By Sena Hagedorn
When I was in Junior High, my mom switched churches. Growing up, the normal was for mom to take her five kids to church every Sunday. My Father was a farmer and would attend on holidays. You could say he was a “creaster” (someone who only attends Christmas and Easter services). Oh, and potlucks, he loved a good church potluck!
Our church loved the Lord. We had some members in this congregation who would raise their hands while worshiping and singing to the LORD. It was here at this church, where I saw and experienced this kind of worship for the first time. I can remember my mom leaning over and saying to me as she gestured, “I wish I could worship like that”.
It saddens me greatly that she didn’t feel like she could raise her hands in worship, even though it was the desire of her heart. It’s sad that she didn’t feel free enough to be able to worship God by raising her hands.
Now, when I worship the LORD, I raise my hands. I do it in joy as I feel led by the Holy Spirit. I raise my hands in honor and memory of my mom, but also in my deep love, praise and gratitude to Jesus for his death on the cross.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
I like to think that my mom is in heaven with her hands raised high, freely worshiping Jesus. No more discomfort, no more bondage, no more yokes, no more brokenness, no more abuse, no more poverty. I’m not saying everyone needs to raise their hands in worship, but if it is the desire of your heart to worship the LORD with your hands raised, what is holding you back?
Christ has come to set the captives free and we are free indeed!
Disconnection from dysfunctional relationships can leave you feeling like an umbilical cord has been cut. Suddenly you are without touch points to tell you who you are, where you are and how you feel. Suddenly you are in a vast space that is void of any visible direction.
This is scary.
Most everything has been stripped away… all the comforts and well worn paths, all the dross, all that was necessary in order to find the “new creation”.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
But God, in His infinite wisdom, love and grace, does not leave us without His life-giving presence and provision.
The losses are necessary. The separation is necessary. The space is necessary. It is the only way, the best possible and loving way to find the person He’s created us to be. We’re made to fulfill our individual part in His story for His ultimate glory.
Finding His presence and hope in the midst of this great expanse brings much comfort, strength and peace. Yes, there is fear intermingled at times, but God lets us know that there is a greater good and purpose. Nothing bad that is lost is meant for keeping and what is to be found is of far greater worth. Everything will be redeemed.
In God’s sovereignty, each life is worth the high price of His shed blood and death. Now because of Him, every single life who chooses God has great worth. And the squeezing and pouring out of our own lives means the calling forth of the BEST and sweetest gain.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” Revelation 21:5
“…people will call you by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.” Isaiah 62:2b
By Anonymous Contributor
“Life happens.” It’s a very familiar phrase and yet, so true. Our lives in this day and time are so busy with family, friends, school, work, hobbies, sports, social media… the list could go on forever. With all of this on our plates, it can be difficult to take the time necessary to nurture our walk with the Lord. So how do we stay connected to God and keep our eyes on Christ when life is constantly changing and challenging us?
For a moment, consider how storms on Earth can affect nature: they can be devastating, and at times, they can consume everything in their paths, with no exceptions. They present challenges for all that face them. But ultimately, they bring change to the landscape of the Earth. It is from that devastation that nature perseveres and becomes stronger in order to survive future storms. Isn’t this why God allows storms to happen in our lives? He uses the challenges of life to change the landscape of our sinful nature. Through this process, He purifies our hearts, minds, and souls.
I recently heard someone say that our lives are like chapters, with Jesus Christ as the author. This really shook me. It changed my perspective of how we are to react to challenging circumstances. Our knee-jerk reaction as humans is to stress over the least little thing that doesn’t go as planned. We get upset when our expectations aren’t met. I’m certainly guilty of this, as I have looked at past storms in my life as a hindrance. But, everything changed when I realized that those storms were part of the chapters that Jesus wrote. If Jesus is the author, and all that He allows in our lives is for our good, then we should embrace the storms as His way of doing a work in us. His work in us can ultimately bring glory to His name.
At times, staying connected to God can seem especially difficult when facing the “storms” of life. Let’s look at three ways we can stay connected with God and keep our eyes focused on Christ in spite of the situations we may face.
1. Daily crucify our flesh. We can start by crucifying our flesh daily. We have to put God’s will above our own, especially when facing challenges. When we do this, we are submitting to the work that He is doing in and through us and accepting the change that He is bringing into our lives. This can be extremely difficult when our will conflicts with His. But remember, He only wants what’s best for us and He knows the path before us because He is writing that next chapter.
2. Constant communication with God. Staying in constant communication with God is key to surviving the storm. We have to hold every thought captive before God and ask this simple question: Does this bring glory to His name? If the answer is no, then that thought has to be discarded. We can’t hold on to our own thoughts and ideals; we have to make room in our hearts and minds for Him to work through us for His glory. God longs for us to spend time with Him. By holding our thoughts captive before Him, we are allowing Him to speak to every aspect of our lives. Then, even in the simplest things, we can hear His voice directing us.
3. Praying and reading God’s Word. Need I say more? When I say prayer, I’m not talking about the little prayers we say in the moment or blessing the food on our tables. I’m talking about deep meditation and time spent pleading with God, laying the concerns of our hearts before Him, and listening for His voice. Remember, He cares deeply about the things that concern us and wants only what is best for us. (Can you see the recurring theme here?) And when it comes to the Bible, I’m talking about really consuming God’s Word, not just getting a daily verse notification from your favorite Bible app. God’s Word is alive and well and when we spend time reading His Word with the intent of applying what we learn to our daily lives, we will see Him working through us and all around us!
When the storms of life bring challenges and change, we have a choice to make. We can try to run from it and not accept what God has planned for our lives, or we can run directly into the eye of the storm, knowing God is about to do something great in our lives. Yes, the storm may cause us distress, uncertainty, and even pain, but God has a plan for our lives that is meant only for our good!
And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. Romans 8:28 AMP