned you, He is right with you. Trust in His plan for your life and walk the pathway He has laid out for you with patience. He will never fail you!

Do it Again!

During this morning’s service we sang the song, “Do it Again!” and it touched the very soul of our congregation! If you’ve never heard this song, I have attached a You Tube link for the song. Play it repeatedly and let it sink deep into your heart! The sermon this morning was based on Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”

I’m on the Worship Team, and as I was playing my flute, my mind went back to all the times God came through when life seemed hopeless. Not once did He fail me! The congregation was looking back too, because somewhere in the congregation someone was wailing, not just crying, a heart-wrenching, loud, wail, as if in deep mourning, as they must have been recounting in their mind how faithful God had been in their life. The bridge to the song says, “I’ve seen you move, you move the mountains and I believe, I’ll see you do it again, you made a way, where there was no way and I believe, I’ll see you do it again.” The verses say, “You’ve never failed me yet.”

Although that is true, what we must realize is, God is incapable of failing us EVER! The song almost makes it sound like He hasn’t failed me in the past, but maybe He will in the future. However, Numbers 23:19 tells us that God is not man, He does not lie, and because He isn’t a human, He doesn’t change His mind. Then the verse questions, “Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He promised and not carried it through?” How could He? He’s God, and what He says He will do … He will do! He keeps His promises, unlike men.

Pastor asked for a show of hands, and asked, “How many have failed to do something you have promised to do?” and everyone raised their hand! Man can and does fail us, but God NEVER fails us. He is faithful to His word.

As we sang, the power of the song grabbed us! Later, someone said they wanted us to continue to sing it over and over. It reminded us of how much God cares for us. Pastor reminded us that no matter what Hell throws our way, we can stand on God’s promises. No matter the struggle, no matter the situation, no matter how people have treated us, no matter what …. HE NEVER FAILS! The song says, “Your promise still stands, Great is your faithfulness, faithfulness. I’m still in your hands, this is my confidence, you’ve never failed me yet.” We changed it to say, “You’ve never failed me!” There is no “yet” about it!

Because He has never failed us, we have confidence in what He promises. His word is true. I can do nothing but praise Him! My heart is so full just to think of how faithful He is to us and to His promises.

We can rely upon Him in every situation. Even when we think that He has abandoned us because we can’t feel His presence. He is right with us showing His strength, love, and power in our lives. In those times when we can’t see Him working, we must remember that every one of His promises is wrapped up in timing …. His timing! He cannot cancel His promise and man cannot cancel God’s promise! We must learn to wait on His timing. We can rejoice because He moves the mountains in our lives! Great is His faithfulness!

Where Are You God?

 

We have all had times when God seemed so far away. Those are the times when life seems to be throwing everything it can at us and we feel like we just can’t get a break! The Bible tells us though that God never leaves us, never forsakes us, and He is always right beside us! Isaiah 57:15 says, “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (NASB)

For me, that time came when my first husband had two strokes and was in a nursing home until God took him home. I felt like God had abandoned me right when I needed to feel Him close to me. In my head I knew He was there, but in my spirit, it felt like I was facing this trial all alone. The days were so hard. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. Anyone who has gone through being a caregiver understands how one could feel like they are fighting the battle all alone.

But God never abandoned me, no matter how it felt. He was right there. I can look back now and see His Hand in what was going on. He took care of me by placing people in my pathway to help me, especially with my finances. He placed me in a loving church that went out of their way to make sure I was doing ok. People would slip money in my pocket without my knowing, anytime I needed to vent He brought me a friend who would let me unload on her when I was so stressed I couldn’t see straight. When my washer and dryer went on the fritz, people from my church helped me get new appliances. Everywhere I turned someone was there right at the time I needed help.

God was also there when I would cry out to Him to fix this, to heal my husband, to bring me some peace, to help with the loneliness as I sat in an empty house. Even in the depths of my depression He was there. It got to the point where I wouldn’t even open the drapes in my living room, because I couldn’t see anything but darkness and couldn’t even let sunshine in my house.

He did answer my prayers, maybe not in the way I would have wanted, but they were answered. My husband did get his healing ultimately with his death. God was my husband through it all, taking care of me and healing me from the inside out. My emotions were raw, and little by little He would wrap me up in His arms and let me cry on His shoulder. He kept me from going into a financial sinkhole by providing the help of a good friend from my church. Eventually, He opened my heart enough to allow me to find love again and brought me an awesome husband. Now God guides us both in the good times just like He did in the bad times.

I love the part of the verse that says He revives “the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite.” That’s exactly what it felt like. He was reviving me from the inside out. I had felt so dead for so long and as He was healing me, life started blooming again in my heart. I had been in the valley and He began leading me toward the mountain top.

Today, life is much brighter, I have a wonderful husband who loves the Lord just as much as I do, our goals of ministry are aligned, and we are enjoying this time of sunshine in our lives. We both look toward the future with a new perspective, anticipating whatever God has for us and trusting Him no matter what may come.

Jesus Shows Up in Your Storm!

Have you ever read a passage in Scripture and wondered what the main focus or take away from it was? That was the case when I read John 6:15-21. On the surface it’s the story of Jesus walking out on the water in the storm and the disciples were in the boat scared that what they were seeing was a ghost coming at them. Now, I read this over and over and I have to admit, I couldn’t see what the purpose of this story was or why it was recounted in the Bible. I journaled this page months ago, but never finished because I just couldn’t see what I needed to see, and I just put it away for a while.

To set the backdrop of the story, Jesus had just performed a miracle by feeding the five thousand. That’s pretty amazing considering all He had to start with was five barley loaves and two fish. Now, the disciples saw this miracle as did everyone else there. Then people were talking about making Him king right then and there, and He discerned that they would take Him by force to make Him king, so He went to a mountain to pray and to be alone. The disciples decided to get in the boat and head across the sea. When they got to the middle of the sea a very strong storm blew in. That’s when they saw Jesus walking on the water. The storm was all around them and they were becoming fearful of the storm, but when they saw Jesus walking on the water, they really were frightened because they didn’t know it was Him, they thought He was a ghost. One commentary I read said that they were more afraid of the ghost than they were the fierceness of the storm.

The main take away I got from this encounter is, when you are going through a really hard trial, a storm if you will, Jesus shows up in the middle of the storm. One of the commentaries I read said that when Jesus went to the mountain, He was praying for the disciples to be strong in the storm, to not be fearful. So, that tells me that He knows I’m in the storm and He is interceding for me to be strong in spite of all that is going on around me. But then, He shows up in the middle of the storm to assuage my fears, to comfort me, and give me strength to persevere through that trial to victory on the other side.

The story goes on to say that once Jesus got in the boat, they immediately landed on shore to where they were going. Remember, the storm was in the middle of the sea, where they were, about halfway between where they left to where they were going…and the Bible says, immediately the boat landed on shore. Jesus performed another miracle just for the disciples, to strengthen their faith.

Now, does this mean that when Jesus shows up the trial is over immediately? Not necessarily. It’s possible that He would end the struggle right then and there, but sometimes we have more to work through. The good part of that is, He is standing right there encouraging us, helping us to endure and that builds up our faith, so that the next time we go through a trial, we are stronger going into it than we were the last trial.

I’m encouraged to know that I don’t have to deal with the hard stuff of life all on my own. I have a Heavenly Father who loves me, and knows exactly what I’m going through, where I am in the process, and how to help me through that storm. He has me covered from the beginning to the end, and His Son, Jesus, intercedes for me and steps in the middle of that storm to help me. This strengthens my faith and helps me realize that I can rely on Him for everything because He’s got my back!

Power


What do you think of when you hear the word, power? Do you see a strong man lifting heavy weights? Do you think of the overwhelming intensity of lightning, or of an engine equipped to do heavy work? The Bible says that we will receive power when we receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (NASB)

Some people talk as if the Holy Spirit is a thing. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and as such, is a living being, not an “it”. In my church we sing a song called, “Send it On Down”. It is a song asking for the Holy Spirit to come and inhabit our worship. However, my Pastor doesn’t like the idea of calling the Holy Spirit, “it”, and so we sing, “Send HIM on Down”. As such, we give the Spirit of God His rightful honor and ask for His presence to reveal Himself to us.

The book of Acts says the Holy Spirit will give us power. If the Holy Spirit was an “it”, I can’t imagine a thing being able to give us power. However, as a person in the God-head, He is able to endue us with power from on high. (Luke 24:49) So, what kind of power are we talking about? Let me give you a testimony from my own life.

I go to an Assemblies of God Church, and we believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. When I first went to that church, it was a foreign concept to me because I was not raised in a Pentecostal denomination, my background was Wesleyan Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical Free, Missionary Alliance, and Covenant. I often describe myself as a “Christian Mutt.” After being part of this church for a couple of years, the desire to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit became very strong. I wanted a deeper relationship with God. I began praying and asking God to fill me with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. One Sunday night I went forward for prayer as I had before. This Sunday night, He granted my request and I was Baptized in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. My Pastor at the time, told us that when we received the Holy Spirit, we had access to power given by Him. At the time, I didn’t know or really understand exactly what that meant, but a few months later my first husband had a stroke, and then a year later he had another, more devastating stroke. He was paralyzed on his right side, could only repeat things back to you, but not carry on a full conversation. However, God allowed him to retain the ability to sing, he even sang duets with me, which I found amazing and I am so grateful God didn’t allow that to leave him. My husband was sick for seven years and was in a nursing home until he went to the hospital with pneumonia and heart problems and died.

Those seven years were the most difficult I had ever experienced in my life. There were days that I felt that I had no strength to take care of my husband. But it was only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I was able to do the things that needed to be done. I HAD to rely on God for EVERYTHING. I truly believe that I would not have been able to take care of my husband, work a full-time job at a Christian television network, be on the worship team at church, and try to keep my house together without the power of the Holy Spirit helping me along the way. There was a time of depression and despair, I’m not going to say that I didn’t go through that, but it was then that I realized that there was no where else to go but to God. My current husband says what I went through was a Job’s Trial, and I truly believe he is right. It certainly felt like a trial.

That is one way the Holy Spirit gives us power. He also can give us power in doing ministry work. Some are given the gift of healing and so, the Holy Spirit gives them power to perform their ministry of healing. Some are given the gift of preaching and the Holy Spirit gives them the power to preach messages that bring us into the presence of God and instruct us in righteous living. The Holy Spirit releases power in us for various giftings, circumstances, and situations.

Now, the last part of our verse gives us a mandate. We are to go and be witnesses! The Holy Spirit also gives us power to go and tell what God has done in our lives. That can be accomplished in words, but the most effective tool is to live out our lives in front of people, so that they see Jesus in us. When we let others see the impact He has on our lives, they will want what we have, and that is the person and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to utilize the power given to us from the Holy Spirit to be a witness to a lost world. That mandate, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Matthew 28:19), is our purpose as Believers. We are to tell people of the saving grace of Jesus through His death on the cross for our sins, His burial, and resurrection. We are to bring people to Heaven with us. Are there people in our sphere of influence who know that we belong to Jesus, or if asked, would say they don’t know? Are we speaking and living in a way that leaves no doubt in their minds that we are Born Again Believers? It is time we take stock of our lives and how we appear before others. If we aren’t living and speaking so that others see Jesus, then we need to repent and be intentional in our witness.

So, my final question to you, dear reader, is…. are you utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?