Joy

When All My Strength Has Failed

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140918131138-leicester-skeletons-1-horizontal-large-galleray (2)Chapter 14: It’s All About Refinement

If I have heard once, I have heard a thousand times, “They were such a good person until thus and so happened; then they really changed for the worse.” With all my being, I believe trials and tests do not change a person, they simply bring to light who the person is at their center. It was definitely true in Job’s case as well as my own. Neither of us knew what was wicked within until the disasters came.

Adam lived in utopia and it was true for him. The worst comes out of people in dyer situations because the love of Christ is not in effect. Sure, they may be saved from hell but a person led by Holy Spirit would be able to recognize what God was allowing to happen and even why, instead of tail-spinning out of control and losing sight of God’s reality. Just because one is led by Holy Spirit for a long time does not mean that, in an instant, they can’t revert back to the flesh. Satan is crouching at the door waiting for an opportunity to stumble you. You and I must daily die, which is merely a result of having been transformed into the image of God.

When my first husband left with a note on the coffee table, I fell apart. I began cursing, ranting and raving. Why? It was because I had no grounding in an intimate relationship with God. I had never once said, “Father, show me everything that is wrong within me. Lead me into righteousness.” I had received salvation at the age of six and went on my way “getting people saved” as I was taught. I didn’t drink, curse, sleep around or do drugs. I was basically a “good” kid. However, in reality, it was all a lie because there is no one good but God.

I failed to hear from God, receive warnings, admonition, or anything of the kind. If I had, I would not have married two wrong men. I knew nothing of God except being able to quote a few Scriptures. In my mind, making a profession of faith was equated to “an intimate relationship” when it was nothing more than the beginning of what should have developed into an intimate relationship. I was weak in Christ on my best days and was so because I thought myself spiritually strong and mature.

A terrible weakness in God’s people is the feeling of unworthiness, yet we call it humility. When you focus on your own unworthiness, you are focused on self. Although it certainly appears humble and righteous on the surface, contrary to popular belief, this is another lie from Satan. It is actually false humility, self-abasement, and self-righteousness.

False Humility: “I am unworthy to walk in the shoes of Jesus, so I won’t. I’ll sit here quietly in my recliner of do-nothing. Praise God, one day I’m going up yonder in the sweet by and by. I’ll wait here ‘til I get to Heaven to throw my crowns at His precious feet. Who am I to walk in authority and speak with boldness? I’m too humble to do that.”

True Humility: “I am unworthy and I know it. However, with that knowledge, I (the unworthy one) choose to surrender and live only unto Christ (the worthy One). I choose His worth and allow Him to speak, think and operate through my mortal body. I choose to walk boldly and courageously in the authority and power He projects through me. I give God all praise, honor and glory for all accomplished.”

I pray every believer will get this imbedded in their spirit, heart, and mind. God is not asking for your perfection or power since you have none to offer. He is asking for your willingness to allow Him to move through your weak mortal body as you are merged with Him as one entity. Allow refinement when the hard times hit let you be overtaken by the evil one through despair. God is the perfection in the weakest places of life. Yoked together Christ is the only hope for strength and a sound mind.

 ***

“so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:7, NAS).”

 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7, NAS).”

 

Encouragement for Parents with Chronically Ill Children

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I must be transparent. The “mamma bear” Alexys and the “minister” Alexys are often in conflict. As a minister, I purpose to live a life of balance, love, patience, kindness, holiness and to be at peace with everyone, at least as far as it is up to me. Adversely, as a mother of a chronically ill child, I often feel the urge to, at the very least, tell someone off. Or, at the worst, punch someone squarely between the eyes for their neglect, bullying or disregard for my child who only wants to be well and accepted by her peers.

For example (in no particular order):

 

  • Dealing with doctors who pass her around from this one to that one or one questions another’s diagnosis or treatment and look at me as though I’ve done something wrong.
  • When kids her age at school or elsewhere tease and/or bully her because they don’t understand her situation, why she likes colored hair, why she’s so shut down, or why she doesn’t fit the acceptable body image.
  • When the youth pastor at our church refuses, though begged repeatedly over a year, to reach out to her or have girls her age reach out to her. He visited her once, had a couple girls text her a few times and, just like that, she was quickly discarded and forgotten like yesterday’s news.
  • Dealing with the school powers-that-be who threaten to call truancy because they question the word of doctors as though she isn’t really too sick to attend; who demand meeting after futile meeting.

 

In the aforementioned scenarios, yes, I definitely want to scream at and hit someone albeit completely contradictory to who I am in Christ. These are the times where I preach the Word of God to myself so as not to completely ruin my testimony for the Christ whom I love and serve. Mamma-bear has, on occasion, gotten the better of me because I despise the injustice thrown at my kid.

The struggle is real and I have to combat it on a regular basis. When these people who are in positions to help my child do not and, furthermore, cause more harm, I battle with mamma-bear, with the inclination of my fleshly man to do what would otherwise come very natural to me. My personality is very aggressive, forthright, proactive and protective and, therefore, it would be nothing for me to blast someone (and I have). I purpose daily to walk according to the Spirit of the Living God versus my natural man. I have to daily find the balance between knowing when and what to speak to whom and just letting loose when the notion strikes.

I have definitely learned, throughout all of this that, in fact, I am fully capable of restraint, patience, and silence; that I can choose to be self-controlled, to be silent when necessary, and, when I speak up, I can do so without yelling or demeaning the person at which my words are directed.

I Corinthians 1:27: “but I discipline my body to make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Encouragement for Parents with Chronically Ill Children

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If there’s one “skill” I have honed having a chronically ill child, it’s patience. Patience, as many know, is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. My entire adult life, I’ve functioned in two speeds: fast and faster. I made quick decisions in everything; procrastination is not in my vocabulary. This can be an asset but, also a liability depending upon the situation. With a child who is perpetually ill, there is no such thing as “instantaneous”. There’s waiting on getting an appointment with specialists, waiting on meds to kick in, waiting on doctors to decide the next move, waiting in a lobby to be seen by doctors who are running behind (sometimes hours), and so on.

In this, I have learned (by force, in a manner of speaking) that patience is an invaluable asset in the Kingdom of God and, in turn, my life. Although, there are times when going fast can be good because we need to think on our feet, it can cause a stream of destruction by refusing to slow down long enough so as to properly evaluate the end result of our momentary actions. Patience comes from pause and pauses are very good. Pauses allow us to properly assess what is happening and what needs to occur next if, that is, we are wise enough to stop whining through the halt.

Impatience has proven itself deadly or, at the very least, tumultuous. Abraham birthed his own enemy through Ishmael. The prodigal son received his fortunes immediately but, then lost everything until he humbled himself. Judas received his fortune by selling out Jesus and his end was quite horrible. Eve’s impatience for more caused the death of mankind; on and on the stories go. The impatience of my youth caused me to marry a vile man; the repercussions took two decades to subside. On the flip side, Joseph, because of his intense patience, became ruler over all of Egypt, second only the Pharaoh. Patience, once Abraham surrendered to God’s timing, birthed many nations in his old age through Isaac.

 

My point is this: there is good in every obstacle if only we look to God. “There are no problems, only possibilities and opportunities”, I heard back in the 90’s from a wise man. I must admit, I initially thought the man was loony but, it began a new quest to look at things differently. Fast forward twenty-five or so years: I could easily murmur and complain about how difficult this all has been with Sophia or, I can choose to look to God so as to recognize good which has come about through the intense difficulties we have faced. Patience allows us or, rather, me, to see with Kingdom vision instead of the here-and-now.

I am forever changed for all this and I know, with great confidence, it will (in time) change Sophia for the better. There will be people with whom she can relate whereas someone else may not. This will cause her to be a game-changer in the lives of those who are otherwise hopeless and helpless. It will make her far more compassionate and relatable than someone who can only assume how they would feel or respond in a particular trial. Patience in allowing ourselves to endure something with grace and growth instead of attempting with futility to “get out of jail free quickly” develops endurance, perseverance and victory.

Watchman Nee (my favorite author and man of God) said (and I paraphrase) God’s people try too hard to pray themselves out of tribulation when, all the while, God is purposing to train us through it. Getting out to quickly actually hurts us because we soon will have to start over in another trial so we may eventually learn what we need. God’s will is not necessarily to experience “healing” (in whatever capacity) instantly because we will miss its purpose. In this thinking, my friend was correct: There are no problems, only opportunities and possibilities. Are you looking for your possibility and opportunity?

When All My Strength Has Failed

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Chapter Thirteen: Igniting God’s Completed Work

Faith, faith, faith and more faith is the key to unlock the Kingdom of God and His power therein. When I read Hebrews 11 in its entirety, I stand amazed; first at God, and, secondly, at the people who withstood things most of us can’t fathom in their wildest nightmares. What these folks endured is nothing short of a miracle because they didn’t buckle, not even in the face of death. The chronicle of these mighty people of God reminds me of Matthew 10:28 which instructs, “do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

In this world and, more specifically, in the Church, people are far more concerned with what people think of them than being obedient to the Word of God (the expression of His power). Forget being concerned with being hung, beaten, burned or tortured in some capacity since we can’t get past being afraid of someone rejecting us. This is a sad fact but, looking around the churches, it’s evident. We are far more concerned with the opinion of our fellow man than following Christ outside the city walls no matter the repercussions.

How can we possibly walk an authentic life of faith if we can’t get past worrying about what someone thinks of us be it family, friends, co-workers, fellow church members, or whomever? This behavior does not and cannot please Yahweh. Having good intentions without faith cannot please Him; consequently, we squelch His power within us. When we are not walking in faith, God cannot materialize His completed work and then we’re left wondering, “Where’s God? Why isn’t He helping me? Where is His power now?” To quote my friend, Rachelle Freeman Sanders, “Faith doesn’t move God; faith is your positive response to what God has already done by grace. ‘Won’t He do it?’ you ask. No, He’s already done it!”

When you get to the place where you genuinely desire experiencing His power moving in your life, start with faith. This isn’t to insult where you are with Christ; it is simply a fact which applies to everyone. This is for me and this is for you. Faith is where Holy Spirit power ignition begins and ends and it usually comes prior to falling in love with Him. Faith is the vehicle which delivers into your life that which God has already accomplished before the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:3). Everything past, present and future was perfected before the Earth was set in motion, we’re just watching it unfold over the centuries. How you operate in faith in the face of your most ferocious adversary will determine how far God can present and produce His completed work.

Faith is paramount to any Christ-follower. Faith is the ignition switch to God’s power and strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Without faith, how can one have joy in Him? If we only have information about God with which we desire to share with others yet have no joy, where is the supernatural strength required to be displayed in everyday life so as to draw others to Christ?

We who desire earnestly to follow Christ must understand, all that is to be done is already accomplished. There is nothing more for Christ to do on your behalf. Money problems? Already solved. Children problems? Already resolved. Spousal problems? Already finished. Do you see? God sees the end from the beginning because, in God’s timing, the ending has already been fulfilled.

If this were inaccurate, how could God have spoken of Jesus in the Old Testament? How could the prophecies yet to come have been written? It’s because it’s already finished. Furthermore, how could Christ say in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” The “what is to come” part reveals what already is but is yet to be. The truth is, according to the Spirit of God, all is already complete. We’re simply awaiting it’s unfolding.

***

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval…and what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:1-2, 32-40, (NAS)

“and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:2-3, NAS).”

Encouragement for Parents with Chronically Ill Children

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Joy is altogether possible in the face of sorrow. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” is seen in Nehemiah 8:10. These words came on the cusp of having fought tirelessly so as to rebuild the city wall. They toiled and, simultaneously, stayed prepared for battle. Exhaustion must have been merciless during that time. Nevertheless, they rejoiced recognizing that, literally, joy in the Lord was the strength that kept them going so as to succeed in their mission. Joy was their hope, their power in duress.

So it is with parents of chronically ill children, be it physical, mental, or emotional illness. Only in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ can anyone endure such a task as watching their children suffer, taking them here and there for treatment, trying new diets and/or medication, and so on. I cling to the words of Roman 15:13 which reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

I retain joy and hope in Christ in the inner most part of my being while, on the surface, I feel intense sorrow for my child’s anguish. Just as the torrents of rain, wind, and hail pound upon the surface of a well’s water, the deepest part of the well is unmoved by the turmoil. My spirit-man (the inner most part of me), which is one with Holy Spirit, is unmoved by the elements which cause temporary sadness.

Christ is my hope, both for my child’s wellbeing, mine and our family. For example, Sophia was doing well on the new meds until she contracted an infection. One round of antibiotics made it a bit better but was insufficient. Yesterday, we discovered she has an infection in her bones called orthomyelitis. She’s been in terrible pain with bizarre and never before experienced symptoms. She cries a lot. They’ve put her on a 21 day regimen of antibiotics and may possibly need IV antibiotics. These are the very meds which have caused severe and chronic stomach troubles. It feels as though we’re on a hamster wheel and can’t figure out how to exit.

Notwithstanding, what I feel is not aligned with the promises of God. I have living hope in my God, for He cares for her. I believe she is healed. I have faith, not in what my eyes see, but in who my God is. I cling to His promise that, what Satan means against her for evil, He will turn for her good because we love Him. Curses will turn into blessings. As I have stated in most all my blogs and books: God. Is. Faithful. Always. I refuse to lose faith or sight of the sovereignty of the Almighty. This is my power. This is my strength. This is my endurance to the end.

Encouragement for Parents with Chronically Ill Children

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In my 50 years of life, jealousy has never been something to which I have commonly subscribed. I’m always elated to witness success and assist others so as to catapult them into greatness. That being said, having a chronically ill child has, on more than one occasion, provoked a spirit of jealousy within me. I deal with it in the throne room of grace, to be sure, as soon as I feel it. Nevertheless, the pangs of such a vile emotion rear their ugly head when I least expect it. When I see all around me the kids of friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers who are perfectly healthy and thriving, as awful to admit as it is, I feel the sensation of jealousy. It is not for money or possessions, but for good health for my daughter. I weep for my sweet Sophia as I know others weep for their suffering children.

From family to family, it’s a sliding scale of illnesses and severity but, I assure you, pain is pain. I don’t have less sorrow for my child than a parent of a child with cancer or more sorrow than a parent with a kid with an infection which is taking longer to subside than average. Hands down, it is all horrible watching your child suffer while other children run, play, go to school and do the things healthy kids do. Sophia has begun a two month regimen of medication specifically for her issues. It’s been two weeks and we’ve seen some improvement. She’s been getting caught up in some school work and able to spend time with friends here and there. It has been encouraging to watch as slow progress is still progress.

Yesterday, just as Michael and I had embarked on a much needed date night, we had just sat down at the restaurant to order and the phone rings. Sophia called bawling her eyes out because, while at her friend’s house, she threw up repeatedly and was in a lot of stomach pain. What’s more, she was/is very frustrated she can’t seem to kick this and the correlating problems. This morning at church, a friend was excited to revel in our mutual friend’s daughter’s achievements where she had deservedly, once again, taken 1st place. Of course, I am thrilled for my friend’s daughter; in fact, she’s my best friend. Our daughters are only a year apart and we are each other’s daughter’s god-mothers.

I thought to myself how astonishingly disgusting it was that I would feel such pain and jealousy for one I love so dearly; its a bit of a paradox. Even as I type, I weep at the unbearable thought that I would have such emotions. It was all I could do not to cry the entire service knowing my baby was hurting and feeling the way I did. Notwithstanding, the fact remains, people in my shoes do feel surges of jealousy with the desire for our kids to be able to enjoy childhood/teenhood just like everyone else’s kids.

Just the other day, a friend wrote asking me to pray for peace for her because she was feeling jealousy for reasons I just described. She is a follower of Christ and knows God has a perfect plan for her child, yet struggles with such feelings. She mentioned that watching photo after photo of other kids doing so well and having such joy brought her more pain.

I responded like this (roughly): “My personal peace comes from reminding myself that, at the conclusion of this part of Sophia’s life, it will catapult her right into the perfect will of God. If I may be frank, you do not need prayer for peace, you need to believe God has a plan and that it is good; belief is where the peace lies. I don’t know what God has designed for your daughter’s life, but a part of that is not you feeling devastated as if there’s no hope. I say this to you as I must daily remind myself.” Knowing, believing, trusting and accepting God does have a plan is the key. This knowledge is how I am able to:  

  1. Call myself to accountability in my incorrect emotions
  2. Pull down (away from) my mind all thoughts not of God
  3. Pull those thoughts into the obedience of Christ until my obedience is made complete
  4. Refuse to allow my mind to continue a process of comparing Sophia’s life to anyone else’s
  5. Remind myself God is faithful, He has a plan, He is in love with her and He purposes the best for her
  6. Believe all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who walk according to the Spirit
  7. Trust God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength – regardless of what my eyes see or emotions feel
  8. Reestablish peace that passes all understanding

If I may help you in any way, please reach out to me on Facebook, email or in the comments section. If there’s help for me and my child, there’s equal hope, help and peace for you. Jealousy of others will only lead to further destruction, chaos and confusion, it is a murdering spirit. Just because we feel something in a moment of weakness does not mean we have to allow it to overtake us. Focusing on the love of God chases out feelings which are not of God. Blessings!

Proverbs 14:30: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

 

When All My Strength Has Failed

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Chapter 8, The Real Fight, part I

One of the greatest lessons I learned upon my return to Christ February 2000 was that my fight is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities and the evil in heavenly places. Wow, what a revelation for me! I no longer had to fight for what’s mine, no longer did I need to justify myself (past, present or future); no longer did I need to beg people to realize the life-altering transformation that was happening to me. There was no longer a need to defend my honor because the only honor worth defending was that of Jesus, the Christ. The only way to defend His name was to live righteously, holy, humbly, and with utter denial of self.

I now know that, if I have an enemy, it is not the person but the evil behind their actions. Knowing this basic truth of where my enemy actually lies (in the spirit-realm), I can rest knowing Christ is the only proper weapon of mass destruction. No more do I need to hate anyone, be bitter against an oppressor, be angry and vindictive against someone who has broken my heart, and so on. In fact, by identifying the real enemy, I have the utmost mercy for the offender. I can easily pray for those who curse me, bless those who hate me, and give to those who steal from me. No more do I weary myself over those whom I love that are walking in bondage in some form or fashion.

Once it really hit me and buried itself in my spirit that it is absolutely no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, it changed the entire paradigm of my existence and how I view everything, good and bad. All too often God’s people battle fellow man, for whatever myriad of reasons, and in the process they weaken themselves in all the wrong ways. They stress and strive in their natural man to convince people they need to repent when, unknowingly, they turn people away from that very Christ because of their level of stress, anxiety, nagging, control and manipulation. Love changes people. Rest and peace in the midst of any chaos is proof positive of Christ’s reality.

Fighting one another, constantly in battle with friends, family, co-workers, enemies, or whomever, is not the path to freedom – for you or for them. As we will discuss later, the work of God is complete through Jesus. Since Jesus’ completion of defeating Satan and death, we have no fight, only to surrender to the One who is already victorious. At the risk of oversimplifying, this is the honest truth. I’ve learned (and continue to learn) how to daily surrender people and situations. In so doing, I have rest even when I don’t like what I see or feel. I battle, but only through releasing the blood of Jesus in each and every climate I encounter.

For example, if I’m praying for an addict, I pray this way: “Father, in the name of Jesus, I stand in the gap for __________. I pray for Your blood to cover __________ from the top of his or her head to the soles of his or her feet. By Your power, I thank You that they are delivered from the hand of the enemy. Allow Your righteous right hand to cover them in their weakness. I thank You that Your hand is not so short it can’t reach where they are. By Jesus’ blood, I command the demonic spirits and the generational curse of addiction to be loosed from their assignment over __________.” This is releasing the blood of Jesus and casting your cares upon His shoulders. You cannot carry it.

In fact, because I have weakened myself unto death, I recognize a dead man cannot battle – he’s dead. If I’m dead (metaphorically speaking), Christ, who is my new life, causes me to be victorious even when I cannot see, taste, hear or feel it. It’s done. My warring is through the blood of Jesus, not the flesh; it is not of self-power but of Christ’s. My battling comes with ease in spirit, even when it isn’t necessarily easy for the outward man.

Learning how to battle the enemy through spiritual warfare versus fleshly warfare is a phenomenal element I was missing all my years growing up in a standard denominational church. First, one must begin with taking control of self and all the worldly thoughts that flood our minds day in and day out.

***

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12, NAS).”

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20, NAS).”

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12, NAS).”