My True Freedom

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17, NLT

I have a love and hate relationship with phone storage, especially when it comes to storing pictures. I have tried every automatic back-up service recommended as the greatest, and it never fails-I always end up with the dreaded “running out of storage message.” It makes me long for the days of point, shoot, develop, and scrapbook all your beloved memories.

The latest dreaded message came from my Google photos app. The app I had downloaded because I was tired of Apple asking me to pay for more photo storage. The app that was now also telling me I was running out of storage, because it was threatening to freeze my email accounts if I did not, well you know-pay for more.

Oh, how we become so chained to our phones, and our need to store those precious memories.

I spent several weeks going through about 4 years worth of pictures, and I noticed something I was also chained to. Not the storing of memories. I think those are OK, if they don’t distract us from simply living in the moment of making them. It was all the selfies I used to take. After noticing that in the last year and a half I had maybe taken 10, compared to the hundreds I had taken previously I began to wonder “why?” Why was I so enamored with posting so many pictures of myself. And if not of myself, of my accomplishments? Of every little thing I did to help or serve others?

I posted my first one yesterday, aside from maybe a profile picture, or a picture about my hair…in I don’t even know how long. In my curls, pearls, and classic “rocket pops.” I thought about freedom, and what we may think today this freedom means. Sure, it has a historical context; this is the reason we celebrate, and eat hot dogs, and shoot sparkly rockets into the sky; but really? Is there a deeper freedom we could celebrate today?

I know I can.

See those were not simply a bunch of pictures I was sorting through to delete, they were a testimony to a yoke of slavery by which I was bound. The yoke of approval and validation. I was chained to a desire and a need to be approved, liked, and appreciated by the world.

Through each post I sought confirmation that I was seen. That I was valued. Each time I shared some accomplishment, I recieved confirmation that I was doing well. Praise. Approval. Each time I shared my comings, goings, work, service-I was being validated with each like and comment. My ego got a boost, and I received confirmation that I was doing something right. That I WAS right. That I was worthy. Special. Important.

Because, here is the truth. I was also bound by the lies of Satan. A prisoner to the horrible thoughts he screamed at me. And the approval of the world, told me something different.

The devil whispered little lies
He tried to steal my victory
But I stared those demons in the eyes
‘Cause these boots gonna crush the enemy. (Zach Williams, “Freedom”)

Until, I began to focus again on the truth. Not what the world thought. Not what Satan said. The truth in His Word. What God said about me. How He approved me. He valued me. He made me special and important, and most of all loved me. And I was set free from the chains of seeking validation from anything outside of Him. Until compliments became something that were nice to receive every now and then, but not sought; because I KNEW my Father was pleased with me. I no longer needed anyone to “please” me with words, praise, or Facebook likes. I was no longer bound by that yoke. I am a prisoner, set free.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32, NLT

And you can be, too. Maybe for you, those pictures are not what they were to me. Maybe every post, every like, every comment does not give you the attention and value you seek. Maybe that is not your “yoke.” Maybe you are bound to something else that has stolen your freedom. Today could be the day you celebrate true independence. Today could be the day you are finally a prisoner set free. He is waiting for you to drop the chains, and simply ask for it-your freedom, that is.

I do not own rights to video, lyrics, or music.

Let There Be Light: Hope in the Darkness

Advent.

I’ll be real with you. I didn’t grow up in church, attending services all through the Christmas season as a kid. So as an adult, when I began attending in my late 20’s, advent appeared ritualistic in nature to me. Hear me out…I understand the meaning of Christmas. But the lighting of all the candles, the Scriptures read? I never understood their purpose or place in the whole celebration. I guess it was expected that I should. However, I didn’t know what these practices and rituals had to do with Christ and his birth. Even more confusing, was what I was supposed to do with the candle-lighting, and those verses. How did they apply?

As I dive deeper into His Word, searching it daily for where He is leading me-I discovered something as I started to read the “ritual” advent devotionals. I discovered that just like Thanksgiving, advent isn’t just a season, it’s a way of life.

The whole reason we focus on advent this time of year is, yes, to celebrate the birth of our Savior, but more importantly to remember and reflect on what that means to us, for us today, and how we are to respond.

Essentially, the word “advent” means “coming.” Sure. It is a season of remembrance for the day Christ came into the world, to reflect on how he lives in the world today, and a reminder to be living in expectation of his return. His second coming.

But shouldn’t we live in this expectancy every day? He could come back at ANY time. Certainly we should live daily as if we are ready.

The first candle lit traditionally on the advent wreath is the candle of hope. Hope in a Messiah who will save from sins. Hope in His return. It’s also known as the “prophecy candle,” the hope that God will fulfill His promises. A promise that there is light and hope in darkness.

Yet, even during Christmas evil doesn’t rest. It may even seem that during the long, cold days of winter that stretch on and on, things become darker. Add the holiday season, its feelings of loneliness and sorrow that can come along, and light can be hard to see. Greed abounds due to the hustle and bustle to shop, shop, shop; and statistically even crime often soars, as the desperate attempt to meet the demands of the secular “season” become too much for some to bear.

If there is anything we need now more than ever, especially as we continue to fight a virus we hoped would be gone by now-it is light. Hope. The hope that in all this darkness and despair, a light would appear.

Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:15 of the source and assurance of this hope and light: This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and I am the worst of them all.

In terms of hope and overcoming darkness, our hope lies in the promise of a saving grace. Salvation through the birth, and later death of Christ that returns us to the “good” God originally intended for us. Because our story of hope actually begins where “good” began-at creation. God created man and woman; humans as good, in His image, and without blemish. The Garden of Eden was intended to be a place of light, of His security, until evil entered in, and was not only accepted, but grasped ahold of, and sunk its teeth into goodness and light.

Evil exists because of the free will of humans. The choice made by Satan’s temptation, and God was forthcoming in what would occur as a result, stating the consequences in Genesis 3:16-19:

He told the Woman:
“I’ll multiply your pains in childbirth;
    you’ll give birth to your babies in pain.
You’ll want to please your husband,
    but he’ll lord it over you.”

He told the Man:
“Because you listened to your wife
    and ate from the tree
That I commanded you not to eat from,
    ‘Don’t eat from this tree,’
The very ground is cursed because of you;
    getting food from the ground
Will be as painful as having babies is for your wife;
    you’ll be working in pain all your life long.
The ground will sprout thorns and weeds,
    you’ll get your food the hard way,
Planting and tilling and harvesting,
    sweating in the fields from dawn to dusk (MSG)

Conflict. Between man and woman. Parent and child. Pain. Suffering. Struggle. Life, essentially, would NOT be easy.

But God made another promise as well: Satan would be crushed, and He would provide restoration for our brokenness.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17, NLT

This is our hope. Our light in the darkness. It’s how God intends to overcome evil, and we get to choose if we are going to let the light in, or continue to be consumed by the darkness.

What do you choose? Do you want the light of the world? The hope that resides in knowing a Savior? You can…simply choose Him today.

You can have the world. I choose…

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? Matthew 16:26

Fame. Fortune. Fun. Doing whatever you want, whenever you want. This is the message the world provides. Do this and you will be popular. Be like them and you will be accepted. Work, work, work to get a promotion. A bonus. A raise. Being rich is where real life is at, and if you suck at relationships and commitment…don’t worry-there are plenty of places you can go to look for no-strings attached, get it fast, without any real emotion involved kind of “love.”

More fame. More fortune. And all the fun you can handle.

But at what cost?

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

I’ve been in the world. I’ve done the things. I’ve lived that party life. The stay out late, drink to the wee hours of the morning kind of life. I’ve hurt people. Some intentionally. Some maybe not so much. I’ve been spiteful. Vindictive. Sought people and things from this world for my own gain. I’ve worked and worked for the “man,” at the expense of time with my family for all the bonuses. I have received awards, praise, but I’ve also certainly made decisions for me. Not anyone else. For me and what I thought I could gain. Who I thought would accept me. To gain or keep love. To move myself forward, forsaking the thoughts and feelings of others.

I’ve been in this world. 

You can have it. 

Because I’ve also been given the chance to choose something different from the empty promises, high life, and riches this world easily offers but cannot provide. I’ve traded in the need to be approved and loved by this world. I have traded in the hustle. The need to work, work, work for riches, awards, and things that never, ever fully satisfy. I have gained the salvation of my soul. So…

You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

If you knew me then…

“Do not call to mind the former things; pay no attention to the things of old.” Isaiah 43:18

Small towns are known for many things. Special places to dine. To gather. Lots of people who know you. Your family. Your past.

People who remember your past. The good. The bad. The ugly.

We all come from places where the past is hard to escape. Where people are holding onto the things we did and can’t wait to bring them up any ole time they deem necessary. But the past doesn’t just lurk in small towns. Or in high school hallways. Or other places we have tried diligently to escape.

It follows us around daily if we let it.

Satan loves our past. And he, like those small town gossips, loves to up bring our past and remind us of it when we already feel down. He will even remind us of it when we have started to turn from it, to tempt us back into old patterns.

Satan wants us to never forget it.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17. NLT

God remembers our past, as well. But unlike Satan he wants us to turn from it. And no matter how sinful or bad it may be, He will never bring it up once we ask for Him to help us clean it up. He will never remind us of what our old way of life may have been, but shows us what our new way of life can be.

It’s for this reason that on the days Satan or a person uses my past to taunt, or I slip back into thoughts of worthlessness, I remind myself of this:

If you knew me in my teens, you knew me in my teens. If you knew me in my 20s, you knew me in my 20s. If you knew me in my 30s, you knew me in my 30s. If you knew me in my past, before God cleaned me up and made me new, you knew me in my past.

God cleaned up a broken, rejected, lost version of each of these, and He never reminds me of these past versions. Only the parts of her that are beautiful and worthy.

If He cleaned up a broken, rejected, lost version of you, no one else should remind you of yours either.

If you haven’t gotten there yet, it’s not too late. You can have a past that God will erase. You can be made new. Just seek Him, repent, and ask Him. Then don’t run to that past again.

I do not own rights to this video, lyrics, or music.

WWJD: Make time or excuses?

There is this quote I often see circulating around on the internet. It goes something like this-“People make time for what they consider a priority,” or something of that nature. In essence, this is what that means: We make a priority, give our time to, and seek out what is essentially important to us.

For some, our work becomes number one. For others, it may be a hobby. A relationship. A family member. A habit we can’t put down.

Others may make the comfort of people a priority, abandoning their work, hobbies, relationships, and other obligations to run and help at a moment’s notice. Feeling the sting when it is not reciprocated.

When we decide to set some things as a priority, or not sacrifice our time, we may say these things-“I couldn’t come because…” “I didn’t call because…” “I didn’t finish because…”

We all do this. Sometimes we are just pulled in many directions. Our time really is scarce. Other times we are making excuses. Sending the message, “This/That/You are not a priority to me.”

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! John 5:6-9, NLT

The man in this story was no different than we are at times. Did he want to get well? Make his healing a priority? Or was he making excuses to stay sick?

What about you? Do you want to get well?

Then it’s time to make the decision to get well. To stop making excuses. Excuses to skip church, or never go at all. Excuses not to pray. Not to read your Bible. Excuses to hold onto resentment, unforgiveness, and bitterness. Excuses not to find your source of peace. Real freedom. Real healing. Real love.

Do you truly want to get well?

The solution according to Jesus? “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

Put down your excuses. Pick up your mat. Finally choose Jesus. Choose to make Him a priority.

You can run…but you can’t hide

Rocks. I mentioned some of them in my last post. Those I threw into the ocean of surrender. And those I threw at cars when younger.

Yes. My brother and I were often bored on our little street growing up. If we were not yelling across the street for our cousins to come out and play, we would often pick up small rocks and throw them at cars. Just the tires. Or that was always our intention.

Want to know what happened when a rock was thrown where it wasn’t intended?

We hid. Why?

Because what was intended to be thrown at a tire, ended up on a windshield. And when those brake lights came on, and that car stopped? We ran. We hid.

Hoping if we hid long enough. Far away enough. We wouldn’t be found out.

Sounds like another story I know.

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” Genesis 3:8-10, NLT

They felt naked. Exposed. They ran and hid. Hoping God didn’t see. God wouldn’t know. Wouldn’t find out.

But we can’t hide from God.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. Luke 12:2, NIV

God sees it. He sees our comings and goings. He knows our thoughts, and though we may run, hide, hope we will not be found out-God knows.

He knows the thing we do behind closed doors we hope no one ever finds out. He knows the words we say to ourselves, and the thoughts that fill our heads. He knows the ways we have hurt others, even if we try to forget. He knows when we talk one way, and live another. He knows the things we do in the dark.

He knows.

He also knows our secret pains. Our deepest hurts. Our hearts desire. Our struggles. Those other things we hide.

He knows and He wants us to come out of hiding.

Not blame the “other,” as the first woman and man did, but confess what we have done. Our actions. Our sins. Our transgression. Our hurts. All the things we hope people don’t know.

He knows, and He still wants to give us His love. He wants us to run to him, instead of away.

And when we do, when we come out of hiding, we discover what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 121:

He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. Psalm 121:3, 7-8, NLT

You can’t hide from Him, and He won’t hide from you. Just as he knows the things you hope to keep hidden, if you seek His face and His salvation, He will walk with you daily. Protecting you. Keeping you from harm.

Are you ready to come out of hiding? Stop running? Stop pretending?

Stop hiding, and run to Him.

Which one will you choose?

I trekked up the hill to my old “quiet place” to get alone with God. To be alone to allow Him to fill me with peace during an otherwise stressful week. One with deadlines galore, and tasks to be completed before a break could be taken. Time to be reminded of what made this week so holy.

The hill to the three crosses behind our church was certainly not as steep as the hill Jesus climbed on that Friday morning. The trek was not as hard. I did not take a beating on the way up. Nor did I suffer. My “soul was not crushed with grief to the point of death,” as Jesus’ had been (Mark 14:34, NLT)

However, the climb was different than times before. It was littered with a couple stray beer bottles, and once at the top I noticed the middle cross…you know, the one representing Jesus, was broken. Now one wooden pillar in the middle. The wind up here was colder. It didn’t feel as calm and peaceful up here as it once did. It felt eerie. I was sure the serpent, Satan, would at some point come slithering from the tree behind me.

I was jumpy. Agitated. Paranoid. The exact opposite of what I climbed this hill to find.

Peace.

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Mark 15:34, NLT

As Jesus sat kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane, he certainly had to lack peace. As each leaf shook, each branch broke, each breeze blew through the trees; I can imagine in his humanity he must have become jumpy and paranoid from the sounds of those coming to take him to his death.

But when he thought of his purpose, despite the pain, he had peace: “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Mark 14:36, NLT).

And what was that will?

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:40-43

Yes. Jesus is the one in the middle. On that broken middle cross that I sat under. But he wasn’t the only cross erected there on that hill that fateful day.

There were two more. One on the left. One on the right.

He came to save them both. But only one went to paradise with him. He came to save us all. But only some will choose him. Some will choose his peace.

Which one are you? Which one are you today?

Do you want to keep saving yourself and stay on the path that leads away from paradise, or come into the kingdom with Jesus?

Which one will you choose?

Praying: It’s not silly, it’s serious

And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. 1 John 5:14-15, NLT

Think you can’t be delivered from anything? Think God doesn’t care about the small things? Even the small sins in your life? Think again.

“Mommy’s favorite word is the “s” word.” That would be my youngest son. Telling everyone who will listen about his mother’s favorite word. And, I do mean everyone. And, he didn’t mean “sugar,” “sweet,” “shopping,” or even “Starbucks.” He meant one that begins with “s,” and ends with “t.” Oh, yes. That “s” word. A swear word.

We have this store in my hometown that has been around for years. I love it. One, it’s cheap. Two, you can find anything AND everything. They also have the best home decor, and I love to fill my house with sayings, and signs with sayings. This store has the best. A ton of faith-filled signs. And on one of my trips here, I found it. The last one. Just waiting for me-“I love Jesus, but I cuss a little.”

Problem was…I hadn’t been cussing a little, I had been cussing a lot. And I had graduated from my favorite “s” word, to a few other words.

And I knew better…His Word told me so. It told me that my “old life was dead.”

And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk. Colossians 3:5-8, The Message

I knew better. God had delivered me from many a thing, but anger, bitterness, and hurt had reared it’s ugly head again. Satan used them all to make me mean. Irritable. And curse like a sailor. Yes, the “s” word came out every once in a while. I had even been delivered from my road rage. I didn’t want to go back there again.

And, it may seem silly, but that sign became a place I checked my spirit, and my bank account, and set up a swear jar.

Until, I confessed it in a Bible Study. Confessed in front of everyone that I, a pastor, was not perfect. Knew better, but sometimes, just didn’t do better. Loved Jesus, but cussed a little. And, maybe these days…a little too much.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16, NLT

Oh, we must pray right now! You have brought up something I bet someone else needs deliverance from, and I am glad you were bold enough to share it. I want to pray specifically for you!”

Say what? She was gonna pray for my cussing? Now, I trusted her sweet soul. I loved this lady. She was my accountability partner. She knew what I had been struggling with, but really…of all those things, cussing?

And, she did. In front of the people I had preached before. In front of those I was called to lead, she prayed for my “sin.” That I would leave that day, and not have to place another nickel in my swear jar.

I left that night and said to my husband, “I can’t believe she prayed for my cussing. It’s just the “s” word” See, she takes her prayers seriously. When she knows something displeases God, and he wants one of His own to turn away from something that may cause them to stumble, she fervently prays. Shouldn’t we all be this way? About even what we consider to be silly things?

A couple days ago, my youngest at the dinner table tried to do it again: “Well, we all know Mommy’s favorite word.” To which I replied…“Nope. Do you? Because since I was prayed for a few Wednesday nights ago, I haven’t said that word, and that sign has been moved.”

Yes…moved. And in it’s place is this. A reminder of the “s” word I am supposed to be living out this year: Surrender.

So back to Colossians 3…I urge you to take a look at the entire chapter. Because maybe there are some “s” words (sins) in there you need to surrender to God in prayer, too. Maybe cussing isn’t your thing. Maybe it isn’t the thing you know not to do, but do it anyway. Maybe for you it’s anger. A bad temper. Unforgiveness. Or maybe it’s lying. Hiding things because you think no one will find out. Or a lustful nature you feed, and feed, and feed.

He takes ALL of it seriously, just like my precious accountability partner, and He wants you to have a “new life.” I want that for you, too. So “confess to each other.” Feel free to comment, and I will surely carry your burden, take it seriously, and pray that you are delivered, too.

Offering Cups of Grace

“But as Jesus saw her walking toward the well where He was waiting, He saw what others did not see; a future trophy of His grace.” Derwin Gray, Limitless Life

There is often a common stereotype the surrounds the term “Christian.” Words like “hypocrite” and “judgmental” come to mind as those that are often thrown around. The very words that do not at all describe Jesus, are used to describe a throng of people who are supposed to be loving, kind, and forgiving.

And the fault is all our own.

Because, sometimes when we become Christians, we also inherit the false sense of responsibility to judge the actions of others.

That’s just not our job.

But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. James 4:11-12

Yet, often when we become saved ourselves, we think others will be too, but only once we point out all their flaws. Once we dole out our “Christian” judgment. Once we complete what we think is our job.

“Do you and I give people cups of grace to drink, or cups of judgment and condemnation?” 

What cups do we hand out? Do our conversations look anything like these?

“I can’t believe she wore that to church.” Because we think it is our job to judge the outward appearances of others.

“Oh my! Does she have any control over that child? Clearly all he needs is some discipline!” Because we think it’s our job to judge the skills of another mother.

“Did you see that picture on Facebook? I cannot believe he/she posted that!” Because it is our job, of course, to judge the actions of others.

“Why should a drug addict get out of prison early? They got what they deserved!” Because we think it is our job to judge the sins of others.

But, it’s not our job.

When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do the very same thing. Romans 2:1

And it means that I will be judged for all the times I have said something to condemn someone else (because, yes, I have said all of the things I mentioned above). I will be judged because I thought it was my job to condemn everyone who was not living the way “I” thought they should be.

It’s not my job.

No, my job is to give out cups of grace to everyone I meet. Just as Christ himself did. The Son of Man who never sinned. A man who could have easily judged and condemned the sin of others, but instead “humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Phil 2:8)

My job as a Christian is to show the love of Jesus, without condemnation. My job as a Christian is to remember that I was once a sinner. Once foolish and disobedient. Once mislead. Once a slave to many lusts and desires.

I was once the one who wore that to church. I have been the mom with the screaming child. I have also partied, and committed acts of sin that I would never want on Facebook.

And, I was also just like the woman at the well. An outcast. A teenage mother out of wedlock. A divorced woman living with a man who was not my husband. A girl, and a woman in need of grace. Not judgment.

It’s no longer my job to condemn those sins, but to proclaim to everyone how God made me new. How I was saved from my bad choices, my deplorable behavior, and how much I am loved unconditionally despite the things I have done.

It’s not my job to judge.

It’s not my job to condemn.

It’s my job to be Jesus in the flesh. To reach out to all. To offer them cups of grace. To believers and non-believers alike. Sinners and the righteous. The lost, and the saved.

It’s not my job to judge. It’s my job to love.

 

He Goes Before Me

For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” Hebrews 13:5

Remember that past I mentioned I had to face on my journey to become a licensed pastor in my district? That past the devil used for weeks to taunt me? Well, today was the actual day I had to travel to meet with our credentialing board to give my testimony. Even though I had come to terms with my past mistakes, given them to God, and embraced them as part of my journey, it was without surprise that I still spent most of the day at war with a devil who wanted me to believe that my history could never be a testimony of God’s grace.

He used one little annoyance after another in an attempt to convince me that I had made a mistake, that I wasn’t “called,” that I wasn’t worthy. First, I woke up to a cloudy day, soaked with rain. For those of you who know me, rain is not my favorite thing. It makes me want to find a deep dark cave to crawl into, or back in bed, at least. My meeting with the credentialing board was not scheduled until 8pm, which meant an hour and a half drive in the rainy, foggy night. I did drive in the rain and fog, only to find that I had driven to the wrong place. When I did get to the right place after several wrong turns, I sat waiting with a sinking feeling of dread that the pothole I hit while I got lost, would result in a flat tire as I went to make my way back home.

I knew that God had already come before me, yet, I could not keep the devil from crippling me with fear and doubt.

His taunting continued as I learned my transcript had not been received as I had previously thought, as I waited for over an hour to actually give my testimony, and as I clawed around in my purse for a pen to write these very words in this post (Thank God for that Notes app!)

The devil certainly did not want me to give my testimony. He wanted nothing more than for me to believe that God’s grace is not evident in my life. He didn’t want me to be able to write about how I may have defeated him today, any more than he wanted me to be able to tell a room of men and women how God had defeated Him in the past. He didn’t want me to feel like an overcomer. Instead, he wanted me to feel like a complete failure. Like I wasn’t good enough. Like I wasn’t worthy of God’s mercy, or to call myself “pastor.”

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

And I knew God had gone before me. What could the devil do to harm me?

I sat in the waiting room, and as I opened Facebook, the following post from Joyce Meyer was waiting on the page just for me: Your history doesn’t have to be your destiny.

No, it is my testimony.

A testimony that shows the power of salvation. A testimony that shows the depth of His love. A testimony that proves I do not have to live with the doubts I allowed God to overcome. A testimony that shows how God can overcome our past sins and mistakes, make us new, cleanse us, and wash us with his grace.

A testimony that the devil was not going to convince me not to share.

And, as I walked into the room-a room filled with people who had gone through the same process, who wrestled with their own doubts, and fears, and who had all been forgiven for mistakes they themselves had made, I knew that God had once again come before me. It was finished. The decision had already been made. The battle had already been fought on my behalf, and He had already won.

He had once again gone before me, and I had nothing to fear.