A Powerful God in a Crazy Life

About a month ago, I stood with my feet sinking deep into the sand of the ocean. As far as my eyes could see there was water, which eventually met the sky. I remember feeling so small in comparison to the vastness of the ocean. I even talked to one of my friends about God’s size and how He is so infinite that I will never be able to understand His power.

img_0419I sat along the shore just watching the waves come in. I remembered Jesus calming the storm and the disciples taking a mental note that even the winds and waves obey Him. I remember confessing to the Lord that I am not as obedient as a wave. If God tells me to do something, I reluctantly do it after being told to do it. But watching the waves come in, I was reminded of my disobedience.

The ocean (and I would even say the mountains) has this ability to draw me out of my self-absorbed pit because when I’m there, I’m reminded of God and all that He’s capable of doing. But I don’t live next to an ocean. I can’t go see it everyday. I have a beautiful backyard, but there aren’t mountains or an ocean–just a barn and some trees.

When I got back from the ocean, the power of God seemed to disappear as we drove away from Florida. The closer we got to home, the pressure of getting everything done increased. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to go back to my self-absorbed pit.

I was greeted with the enormous pressure of grad school. My friends who read this know exactly what I’m going to say–it’s kicking my butt. From the very beginning of the class, I have felt like an elementary student taking a graduate level class in poetry, British poetry at that. Poetry is it’s own language, with its own terms, and I’m completely clueless. I’m convinced that it takes me double time what it takes everyone else because other than Dr. Suess or Shel Silverstein, I’m completely inexperienced. But it is hard and taking up pretty much all of my free time.

Then it’s summer time and I do multiple things with our church during the summer! I absolutely love it! The relationships we get to build with our students is probably one of my favorite things about the whole year! The depth of community that’s built in the summer and watching God work in the lives of our students is literally one of the greatest joys.

Oh and I bought a house in April, so I’ve been slowly updating and changing some things here and there. Nothing super major, but just things like putting cabinets back on, organizing things, or hanging some sweet patio lights.

But all of these things take time. And the lack of time with an increase of pressure, created a greater self-absorbed me and a powerful God being squished to fit into a small time-frame. In essence, I started seeing my circumstances and present situation as something that held more power than God.

DISCLAIMER: I know that sounds ridiculous. And if anything you should just stop reading this blog, because I’m telling you I have absolutely nothing to offer you. I literally just confessed to you that I saw the pressures of life greater than God.

And that’s true about what I felt, but completely not true about God. I was believing (and still struggle with this) a LIE. I literally saw my present stressors greater than God and I believed this lie.

The fact that I believed God was smaller than my present situation started eating at my soul. Things that are foundational to my faith, I started to question:

  • God, how can you be good?
  • God, how are you loving me? I can’t feel it. Show me your love for me. I literally cannot see it.
  • God, I don’t think you’re faithful. I don’t think you’re true to your word.

And let me be super honest with you, I came home from the beach, June 1 and as I’m writing this it’s June 25. So we are talking less than a month I went from being absolutely certain that God is good, God is loving, and God is faithful to God isn’t good, God isn’t loving, and God isn’t faithful.

What changed?

I can promise you it wasn’t God. Scripture promises us that God does not change. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” Even Malachi echoes this with “For I the Lord do not change.” It’s impossible for God to change.

What changed? ME!

Sitting at the ocean, I had all the time in the world to rejuvenate and rest in the power of God’s presence. Then when I came home, God’s presence was (and is) here, but the pressure of life caved in. I was still in the Word, but I was going to God with a very anxious heart and not leaving the pressures at His feet. I wasn’t allowing myself to find rest in God mainly because I thought I had the power over life.

I distinctly remember three occasions over the last month where I created space and clearly heard God’s voice. One occurred on my back patio, and the other two happened in the midst of my nightly quiet time. It never ceases to amaze me just how patient God is with me because even in my questioning of God, He still speaks.

How gracious is God for Him to speak to me?

I literally had just finished praying asking the Lord to reveal to me His goodness, His love, and His faithfulness to me. He quickly responded with His power, but that was exactly what I needed to hear! My daily quiet time was in Acts 12.

Again, remember I literally have nothing to offer you, but God’s Word is so amazing and full of Truth that this is what y’all need to listen to–not my words.

Just a little background on the passage: the church is brand spanking new, and it’s spreading like wild fire. But as the church is growing, persecution is also taking place. King Herod started going after believers. In fact, right before this passage he murders James and arrests Peter. But God’s work is not done–it’s simply beginning. Check this out from Acts 12:6-11:

Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Wow!! Not that the pressure of a busy schedule quite compares to Peter being bound in chains to two guards behind an iron gate, but being completely real and vulnerable…. I totally feel like this in life. It feels like the chains of life are just so much stronger. But there’s good news–God is our rescuer.

God is CLEARLY powerful and COMPLETELY in control.

It’s crazy to think that I had just seen God’s overwhelming power by watching the waves and the winds obey Him in Florida, but it’s hard to see God’s power back here at home. But then this passage came along, and God made His power quite possibly more known to me through this passage than at the ocean. Here’s what God showed me:

1. It doesn’t matter what you’re chained to.

Peter was chained to two men. The passage doesn’t say that they were giant, but I’m guessing they had to be pretty large. King Herod really wanted Peter gone because Peter sharing the gospel was a threat to King Herod’s kingdom, so it makes sense that he had the biggest men watching Peter. But even big men were not a problem for God. Verse 7 says, “And the chains fell off his hands.”

When I read this, I was awestruck. I’ve been feeling so weighed down with grad school and life, that I just came to accept the weight. But Christ wants us to give Him our burdens. Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-29 to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” When we actually allow God the time and space and we surrender any power we feel we have over our chains, God moves. He makes the chains fall, and we can finally see who holds the Power.

2. After the chains fall and you face an iron gate, God is still with you because He goes before you.

It’s so easy once our chains fall and we experience that freedom to completely freak out when we get to that closed door, but God is not at all surprised by that gate. We like to spend time analyzing how to open the gate and question how God could even open it, but we completely miss God’s power when we do that (this is me by the way!). God is at work. He knew the gate was going to be there for Peter; He knew the Red Sea was going to be there for the Israelites running out of Egypt; and He knows your personal gate before you get there. He’s God. It’s when the gate comes, we get to see God’s power when HE opens it.

Can you imagine this scene, the angel and Peter escaping 2 soldiers and now walk up to an iron gate and verse 10 says the gate “opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street.” That’s power. God is not just in control over the wind and the waves, but even the gates that are in our lives. God didn’t need Peter to sit and analyze how to open the gate, God just opened it. God is in control. Paul puts it this way, “he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” God has us. He is with us. When we can finally see that God goes before us and holding all things together, we are reminded of who holds the power–it’s not me and it’s not you; it’s God.

3. Seeing God’s power over the chains and the gates assures us of God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s faithfulness.

I don’t know about you, but like I mentioned earlier, all I ever do is question the chains or question the gate that are currently present in my life. I don’t understand why I’m being chained and that creates doubt of God’s character. But it’s in the deliverance from the chains that I see God’s power in a completely new light that causes me to walk in a more surrendered life. Being set free from my chains allows me to see God’s power in a new way that brings me life–it strengthens what I believe about God.

When I read Peter’s experience, I can’t help but hear his reaction to this great rescue: “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod.” Peter is set free and he vocalizes that He is reassured this is a work from the Lord and not just a vision. I’m not quite sure if Peter struggled to see God’s goodness, love, or faithfulness, but I am sure that Peter recognized God’s power.

So what happens when we recognize who holds the power?

Our chains and our gates may be a way for God to demonstrate His great power over our lives, which allows us to see God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness towards us in a much deeper way.

Now here’s the thing, I’m definitely not perfect at this. I still don’t understand just how God’s power works in my life, but what I do know is that when I prayed, “Lord, this life is too crazy right now–set me free,” God revealed to me His power. The Holy Spirit was telling me: Rachel, I see where you are. I see you working on grad school, I see you doing ministry, I see this house. I’m here with you and just like I set Peter free from the weight of the chains, I’m here setting you free. I’m here providing you rest. Come to me. Rest in the power of my hand.

Just to be clear, when God set me free, my circumstances didn’t change, but what changed was my perspective. Before reading this passage, I thought I held the power. I thought I was the one having to do this all by myself. I thought I was the one searching for a key, trying to get out of the gate.

But what I was set free from was a mindset of control. I don’t have control, God does.

So yes, life is still crazy and grad school is still hard.

But the chains of thinking I have to control it all has been released because I know God holds the power.


P.S. If you made it this far, congratulations! But I wanted to show you one more example of God’s power. It’s simply the ending to the story with King Herod. See King Herod wanted people to look at him as a god, and Acts 12:23 says, “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” If that’s not a demonstration of power, I’m not sure what is.

God is simply using His Word to tell me to breathe because He’s all-powerful and can get someone eaten by worms.

Doesn’t Matter the Cost

I have this really great co-worker–who I’m thankful is now my friend–Carrie. She is my go to person when I’m out shopping. I need her approval for basically every new thing I buy. But even if I’m a little bit nervous about a new outfit combination, she’s the person I text. She’s also hilarious! I’m not sure if it’s just her laughing at herself that makes it fun, but I know when I’m around her, I can always count on laughing! Then she has this thing where she places THE before a place; for example if she needs to go by Walmart and pick up groceries, she says, “I’m going to THE Walmart.” But here within the last year, she has developed a passion–quite possibly an obsession–with Rae Dunn.

I didn’t really know anything about this obsession until December. A random day after school, Carrie, our friend Jill, and myself all ended up going to THE TJ Maxx to find this Rae Dunn. Now remember this is the first time I’m hearing about Rae Dunn, and if this is your first time hearing about Rae Dunn let me just pause and catch you up to speed. Rae Dunn is this adorable pottery (now she’s making glassware as well), but it’s super cute! There’s all different styles and I could go on to describe them, but Pinterest will do better justice than I ever could. Each piece is super rare though, and of course the pieces you really want are always the hardest to find.

So we are at THE TJ Maxx looking for these hard to find, rare pieces of pottery. We go up and down the aisles, picking up plates, mugs, canisters, etc. just to see if it’s the right thing. We are looking in all the different aisles because apparently other Rae Dunn shoppers will leave their findings in other places throughout the store to hide it. While there, we find different pieces that are exactly what Carrie is looking for! Then right when I think we’ve found all the possibilities, Carrie walks over to this rack with random things on it that’s full of boxes. And she finds her TREASURE. In that moment, she radiates with excitement and wants every bit of Rae Dunn that is already in her cart as well as every piece on this rack. She made the statement, “I want it all!! It doesn’t matter the cost, I love it so much; I just want it all!”

Little did she know, this moment would speak profoundly into my heart.


See, there are times in life where God just puts us in these seasons of waiting. We don’t know why it’s occurring or what the purpose of the waiting will be, but we are called to wait. I would definitely say that I’m in this waiting. And it’s easy for me in this season of waiting to be child-like in the sense of questioning my Parental figure’s choices. Can anyone else identify with this (please don’t let me be alone)?

I’m not a parent yet, but as a teacher, I know I will tell my students to wait simply because I need to teach them something first. I’m not saying no to their request, but rather telling them to wait. And I cannot tell you how often I hear these questions or statements of “Ms. Clark, why are you making me wait?” Or “Ms. Clark doesn’t love me anymore; she won’t let me…” I can only imagine kids do this same thing to their parents. Kids question the decisions parents communicate; they just don’t understand why something is happening that way. It’s in these moments, love is hard to see. Mainly because it feels like there is no love–we aren’t getting what we want or we aren’t getting an answer.

This is so me. In my season of waiting, it’s easy for me to turn into one of my students, or maybe one of your kids. I say things like “God, why are you making me wait?” or “God just doesn’t love me anymore because He’s making me wait.” I’ve asked God several times why I’m waiting and God responds gently and patiently to my questions. But then when I begin to question God’s love for me, He brings me back to this simple truth: I love you.

That day I went shopping with Carrie I was in a doubtful mindset, but God used her love and obsession for Rae Dunn to speak this simple truth into my life right in the midst of THE TJ Maxx. When Carrie said, “I want it all!! It doesn’t matter the cost, I love it so much; I just want it all!” It hit me hard. Everything that Carrie is doing to find Rae Dunn is exactly what God is doing to me and YOU!

Carrie lives about a thirty minute drive from THE TJ Maxx, yet it’s worth the cost of driving to even see if anything is there. She may not find anything at all, but it’s worth the drive.

God was completely separated by man’s sinfulness, yet Jesus made the distance to come save us.

Carrie wants every last bit of Rae Dunn because she absolutely loves it and has to have it.

God wants every last bit of us because He love us! He doesn’t just want some of us, He wants every piece of us.

Carrie is willing to pay any cost in order to have Rae Dunn. She sees value in it because she loves it so much. She sees the unique blemishes each piece of pottery has and says it’s valuable because it’s all different. She loves this stuff!

God paid the ultimate cost by sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sin. God sees great value in each of us because of His love. He looks at each of us even in our sinfulness and says the payment of death is worth the cost because of my love for you!! He loves us so much!

Carrie chases this stuff down. The Rae Dunn doesn’t even know she’s coming for it, and then she just shows up. On the shelf it’s just Rae Dunn, but when she takes it home and puts it all together, it’s this gorgeous collection of imperfect pieces but together it literally has purpose.

God literally chases us down. We often don’t even know God is coming for us, and then God shows up–claiming us as His Own. By ourselves we are just like Rae Dunn sitting on a shelf, purposeless unless there’s payment for us to have purpose. God takes us into His dwelling place and gives us purpose and when combined with other believers, there’s great beauty in the collective body.

One shopping trip with Carrie, and God revitalized my heart. No longer did I doubt God’s love for me or question His Parental choice of placing me in this season of waiting because what Carrie is doing to have Rae Dunn, God did so much more to have me. He loves me so much it’s undeniable, and His love is completely obvious–it’s not hidden. God looked at me and He looks at you and it doesn’t matter the cost--He loves me and you and will do anything to have us!

Where are you right now with God’s love?

Do you see yourself as a piece of Rae Dunn pottery sitting on a shelf purposeless? Are you waiting for the purpose? If this is you, let me just encourage you that the payment has already been paid. God saw your blemishes and imperfections and said, “I want you. I will pay for you. I will give your purpose.” So He sent Jesus to be the payment for us. Paul, the author of Romans, says it like this:

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

Christ made the one and only payment so we could be with God. There’s nothing left to do because Christ did it all on the cross. God chases us down because He loves us so much. He paid our payment in order to give us life.

But you can choose to accept that payment or you can choose to reject that payment. It’s up to you. God doesn’t force anyone to love Him back that why we have this choice.

Or maybe you’re reading this going, “I’m in a waiting season too!” Can I please encourage you to keep waiting? God is in the process of working it all out. I know that because He’s completely perfect. It may not make sense, but God has this. Continue to wait. Earnestly seek after Him–not the things He gives, but HIM. He won’t leave you empty.

One of my favorite verses right now comes from the Pslams. See in this particular Pslam, David is rejoicing after waiting for a long time. God told David he would be king one day, but there was a king already in place when God gave David this promise. So David waited while God worked and eventually David was pronounced King after being delivered from his enemies. Look at what David says:

This God-his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. – Psalm 18:30

Keep going. Keep waiting. God’s love for you is real and when you forget His love, think about ALL He’s already done for you. You won’t be disappointed, but you will be rejuvenated–maybe in the middle of some store while your shopping.

Wherever you are, remember God paid for you.

God gave himself up for you.

That is love.

Rest in His love for you.

CSB Study Bible for Women

Hey Y’all!

It’s been awhile since I have had a chance to bring you some new posts and I’m so sorry about that! The last couple of months got really slammed between grad school, finishing out the school year, student ministry, and sleeping! 🙂 Although I started two new grad classes, I already have some future blog posts ready for you this summer! Starting with this awesome new resource the CSB Study Bible for Women.

A couple of months ago, I shared with you the She Reads Truth Bible and the CSB Study Bible for Women is equally awesome. I think you will find all the features in the CSB Study Bible to be super helpful. I cannot stress enough how beneficial it is to have different resources available to you as you get into God’s Word. We are so fortunate here in America with so many tools to study with that people around the world would love to have! If you haven’t found your perfect resource to help you study, keep looking, but finding a study bible is a great place to start! So let me show you a little bit about the CSB Study Bible for Women.

The Basics

 

The Bible is a hardcover with Smyth-sewn binding. The colors you see in the pictures are not filtered, so that’s really the color of the Bible. When you open up the Bible, you will see two-column text, size eight font. This is pretty normal as far as font size goes, but if you typically read with large print, this may be straining on the eyes. In a few of the other pictures, you will notice the it’s in full color. I personally love to write all over my Bible with the Sharpie Fine Point Pen, and these pages are pretty thin. Using that pen, it would show through onto the next page. The pages wouldn’t bleed through, but it would definitely be visible onto the opposite side of the writing.

At the Front

 

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The front of this Bible is literally so adorable. It provides a way to document family trees, an explanation of the Jewish Marriage Contract (so stinking cute!) and it gives an opportunity to write our your vows with your spouse, a place to write out family milestones, and a place for you to remember your Spiritual Mothers. I love this little section! I’ve heard about old family Bibles where they would have the family trees and that kind of thing, but I haven’t ever seen something like this! It’s such a neat gift to be able to document all these family elements and then pass this Bible along to a daughter or granddaughter some day!

From there, the Bible goes into the Table of Contents as well as a How to Study the Bible and an explanation of the Gospel. Both of these are very great tools for any reader to be reminded of or to aid in studying God’s Word.

Book Introduction

 

At the beginning of every book of the Bible, it has an introduction to the book. It gives a brief run down of the who, what, when, where, and why as well as a little outline to help organize the information you’re about to read about. I also love how cute the flowers are with the scripted font of the book name. Each introduction provides a timeline as well to help keep things straight as you read through the content. It’s just a simple visual that adds so much to understanding Scripture.

Brief Commentary and Word Study

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One of the best things about a study Bible are the commentaries! This particular Bible has some really great insight that helps provide historical or cultural context that is necessary to best comprehend the content. It also gives different Word Studies–with a complete list of all the word studies in the back of the Bible.

Additional Features

 

There are so many other neat features that are unique to this study Bible including character studies, doctrine, hard questions, full color maps, and application of the heart.

Your Turn

If you haven’t ever had a study Bible, take this opportunity to enter the giveaway for a chance to win! But if you’re interest as well there’s a link for you to shop for your own! If you want any other information check out the YouTube video to give you a little more information on the CSB translation!

Buy HERE!

Click Here to Enter the Giveaway

 

Again, stay tuned in because there are some New Posts coming soon!