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Take Up Your Staff

Take Up Your Staff

2020 has been a wild year. As we mourn the injustice of systemic racism, navigate through unemployment, and fight the ongoing battle of COVID-19, my heart, at times, has questioned the Lord’s sovereignty. In the midst of so much tragedy, I keep coming back to the same question with the Lord.

“What are you up to?”

Throughout the last few months, He keeps bringing me back to Exodus 4. That’s where I want to camp out in today.

But first, I want to recap Exodus 2 and 3. God has divinely encountered Moses through a burning bush in the wilderness. He tells Moses that He is going to free the Israelites who have been enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years. Through signs and wonders, He promises to lead them back into the Promised Land of Canaan. In Exodus 3, God tells Moses to return to his homeland and make a petition to Pharaoh, requesting that the Israelites be allowed a three days journey into the wilderness to make sacrifices to God.

In Exodus 4:1-5, Moses responds to God,

“Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”

This is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible because it’s the moment that God took a mundane, ordinary object, and breathed life and power into it. This same staff turned the Nile River into blood and produced water from a rock. It transformed into a snake at God’s command. When held up, the Red Sea parted and the Israelites were victorious over the Amalekites.

Moses’s staff is arguably one of the greatest power objects of all time, but it didn’t start out this way. As I meditated on this chapter, I was struck with a realization:

Moses had his staff for years. He used it in his occupation as a shepherd to guide and steer the sheep. When wild beasts approached, it became a defense mechanism to protect the flock. Up until the burning bush encounter, it was just an ordinary stick serving an ordinary purpose.

But when the Presence of the Lord entered the scene, He took what was ordinary and made it a weapon of righteousness. He didn’t give Moses a new weapon, or spiritual gift. He told Moses to take what he already held in his hands, and surrender it for kingdom purposes.

I find this same concept to be true in our own lives. More often than not, God’s desire is not to give us something new, but to ignite the skills and gifts we already possess. 

We each hold a staff that we’ve carried inside of us our entire lives. And just like Moses, I believe it lies dormant until an appointed time. If you study revival history, you’ll find that spiritual gifts are activated and unleashed during times of great crisis. I believe the moment of activation is upon us now.

The world needs your staff. You possess gifts hidden inside of you that God wants to unleash right now in 2020. Over the course of time, God has revealed to me that my staff is my voice. Maybe your staff is music, healing, mercy ministries, public speaking, or spiritual warfare. Perhaps your staff is as simple as having influence over small pockets of people.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of referring to revival like its future tense. If we really want to see the manifest Presence of the Lord sweep our country, and heal our land, we must fan into flame the gifts of God right now. We must ask the Lord to show us what our staff is and fan it into flame. Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6,

For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

Timothy didn’t feel qualified to lead the church in Ephesus, but Paul gently reminds him that he already has everything he needs through the power of the Holy Spirit. The only thing Timothy needed to do was fan it into flame.

Further on, in 2 Timothy 2:14, Paul tells Timothy, to guard the good deposit entrusted to him. How incredible is it to be entrusted a sacred gift from the Lord? But what are we doing with that gift? Are we putting it on the shelve in false humility, or are we fanning it into flame in total expectancy?

As the giant, open wound of racial injustice bleeds across our country like the Red Sea, we cannot back down from engaging in social reform and systemic racism conversations. We cannot look upon the Red Sea of COVID-19 and turn our backs and ignore it.

Each time I ask the Lord what He’s up to in 2020, and how I can play a part in ushering in the next Great Awakening, I hear Him say these simple words.

“Take up your staff, and do my wonders.”

God wants the Church to act. He wants us to barge right into the midsts of violent waters, and call raging seas to be still by the power of His healing Presence. As we feel the tremble of revival sweep across our land, His arm extends towards us, and in His hand is a staff. Placing the staff in our hands, He invites us to raise it up and use it as weapons of righteousness in His Holy War. Today you have an invitation to respond. Will you let Him turn your ordinary into His extraordinary?

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Hearing God’s Voice in the Night

Hearing God’s Voice in the Night

What would it be like, I wonder, to wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of God’s voice calling you to step outside and gaze at the stars with Him?

I can’t imagine what Abraham felt like in Genesis 15, walking out of his tent in that foggy, dreamlike state between sleeping and waking; the vision of God as his shield dissolving into that hidden place where dreams go to hibernate when we’re awake. I wonder what it was like for him to lift his gaze into the unpolluted night and see the stars before they were filtered, diluted, and smudged away by the passage of time and city lights.

 

These were the stars God told Abraham to count. The ones He promised his offspring would outnumber. It was this night, in the middle of the wilderness and away from Abraham’s homeland, that God made one of the greatest covenants of all time. While the rest of the country slept, this intelligent, adventurous, brave, and ordinary person believed God. This person that struggled with fear and failure, who had human ambition and dreams, decided it was enough just to believe God. That moment sparked one of the greatest acts of faith in human history.

As I read this story, I kept coming back to this one thought: does God love to talk to us at night? I’m not saying that God hates the afternoon or is cranky in the morning. However, there have been times in my own life when I simply couldn’t fall asleep. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, or an hour before my alarm clock, for no rhyme or reason. I think all of us can relate to experiences like these.

Often, I disregard these moments and take a melatonin. But as I dive into scripture and discover more ‘nightly encounters’ between God and men, I feel convicted to press into the moment and listen to what He has to say. I wonder what would happen if, instead of falling back asleep, I asked God,

“Is there something you want to say to me?”

Wouldn’t it be tragic if we missed out on an opportunity to encounter God because we chose sleep over listening to Him? I love this quote by Victor Hugo in Les Miserables. He writes about a humble bishop that walked and talked with God every night in his garden.

“A moment later he was walking in the garden, surrendering mind and soul to a dreamy contemplation of these grand and mysterious works that God shows at night to eyes still open.”

Hidden in-between the pages of scripture, God makes known His love for intimate encounters with His people at night. The examples are endlessly woven throughout the Old and New Testament. The Lord called Samuel’s name four times in the middle of the night. Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord until the break of day. God spoke to Joseph several times through his dreams, and Peter walked with Jesus on the water before dawn.

I believe the Lord does this knowing our bodies have a physical and neurological response to darkness. Darkness quiets our mind and removes the external stimuli we experience during the day. As we begin to wind down, we’re less distracted by work, school, and ministry obligations. The whole process of preparing for bed leads us to a place of stillness and quiet. It’s in the quiet that we become more receptive and vulnerable to the voice of God.

On January 27, 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr. received a life-threatening phone call at midnight. The person on the other end of the line was threatening to kill him and blow up his house if he continued to fight for racial equality. Deeply shaken, he went to his kitchen, made a cup of coffee, and cried out to God for help. In the stillness, the Lord answered him and said,

“Martin Luther, stand up for truth. Stand up for justice. Stand up for righteousness. I will be with you, even until the end of the world.”

His encounter with God that night changed human history forever. It was the spark that launched the civil rights movement.

The hidden beauty of this story is that Martin Luther didn’t wait until the morning to talk to God. If we truly want relational intimacy with God, even our sleep has to be held with open hands. If we can fast from food for days on end, or travel to closed countries to preach the gospel, we can sacrifice 30 minutes of our sleep if it means encountering Him.

I’m not saying that we should negate our eight hours of sleep. Rest is a beautiful gift that’s spiritually, physically, and emotionally necessary. Jesus straight up told Elijah to take a nap in 1 Kings 19 before traveling to Horeb, therefore we know that rest is essential to our wellbeing.

The point is that we should drop everything when He wants to speak, even if that’s in the middle of the night. How can we live in a relationship with God if we only listen to His voice during intercessory prayer or in our quiet times? Truly abiding with God is allowing Him to initiate the conversation on His own terms, in His own time.

God waits for us at night, when all the city lights fade away, the curtains are drawn, and our mind is quiet. His Spirit waits for that one person to climb out of bed, into the unlit streets, the backyard garden, the living room chair, and just listen. Will you surrender your time to Him, no matter what time it is?

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” – Psalm 27:8

 

For more blogs by Heather, https://heathercondren.com/

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Surrendering to God in Disappointment

Surrendering to God in Disappointment

Last month, I sat out on my mom’s back porch in Little Rock, Arkansas, anxiously waiting to hear back from YWAM Redding about the status of their School of Supernatural Frontier Missions (SFM). It was a quiet evening. I could hear the faint sound of crickets in the distance muted by the wind chimes swaying above my head. They rang a kaleidoscope of melody into an otherwise mundane month. 

As I sat there looking up at the stars, I contemplated the possibility of my school getting postponed. I waited nine months to attend the SFM and move to California, but because of COVID-19, I faced the harsh reality of having to give it up entirely. The possibility disarmed me. Dealing with this situation, while navigating COVID-19 and grieving a difficult family matter, left me feeling disappointed, restless, and confused. 

Currently, I’m in California, exactly one month later, attending YWAM Redding’s SFM, but I wouldn’t trade the time I spent waiting in Arkansas. That season taught me so much about the true meaning of surrender

Before COVID-19, I thought that attending the School of Supernatural Frontier Missions, and one day becoming a full-time missionary in Southeast Asia, was the ultimate form of surrender. In my pride, I felt like my heart was in the right place, so I built my security and joy around this plan, and called it a fortress. When the pandemic hit, God showed me that my fortress was only a house of cards unraveling in His hands.

As I sit here in reflection, I’m reminded of a quote from C.S. Lewis in his book, A Grief Observed

“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.” 

I’ve come to realize that surrendering to God doesn’t lie in the person taking the boldest step towards Christ, but in the one who finds joy in the places they don’t want to be. We are the strongest when we choose to draw out the living water of God in barren places. I am the strongest when I choose to find joy in the unstable, dry seasons.

This pandemic reminds me of the story of Habakkuk. He was a prophet who found joy in a desolate season. As Habakkuk knowingly waits for Babylon to invade and conquer Judah because of their sins, he openly questions God’s wisdom. After dialoguing with God, still questioning, but ultimately surrendering to His will, Habakkuk gives this beautiful response in verse 3:17-19:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

While life sometimes calls us to be Peter, Esther, or even Paul, there are seasons, like today, when we’re called to be Habakkuk. Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is simply surrender to the desolate place God’s calling us to be, and rejoice, not in our circumstance, but in who He is. When was the last time you came to God, not with a request, or to grow in supernatural gifts, not out of obligation, or fear, but simply to be in His presence and delight in who He is? I firmly believe this should be our response during these turbulent days. The time to surrender to God is now.

As I wrap up this thought, I want to end with a call-to-action to the Church.

When all the lights in the hospital rooms grow dim, it’s our time to burn; and when faith wavers on the edge of a knife, and the only sound in the city is the collision of wind against vacant buildings, it’s our time to rejoice. When fear is so familiar we no longer feel it, and the strength in our hands falter as we fold them on our knees to pray, it’s our time to hope. It’s our time to press down hard enough into the presence of God, and spring forth living waters of hope to a country that’s sinking further into despair. 

It doesn’t end here. I have a feeling, and I think you feel it too, this lukewarm air is lifting. The Church is sifting and the ground is shaking. It’s our time to respondWill you respond in surrender, indifference, or despair?

For more blogs by Heather, https://heathercondren.com/

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Staying Home (Pt. 2) – “Let Yourself Feel”

Staying Home (Pt. 2) – “Let Yourself Feel”

Emotions can be a tricky thing, and can also be overwhelming at times. I don’t know about you, but this pandemic and being in quarantine has made me feel A LOT of things.

Whether it’s things that have come up because of the quarantine, or things from a while ago that I still haven’t properly worked through. I think we can all agree that there’s been a wide range of emotions.

Personally, I am someone who feels things very deeply. Something I’ve recently realized about myself is that I tend to downplay my emotions, or feel I’m just being overdramatic. I don’t give myself permission to really feel what I need to. It just seems easier to go about my day and let myself get distracted by other things, instead of taking time to really process what I’m going through.

Can I just say that I’ve tried the ‘just pretend like it’s not happening and it won’t exist,’ method and it’s never worked? While pushing things down may seem like the safer, less hurtful option, it’s not what’s best.

So what has God been teaching me in quarantine?? LET YOURSELF FEEL. Whatever it is, you’re allowed to feel it! No matter if it seems big or small, or people are telling you it’s not a big deal or you’re being dramatic. What you’re going through is REAL. Your feelings MATTER. Your emotions are VALID.

The whole world is going through a collective, traumatic experience. Yet everyone is experiencing this in different ways. You might be feeling emotions like anger, fear, grief, peace, love, loss of control, contentment, and more. Whether you’re at home by yourself without a job, or you’re an essential worker coming face to face with people who are hurting. Maybe you’re home with family and loved ones, or you’re in a house where you don’t always feel safe there’s a lot of tension. Everyone is experiencing this so differently, and every experience is so real and life-altering.

So, whatever it is you’re feeling, give yourself the permission, the time, and the space to feel it. Psalms 34:18 ‘The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits ate crushed.’

God sees you. He knows you. He loves you. And He cares about your feelings and emotions more than you know. He is not afraid of how you feel, and He is so near and ready for you to draw close to Him. So don’t be afraid, and let yourself feel.

For more blogs by Heather, https://heathercondren.com/

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Staying Home (Pt. 1) – “Slowing Down”

Staying Home (Pt. 1) – “Slowing Down”

What a crazy time we are living in, everything seemed to happen so fast. One moment I was asking “What is Coronavirus?” and reassuring my friends with such confidence that we have nothing to worry about. The next moment everything is shutting down before my eyes. No time to prepare or adjust. The change was demanded. Slowing down was mandatory.

I’m from a small town in Northern Indiana. Your cliche farmhouses and cornfields grip your view for miles. In the middle of our downtown area painted on the wall is “embrace the pace”. Even though I’m from a small town, my heart has always longed to live in a big city. Even as a kid I dreamed of one day moving to New York or Chicago, I loved the fast pace of the city. Slowing down is something I’ve always run from, I wanted no part of it.

 I realized that my life had become a race. Always trying to prove to the people around me that I’m capable, that I’m worthy to be a contender. All the things that I once filled my life and social media with; coffee shops, car filled adventures, concerts, and sporting events have all been stripped away. Who I am, not what I do is all I have. The fast pace life I once lived has been brought to a sudden halt. 

This scared me at first. To be completely honest it still does from time to time. But I’m beginning to find peace in slowing. It’s caused me to see what I have. What if there were no more trophies? No more things to gain. What if what I have is what I’m left with? Would I sit and regret my choices, wishing I would have done something different and obtain more? Or would I put my everything, all of my joy, and all of my thankfulness into the things that are before me?  

See Jesus has blessed us so much. He said to His disciples “everything the Father has given Me I give to you.” What would it look like to press into that promise in this season? I’ve been so challenged to pour everything into what He has given me. I’ve found so much freedom in not needing more, not needing to be better, or prove to the world that I belong here. Slowing down is not easy for some people by any means. But when I slow down, strip away the striving, and stop trying to prove myself His voice can become so clear. The act of slowing down though sometimes fearful is not a bad thing, it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to hear the voice of the Lord so clearly, put down striving and embrace all of the blessings we’ve been given from Jesus.

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When Feelings of Failure Settle In

When Feelings of Failure Settle In

Feelings of Failure

All of us have felt it at some point in our lives. The sinking feeling that happens when the feeling of failure settles in. Then looking down at what you made, whether a situation or a piece of art knowing that you’ve failed. Sometimes it comes from other people. Other times you just know. I’ve heard some people say they aren’t artistic, and maybe they aren’t. However, I believe God gives us the need to create. Create relationships, blogs, art, music, lyrics, cultures, food. If we were made in the image of God our creator, we were made to create.  It seems where creativity is, failure follows. Of course, when we do things for the first time, failure is common. But what does God say about failure?

It’s easy to get discouraged by our weakness and so often feelings of failure get wrapped up into our identity. However, God doesn’t see it that way. We are more than the sum of our works or what we create. He defines us. Not our failure, our sin, our goodness. God does. In Ephesians 1:7 it says “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”. Here we see, God sees us through the lens of Jesus’s righteousness. No matter how much we fail. Our failure does not change who we are or how God sees us. 

True Failure

Failure is a term we throw around a lot. We pour ourselves into what we create. When we sin, feelings of failure come quick. However, it’s not a true failure. True failure is giving up. For example, a boxer in the ring, if they do not get back up, is when they lose. It doesn’t matter how many times they fail to block a punch or how many rounds they go. What matters is not staying down and getting back up. Satan is really good at telling us about our own failures and wrongdoings. But if we don’t quit, we win. If we continue to create, whatever it is, we are not failures. We can take our failure and use it. Learn from it. But we don’t get to do that if Satan has us wrapped up in shame of our shortcomings and failure.


What Would Happen if We Didn’t Get Back Up from Failure? 

So what would happen if we let our feelings of failure become a defining moment? If we were to get stuck in our shame, we wouldn’t get to experience God’s redemption and beauty in our lives. But our failures give God a chance to show up. Non-flawed people don’t need Jesus. Likewise, people would not get to experience the unique part of God that we bring to the table, the creativity that God gave us, the specific way that we can love people.

Sometimes we get stuck in our shame and failure and it makes us shut ourselves off to people. We know that God never fails (Joshua 21:45). So we can’t stay down. We can’t stay defeated. We have to run to him. Repent. Let him make all things beautiful in our lives. God never fails.

Take a moment to sit and ask the Holy Spirit where you have let feelings of failure become part of your identity. He wants to restore where you, others, and the enemy there are feelings of failure. 

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