This morning I woke up an hour early and I couldn't be more thankful. God's been calling me to wake up and spend time with him each morning for many years now. He's called me to take it one step further this year with the Well Watered Women #wordbeforeworld challenge. While it's been a battle, it's also been an abundant blessing.
I haven’t been as successful as I'd like, but the times that I am, God blows my socks off with his abundance. So you can imagine, when I woke up with an extra hour, I was quite excited to begin my time in his word.
I’ve been studying 1 & 2 Kings with the First5 app, and on the mornings I have enough time, I’ll complete an entry in my Give Me Jesus journal from wellwateredwomen.com. It is a beautiful gift I received this past Christmas, and I'm so thankful for it!
For the journal entry I've been writing on the daily verse they highlight in the First5 app. I’ve found the ones they choose from 1 & 2 Kings to be quite challenging. I'll read it and think, "Okay, God. What are you going to do with this, because I’ve got nothing". Then I turn to the next page to begin journaling at a complete loss. However as soon as my pen hits the paper, he shows up every single time. Today's verse was no different.
"Then Jehoahaz sought the Lord’s favor, and The Lord listened to him, for he saw how severely the King of Aram was oppressing Israel." 2 Kings 13:4
When I think about oppression, I don't resonate. I don’t have kings warring against me, looking to take my livelihood. Living in America, while fear runs rampant, I’m not in imminent danger. While danger is possible, it's not probable. In addition to this, I have WAY more than I could ever need and I don't live in fear of it being taken away from me today. I would say I have it pretty easy, and no real oppression compared to what life the Israelites were living during that time.
However, God opened my eyes to something I wasn't seeing. As with everything, there is a pendulum. God calls us to the middle, and humanity in sin keeps swinging side to side. While a specific king doesn't enslave me, nor do I live in fear of my life daily, I do live oppressed because of my worship to current day idols. Our kings no longer sit on thrones but in our hands. I live enslaved to social media. I’ve lost entire days from the addiction to refresh. In addition to this area of oppression, my worship of comfort enslaves me. I'll seek to serve myself and my desires, over the obedience to God in his call to care for others. Also, my many fears and worship of other idols oppress my faith. This results in a wrong understanding of God, leading to shallow and unsteady faith. These are not things God calls me to. He calls me to a life of abundant goodness, and when our eyes are fixed on anything other than him we miss out on this.
"A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance." John 10:10
Digging into this verse and what God revealed, I learn that God cares. He listens and desires freedom for His people. Always. He understands my level of enslavement and meets me in the middle of it. Even though he has already set me free, he showed up and encouraged me to step forward in faith, unbound by the weight.
His desire is restoration, and he's already provided everything we need to walk in this. God opened my eyes to His loving-kindness, and to the reality of my arrogance, or as I've heard it put, chronological snobbery. I don't think of myself enslaved as the Israelites, who I imagine were at times bound in physical shackles but I do find myself very confined by a weight that clings so tightly. My chains are there, and their weight and consequences are my reality, but I live blindly to them in my pride.
To take this one step further, a recent podcast by Revelation Wellness, Alisa Keeton states, "sin acts upon the weight." I could go on and on about all the revelation I had from that episode, but I'll keep this short and link it here. This truth spoken by Alisa was a huge ah-ha moment for me. She ties this into the following verse.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us," Hebrews 12:1.
God calls us to lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely so that we can run the race of faith he has us to live. Weight in and of itself isn't a sin. It's when we act upon a weight in our life do we sin. Another way Alisa put it, "sin takes the weight or unrenewed thought and gives it words or actions."
This revelation and the way God tied it all together was so profound for me. To be humbled in my thinking was a beautiful gift as is provided me with the freedom to repent. A word that can seem so intense, but simply put, means turning my eyes and attention away from that which God hasn't designed nor desired me to go.
To take this to a practical level, the weights in my life are:
Social media. Debt. Excessive/unnecessary spending. The pursuit of knowledge over the pursuit of God. Fear of man. Lack of Faith. Fear of abandonment. Fear of losing my husband in the line of duty.
These are all things I wrote out in list form in the "Pray Big" box at the end of my entry in the Give Me Jesus journal. I feel God calling my prayer to look like this, laying down each of these before him in repentance and turning towards him.
The beauty in all of this is that God has redeemed us through the resurrection of Jesus, so it only takes repentance to be restored. Unlike the Israelites who waited upon the Lord for their restoration, we've already been given it in full measure at any point in time. Because we've been redeemed, all that's required of us is repentance, which allows us to live renewed. This is the life God has for us.
Psalm 23:3 - He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake.
While this revelation was a huge part of the beauty of my morning, God showed up in other ways as well. I’ve created a habit of starting the Worship Wednesday playlist put together each week by Lauren Dagle on Spotify when I go to write my "Pray Big" prayer. Each time I've done this, God shows up in the lyrics every time! It's amazing. The song God leads me to is often the one I’m playing when I record the scan of our view on my Instastory each morning.
For today, the song started, and it wasn’t resonating. I wasn't concerned as I knew God likes to surprise me as time goes on. However, what I didn't expect was when I moved my phone, I'd accidentally hit the next button causing the song, “King of my Heart" by John Mark MacMillan to play. I can't do justice to the lyrics here, so you'll have to just listen to it yourself:
See. Amazing right! And God took it one step further! During my devotional, I was reminded Daily Grace Co. launched a new product line and I had my eye one of their new mugs! I knew they may sell out quickly so I ended up getting sidetracked and purchased this while doing my study, and now hearing these lyrics at the end of my time in the word I can see how God wanted me to hold this reminder in my hand!
So that song wraps up, and I'm overwhelmed already by the abundance, and then the next song plays, "I Surrender" by All Sons and Daughters. To be honest, for some reason, I've never liked this song. However, this morning, when I hear it, while I'm writing my list of things to lay at the feet of Jesus, I'm overwhelmed by the lyrics. Again, I have them here as it's too much to type out:
I think, okay, God. I get it. It's as if this truth he's speaking to me couldn't be more clear. So that song wraps up, and I'm about to go about the rest of my morning, overwhelmed by his goodness even more. Then the song "Reckless Love" comes on! This may sound unsuspecting or doesn't really make sense, but this is like the worship music trifecta for my soul. This is the song I've dubbed as my "song of the year" and I've found myself listening to it on repeat for a record of eight hours one day. This is the love of God that he wants to lavish on us. He wants to love each of us so deeply and perfectly, that only I in this exact moment of time can receive because he is so personal and so deep when it comes to his love for each one of us.
I'm overcome to tears when I see the beauty God has for me when my eyes are focused on him and not the world. It's one beautiful thing I've been blessed by with the Word Before World challenge. While I fall short of this goal quite often, God is always faithful and abundant when I show up to focus on him first. I hope to continue to grow in my obedience to this call and want to praise God for his goodness in loving me so perfectly even when I fall short. I'm so thankful he has provided the way for me to be redeemed so that I can repent and live renewed!