When Desperation Takes Over

January 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

If you’ve ever been to Southern California late-summer, you understand the meaning of hot. We lived on the edge of the Mojave Desert where rain evaded us and temperatures often hovered in the 110’s or higher. Being young and stupid, one day I decided to go for a long run—without water. About halfway through and perhaps six miles in, my body started to get chills and my dehydrated tongue clogged my mouth. Dried sweat caked salt around my lips. I needed water. Nearing a very long hill, my survival instinct kicked in, over-powering fatigue. Suddenly, I pumped my arms and legs—I couldn’t get to water fast enough.

In that moment, I understood Psalm 42 in an entirely new way.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

David doesn’t say these words casually, but instead, cries out in desperation. If you read the rest of the passage, you’ll feel the intensity of his emotions. Discouraged and alone, abandoned and betrayed by those he loves, he calls out to God, “Help me! Hold me! Be near me because I can’t go on without You!”

Have you been there? Maybe you lost someone you love, or perhaps the stress of life weighs heavy on your shoulders, bowing your back and making it difficult to see the road ahead.

In those moments, our survival instinct takes over, driving us to the only One who can save us. And when we, like David, cry out from the deepest recesses of our heart, “I need You, God!” God replies:

But now, this is what the LORD says—
He who created you, Jacob,
He who formed you, Israel:
‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cushand Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made’” (Isaiah 43:1-5a NIV).

God says:

I made you.

I see you.

I love you.

You are precious in My sight.

I will help you, so take courage and be not afraid. My arm is mighty to save and I will carry you through the most tumultuous of storms, because you are Mine and I will never, ever let you go.

Are You Ready to Fly?

November 13, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

When my daughter was young she and I spent hours at the park, running through the grass in search of “blow flowers.” At first, she was drawn to the dandelions, but after picking a few, she tired of their stately petals. Seeded dandelions, on the other hand, offered hours of entertainment.  Smiling at me, she’d bring the soft tufts to her lips, laughing as they tickled her nose, before letting loose with a chest-caving blow. Then, she’d hurl the stem behind her and chase after the seeds with squeals and giggles.

Often as I sit in God’s presence, I’m reminded of those days and those carefree seeds drifting on the wind. How I long to be like those weightless tufts, so in-tune to my Heavenly Father that I drift effortlessly on His will. Many times I’ve repeated the words Jesus spoke in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

But all too often I resemble the bright, cheery dandelion that stands tall on its stalk, roots clinging to the soil. “Look at me!” it calls, as it sways in the breeze. It’s proud of its beauty and strength, but the dandelion must die in order for its seeds to take flight. The petals, which once clung securely to the stalk need to let go, allowing the steady flow of the wind to carry them where so ever it will.

The same is true of us. In order to fly, we must first die. To our dreams, our ambitions, our will. But like that carefree seedling drifting on the wind; that is where we find abundant life.

We know this intellectually, so why do we cling so tightly to the stalk, begging God to do things our way and in our timing?

Perhaps because we don’t truly understand the love of God. He who emptied Himself for us, He who allowed men to stretch His arms upon the cross, He who created our inmost being and numbers the hairs on our head says, “Let go. Let me carry you like that weightless seed drifting on the wind.”

But He won’t rip us from the soil. To be carried, we must first let go.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 NIV).

Dominated

October 4, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

Some days I feel like I’m tottering on a fraying rope being pulled in two directions. It’s an emotional tug-of-war and only I can determine the winner. Will I give in to my sinful nature that seeks comfort, pleasure, self-gratification, and the path of least resistance or will I lay it all on the alter in continual surrender.

According to Romans 8:5-8 (NIV), there’s no middle ground. Either I’m sold out 100% for Christ, offering my body as a living sacrifice, or I’m living to please myself.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.  For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. 

If I’m not controlled by the Spirit, I’m dominated by my sinful nature and although this sinful nature may appear pleasurable at first, it leads to death—death of relationships, death of ministries, death of marriages. The moment I give into my sinful nature, I wage war on the things of God.

My sinful nature leads to spiritual slavery, deception, and self-destruction, whereas surrender leads to freedom. So why would I ever choose my will over God’s? Perhaps because I deceive myself into believing I can’t do better. Do I not understand the power of Him who lives within me? When Christ died on the cross, He broke the power of sin. When I accepted Him into my life, He came to live inside me. This means I have the strength and power of the victorious, risen Savior living within. Sin—selfishness, greed, irritability, judgmental attitudes, fear, anxiety—has no power over me, unless I allow it to.

Each day I have a choice. Will I allow sin to dominate my thinking or will I surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit. And each day, I will reap the consequences of my choice.

Learning to Trust

August 24, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

Must we always dredge through the depths before reaching the summit? Think back over your faith walk. When have you felt closest to God? When have you been most assured of His power? When traipsing along a sun-lit journey or plummeting into His strong hands?

I believe faith comes not from an abundance of blessings, but instead, from deep needs met by Provider God.  Although I often wish I could skirt through life with impenetrable faith, surrounded by all I need and desire, it is through times of trial and times of want that I have learned most to lean on God. Sadly, it is often through times of difficulty that my lack of faith is most clearly revealed. But perhaps what surprises me most is the frequency with which I jump back on the fear bandwagon. Somehow when a new trial hits, amnesia sweeps my brain, and all those times God showed up in the past vanish from my thoughts. As if somehow this new event or tragedy overshadows the promises of God or somehow changes His divine, unchanging nature.

Had I been among the miraculously delivered Israelites wandering through the desert of sin in Exodus 16, I fear I would have been the first to complain. I wonder what it must have felt like, waking up each morning, not knowing where you would go, how long you would travel, or where you would lay your head each night.

I imagine the most difficult day of all came when God asked them to leave the oasis of Elim, with its stately palms and twelve springs. What fear must have gripped their hearts as they knelt in the shade of a tree to fill their water vases, staring across the sun-baked earth before them, the elusive Promised Land beyond their view?  As a mother, I wonder how it felt to gather up your children as they played among the lush vegetation, dipping their toes in the water, wondering where the next spring might lie.

It was at that moment, venturing out from the oasis and entering into the Wilderness of Sin, that God tested their faith. And for a while, they passed…until their feet grew heavy and the sun blazed high with still no provisions in sight. As they continued forward, dust clinging to their tunics, their children lagging beside them, nibbling fears took hold. How would they eat when not even the smallest rodent scurried before them? And where could they possibly find water when the earth below them cracked from lack of moisture?

With every step, the oasis with its cool water and lush trees grew smaller and smaller behind them. With each step their hearts cried out for mercy while their eyes searched the barren landscape for signs of aid.

Then, just when their fear reached panic level, God intervened, not by leading them to another lush oasis, but instead, by raining provisions down from heaven. Each day the Israelites were told to gather only what they needed. Each day, God asked them to let go of their safety net, to trust fully in Him. And each day, a few fearful Israelites hoarded more than necessary, only to find it full of maggots the next morning. With each fermented mound, God showed them again and again that He alone would meet their needs.

What about us? Are we frantically weaving safety nets in case God doesn’t pull through? Will it take a desert wasteland for us to learn to trust God to be who He says He is and to do what He says He will do?

Weed Control

July 7, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

Last August our family went on a week-long vacation. We came back to a dead, bone-dry lawn. Turns out, we’d blown the fuse connected to our automatic sprinkler system. Apparently, there hadn’t been enough rain to keep our grass alive. Unfortunately, the weeds thrived, taking over our yard.

I spent the next afternoon tearing through the dead grass to reveal the soft dirt beneath, humbled by how closely the yard paralleled my spiritual life. Without the deliberate watering of our sprinkler, our grass had to “catch what fell”. Unfortunately, the occasional summer storm wasn’t enough, and without my constant care, those weeds that could have been eliminated easily upon first sprout, extended their roots deep within the soil, devouring any drop of water that fell. As the grass died, the weeds grew stronger.

All for lack of water. In our absence, the grass was left alone. How often do we do that in our spiritual lives? As believers, we know we’ve got the Holy Spirit and we love to talk about how it’s God’s job to grow and change us. All good and true, but God never intended us to be passive observers. Like my parched, brown grass, if we’re waiting for God to shower His Spirit upon us, chances are our hearts are nearing dehydration. And as they do, it isn’t long before weeds begin to sprout, reaching their roots ever-deeper into our hearts and minds. Weeds like selfishness, laziness, greed, bitterness and discontent. Like our lawn, my heart needs care and nurture. It is my responsibility to see that I am fed. And I need to be on the alert, scouring the deep recesses of my heart for those pesky little dandelions about to seed.

So what do you do once you notice those weeds invading your heart? As always, the best defense is a good offense.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:16-25).

Jesus promised if we abide in Him, He will abide in us. When we stand in the presence of God, meditate on His holy Word, and surrender to His limitless love, the weeds die. And in their place sprouts love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, and self-control.

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