Walking Through the Fire: Immanuel – God with Us

When you pass through the waters,
   I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
   they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
   you will not be burned;
   the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
   the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
   Cush and Seba in your stead.
Isaiah 43:2-3 (NIV)

Have you ever been so overtaken by the Holy Spirit you felt completely swept away? Smack in the middle of a crowd of women, a long ways from my safe, little home, the Holy Spirit grabbed hold of me in a powerful way.

While at She Speaks 2015, I sat listening intently as Wendy Blight shared her message of the paralyzing fear that gripped her for years after being sexually assaulted. My mind swirled with memories of my own encounter that I had stuffed down for so long. Everything in me wanted to get up and run.

Run from the past.
Run from the shame.
Run from the pain.
Why would God put me here for this specific message? He knows the dark spaces within my heart. I know He loves me so why in the world would He bring me to such a hard place. I had the secret scars neatly tucked into the deep recesses of my heart. I just wanted to leave them there.

The Holy Spirit wasn’t willing to let me stay in that stagnant pool of shame anymore. He walked me through those hard places. There wasn’t anything pleasant about it in the moment. I physically shook as He dug deep to redeem what had been taken from me.

Yet the Lord reminds us in Isaiah, “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.”  The flames sure felt hot in that place but God walked through it with me and I wasn’t burned. The chains were being loosened and I was set free from the captivity of trying to hide my shame.

Free from the past.
Free from the shame.
Free from the pain.
Being present in the hard places leads to redemption.

All the stuffing down, covering up and pretending it never happened can ever come close to the freedom found in Christ’s redeeming power.

Only through Him can we put down our heavy burdens.

God wants to remove the chains we desperately try to loosen on our own. Some try to get rid of them in their own strength while others try to pretend they aren’t really there anymore. Some of us try both in a futile attempt at freedom.

Chains can ONLY be removed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Honestly, looking back I see how God had been orchestrating my life for just a moment as this. I am redeemed and I want to share the good news that God can set you free too!

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story – those He redeemed from the hand of the foe. Psalm 107:2 (NIV)

Do you have some hard places in your heart you try to hide from the world, as well as from yourself? Call out to the One who redeems. His unfailing love will help you rise up and walk through those hard places to the redemption waiting for YOU.

If you want to know God, I invite you to check out Wendy Blight’s new bible study I Know His Name.

I Know His Name is a Bible study for any woman who wants to move beyond simply knowing about God to really knowing God in a very personal way.

In this five-chapter Bible study book, Wendy implements her practical and approachable style to equip readers to study the Word of God and then apply it to their own lives in practical ways.

I’m so blessed to be a part of the launch team for I Know His Name! For More information please visit Wendy’s page:

Is it Time to be Still or Move?

The word of God is active and alive. I love how I can read a scripture or passage that I’ve read hundreds of times in the past and God can bring a fresh revelation to me.

God’s redeeming power is on full display in the story of the Israelites being delivered from the Egyptians. God told Moses to inform the people that He was going to rescue and redeem them. In other words, get ready people, God is on the move!

Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’” Exodus 6:6-8 (NLT)

Unfortunately, they weren’t overly receptive to what Moses had to say. Their own daily grind and hardships had them utterly discouraged. Yet God was well aware of His covenant He had made with Abraham and remained faithful. His people were freed by God’s grace!

Shortly thereafter however they found themselves walled in again as they camped at the Red Sea. Pharaoh was in hot pursuit and all that freedom was starting to feel pretty scary! Fresh off huge miracles from God and they still forgot WHO was in control.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been right in that same camp. God has set me free from my past and yet I’ve been all too quick to panic when that freedom was being threatened by the enemy hunting me down.

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! Exodus 14:13-15 (NLT)

Yes, God calls us to be still and calm in the midst of chaos. We need to seek Him and trust Him to rescue us. BUT… He also tells us when it’s time move!

When we cry out to God for direction and His still small voice gives us just that; we need to put some distance between us and what God has called us out of! Stay calm but move.

When we’ve been redeemed and set free from whatever has been enslaving us we need to move forward. Many times this means we must distance ourselves from the sinful activities that held us so deeply. Those “egyptians” in our own life never to be seen again.

There may come a time when that includes walking away from relationships that are toxic. We can forgive and move forward but many times that can mean putting some safe distance between us and the relationship. This can be people, activities, idols or even seemingly “good things” that have us running back to slavery.

The Israelites didn’t set up permanent residence right next to the Egyptians. They moved on to the land God promised them. There were many bumps along the road still but they moved forward.

Is God calling you to set up some safety margins in your own life? Ask Him. He knows when it’s best for you to be still and when it’s time to move.

Are You Drinking the Poison of Unforgiveness?

Do you have relationships in your life that are fractured? There might be tension, hard feelings or maybe even complete separation at this point.

Relationships can be tough. We’re human and we tend to bump into one another along our journey together.

Past hurts rear their ugly heads and the enemy tries to keep us stirred up over them as he doesn’t want there to be unity and peace amongst us. If he can keep us from forgiving others, he can get a foothold into our lives.

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. ” Mark 11:25 (NIV)
Holding unforgiveness in our hearts is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. The one we’re doing the most damage to with our unforgiveness is ourselves.
Hurting people often hurt other people. The baggage we carry from our own past hurts can cause us to struggle in our relationships. God’s love sets us free to love others and forgive. We can’t love with the deep kind of love God calls us to on our own, only with His help.

I’ve had some relationships that I’ve really struggled with in the past. Mistakes on both sides of the fence that festered and grew into more tension then I wanted to deal with honestly. I’ve been guilty of walking away from hard relationships in the past.

When I looked at them honestly however and sought God’s counsel I learned a lot from pressing into the hard places.

We’re all designed for fight or flight and it always seemed odd to me that I had so much of both. I would fight tooth and nail for something I thought I could “win” but if there was any doubt about it I was all flight. That makes unity in a relationship pretty difficult!

God wants us to stand firm against the devil and not allow him free reign in our relationships though. God calls us to always be humble and gentle, patient with each other, making allowances for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

As we set about trying to repair relationships that are broken and may even feel lost, we need to seek God first. Run to Him in prayer and ask for His forgiveness for any part we may have had in the wrongs done. Then ask for His help in forgiving anyone who has wronged us.

Relationships can be redeemed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Turn loose of old resentments and ask God to renew your mind and instill a fresh love into your relationships.

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9

I’m praying for restoration for you friends!

Gift of a New Heart

Earlier this month we talked about the definition of redeemed. Through faith in Christ we are set free and our bonds are loosened. We are bought back.

God then does another miraculous wonder. He removes our stony, insensible and inflexible heart. The calloused heart closed off to God’s love and mercy.

He doesn’t stop there however! He replaces it with a new heart. A soft and tender heart ready to receive from God. One that is sensitive to His voice.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NLT)

Stone. It’s cold, hard and inflexible. My heart has been there. I’ve heard from the time I was young how stubborn I was. To be perfectly honest, I took great pride in that fact. Very few people were going to outwill me on anything. When they dug their heels in, I just dug mine in harder. My heart was stubborn and inflexible.

God puts His Spirit in us and transforms our stony, stubborn heart so we can respond to God with love and obedience. Because God has done this great work in us we’re fully qualified to do the good work He has for each of us. Kingdom work!

It’s important that we recognize this new heart and spirit are a gift from God. We don’t deserve them. They aren’t a result of any kind of human effort. We receive these gifts by repenting and then receiving. You can’t WILL a new heart into being! Trust me, I’ve tried.

God shows his redeeming power through the transformation in our lives. He renews us with a new heart and because our hearts are sensitive we’re ready for God’s direction in our lives.

This is for the glory of God, not us! I don’t know about you but I need a daily reminder of that. I’m so excited about this new found release from bondage that I jump up and down with excitement proclaiming God’s power. But then one day turns into the next and my wandering mind gets in the way of my new heart.

I’m forgetful in my own flesh. GOD redeemed me. I had NO power in it. The guilt that used to hold me in slavery is gone. My new heart knows this. But I need the Holy Spirit to help refresh my mind each day to this truth.

John 7:38 Jesus tells us that “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (NLT)

Rivers of living water flow from my new heart. Seriously, I had to read that again really slow. River implies great abundance. So not only am I blessed by believing in God and getting Holy Spirit ‘surgery’ done on my heart but those around me are blessed.  

Blessings spill out of the abundance of the living water in my new heart. Tweet

I don’t know about you but that makes this girl very excited! Not only does God remove something – guilt, shame, pain, fear – He replaces it with the living water of the Holy Spirit. Our guide in this dark world.

Walk forward in faith and receive the new heart and Spirit God has for you.

Is Redemption Only for the Select Few?

God’s redeeming grace is only for a select few, right? If you’ve ever felt that way we can relate!

I was sure at one point in my life that redemption was reserved for the special people. Not the people with so many flaws like myself. Only people God could use for His glory.

Even though I’d heard about God while I was growing up and even how He had used ordinary people to do extraordinary things, I still figured it was just for the special ones. The ones without a “history”.

Once you feel rejected or abandoned by humans it’s too easy to shift that same viewpoint to God. Unworthy of being in that special group of chosen people.

Most of us have heard the story of Rahab. She was a “working” woman with quite a past. Joshua 2:1b (NIV) says – So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

Joshua had sent the two spies to look over the land of Jericho. The king found out about them being at Rahab’s house and called her out on it. She lied to the king and said the spies had left the city.

Not exactly the most likely candidate for being called into the “special group” right? I mean she came from a people that opposed God. She was a woman with a sordid past and she told a bald faced lie.

But, God is love and He wants to set us free from our past. He’s ready and willing to loose the chains that hold each of us. He doesn’t wait for us to become perfect before He moves in us.

Rahab had heard about God and despite her past she was willing to step out in faith. Yes, there were many human flaws in her but nothing God didn’t already know about. He didn’t look at her in disgust. He saw the small glimmer of light in her heart and set about redeeming the brokenness of her humanity.

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Hebrews 11:31 (NIV)

Many times we convince ourselves that we’re not truly worthy of redemption. That the chains that hold us are so much different than other people’s. There must be something different about them to make them worthy of truly being set free from the bonds that held them.
Redemption is available to all without cost or exception.

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24 (NIV)
We have all fallen short of the mark and can’t earn redemption on our own. The power of redemption doesn’t come from the one being redeemed but from the Redeemer!

My Heart Song – Laura’s Story

I’m sharing my testimony at Michelle Moore’s website:

My Heart’s Song.

God loves me – this I know. At least that’s what I repeatedly tried to tell myself through the years. If I could just talk myself into truly believing that God could love me simply for ME, then maybe I could quit trying so hard. I based everything in my life on how well I could perform.

Shortly after I was born my mom was hospitalized for an extended period of time. Through no real fault of her own we never really formed a heart connection. My older sister basically raised me as my mom had the son she’d been praying for after 4 girls just ten months after having me.

I was a wild, carefree child who went anywhere my veterinarian dad would take me. I was never one to stay inside and if the boys could do something I was going to show them that I could do it even better! I competed for everything from the moment I can remember.

I was taught about God from an early age. To be honest though I just wanted to be saved from hell. This whole relationship thing was for the birds. Just give me some “fire” insurance and we’ll call it good.

My parents divorced by the time I was six and the judge awarded full custody of us kids to my mom. This daddy’s girl fell to pieces! I was moved to a city near my grandma and a world utterly foreign to me.

I longed to be back with my dad and run free again. God created me exactly for that! As an adult now I can look back and understand. At six I felt completely abandoned by the one I thought I could trust.

In high school I was rebelling against everyone and everything that tried to put rules on me. I ended up moving in with my sister and her husband. It wasn’t long before the abuse started.

Sitting in a hot pickup talking for a few extra minutes to a friend, I let my brother-in-law’s candy bar melt. As I walked back into the house to apologize for bringing him a half melted piece of chocolate I was more than a little startled by this 300 lb. man punching me in the face.

Looking back, I’m still amazed at how quickly he convinced me I deserved it and got sucked into several years of physical abuse. I tried to run away. I took off on my horse and went through the back pastures but after two days he found me and I got the beating of my life as well as locked in a basement bathroom for several days. The physical scars from that healed much quicker than the emotional ones.

There was a lot of alcohol abuse in that situation and it didn’t take long for me to join in. God was gently nudging at my heart even then but I was convinced that the only one who could or would look out for me was ME. I knew He was supposed to love me but to be honest it didn’t really feel like it right then.

The final blow was during another one of my drinking binges. I was partying with a lot of people I didn’t even really know and was so drunk I could barely walk. A guy I didn’t know offered to give me a ride back to my car and I accepted. I was sexually assaulted. I tried so hard to fight back and had always been the “tough” girl that would kick anyone’s butt for looking at me the wrong way. There I was not able to defend myself at all.

The shame I felt was almost unbearable. I never reported it and that caused further shame later on. I had friends tell me I deserved it since I got in the vehicle with him. I felt God had truly abandoned me this time.

I decided the best thing to do was just put it away as deep down in me as possible and try to forget. I was convinced I had put all of the past behind me when I got married and had a family.

Wounds have a way of not healing well if we never bring them into the light though. God tried so many times over the years to reach into those dark places but I just kept it all walled off. I thought I would be a better Christian if He didn’t see those dirty pieces of me.

God kept working on me throughout the years and even though I truly had a relationship with Him, I just didn’t want to deal with the past. The Holy Spirit is powerful though! When the final breakthrough came it felt like a whirlwind of healing. Something that just happened overnight. But, it wasn’t overnight. God had been working on my heart for many years. His timing is flawless!

I’m so grateful that God is patient and faithful. Even as I blamed Him for everything and turned my back on Him repeatedly His love never quit. Now I can truly say, “God loves me – this I KNOW!”

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 136:1 (NLT)

Redeemed – What Does God Want Us to Know?

Organization isn’t my strong suit. Oh, to have a personal assistant that would take care of all the details in my life would be glorious!

I’m working on it though and by the grace of God I’ll get better. So, with that said, I’m trying to plan ahead with a certain theme for the upcoming month. If you have any thoughts or questions as we dig into what God is revealing to me this month please feel free to contact me at lmhicks@gwtc.net.

God has been speaking the word “redeemed” over and over again to my heart for the past several months. I’ve started really digging into what it means. Not just on paper, but what it means for us in our own lives. So, I thought we could explore this a bit more together.

Redemption in the ancient world “includes the ideas of loosing from a bond, setting free from captivity or slavery, buying back something lost or sold, exchanging something in one’s possession for something possessed by another, and ransoming.” (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)

Yahweh was called Israel’s “Redeemer” as He had delivered His people from captivity in Egypt. With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home.
Exodus 15:13 (NLT)

God had redeemed the Israelites from slavery. Their bonds were loosened and they were set free.

The original Greek word in the New Testament for “redeem” is apolýtrōsis (from/apó, “from” and /lytróō, “redeem”) So properly that would be redemption which is literally, “buying back from, re-purchasing (winning back) what was previously forfeited (lost).” So we see that apolýtrōsis (“redemption, re-purchase”) emphasizes the distance (“safety-margin”) that results between the rescued person, and what previously enslaved them. (Strong’s Concordance, 629)

As believers, we can view the word “redeem” in the light of the original translation and see God’s grace at work as He purchased us back from the debt of sin. So then we can walk out into our new identity in Christ We are redeemed!

The song below is so powerful! Only God has the power to redeem. Let’s walk in our true identity as a redeemed child of God this week and beyond.