The Lord Himself will Fight for you; Just Stay Calm!

 

The art of stillness is not something I have to exhibit often. There’s just too much noise, far too many things going on. My natural ability to be calm has been at times severely impaired by my reality. The thought of laying down to rest and being still makes me laugh because it is something I cannot ever fully achieve, even when my health has plummeted. During those times the doctor has, a couple of times, seriously and firmly recommended I go home and rest in bed, as if that has ever been a realistic possibility in the last 8 years – five children live here!

However, I have come to learn that stillness has far less to do with my ability to rest when I am sick, or even my capacity to remain calm during that awful stint of madness at the end of the day that precedes bedtime, than with my ability to remain open and keep my eyes on Jesus. I feel challenged by God about what it actually means to be still and trust him.

I don’t regularly share this, I don’t hide it either but, I suffer from anxiety. This year I have suffered from a number of significant bouts that have threatened my peace and even impaired my ability to function. I feel even more aware that I have stepped out of my comfort zone more and more in spite of the very real war waged inside of my mind and body.

Exodus 14 is a story we all know: when God parted the Red Sea and saved the Israelites from certain death, Moses said, “The Lord himself will fight for you, just stay calm. Now who doesn’t know that whenever anyone is told to stay calm that usually the opposite occurs? (And for good reason too).

As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” Exodus 14:10-12

I can totally relate to the Israelites who panicked when they looked up and saw chariots of Egyptians. Anxiety has often and at times felt like that for me. Like I am overtaken and there is no way out, or up from under it, but the truth is, just like the Israelites, I can react and get angry. I can stomp around and demand to know why, why me? Why can’t life be safe and cosy all the time, Why can’t I stay within my comfort zone? Or I can trust that God, who does not want for me to be a slave, will provide a way out. And provide a way out he does. It doesn’t mean I am void of all natural human reaction to the events in my life; I am the last person to minimise the harsh realities of suffering from anxiety but, my God who is patient and loving, always leads me out of it.

In Exodus 14:15, God said to Moses “why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!”. This highlights something so fundamentally true for me. Oftentimes we can stop still in our tracks, paralyzed by fear, stuck in the situation. And whilst I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t cry out to God, sometimes we have to speak to ourselves to keep ourselves alive, keep ourselves moving, keep trusting and bringing every thought captive under the obedience of Christ as in 2 Corinthians 10:5. What Moses did for the Israelites was raise his hand and staff and the waters parted, thus providing a way out. Of course, we know that the end was just as God had said: he led the Israelites out the other side and abolished the Egyptians.

The Israelites had a choice, they could stay and die or go out the way provided.

Even when we can’t see, feel or understand, God is fighting for us. Romans 8:34 says Jesus himself sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. It’s not enough he went to the cross for us, no, his care for his children didn’t end there. He’s not up in heaven kicking back until he returns.

In the same way, God’s care and concern was for the Israelites. He used the Egyptians and Pharoah as a display of his glory (Exodus 14:17-18). There is always a purpose. God is always giving us a reason to strengthen our faith. How many of us have stories with unlikely outcomes? I know I sure have. Except for the very real power of Jesus Christ, I might not have walked out of addiction. I might not have overcome depression. I might not have had the courage to live through my life up until now. I might not have the courage to live without shame. I may never have stepped foot in church again, at all. The ways provided out were not always pretty, but they have lead me continually to the cross. Like the Israelites my unlikely story is continually unfolding and I will use my testimony to lead others to the truth of Jesus.

Living with anxiety has been debilitating at times but it has taught me to appreciate those times of calm. Instead of paying attention to the storm by being still eventually I can relax in the Lord. After all, He is in control. I remember the times that he has helped me, other believers, and people in scripture. And I stand on the promise that he will never leave me or forsake me.

 

Tenille McNamara

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Bring Hope

I know you are all aware, each and every day our screens are awash with ghastly images; we are assaulted frequently by what’s going on in our world. Whether it’s war in the Middle East, that another boatload of people have washed up on the shores somewhere in the world as they try to escape the terror they live out every single day, or, another woman who has lost her life to domestic violence. It doesn’t matter what it is, if you look, you can catch a glimpse of the happenings around the globe we occupy. I also understand how quickly we can switch off. We can literally switch our TVs off, open another social media page and very quickly become enveloped in what’s happening on the red carpet, as another celebrity makes another controversial headline. I’ve been there; I have been so mortified and overwhelmed, that I can’t think of anything I could do that would literally change the lives of those afflicted right now.

I have had these two words rolling around in my thoughts for sometimes before now.

Bring Hope.

This week (it’s only Tuesday as I write this), I rocked up to school pick-up. By chance, or, as is more likely, by divine appointment, I happened to notice a friend who I rarely get to see, walking down to the school. What was she doing there, I thought to myself. I grabbed her attention, we hugged and I was so glad to see my beautful friend. Naturally, I enquired as to what brought her there. She went on to explain she was picking up her sister’s children .

You see, her sister had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. We walked at a slow pace as she explained and I listened. On the inside, my thoughts were screaming, “Lord, where is hope in this situation?”. I fought back the tears. One of her children is the same age as my Abbie, so I was feeling all the feels. A woman I have never met: a mother, those kids, this sister standing before me, the enormity of the situation. How proud I was to see her rise up and stand at a post for those children and her sister, for every person affected by this situation.

Psalm 25:16-18 says, “turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. My problems go from bad to worse. Oh, save me from them all! Feel my pain and see my trouble.”

So how can we bring hope? How can I being hope?

By being just like my friend. To become a soldier and fight like a warrior, whether you enlist yourself or whether you are drafted to fight in the battles you face, or on behalf others.

I am a bit of a history nerd, so I have read many books on the wars that have been fought in the last 100 or so years. Whilst each soldier might have a different assignment or role within a unit, their core values must remain the same. The army expects each of its soldiers to exhibit the following: loyalty, duty, respect, personal courage, selfless service, integrity and honor.

The assignment you’ve been given might not be glamorous; they’re usually not, in my experience. Take it up anyway.

The Greek word ‘Ethos’ is used to describe the fundamental character or spirit of a culture. ‘Warrior’ is not a word we often associate with our saviour, but I cannot think of a more fitting example of the character and warrior spirit I would like to adopt, than Jesus himself. In Luke 4, he was led out into the desert, where he was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights. That wasn’t all he had to deal with in life. He experienced loss, in his humanity he wept for Lazarus in John 11:35. He was beaten and mocked and tortured before he hung upon the cross. He absolutely, relentlessly completed the task our Father in heaven bestowed upon him. Still though, he took up his post on earth, assembled his unit and deployed them. In doing so, he has called each and every single one of us.

The Merriam Webster definition for the word warrior is a man (or woman) engaged or experienced in warfare. God knew we would be called to battle, so he’s given us tools to fight with (Ephesians 6:10-18). He knows and understands that we suffer, but he knows that we as warriors will grow to rejoice in our suffering (maybe in hindsight), for when we endure things we produce character and God says character produces hope (Romans 5:3-5). We are to have hearts filled with compassion. We are to act with kindness and remain humble. We are to be loving and peaceful (Colossians 3:12-15); 1 Timothy 6:11 says we must pursue righteousness and essentially hold fast to our post. Hold on.

I am not making light of the struggles involved in doing these things; I know some days are really hard.

Profoundly, yet so simply, I had another revelation that whilst I stood there; feeling as helpless as I do about the crisis in Syria; I do have hope. I carry it with me every single day (2 Corinthians 4:7 – we carry this treasure in jars of clay). I didn’t scream it from the hills, though I would like to. By being present, by listening, I was bringing hope into the situation. The spirit of God was present in me. Did I get an opportunity to talk about Jesus? Not this time, no. I hope that this person will see Jesus and not me but, that day and at that time, I stood alongside another soldier, a warrior. I hope that my prayers strengthen her as she stands through this battle.

We don’t always get to choose the battles we face. But to every person fighting a battle, both seen and unseen, I say this.. Being a soldier is a position, but being a warrior is an attitude. You enlist in the fight usually when it hits close to home. So rise up and fight with your warrior spirit. Don’t be taken down by mere circumstances. Do you feel helpless? Start somewhere, volunteer, start a group, pick up the phone and make a call. Soldiers don’t begin as warriors but they can finish as one.

By Tenille

From the Pit

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.”
Psalm 40:1-3

A while ago I shared a God Story in one of our Sunday services, a snippet of the works of God in my life: how God has taken myself and my family from a complicated and unpleasant living situation to a much better one. Truthfully, there is so much more to the story. It was one of those “when it rains it pours” type scenarios. Throughout this time, I have really had to learn that waiting, exercising patience, is a verb. It’s not something you do passively all the time. As the psalmist says, “I waited patiently for God,” but, like him, I still cried, at times literally. I think the relentless crying out is what gets God’s attention. Any parents out there know there is only so much crying out a parent can bear before they act on their child’s behalf. Perhaps it’s not all about the getting what we want, or even need, as much as these experiences shape who we really are.

Not so many months ago, four to be precise, we found ourselves moving into what we thought was to be a very good home. It didn’t turn out that way, sadly. One thing about this house was that its foundations were bad. Regardless of everything else that was the matter, this particular experience seriously challeged my own foundations. As a result, I have thought and prayed long and hard about faith.

Nothing says, ‘draw near to’ or ‘lean on God’ like hard times, right? Well, not always. Life is about choices and it really can go either way. Now, I am not saying that’s how I was heading. To be honest, I am beginning to feel like I am majoring in difficult life situations, one after another. Faith is now my go-to; it’s my only life boat; it’s all that I have. Even with faith as my faithful go-to, I couldn’t seem to activate my go-go-gadget faith arms and get anything flowing. During this period, my frustration was beginning to grow very wild. We had a green light to leave this hideous house as soon as we could and yet, for the first time in our lives, finding another property was hard. At times it felt impossible. We’ve never before had to look for seven days, let alone seven of the longest weeks of my life!

Luckily for me, I have a friend named Jen. She is a storyteller and is often on the hunt for stories just like mine. She messaged me one morning and asked if I had or if I knew of any God Stories. Because I am hilarious, I half jokingly said “if we get this house we are applying for today, I will stand up and be your God story Sunday”. Well, who knew that was all that it would take to get my prayers answered and we would be approved that very day. Note to self for future reference! Funnily enough, it just so happened that I had listed Jen as a character reference for the real estate agent as well!

For my faith to be activated, I had to activate my faith, myself. I had to be willing to step out of myself: and step out I did. At that moment, just like the psalmist, my feet were totally steadied and not only was my burden lifted, I felt like I had a new song and that it would be completely true, that many would see what he has done and be amazed. I don’t know that anyone was that amazed but it is amazing and I am amazed all the time at the faithfulness of God in my life.

If you read Psalm 40 in its entirety, you will notice two parts. The first is David praising our God for pulling him out of the pit. Like every good rescue story, he went on to live hsppily ever after… not. David found himself in another pit, only this time he was strengthened by the truth he acquired in the first pit. His response is probably how we all should respond: remembering God is our helper and our saviour, as proclaimed in verse 17.

So now I know that I’m not just becoming skilled at dealing with difficult situations; God is building my faith. He’s allowed me to be wiped off my feet at times so I can find him on my knees. While I’m walking around flapping like a duck, God is using my last test to prepare me for the next one. I look forward, strangely, to the next one.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
James 1:2-4

– Tenille McNamara

The Kindness Counter-Culture

I had planned to write about another topic this week, but the thought of kindness has not stopped running around in my head. Since the US Presidential election result, it has prompted me to stop and think about a way … Continue reading

A God Story: Vickie’s Answered Prayer

This particular God Story took place in China, where I was in 2012. To set the scene for you, I lived on the fifth floor in an apartment building, in which I was the only foreigner and my spoken Chinese was minimal. The weather at the time had a high moisture level, causing a lot of condensation inside and outside.

On the day in question, I arrived home during the late afternoon. Thankfully, I decided not to get any cooking underway, sat my phone on the coffee table, turned the T.V. on, then went out onto the small balcony to get in my washing.

I opened one side of the double sliding doors, went to close the gap between the open door a little, just enough to have a smaller gap, but my hand slid along the wet glass. The door just slid along the track and closed, locking in…

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Rest Assured

How often have you heard someone say “I thought you were a Christian!” when you said or did something that didn’t line up with their idea of Christianity? Our own, and other people’s expectations of ourselves can be unachievably high and our constant inability to meet these expectations can cause us to believe we’re “not up to scratch” or even unloveable. This can make us doubt our ‘saved’ status.

I grew up in a religious cult, which taught that we had to act, dress, think, and speak a certain way. If we failed to meet those standards, we would be “cast out into the outer darkness,” where it was implied that there was no hope of redemption. The assertion that we are saved through our works, deeds, or associations is a common misconception throughout many religious communities. Have you been sold this pup too? Well, let’s look at what the Bible, the inspired Word of God, says about it.

Firstly, Jesus died for ALL of our sins (Colossians 2:13-15), and once forgiven, God FORGETS THEM (Isiah 43:25)! Whether our most major sin is thinking badly about someone, telling a lie, murdering someone, there is no sin that Jesus couldn’t and didn’t cover when he died and rose again for our sins. The only unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:32; Mark 3:28-29)

Secondly, Christian salvation is our individual responsibility. We are not saved because we (or our family) identify with, belong to, or attend a certain church. We are saved through individually repenting our sins, and accepting Jesus into our lives. Jesus is quite clear about this. He said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Thirdly, we all receive the same salvation, whether you have been righteous all your life, or repent and accept Jesus at the end of your life. God’s grace, shown to us through Jesus, covers our sins no matter how good or bad we have been. Romans 5:20 says “…where sin increased, grace increased all the more”.

Having said that, your life will be a lot more peaceful and purposeful if you accept Jesus now, and allow Him to lead you through the rest of your life.
Please don’t doubt your salvation or God’s enduring love the next time you sin, even if others have witnessed it. The Bible says in Romans 10:9 ‘That if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ It’s just so simple, yet we try to make it so complicated.
Be blessed.

– Lorraine Morgan

Cultivate Thankfulness

Let’s be honest, thankfulness is not an easy first response in most situations. For the most part, in my life, I haven’t been at all thankful for what has been the reality of life. That was, until Jesus really took a hold of my life.

I feel like my children are a constant lesson to learn what thankfulness truly is; as I watch them grow, I realise things like: thankfulness isn’t just for when we get what we want; thankfulness is the ability to think above a situation that might not be great, but be willing to see the silver linings and lessons along the way. As my children have been learning, it’s being grateful you have dinner every single night, even when what’s on the menu isn’t your all time favourite. How loudly my parents echo from within me, with the very arguments they used to justify thankfulness. I am hoping the battle to teach them to be grateful will eventually pay off. Maybe when they have their own children, they will see the merit!

I guess I see clearly more clearly now than ever, that thankfulness is a choice. It stands alongside words such as gratefulness and love. Thankfulness is a reflection of our attitude and we can either form good attitudes through thankfulness, allowing God’s word and reason to strengthen, discipline and grow us, or we can be ungrateful and behave like we’ve sat on the cactus we’ve been handed.

Through the Bible, God has given us a wealth of stories about those afflicted for the cause of Christ. We can see women and men oppressed, imprisoned and beaten. They’d been given vision and reason to hope, but they had to go through some very real stuff to get there.

As I follow the Apostle Paul through the New Testament, I can’t help but stop and reflect on how many times he uses the word “thankful”. He is a real model for the gratitude attitude. What I notice, even in the midst of great adversity, there is no one more thankful than him. He sets the tone in each of his letters by expressing how very thankful and grateful he is for the work of Christ and how undeserving he is.

Paul opens his letters to the Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, both the Thessalonians, 2 Timothy and Philemon by thanking God for them and for their faith and mutual love in almost the same words! Throughout those letters, regardless of whatever else he has to say, thankfulness is something he has the time for. For Paul, to thank God is to praise Him, and to praise God is to thank Him. When we reflect on the two, we easily see how interconnected they are. In Psalm 100:4 it says “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Thankfulness grows love. Colossians 3:14 encourages us that “regardless of whatever else you put on, wear love”. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul writes “We feel we must be continually thanking God for you; quite rightly, because your faith is growing so wonderfully and the love that you have for one another never stops increasing…”. When we start to give thanks, we begin to see the good in any situation. Thankfulness has grown love in me; I have evidence that in my life, being thankful has helped me to love myself and turn my love to God and be THANKFUL that everything that has been is exactly what should have been.

Thankfulness has given me reason to let go and put behind me and forgive. It didn’t happen overnight though; I have been on this journey for a very long time. I am now thankful for my journey, because it has taught me what thankfulness is.

My thankfulness has turned to praise, like Paul and Silas in the prison. If they weren’t thankful in their hearts, they wouldn’t have had the ability to praise God and their chains would not have fallen off. In Acts 16:29-31, after their chains had really fallen off, the prison guard asked, “what do I have to do to really live?” Thanksgiving and praise change lives; Jesus himself set the precedent in Luke 22:19, when he took the bread and gave thanks for it. He thanked our Father in Heaven and had complete trust in what was to come for him.

It’s easy to get caught up in our very real feelings, but let’s not forget to give thanks to the one who knows exactly what He is doing. I am so thankful that at 31, I can say my Father in Heaven has answered pretty much all my prayers. Often I think of how grateful I am for what my life has been thus far. It’s a pretty big change for me. It hasn’t all been nice and I definitely couldn’t have imagined it, but without it, I wouldn’t know the real power of Jesus, the power that has been shaping my life since I was a little girl, the real relationship that God has pursued with me. I completely identify with Paul when he says “I am SO thankful”! I can understand why that gratitude overflows from him, because the God who did a work in Paul is the very same God who is cultivating our lives. We are His workmanship; let’s be thankful and praise him.

– Tenille McNamara