He Gave Us a Sword

Sword-3518
Image by MollyBrett Photography

A year ago, I was a mess.

I’ve talked about this a bit in some previous posts, so I won’t go into much detail now. The truth is, it’s hard for me to believe the contrast between this year and last.

Depression to JOY.
Anxiety to CONFIDENCE.
Defeat to VICTORY.
Anger to PEACE.
Loneliness to CONNECTEDNESS.

There wasn’t one moment that changed things, but rather a collection of moments and revelations. I’ve talked about some of it here, but I want to share a specific moment with you today.

This one happened in January during the 21 days of prayer and fasting at my church. During these 21 days there was an opportunity to get together with other believers at 6am Monday-Friday for a time of worship and prayer. A season for strengthening. I don’t often get the chance to attend because I have little ones sleeping in their beds, and my husband usually has responsibilities early in the morning. He does work there after all.

But I got to go one lovely Friday morning, and in a brief instant the Lord encouraged me through a simple phrase and an image.

“I have a sword…He gave us a sword.”

In my image I saw myself cowering. My surroundings were hazy and unclear. I knew there was a battle going on, but I was clearly losing; just barely managing to miss the arrows flying toward me. There was a sense of hopelessness.

But then, it started to clear, and I came to realize I wasn’t empty-handed. I had a weapon. A Sword.

I was armed, and with that realization came a strength I had not previously known. The fog continued to clear and I saw I wasn’t by myself after all. The body of Christ was standing together, proclaiming the coming victory, wielding their Swords with power. We were going to FIGHT TOGETHER.

Friends, I share this with you because as we move forward in Christ, the enemy has to step back. The more we recognize our identity in Him and utilize the tools He has bestowed upon us, the more powerful we become.

Are you living in defeat? There is more than what you can see in this moment. Call your enemy out for what he really is and grasp onto the promises your KING has for you.

Here are a few tools you can use to sharpen your sword:

Depression: “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and SET ME FREE.” Psalm 118:5

Anxiety: “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come BOLDLY and CONFIDENTLY into God’s presence.” Ephesians 3:12

Defeat: “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me VICTORY. This is my God, and I will praise him – my father’s God, and I will exalt him!” Exodus 15:2

Anger: “You will keep in PERFECT PEACE all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3

Loneliness: “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such PERFECT UNITY that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” A prayer of Jesus in John 17:22-23

The art of fighting with a sword requires practice and care. Our sword is our Bible. To use it well we must read it, memorize it, study it, and dwell on it throughout the day. Left unattended, it will rust and become useless. Don’t neglect your Sword.

Brandish your weapon. Victory is ours for the taking.

Be Strong and Courageous

Strong and Courageous

Do you ever feel like God is beating you over the head with something? Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be quite a few situations in my life when hearing something one time just isn’t going to cut it. I have to hear it over and over and over again before it will finally stick.

Lately, it has been the phrase, “be strong and courageous.”

The phrase is inside of my daughters’ favorite memory verse: Deuteronomy 31:6. The girls have been saying a paraphrased version of this verse, complete with hand movements, for the past year now. Every time they get a new verse to memorize at church, they still want to practice this one. I hear it so much that I’m sure to never forget it.

Well, recently, I went to pull up my Bible app on my phone and saw the verse of the day. Turns out, Joshua 1:6-9 uses this phrase multiple times. I thought that was pretty cool, so I did a quick search and learned that the exact wording “be strong and courageous” shows up in the NIV 11 times and the NLT 14 times.

I deemed my findings nifty and went about my day.

I later I heard the verse of the day on my Christian radio station. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “That’s a neat coincidence. I wonder if the verse of the day on my Bible app and radio station are always the same?”

And then, that day, and also several days later, I saw friends posting about one of these “be strong and courageous” verses on social media. Some of them posted a simple graphic. Some of them wrote out the verse. Some of them gave a brief summary.

Even more so, I saw it referenced in a book I’m reading. And it came up in a devotional I use. And it also happened to be included in a One Year Bible reading.

It was like I couldn’t escape it. Obviously, God was telling me to be strong and courageous. Not being entirely sure what that meant, I knew it was time to dig a little deeper. When the phrase, “be strong and courageous,” is used, what is the context? What is the intended purpose? The result?

Here is a bit about what I have discovered and am still figuring out:

In the Old Testament, God frequently commanded His people to be “strong and courageous” because…

…God would personally go ahead of them. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
…they were going to be leaders and give direction. (Deuteronomy 31:7;23; Joshua 1:6)
…they needed to follow His commands. By doing so, they would be successful in everything they did. (Joshua 1:7; 1 Chronicles 22:13)
…God would be with them wherever they went. (Joshua 1:9)
…it could save their lives. (Joshua 1:18)
…God would vindicate them against their enemies. (Joshua 1:25)
…He wouldn’t fail them. (1 Chronicles 28:20)
…there would be a reward for their work. (2 Chronicles 15:7)
…the greater power (God) was on their side (2 Chronicles 32:7)
…God would protect those loyal to Him. (Psalm 31:23-24)
…God would do what He said He would do. (Ezekiel 22:14)

After looking through all of these references, I think I’ve figured something out. In each of these situations in the Bible, God had given commands to His people. He had told them what to do. How to live their lives. Where to go. And you know what? Sometimes it was really hard for them.

I think that’s exactly where God has me. He has given me His Word, the Bible. I know His commands. For the most part, I feel like I know how He wants me to live and where I am called to serve. But sometimes, it gets really hard. Being a stay-at-home mom and wife of a pastor can be challenging at times.

Here is the reminder: I can be strong and courageous in the tough moments, because I know His promises. He will take care of me. Ultimately, as I continue the constant surrender of my life over to His teachings, I can trust that it will all be worth it. There is a reward in the end. This life is only temporary and I am on the side that gets the final victory. God is going before me and He is going with me. I’m not in this alone.

The same goes for you too. Hold fast. Remain steady. He’s got this, and that means you do too.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9; NIV; emphasis mine)

Infertility in the Bible

Infertility in the Bible
Image by Brett Redgate

It may surprise you, but the Bible has a LOT to say on the topic of infertility. What began as a curious observation in my youth, has now morphed into a fascination at how deeply the Lord cares for women going through the struggle of infertility.

Today, I would like to share with you some stories and passages that come straight from the Bible. I hope that the things I share with you today bring life to your soul. If you are currently in this battle, please take heart in knowing that you are not alone.

Sarah (Genesis 17:15-22; 18:1-15; 21:1-6)

Sarah, the wife of Abraham, gave birth to Isaac when she was 91 years old. We aren’t given details about her hopes of having children, but we do know that she laughed at the idea when God first told her she would have a son. She was too old. It was too impossible. But God had other ideas. He would use her and Abraham to create the line for His chosen people.

Abimelech’s Wife and Female Servants (Genesis 20)

Sarah shows up in a second infertility story. You see, Abraham told a little white lie that made King Abimelech believe that Sarah was actually Abraham’s sister. Abimelech took her for himself, but God revealed the truth to him in a dream before anything happened. God’s punishment for Abimelech, should he sin with Sarah, would be to keep his household from producing children. The king handled the situation honorably by returning Sarah to her husband. Abraham then prayed on behalf of Abimelech and his household was able to be fruitful once more.

I am moved by how these two stories interweave. Ultimately, God was looking out for His people. He was going to produce heirs in a situation that was impossible while simultaneously preventing heirs for those who would get in the way of His plan. He always has a plan.

Rebekah (Genesis 25:19-26)

Abraham’s son, Isaac, through whom a multitude of generations were promised, also had a wife who was unable to bear children. After her husband prayed on her behalf, Rebekah was able to give birth to twin boys. God had made a promise and nothing was going to stand in His way.

Rachel (Genesis 29:31-30:22)

In this story, there are two sisters married to Jacob; he was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham. See the trend? Anyway, Leah was unloved so God showed her love by allowing her to have children. The sisters were rivals and constantly trying to outdo one another. They made poor choices. But in the end, God felt for Rachel and listened to her prayers so that she could have a son. His name was Joseph. This was the same Joseph who would one day rescue God’s people by providing for them during a famine.

Hebrew Midwives (Exodus 1:15-21)

The Israelites moved to Egypt and eventually became slaves. The King of Egypt was fearful of their numbers and strength, so he ordered the Hebrew midwives (whose names were Shiphrah and Puah) to kill all the baby boys and let the baby girls live. But the midwives feared God more than they feared man, and did not follow the king’s orders. The Bible says, “because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.”

It is not clear whether these women struggled with infertility, but we do know that they were blessed with children in an impossible situation. Sometimes, I believe God loves to reveal His power and love for us by moving in ways that we never thought possible.

Manoah’s Wife (Judges 13)

There came a time when the Israelites were being oppressed by the Philistines. God was ready to bring a leader to rescue His people, so he sent an angel to appear to the wife of a man named Manoah. Manoah’s wife had been infertile, but the angel promised her a son. This son would be set apart by the way he lived and by the things he would do. The couple believed the angel and made a sacrifice to the Lord. Manoah’s wife soon gave birth to a baby boy named Samson. Samson would be used by God to lead the Israelites and defeat thousands of Philistines with a supernatural strength.

Hannah (1 Samuel 1-2:21)

Most of us have heard Hannah’s story. She was desperate for a baby and would seek the Lord year after year, pleading for a son. She vowed that should God grant her request, she would give her son back to Him. God allowed Hannah to give birth to Samuel and she kept her promise by sending him to live with Eli the priest when he was still a small boy. Samuel would grow up to be a great man of God, and Hannah would go on to have 5 more children. Three boys and two girls.

The Woman from Shunem (2 Kings 4:8-37)

Elisha the prophet went to the town of Shunem and stayed with a wealthy couple. They took great care of him by feeding him and building a special room for him to stay whenever he was in the area. Elisha wanted to bless them for their kindness, and after discovering they were unable to have children, he promised them a son in a year’s time. His promise came true.

Elizabeth (Luke 1)

I love how God works in unexpected ways. In preparation for His Son to enter the world, God blessed Zechariah and Elizabeth with a miracle pregnancy. They were a righteous couple, yet had never been able to have children. God chose this couple to give birth to John – the man who would teach the people that salvation was coming through Jesus.

I encourage you to read these stories for yourself, as many of them have extra details that I could not possibly provide in one post. They are a beautiful representation of how God can work in the lives of His people. I pray they bring you hope and a comfort to know that God sees your pain and He is listening.

“He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 113:9; NLT)