Take Heart ~ Finding Courage Right Where You Are (Part 4)

Taking Heart
I am still bravery-in-progress.  God has delivered me from fear that controlled my every thought and action, deep-rooted insecurity, and belief that I was worthless.  Because of Him, I am free and so I fight from victory when the enemy uses tactics to try to tangle me up or when my brain tries to fall into old patterns.  I’ve had to learn that I still have my place at God’s table, receiving everything I need, even in the presence of my enemies.  So what I’m sharing with you is what I still work on doing, every day.

The Psalmist encourages his own soul and that’s exactly what we have to learn how to do… so that in any situation, we are ready to walk in what God has purposed for us. These practices are not the only ways to courage, but they are how God has taught me to take heart, to dig my heels into faith, to withstand the darkness around us and the darkness that tries to make its way into my mind.

The Bearer of Good News
I am a recovering negative-self-talker.
If there could be a brand ambassador for saying bad things about yourself, there would have been times when I would have had that job IN THE BAG.  I have said things to myself and even about myself to others that I would never say or think about anyone else.

As I’ve understood more about how God sees me and who I am in Him, I have gotten better about this ~ but I downplayed a skill of mine just the other day, disguising the self-disdain as a joke… and the Holy Spirit shook my heart about it, immediately.
Because when I downplayed that skill, I was demeaning what God had given me.

When we say, over and over again, what we can not do, how we are unable, how we are not good enough to do (fill in the blank), or strong enough to do (fill in this blank, too) ~ we are DISAGREEING WITH THE WORD OF GOD.  We are, instead, agreeing with the lies of the enemy.

Scripture tells us that there is life and death in the tongue.  It is out of our hearts that our mouths speak , so our words are evidence of what is going on inside of us. 5

And when we do not walk in the truth of who God says we are ~ able to do all things through Christ, fully loved and made new (Romans 8:37, Philippians 4:13,Ephesians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 5:17) ~ then how are we supposed to stand up in times of despair and speak gospel-joy to others?

And let’s take this a step further.  When we are declaring, over and over again, the terrible state of our nation, judging the hearts and intentions of people based on their political affiliation, casting stone after stone of anger when we see people making choices out of sinful nature, and repeating one doomsday theory after another… on whose side are we actually standing?

Part of our courage is walking by faith and NOT by sight.  Part of our confidence is knowing that our God and His purposes are not undermined or determined by the rise and fall of power on this earth.

As for me?

I BELIEVE THE REPORT OF THE LORD.

I believe it for me, for you, for my church, for my town, for this nation, for our world.

The Word says that the field is ripe for harvest.  The Word says that He would have none perish, but all come to salvation.  Jesus said He was anointed to preach the Kingdom of Heaven, to bring good news to the poor, to free the prisoners, to bring
liberty to the captives… and He commissioned us to go and do the same, and even greater things.

He never said to stop.  He never said to give up.  Time is still moving and so there is hope… and Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:12 that since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech.

He doesn’t mean boldness to try to prove a point or to feel right or to argue someone down.

We are called to boldness of speech for what is good, when we are talking to ourselves, our neighbors, or strangers on the internet.  We are called boldly speak love.  Boldness to speak healing.  Boldness to speak to dry bones to live again.  Boldness for a new song, fresh mercies, repentance and life!

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord; and be of good courage. ~ Psalm 27:13-14

Holding Onto Truth
The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. ~ John 6:63

There is an uninterrupted flow of information and content coming at us from all directions.  We can be inundated with news, with no way of knowing what is real or edited or purposefully altered for someone’s agenda. It’s not just news ~ it’s entertainment, it’s what we need to get done for school or our jobs, it’s the logistics of daily living.  Sometimes I get completely overwhelmed just by the very thought of going out for groceries because it feels like another set of too many decisions to make, too much to consider.

I am feeling desperate for quiet, for something real, for actual soul nourishment,

Physically, when I begin to feel like I am screened out and the white noise of it all is making my head hurt, I have to step away ~ literally.  I go outside, I watch the deer, I walk, I put my hands into our always-weed-filled flower beds and let the dirt pull me
back onto tangible ground.  If I can’t go outside, it does so much good to read a few pages of a physical book. Maybe for you, this could look like a hands-on project, cooking something from scratch, simply spending time with somebody you love.  We
have to make space for remembering that there is more than the onslaught of zeros and ones and the opinions of a million people.  We have to make space for listening to the still, small voice of God ~ the One voice that is True and always, always life-giving to our hearts.

The inability these past months to find what is actually true has been disconcerting to me.  I love to research, to base my beliefs and opinions on facts I can verify… but in a time of so many unknowns, research does not give any more comfort than a tabloid off the grocery store magazine rack.  As we get closer and closer to the election this fall, I’m watching theology getting mixed into politics on every side and shades of falsehoods are being painted over… well, it seems like everything.

Now, more than any other time in my life, I am holding onto the fact that Jesus says ~ I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life. (John 14:6)  When it comes to my decisions, my actions, my beliefs ~ I go back to His words and His alone.  Because the Word is our sword for slicing through the lies around us.  The Word is the irrevocable Truth we can depend on when everything else is changing.

We have to know that rest-giving, heart-strengthening Truth.  We have to fight every bit of complacency or busy-to-the-brim tendency that might keep us from Scripture.  We need His Word securely in our hearts… it’s non-negotiable if we want to stand firm in days when everything is relative and nothing is sure.  In Luke 21:25, Jesus tells us a time will come with the distress of nations and perplexity… and it feels, to me, like that time is here.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my life is the importance of being able to take in the words of God for myself without waiting for someone else.  We cannot depend on other people to tell us what He wants to tell us.  We have His Word and the Holy Spirit to help us understand it ~ we have direct access to the source.

Sing it out, cheer it out, put it on index cards, listen to the music that contains it, put it on your lock screen ~ whatever you have to do to keep Truth in front of you, DO IT.

Sometimes if I need to hold onto a verse for a particular moment in my day, I write it on the palm of my hand.  Maybe it’s not the most grown-up habit, but it helps me to glance down and see His words ~ to, in a way, actually hold what I need.

Bringing time to read (or even listen) to Scripture into the regular pattern of my days makes a complete, 1000000000% difference in how I handle whatever is happening around and within me.  Even if it is just to read a Psalm at the beginning of the day, or a few verses on a lunch break, or listening to an audio version of the Bible while you walk your pet ~ somehow, someway figure out a rhythm that works for you.

Scripture is one way He speaks to us so that we will know what He is asking us to do, how He is guiding us in answer to our prayers, sustaining our faith and helping it to grow.  It’s also a way we can learn more about talking to Him, because we understand what He has promised and who He is.  It leads us in worship, it leads us in finding out who we are in Him.

We need His Words in the core of our hours and our hearts to live in courage.

 

5Luke 6:45

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