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Archive for May, 2018

“ … but no weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged. Any accuser who takes you to court will be dismissed as a liar. This is what God’s servants can expect. I’ll see to it that everything works out for the best.” God’s Decree.” Isaiah 54:17 (The Message)

 

I have always been fascinated with the story in the Bible about the Israelites wandering the desert for 40 years, being led out of Egypt by Moses and heading to the Promised Land.  There is so much to learn from that time in history as it’s filled with so many lessons, promises, miracles, and truths.

If you’re not familiar with the events, I would encourage you to read about them yourself in the Bible.  It begins, really, in Exodus 1 where God talks about the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt, takes you through the birth, childhood and adult years of Moses, through the 40 years of wandering in the desert to the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land with Joshua and Caleb.  It’s a long period in history and therefore encompasses all of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy through Joshua 5 if you want to read just about the slavery in Egypt through the crossing into the Promised Land.  However, if you want to read about the miracles God performed for the Israelites AFTER their feet touched the Promised Land, then I would encourage you to keep reading.

What I want to focus on today occurs after the crossing of the Jordan River, when the Israelites stepped into the Promised Land that God had promised them 40 years prior.

To give a brief summary to make today’s truth understandable, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and for years had been begging the Lord to save them. God chose to use Moses as His representative for the saving of His chosen people (the Israelites). After a series of miracles that God performed through Moses, the Israelites were freed (remember the story of the parting of the Red Sea?) and headed to the Promised Land.

When they set out in the desert, the trek wasn’t supposed to take 40 years.  However, the Israelites and their behavior is what caused the delay. They grumbled and complained, complained and grumbled at God about everything.  Imagine a hungry, tired, sick two-year-old and that’s how the Israelites acted.  They complained about everything, and even though God performed miracle after miracle after miracle, they still needed more and more confirmation and miracles to keep going.

Finally God had enough. There were only two people, Joshua and Caleb, from the thousands of original Israelites freed from Egypt (those not born in the desert during the hike) who would be allowed to cross into the Promised Land.  God declared that the rest weren’t worthy of seeing the promise fulfilled and because of their disobedience, grumbling and bad attitude, would all have to die before the next generation would step into the Promised Land.  In addition, their disobedience created consequences even on their children because the new generation was forced to wander in the desert until everyone else had died off. It was only after everyone had died from the original “exodus”, except Joshua and Caleb, that God allowed the Israelites to cross into the Promised Land.

However, even after entering the Promised Land, the next generation Israelites quickly forgot all the miracles God had performed and began grumbling and complaining again … turning their back on God, worshipping idols and repeating the history of their parents and grandparents.

The Old Testament is full of history explaining how one generation would completely turn their back on God, they would receive the natural consequences of living a sinful life and then cry out to God to save them from their own mistakes.  After they asked forgiveness, because of His love for them, He would save them, there would be peace for a time, and then once that generation died out, the cycle would start all over again with the next generation of Israelites turning away from God, receiving the natural consequences of their sinful lives, etc.

Having the cycle replayed across generation after generation after generation on the pages in front of me hit hard.  Am I like the Israelites? More than I want to be. While I have never turned away from God and started worshipping idols, when He performs miracles in my life, am I quick to forget about His power the second life gets hard again?

How many times do I ask God to “show me, reassure me, tell me, give me confirmation” when I’m facing less-than-stellar circumstances and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight? How often do I choose worry and fear when all He asks is for me to trust Him with the circumstances in my life, take my hands off and watch Him work? God also tells me to worship Him, praise Him through the difficulties … yet, how often do I actually do that instead of trying to fix things myself?

After hearing God speak that truth into my soul, I made the decision this year to be less like the Israelites.  To still come to God with my concerns, but to praise and worship Him more even when, or especially when, life gets difficult.  To try and resist my old habit of asking for confirmation constantly and instead believing His promises are true even when I don’t see the miracles happening, yet.

Come back next time as I show you how I began putting this commitment into action.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NIV)

 

God wants to do amazing things in our lives.  God wants to work through us and for us to bring about His purpose in our lives. Let me say that again. God wants to do amazing things in our lives. While His goal isn’t to make us happy, God does enjoy blessing His children and giving us good gifts.

However, I have learned over the past several years, God waits for us to invite Him into our lives before He goes to work.  Why is that?  As believers, we know God knows everything about us. He created the whole world, He knew everything we would do and experience before we even breathed our first breath, so why does He wait instead of just coming in and doing what we need?

I believe there are two reasons for that – both decided out of His great love for us. First, God created us as humans, not angels and not robots.  We were born out of His desire to have a relationship with us.  However, in order for it to be a real relationship, God created us with free will.  That is just a fancy way of saying we get to decide what we do and don’t do.  The most important free will choice?  Whether or not we will accept God’s gift of Jesus dying on the cross and believing He is the only way to get to Heaven and spend eternity in God’s presence … or choosing to be separated from God for all eternity and spending it in hell with Satan and his minions.

 

But, free will is much more than that. Free will is also about whether or not we want to spend life in bondage to sin and other issues that hold us down or whether we want to experience all the freedom God offers for the lives of believers.  God won’t force His freedom on us anymore than He will force salvation on us.  In order to get freedom, we have to ask for it.  We have to invite God into every situation we are facing, or as I like to do, invite God into every area of my life and let Him decide what areas He wants to work on.

The second reason God waits for an invitation is again about relationship.  He wants to have a real relationship with us – one that is mutual, one where we come to Him, not just to ask Him things, but one that does involve us asking Him things.  He wants us to want to spend time with Him, get to know Him, find out what He likes, doesn’t like and then want to obey Him.  When we develop that type of relationship with God, our Father, then we want to invite Him into our lives, giving Him complete access to all areas. When we trust that His way is best, then we get our agenda out of the way and leave room for God to come in and do amazing things – things we can’t even imagine.

Are you ready for God to work amazing things in your life? Have you taken the first step and sent Him the invitation yet?  After all, in order to see the blessings God wants to give, mailing out the invitation is crucial.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7 (NIV)

 

We’ve been talking about how God has taken the last two years and healed me from several areas of bondage: fear of winter driving, depression, holiday depression and panic attacks.

Today I want to share how sometimes modern day miracles aren’t freeing us from bondage, but instead God giving us a gift of one of His attributes.

In the midst of all the healing God was doing in my life, I was still doing my best to be wife, mother and working four jobs.  That schedule can sometimes get stressful and I don’t always handle stress very well.

One day in early January, while praying with my prayer partner, I was “venting” – telling her about all the things that needed to be done, how there weren’t enough hours in the day to be fully present with all my assignments and not collapse from the weight of it all.

Feeling convicted that I should be talking to my Father about these feelings instead of “venting” to a friend, we started to pray and I surrendered it all over to Him.  I imagined bringing a backpack to His throne room, filled with various heavy stones, each representing a different area in my life and leaving the stone at His feet.  After going through each issue I was dealing with and knew I couldn’t handle on my own, God spoke that He breathed His calm over me and told me I would remain that way.

Just as with the healing of winter driving, depression and panic attacks, the enemy isn’t happy I’m growing closer to God and being released from bondage. He is going to do what he can to try and make me doubt that healing did occur or I truly did receive God’s calm over my life.

January has not been stress free; however, I have maintained that sense of peace God breathed over me.  I first learned what it felt like to have His peace when it was my word for the year in 2016.  Without seeking it out for a full year, I don’t think I would’ve known what it felt like when God replaced my depression with His peace in May 2017. Now that I know what it feels like, I recognize it quicker and know how to enter into His presence and ask for it when I need it.

Modern day miracles are personal, unique for each believer. While my pastor experienced a warmth before his healing took place, I received the feeling of being surrounded by God’s peace. Some miracles take us by surprise, such as the freedom from driving in the winter gripped in fear.  Other miracles occur after intense and long-term petitioning before God for freedom, as was the case for me with freedom from depression.  Still other miracles come in stages, much like peeling the layers off an onion – first overall depression and then more specifically its cousin, holiday depression and sidekick, panic attacks.

My encouragement for you today, my friend, is this: Take that step of faith and invite God into all situations in your life. Ask Him to make the changes necessary for you to experience freedom from the bondage you’re facing and then believe He is working.  Watch and see what will happen.  Because as I love reminding us all, “What God is willing and able to do for one, He’s wanting to do for all of His children. He’s just waiting for us to ask.”

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

 

I’ve spoken in depth about the healing I’ve received from winter driving as well as from depression that I’ve lived with off and on since childhood.  Today I want to talk about another miracle God chose to give me in 2017, not because I deserve it, but because I asked and He answered.

Just as I’d lived with the label of “irrational fear of winter driving” and “depression” throughout the years, I knew I also suffered from time to time with panic attacks.  I didn’t think much of them, though, because the depression took center stage and tried to steal all my attention, keeping the panic in the background.

However, as the depression blanket was burned and I was resting in God’s peace, the enemy didn’t want to leave me alone quite yet.  He ramped up the panic attacks which would wake me in the middle of the night, terrified of things that normally during the day I could rationalize away.

At first I was upset.  Why would God allow me to suffer with panic attacks when He had already healed me from fear of winter driving and depression?  I thought this chapter was done and I was moving on to learning another lesson.  However, I soon realized God had given me the tools I needed to fight this struggle, and if used properly and consistently, I wouldn’t have to suffer for long.

The first time I woke up with the panic attack and all the fears streaming through my head, God also gave me a song, one that I’ve sung along to on the radio numerous times.  While I didn’t remember the whole song, the phrase that kept playing on a loop in my mind was exactly what was needed to combat the thoughts swirling and vying for my attention.  I realized I had a choice: pay attention to the thoughts and fears or start singing along with the song and believe in the truth behind the words God was giving me. I chose to sing, silently of course because my husband was still sleeping soundly, no clue that his wife was fighting a spiritual battle next to him.

While it wasn’t instantaneous, the longer I sang, the calmer I got and the fears quieted. I was able to get back to sleep and wake up fairly refreshed and ready for the day. A few hours later while driving the car, the exact song came on the radio and I was able to listen, really listen to all the words. They were so fitting for what I’d been fighting only hours before.

The panic attacks didn’t go away immediately.  They would show up throughout the months at random intervals, when I least expected them – sometimes during the day, sometimes at night, much like the bouts of depression had occurred.

I prayed for God to heal me from the panic attacks but didn’t receive an answer right away.  The week of Thanksgiving, our church had a worship night – a night to come together as one and offer our praises to God in the form of song.  My kind of night! Our daughter and I went and during the evening, our pastor issued an invitation for anyone who needed prayer for anything in their lives, to come forward and a member of the church would pray with them.

I felt God inviting me to go up and receive prayer about the panic attacks.  While I hadn’t had an attack in several weeks, I felt led to obey and went up.  It was my pastor’s wife who prayed for me and she interceded on my behalf for God to completely heal me.  I went back to my seat and had a wonderful time of worship, one on one with my Father and left that night feeling yet again … His peace.

It’s now February 2018 and I haven’t had a panic attack since.  There have been a few instances where the enemy tried to stick panic back on me as well as the day I had to stand up to the enemy and pray to eliminate holiday depression for good. But full blown panic attacks haven’t returned. I know God has healed me completely and He gets all the glory.

Come back next time as I talk about how modern day miracles aren’t always healing us from things but instead sometimes God putting other things in our lives for His glory.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“’But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord,”

Jeremiah 30:17a (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I shared about how God healed me from the fear of winter driving and how it wasn’t even on my radar to specifically ask for healing.

However, there was another area in my life that I prayed earnestly for healing from for over four years … and that was healing from depression. Approximately five years ago, God called us out of our former church and into the church we now call home.  Within the first month of sermons we heard, our pastor gave a testimony about how God healed him supernaturally from depression which had plagued him his entire life. He spoke about the warmth he felt travel throughout his body as the depression left and how he felt God’s healing power. I left that day knowing I wanted what he had.

And I began praying for God to release me from the depression that had a grip on my spirit as well.  I never knew when it was going to show up but always knew when it arrived because it felt like a big, heavy blanket had settled over my shoulders.  One I couldn’t shake off. For many years I attributed it to a reaction from the circumstances our family was dealing with but that didn’t account for it settling during what should have been my happiest moments – on the weekends when I was surrounded by family, while on vacation, etc. And, the longer I prayed for God to heal me, the more it seemed to intensify.

However, that didn’t stop me from praying and believing in a miracle. If my pastor could be set free from depression, I believed God could heal me too.  It was in February of 2016 when God chose to heal me from my fear of winter driving.  Then, beginning in January 2017, God invited me into an even closer relationship with Him.  My prayer time grew deeper, my worship time was stronger and I overall started hearing God speak in more ways that I had previously. It was also at that time I started praying with a prayer partner on a regular basis.

In May 2017, I felt God nudge me to begin praying every day for a month for complete healing from depression.  I told my prayer partner what God had said and asked her if she would be willing to pray with me.  She readily agreed and so during our prayer time, I asked God for complete healing amid the other conversation we had with Him.  The second day of praying that way … God healed me.  I was expecting a warmth to spread over my body, tingling, some sort of supernatural “feeling” to let me know that it had occurred, but instead all I got was … peace. Sweet, gentle peace. I knew that I knew that I knew the depression was gone, the heavy blanket was gone… and God had replaced it with His peace.

It stayed gone throughout the summer.  However, after Thanksgiving I wondered if it was coming back. I started to feel as though I was sinking down again under a heavy blanket.  However, God showed me that the depression itself was gone, but I needed to fight and reclaim my joy for the holidays – a gift the enemy had stolen 11 years prior when our miscarriage occurred two weeks before Christmas.

This time, instead of praying for healing from depression, I got quiet before God and reminded myself of His attributes – His faithfulness, His love, His provision, His promises, and the heavy feeling left. It was then I knew His joy for Christmas was back for good.

2017 was the first Christmas I’ve completely enjoyed the embrace of God’s joy and peace since 2005, the year before the enemy chose to snatch our baby early from our family.  I have the hope of meeting our child in Heaven and now can say as well that God has restored my peace and joy, completely burning the blanket of depression that held on for far too long.

While my healing looked far different from my pastor’s healing, both are permanent, both are gifts from God because He loves His children and doesn’t want us to live in bondage.

Come back next time as I share about one more layer, one more modern day miracle God chose to give me, not because I deserve it but because of His great love.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Psalm 94:19 (NIV)

 

I shared with you in Spoken from the Heart: Walking in Freedom how God had healed me from the fear of winter driving approximately two years ago now. Then, in Spoken from the Heart: God’s Joy Lasts a Lifetime I told how God healed me from depression, something I had lived with since childhood.

Each instance of healing occurred in a different way.  I had lived with the fear of winter driving for approximately 17 years at the time God took it away. I just assumed it was my “normal” and didn’t expect that fear to ever change. While my prayer every morning was to invite God into all areas of my life, I don’t recall specifically asking God to heal that area for me, because as I stated, I figured it was something I had to live with. However, God hears all our prayers and I believe because I invited Him into all areas of my life, He chose to answer that prayer in order to work more completely in my life to heal other areas that needed attention as well.

One night in January, in the heart of the winter season, I was driving home from Awana with our kids in the snow and realized I didn’t have the death grip on the wheel I usually did.  While I wasn’t singing to the radio or engaging in chitchat, I wasn’t petrified and it was enough of a difference for me to notice.

The following morning when my husband left early for work (due to the blizzard that still raged), I kissed him goodbye with the same calm I had in the summertime with blue skies and clear roads.  I didn’t have that irrational fear I had lived with for years that he would instantly be killed on the highway. And that peace and calm has, for the most part, stayed with me for the past two winters.

Last winter, the first full winter after God healed me, was a less than usual snowfall year.  I enjoyed that.  We had a high schooler taking college classes 35 minutes away and it was nice not having to worry about him driving back and forth on the highway with bad road conditions.  There was one evening, though, where the roads were very slippery and I had to get out and drive.  I didn’t have a choice. There was no one else who could do it.  I felt as though this was a way to prove I trusted God and I believed I was healed. While the drive wasn’t fun (who really enjoys driving in whiteout conditions?), and I gripped the steering wheel tightly, it was normal cautious driving that evening, not irrational fear or panic attacks. I knew God was with me throughout the drive and He had the power to keep our family safe.

This winter, the healing has come full circle.  While I used to panic driving seven minutes from my house on back roads with a few snowflakes in the air, with our oldest in college with full time classes, I have been called to drive him 35 minutes away, on the highway, in wintry conditions a few times. And while it’s still not my favorite pastime to drive in a storm, the irrational fear is completely eliminated.

I would even say I enjoy when it snows now.  I can look up from driving and see the beauty in the swirling flakes, feel peace when I get behind the wheel and know God is trustworthy.

Come back next time and I will share how healing from my depression occurred just as completely, but very differently, than God took away my fear of winter driving.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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 “But Jesus was matter-of-fact: ‘Yes—and if you embrace this kingdom life and don’t doubt God, you’ll not only do minor feats like I did to the fig tree, but also triumph over huge obstacles. This mountain, for instance, you’ll tell, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it will jump. Absolutely everything, ranging from small to large, as you make it a part of your believing prayer, gets included as you lay hold of God.’”

Matthew 21:21-22 (The Message)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about how sometimes the obstacles in our life are too big for us to tackle all at once.  Sometimes, we need to ask for God’s strength in one-minute intervals.

Lately, I’ve had what have seemed to be some pretty big assignments land on my lap. I’m talking life assignments – some have to do with work, some have to do with lifestyle, some have to do with … life.  And they’ve seemed overwhelming and I’ve wondered where I’m supposed to start.

And then God reminded me the best way to tackle any assignment that comes into my life if I want to have success.  First and foremost, before doing anything to begin the assignment, I need to start with prayer.  People may roll their eyes or say this is the required response or “you have to say that, Cheri” and give a half-hearted, “go through the motions ‘Help Me God’” prayer before rolling up my sleeves and tackling the project ahead, but seriously, this is the most important step.

Pray first.  I have noticed when I take the time to quiet my heart and mind and invite God into the situation I’m dealing with, He changes things. Nothing is too big for our God and nothing is too trivial that He doesn’t want to be bothered. Prayer, when I come to Him not with my agenda but fully surrendering to His agenda, changes situations.

Earlier this year, God used a situation at my job to show me just how much He wants to show up and work in my life. I was facing what felt like an impossible agenda and honestly didn’t know what to do. So I prayed.  A heart-felt, “God I don’t like this, I don’t want to do this, but I trust You will use this to grow me” type prayer. As I prayed, I felt God’s peace settle on me and I knew I was ready to begin.

While I waited for Him to work, I rolled up my sleeves and chose to start at the beginning and focus only on the first doable piece.  As I worked on accomplishing that part to the best of my ability, I watched God take over and work on the whole situation.  He changed schedules, freed up time, took other projects off my plate – all while I was still working on the pieces, one at a time, that had been assigned.

While God didn’t wave a magic wand and make the situation disappear, He did show me by fully surrendering to His will, His way, I would see how much He loves me and provides and fights for me.  That was a bigger lesson, for me, than Him taking the work away completely.

I’m not completely finished with the assignment that was placed before me, but God has been shrinking it to a manageable size over the course of the last few weeks.  Part of the shrinking has been Him removing obstacles to help me accomplish the goal and part of it has been me obeying and actually finishing it in bite-sized chunks.

The reason it’s been successful and I’ve maintained peace throughout is because I have fully surrendered the process over to my Father. I’ve told Him through coming to Him in prayer first that I trust Him and I trust He will work all things that enter into my life for His good. I have also stayed open to learning whatever lesson He is using this situation to teach me.

Prayer. Surrender. Trust. Working one minute at a time. When I allow God to be boss in my life, He creates a schedule that helps me finish the assignment I’ve been given in life while still living in His peace during the process.  He’s the best Boss – I wouldn’t want to work for anyone else.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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