Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Struggles Lead to Fear or Faith

I was driving to meet some friends for breakfast the other morning when this thought crossed my mind, "Our struggles lead us to either fear or faith."  I'm sure it's not an original thought, but nonetheless, it is true. 

I have several people close to me, right now, that are struggling with some very hard stuff; thus, the thought process above.  As I stand on the outside looking in, I'm watching to see if their struggles are producing fear or faith?

Fear is not of God.  Fear is from Satan.  How we move from fear to faith is the process of letting go and trusting God.  It's realizing that we are not in control and trusting the One who is.   The building of faith begins when we face fear head on.  It's believing and proclaiming, "Fear has no hold on me; Jesus is Lord."  When we have a spirit of fear, we do not have the spirit of faith.  Fear and faith cannot coexist.

Faith is from God.  When we find ourselves living in fear, we first have to acknowledge that we've allowed it to seep into our minds. The battle ground is the mind, and Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 that we have to renew our minds which means change our thinking.  Faith trumps fear.  " When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4 NIV) David was battling fear with faith.  He knew in whom he trusted, but using his "shield" of faith helped him overcome his fear.  Speaking Scripture aloud makes fear flee faster (try saying that 10 times). Believing that God is for us, His children, is the first step to overcoming fear with faith.  The more we trust our Savior, the more our faith grows.  When we fight fear with faith, Jesus is magnified and fear is defeated!

I've come to learn through my own struggles that the more steps of faith I take, the easier it is to trust that God is faithful, and that He has me covered with His mercy, love, and grace.  He knows the days He has planned for me; He created me in my mother's womb. (Read Psalm 139) He even knows the number of hairs on my head. (Matthew 10:30)  I have a Savior who will never leave me or forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5) I have no reason to fear when Jesus loves me that intimately and endlessly.

God is love.  He is our hope.  He is the Author and Finisher (Perfecter) of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

The phrase Author of our faith means that Jesus ignites our faith. It is ignited when we believe that Jesus Christ is who He says He is, we confess our sin nature to Him, repent of our sins, and allow Him to be the Savior and Lord of our lives.  This is the beginning of our faith walk. 
Our faith will be complete when we see Him face to face.  When we arrive at the feet of Jesus in heaven, we will not need faith anymore. Thus, He's the Finisher of our faith

The journey in between our igniting and arriving is called our Christian walk. It's doing life with Christ.  Sometimes, though, during our walk, our faith is interrupted by fear and confusion, and we have to do battle.  The Author and Finisher of our faith will NOT let us go. He holds us in the palm of His hand.  He will protect us from harm.  He says, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

So as we go on our daily faith walk, we must choose who is leading our thoughts; the author of fear and confusion, or the Author and Finisher of our faith.  How will you respond to the struggles in your life?  Though I know struggles are hard, I pray that you will conquer fear with a greater faith in Jesus Christ.

My Pleasure,

Monday, August 20, 2012

Final Firsts

For the past few weeks I have been pondering the final firsts.  The final first cheer parent meeting, the final first day of scheduling, the final first cheer practice, the final first high school Jamboree, the final first football game, the final first day of grade school, etc.

(Madison leaving for the final first football game of the year.)

This is what our family is experiencing these days as our daughter begins her senior year of high school.  It is a bittersweet thought as we reflect on how fast we have arrived at these final firsts.

Madison walked out of the door this morning continuing her journey of special moments and making lifetime memories.

Meeting her friends for breakfast has been a tradition since the first day of middle school when we moms took our daughters to Lizard's Thicket.  As they got older, we would drop them off and they would carpool to school after breakfast.

 Now, we just wave to them as they drive out of the driveway and head off to breakfast for another final first; moms left behind.

It's all a part of the growing-up process.  We name them, snuggle with them, love them, teach them, nuture them, model life and Christ before them.  As they grow, every pair of new shoes marks another step away from our care.  Every step is another mark of faith that we have taught them well and, as Christians, we have shown them the love of Christ. 
 As they choose to trust Christ as their Savior, we have to trust that He will take care of His children.  We trust that God will watch over and protect them as they walk out into a world of unknowns, 
make their way into their futures, and stand firm in their faith,
while impacting their circle of influence for Christ.

We parents have to be diligent in praying for our children, no matter where they are in the growing up process.  We have to be a constant, safe place and refuge for them as they learn and grow.  Our love for them should always be known and shown to them by being available for them, listening to them, and by always teaching them the ways of the Lord.  Our love for our kids should always reflect the love of Christ; the One who displays unconditional and unfailing love, strength, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and patience.  He is our refuge and our homes should be a refuge for our children.
Safe and sound!

As we enter into the final firsts of Maddi's senior year, I pray that with each one we will be aware of, and grateful for, the wonder and greatness of our God; for He has proven His faithfulness over and over again to our family. 

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6 NKJV

My Pleasure,

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Wonder-FULL Life Has Only Just Begun

The Summer Book Club is officially over today.  What a joy it has been to watch women flood through my doorway and grace my den with their presence and excitement.  I never dreamed that this book of Ann Voskamp's would illuminate God's Word and wonder with such power.

Reading and pondering this book has turned me upside down, inside out, shakened my thinking, and has given me a perspective that only God can give.  He has brought "life" into holy focus. 

#183-God proclaiming His name a 4th time to me through Scripture in worship, "I AM".
#188- Buying highschool supplies for the last time together with Madison
#190- Sun shining brightly through the kitchen window as I pen gifts to paper
#191- The smell of muffins just out of the oven
#192- Papa being cared for in the hospital
#193- Gifts counted in the shadow of the cross

As we closed the book today and sighed with breaths of joy, we all thought about how the book was ending, but how the wonder has only just begun.  Every moment, wonder-FULL.  Jesus filling our life moments with the scent of His presence.  We just have to have holy focus to see.

 Life is a gigantic cathedral filled with moments waiting to be captured by the hearts of God's children.  To laugh, really laugh at life's simple pleasures.  To be awe struck with wonder at the joy He gives; with hands wide open, we receive.  Bend the knee.  Humbled in worship. Give thanks for the gifts. 

Don't stop. 

Don't ever stop counting. 

He never stops giving.

#194- Large Living Real ad sold
#195- Friends who pray with and for me
#196- The quietness as I write
#197- Good health
#198- A cancelled teaching event
#199- A good God

I finished reading the book on the beach, and this prayer just consumed my soul; through tears flowing, so full of joy for what I had experienced through Ann (full of grace), God's Word, and wonder, I wrote and I prayed... 

"Dear Jesus, In Your Name-
Continue to transform me; keep me counting. Help me to be heavy-scented with Your Presence.  Thank You for the unending gifts of Love in every moment.  I want to live fully in holy communion with You, my Bridegroom.
With eucharisteo and full of grace,

My Pleasure,
Melanie Ann

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Third Time is a Charm

Have you heard this saying before, "The third time is a charm"?  I've heard it many times but I'm not sure where it originated.  I've also heard various pastors and Bible teachers say something to this effect, "If God says something once it is important, but if God says something three times, you really better perk up your ears."

Over the past 2 weeks God has spoken loudly to me on 3 different occasions.  In each instance, He has spoken His name, I AM.  He has also used 3 different people to speak His name to me.  It's definitely not the first time I've paid attention to this name, but it's the first time that I can remember that He is speaking this name to me very intentionally.

Time #1 was in the book we're reading for my Summer Book Club, One Thousand Gifts by Ann VosKamp.  I think I've always looked at this name of God's in a "fill in the blank" kind of name.  For example, "I AM the Living Water", or "I AM the Bread of Life", and one of my favorites, "I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end".  Jesus is all of this and more,  but I believe He is teaching me something very specific about Himself through His name, I AM.

Listen to how I heard His name through the book.  Ann says, "Full attention fills the empty ache. This.  Is this eucharisteo the way to that elusive fullest life, the one that lives in the moment?"  She then quotes Elizabeth Elliot saying, "Wherever you are, be all there."  (From Through Gates of Splendor (Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1986, 20.)  Ann continues, "This is where God is.  In the present.  I AM-His very name.  I want to take shoes off.  I AM, so full of the weight of the present, that time's river slows to a still...and God Himself is timeless." (page 69)

Time #2: He intentionally touched my soul with His name at the She Speaks Conference in the Prayer Room.  The She Speaks team had taken each of our names and prayed over us- 650 women.  Each name typed and cut out on a small strip of paper.  They prayed a specific name of God over each one of us that the Holy Spirit had led them to pray. 

As I entered the Prayer Room on Saturday, I was anxious to see which name of God had been prayed over me.  With each of God's names printed on a separate sheet of paper, displayed on two tables, with all of the women's names taped around the one prayed over us, I quickly scanned through them looking for mine.  On the first table, several God names down, I found my name. The name of God that had been prayed over me was the name, "Jehovah- I AM"!  I almost couldn't believe my eyes.  Out of all of the names of God dispersed through the room, "I AM" was prayed over me. 


"I AM," The One Who is The Self-Existent One

God never changes. His promises never fail.  When we are faithless, He is faithful. We need to obey Him.

Ex. 3:14, 6:2-4, 34:5-7; Ps. 102

My name, Melanie Shull, was taped to the name "I AM".

God already had my attention, but now He was turning up the volume. After the second shout out from the Lord, I continued to dwell on His name.

Over the next week, as I was thinking about all I had learned at the conference and the direction I felt like the Holy Spirit was leading me in, "I AM" continued to seep deeper into my soul.

Time #3:  "The third time is a charm."  It was Sunday morning, the week after the conference, and our pastor was continuing his sermon series on "Jesus Is..." from the book of John.  The passage for the day was John 8:12-30 where Jesus proclaims, "I am the Light of the World." 

Pastor Eddie had gotten to his third point where Jesus is explaining to the Jewish leaders that they cannot go where He is going and that they will die in their sins. (John 8:21-24 NIV)  Jesus was explaining that when they lift Him up on the cross, they will be exalting the One they claim they know- I AM.  But they don't recognize Him. The great I AM is standing and teaching right where they are.  In the present, in the moment- thus His name, "I AM".  He is standing right before their eyes and they don't see Him. 

Haven't I been just like the Pharisees?  Hasn't Jesus, "I AM", been right in front of me and I've missed Him time after time?  Yes, I have.  "God, please forgive me for missing You, existing in the present, here... now."  There have been many times that He is showing me His glory and I've missed it, because I am distracted and I am not here, in the now, in the present with "I AM".  But in those moments where I have been present with Him, I have seen His glory.  I have radiated the glow of His presence in my life.  And you know what....I'm not missing Him this time.

I see You!  I see Your glory!  I know You are shouting Your name before me, and this is what I'm hearing You say to me... 

"I AM right here, in the moment, in the present with you.  This is where I exist.  I'm never late or early because I AM.  Remember My promise to you in My Word where I said, " You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart" ? (Jeremiah 29:13)  I keep My promises!
Don't let the busyness and the distractions of life keep you from finding Me.
In every moment that I've ordained for you, I AM! 

Lord Jesus, I AM, help me to not miss any more moments.  I want to exist with You and not always searching for You.  Help me to worship and enjoy Your presence, in the present. Thank You for capturing not just my attention, but my heart.  I love You, Amen!

My Pleasure,