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God is Still Good

God is Still Good

This year has not been easy for many people, I can imagine. Sometimes it can be so hard to find peace while living in the storm. On top of Covid and all the craziness that is happening I experienced a great loss in my family, a loss I never thought would happen so soon and at such a young age. I’ve had so many unanswered questions and waves of fear, doubt, and confusion crashing in. Sometimes it becomes unbearable! As great sorrows try to bring me down I have to remind myself to keep my eyes focused on Jesus. As I gaze into His face, He is what keeps me standing. I’m able to continue on with life with the hope and joy He provides.

I have learned that joy is not just something you experience when everything is going great. True joy is there even when you go through the darkest of nights. Joy is connected to a deep relationship with Jesus and it is in His strength that I can choose joy. Hope could not be more important in these times. Losing your vision and losing your hope allows depression to creep in.

I have to keep my hope focused on Jesus.

To be real with my emotions before the Lord and others has been the most rewarding lesson I have ever learned. Through that I’ve learned to let Jesus pick me up when I’m weak. No one has ever been as kind to me as Jesus. He’s always available and always loving!

So, I challenge you to continue to lean in a little closer to His heart. Let Him into your struggles, be real, and don’t hold back. Learn to smile even even when it’s hard, because God is still good! This I have discovered and this I can testify: He has never left me hanging. Alone time with Jesus is the most satisfying and fulfilling thing I can do! Don’t underestimate what the Lord can do. He is the peace in my storm and bad things will happen but God will bring good out of it.

But will we be patient enough to let Him? If not, He is still good.

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Trusting God When Doors Are Closed

Trusting God When Doors Are Closed

Seasons Change

I don’t know about you, but I had a lot of plans for this year that have been totally canceled because of the pandemic. When plans don’t work out because of circumstances that are ‘out of our control,’ it almost feels easier to trust God, because we can clearly see what’s keeping the plan from happening. But what happens when things don’t work out, and you don’t see any reason for it? What do we do when God closes doors that seem to be open?

The other week, I started thinking about all the things I’ve pursued in the past year that didn’t end up working out. I felt like the Lord was in each thing, but when it didn’t go how I had hoped, or didn’t go at all, I started asking God what the heck was going on. Did I not hear from Him all those times? Did these things not happen because I need to adjust some things in myself and my own heart? Why did He tell me I could go for it if the door was just going to be shut anyway?

Seasons Change But God’s Voice Doesn’t

When we feel lost and confused by the situations and season around us, the Word of God is a beautiful place to go to to get a new perspective. In my situation, the Lord has taught me a few things. I’ve learned that, if the Lord allows you to go after something and then it doesn’t end up working out, it does not mean that you heard from the Lord wrong! Our circumstances and seasons change, but God’s voice doesn’t! We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to hear from the Lord correctly and precisely when the truth is, most of the time, the Lord doesn’t yell answers at us; sometimes all we get is that gentle whisper, an inkling in our spirits, or sometimes nothing at all, about a direction. Don’t let the enemy tell you that you don’t hear from God just because you said, “yes” to something and it didn’t work out.

I’m also learning that, when I chase after something that’s from the Lord and it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with me, or that I’m unworthy of those things I’m pursuing. Sometimes we do need to get before the Lord and ask Him to clean out our hearts, but He doesn’t just cancel His plans for you because you have a bad attitude for one day.

He Always Knows What He’s Doing

We will never fully understand or be able to see God’s grander plan. What we can do in those moments of defeat and confusion, is choose to trust Him. Choose to trust in His character and who you know Him to be, even when things change. In the moment where I sat before the Lord and shared how I was feeling with Him, He brought me to scriptures that talked about His promises and faithfulness. Isaiah 54:10 says, ‘“For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,” says the LORD who has mercy on you.’

I once saw a picture that said, ‘Spiritual growth happens when you start thanking God for the doors He’s opened, rather than questioning Him for the ones He’s closed.’ 

Today, I pray that you remember who is holding the plans, and that He always has your best in His heart. Because, let’s face it, the Lord is a way better planner than us anyway 😉

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Learning To Serve More Like Jesus

Learning To Serve More Like Jesus

When I think about what serving like Jesus looks like, I’m reminded of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet (John 13:1-17) and the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). From these passages, 3 characteristics of God that stand out to me are love, compassion, and humility. I read a book about Servant Leadership and I loved how it related love to serving. Love is defined as, “intentionally caring or helping another person by doing something regardless of our feelings.” Compassion is defined as a “sympathetic concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”, and humility as a “modest or low view of one’s own importance”. These three things are essential to serving like Jesus. Without them, we can’t effectively serve. 

Jesus is one of the greatest servants of all time. In Matthew 20:28, He said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others”. As we continue to read through the Gospels, we see Jesus constantly serving those He encountered and constantly serving His Disciples. In John 13:14-15, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples at the last supper. After He finished washing their feet, He told them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done”. The King of Kings, the SAVIOR of the world, humbled Himself and washed the dirty feet of his disciples. What an honor for Jesus to do that! 

From that simple act of humility from their leader, they learned what it means to truly serve and love as He does!  The Apostle Paul said, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love (Galatians 5:13). 

Another great example of serving like Jesus is found in Luke 10 when Jesus tells His disciples the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, a man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jerico and was attacked by robbers and left for dead. A priest and a Levite saw the man and walked right past him, but the Samaritan had compassion and stopped to help him. Out of love, he made sure that the man was well taken care of. Jesus told His disciples the greatest commandment was to love Him and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). I wonder how this simple act of kindness impacted the man’s life. I bet he was so grateful and choose to do the same for someone else in need.

Just like the Good Samaritan realized, serving others and serving God is one of the most important principles of the Christian faith. God expects us to serve Him and those around us wholeheartedly. 

Being in full-time ministry is teaching me what it means to truly be a servant of God. It is not always an easy task to serve others, but when we do, it pleases God and we glorify Him through our serving. Sometimes the people and places He calls us to serve can be stretching and challenging, but thankfully we don’t have to serve in our own strength, the Lord is with us every step of the way. 

Every act of service we do for the Lord is not in vain, He will reward us for our obedience and faithfulness to Him. When we serve like Jesus we will impact the lives of those we serve and help change the world. 

Given the current state of our world and specifically our country I wonder how different our world would be if we, especially believers, served like Jesus. If we truly loved one another as He commanded us to do? If we had compassion for one another? If we humbled ourselves and put the needs of others before our own? I like to think that it’s not too late for us to do all of these things. God has called us as believers to be His hands and feet to the whole world! We’ve been entrusted with such a beautiful task and have the opportunity to partner with our Heavenly Father to make a difference in the World. 

Today I encourage you to serve like Jesus. Simply choose to love, have compassion, and walk in humility. The next time you see someone in need, stop and help them. Bless someone with an act of kindness. Make a difference in the world by serving God and others.

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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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