You know… there are few things that invoke awe in me. I post tons of pictures hoping that it can communicate our life here or stir emotion in someone the way it may for me in real life. Usually, I know that its impossible unless someone is right here experiencing it with me in real time. However, after downloading the pictures this week of the sunrises here, I must say they took my breath away in the same way as the day I captured them. I love that the sky changes daily here, if not hourly. I love that the world seems different, new, and full of art on a consistant basis. I didn’t expect that of the mountains. I didn’t expect to be so close to the clouds that I could live in them.
Take note heart. It is your God that directs the clouds, moves the air, breathes into the wind. It is your King who lights the sky, who fills it with glory and calls you to take notice. It is your Counselor who gives you comfort, who inspires awe, and rests your soul.
Take note weary soul. It is your Creator who commands the sun, who shakes the mountain, and demands praise from the rocks. Take note, for He calls you to notice. He calls you to rise, lift your voice, to lift your eyes, your chin, and your chest to exhale your praise to Him. . . for no other reason than because He is the I AM and has spoken the day into being.
Take note. Remember. Capture His presence. All of this is ours for use in getting who He is, how He moves around us, in us, for us.
I see it.
Tags: Working Out Faith
Through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way
Wait because in His time, so shall this night
Soon end in joy, soon end in joy
Soon end in joy, soon end in joy.
~ Jars of Clay, God Will Lift Up Your Head
Storms don’t have to be external circumstances that make you feel out of control and feel distant from God. In fact, mine tend to all be in my head. My surrounding life and family can be running smoothly, seem just fine, but my mind is full of clouds, storms of fear, anxiety, and noise that drowns out God’s voice. I am self-aware enough to know that at times this calls for a physical relase of energy, one of the reasons I run about twice a week. I usually feel compelled to do it, to clear my mind, soak in Vitamin D from the sun, and fill my ears with the methodical beats of worship aligned with my shoes pounding the trail. Other times, though, running isn’t enough, it is something in my gut that can only be processed through prayer, writing and reflection. It is God’s way of pounding on my heart that He misses our time and I have let life take hold of my heart instead of Him.
This week I have witnessed the effect these storms can have on my attitude, my peace, and serenity. I can’t pinpoint a trigger, everything on the outside seems fine, but inside my heart has been robbed of joy. The storms on the inside are far worse than those on the outside- and I have seen the result of external damage outwardly that began from one degree off in the mind. In fact, Matt and I had a conversation this week about how the enemy doesn’t tempt us (me) with immediate, extreme sinful behavior, he tempts us by distracting us from our source of peace, direction, and joy- often causing me to focus on myself, my feelings, and entitlement. I then allow it to transition to a selfish attitude resulting in grey clouds of unhappiness. Where is my joy? I left it behind.
I see more clearly now the sinful nature that so easily entangles. “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind” (Rom 7:22). I am left feeling like the dry bones scattered on the floor of the valley needing only the breath of the living YAHWEH to bring flesh and life to what is dry and lifeless. I realize now more than ever that amidst the clouds and storms of my mind, there is only one thing I can be sure of, certain of, and that “Christ [can] make his home in my heart as I trust him. My roots will grow down into God’s love and keep me strong. And may I have the power to understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” That with my effort to seek him, know him, that I will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Eph 3:18-19
Once you experience the love of God, embrace His son as the source of joy, and listen to the Spirit’s voice, it is evident that there is no other truth. There is no job, no book, no talk, no pill, no running trail, no end to the chaos around you that can bring back your joy but Him who created it. If I never had storms, if I was never tempted away from God, I would never have reason to choose him, I would never run to him, and never have need to thank him from delivering me from myself- for that is who I have to blame in the end. And that is my sin- I allow the storms and confusion room in my heart to rob me of joy. And I am grateful to know that- because I want joy not of my own making- because I can’t make it.
After Ezekiel delivers prophesy as he is told, the bones took back the form of life, but only Yahweh could breath life back into them. This was his message to his people- “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it.”
Yahweh- I beg you to breath you life into me, restore my joy, forgive me for my sinful heart- for I make myself an idol when I shift focus from you to me. Clear the way, and in your time, end this period of night with joy. Settle me in the land you have already given me, and mark my character so that I will remember that it is you who did it all, for there is no greater truth than what you have already spoken in your Word and through the power of your son.
Tags: Working Out Faith
So Happy Father’s Day to all of you who have created little ones, want to, or have chosen to father the fatherless. Much has been written about the importance of fatherhood. As crucial as it is to have a mother, a nurturer, a caregiver, there is something about the follow through of a father that God put great expectation on. It is a fascinating role designed to influence our perspective on the heavenly father. They say that little girls strive to captivate the attention of their fathers. Although I was not one to twirl in my pretty dress in front of my father, I in a tomboy sort of way did everything I could to chase after him. Of course, I really didn’t have to work that hard because I believe he chased me too. What a great picture of who God is- one who pursues us without ceasing. I remember chasing after my Dad while he jogged on my bicycle until I was old enough to run myself. And then I remember him at every track and cross country meet he could get to. Holding a stop watch, helping me with time, encouraging me to attack the hills. He was present and wanted me to work hard to be my best.
I have a great earthly father. He continues to teach me and inspire me and points me to God even when he doesn’t realize it. Above all, he is a good man. He fights for what he believes in, stands up for those who can’t stand themselves, and works hard. He knows what his passions are and enjoys life. Even in my adulthood, he supports me, helps me when we need it by bridging the gaps between what we know and what we have yet to learn and yet with such respect.
I have an amazing husband as well. There is truth in finding a spouse that is like your father. It was not luck or by accident that I chose to say yes to Matthew. The example of integrity my Dad walked with set an example I wasn’t even completely aware of at the time when I came across my husband. God knew exactly what I needed in a man and walked with me through my childhood opening my eyes to the things he wanted me to see and remember. As I am sitting here on vacation at the beach, I have a vivid picture in my mind of my father playing in the sand with me. It is a precious picture in my mind of a present, playful, and creative man. And yet, over the past month- our family has been in transition, moving across the country for our next assignment. Matt has been so amazingly present, playful, and patient with all of us during what could have been a stressful experience. It leaves me so complete to watch him build in the sand with the boys, play with them in the water and work with them to raise them to be solid, good, men. Men with integrity, men who raise up those in need, and patient with each other.
So, Happy father’s day to my Dad- you do such a great job, in a role that is quite difficult at times. Thank you for all you have done and keep doing. Thank you for teaching me so much about life and myself. I take pride in seeing each day that I am more like you than I ever thought. Thank you for pursuing me and being so patient with me.
Happy Father’s Day to my husband. Thank you for being so involved in parenting our boys. You bring thoughtfulness and strategy that when paired with my discernment results in making decisions that I believe are from the Lord. A perfect example of unity and a whole picture of God’s justice, grace, and goodness. I love you both!
When I first started Seminary, I started out as a Masters of Divinity student. After one semester, and an almost nervous breakdown, I realized I was not supposed to go for that degree. One of the classes that led up to this moment was a study on Jurgen Moltmann, a popular German theologian. An entire semester was devoted to this guy and we were asked to laboriously suffer through reading his German-to-English books on his view of God. His thoughts were thick, philosophical, and so deep my brain couldn’t hold even the cliff notes version. I struggled to understand why it had to be so complicated. I cried in the bathroom while my husband assured me that I would get it. Sure, for him, it was like candy- Matt devoured this kind of mumbo-jumbo jargon. When it came exam time, even the three hour exam-prep class wouldn’t help me. I was lost in the sauce, and all I had was one sentence of what Moltmann was trying to say, and I knew a whole exam of questions and essays could not be answered with that one sentence:We can only hope for that which God has already promised us, and that was Jesus.
That sentence cost me about $1500 to learn. At the time, I thought it was the biggest joke and disappointment I had to that point. I was disappointed in Moltmann, my professor for putting me through that mess, but mostly in myself for “not getting it.” Now, some 11 years later, I find myself still struggling with disappointment. It rocks my world every time. I get disappointed in people, the church, life’s uncontrollable events, and mostly me. I am way low in adaptability in my strengths. I freeze when something surprises me, I have no wit or quick come backs for a joke, and most frustrating is when something unjust happens in front of me and I go blank as I wait to figure out what my response will be. As I am learning to embrace my inner workings, I am still met with why disappointment rocks my soul. And that haunting Moltmann sentence comes back to me: We can only hope for that which God has already promised us, and that was Jesus.
I am disappointed because I hoped in something. I hoped in everything that is flawed, that could and will let me down. Of course, I know I am not center of the universe, but somehow I seem to easily put myself there. I hoped that a friend wouldn’t hurt me or let me down, I hoped that I could find consistency this week as I tried to feed my body the nutrition it so deserves, I hoped and trusted that the church people would act like lovers of Jesus, I hoped for stability in the midst of a calling in the military, and even what I thought was most important- that God had my back. We will be disappointed every time. We will be discouraged every time. As much as it pains me to say it, Moltmann was right. The only thing we can put our hope in is what God has already done. There are no new promises from God because His Word introduced his desire for us, revealed a promise of reconciling all things to him, and delivered. And the delivery of His son Jesus answered every disappointment, every fear, every bit of suffering we would ever feel in that Jesus brings us back to God. He has made it so that I cannot even trust my own ability to be consistent, because only He is. He is stable, loving, all knowing, and full of grace for when we slip away to think of ourselves more than Him. Romans 5:2, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. … And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love in to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
I love that the Holy Spirit is mentioned here. The disappointment that I struggle with is when things don’t go the way I wanted them to go and I fail to give timely grace. Life, though, is full of all kinds of hurt and disappointments. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of counsel and wisdom. Without a humble, dependent reliance on God, we will not hear the Spirit clearly. It is the Spirit that convicts my pride for thinking that I could do it on my own strength, that reminds me in the middle of my prayerful complaining that my disappointment was because I trusted too much in the imperfection of the world. Yet, it is also the Spirit who counsels in wisdom that humility does not equal living with a victim mentality. On the contrary, it means trusting in the fulfilled promise of Jesus that we are free from strongholds that keep us from intimacy with our Creator. We are freed to mov actively in obedience as we love others, stand up for truth, and sometimes have to walk away from people or things that seek to teach otherwise.
“Forgive me Jesus, for trusting in my own strength instead of relying on yours. Forgive me for pridefully thinking that life was about how happy I am, or what I get to do. Forgive me for being self centered as I beat myself up for thinking I disappoint you instead of fully embracing your grace and mercy and rejoicing in your love and acceptance pouring over my soul, stilling my heart. Forgive me for not accepting how you created me and living it out fully for your glory. Forgive my unforgiving heart as I have held on to past disappointments from others when I should have seen it was my own sin of putting hope and trust into people instead of you and your plan. Thank you for using my disappointments to develop character in me that learns to look to you and develop patience in life. Thank you for “having my back”, but not in the way it will serve me- but glorify you. With authority, given to me by you, Jesus, I rebuke any stronghold that distracts my view of you. I will uphold your truth, seek to humbly rest in your gift of closeness and refuge, and ask for your strength and consistency, so that I can speak of your unfailing love and forgiveness in the midst of my imperfection and sin. Help me to actively walk in your love, and hope in Jesus.”
Tags: Working Out Faith
I had someone ask me the other day, “How am I supposed to know what God wants me to do when I have so many ideas in my head?” Wow, have I ever been there! I remember a number of times that I thought I heard the Lord speak to me directly and tell me a direction to go, a boy to date, or a career path to begin. Had it not been for the beginning wisdom of a dear professor that taught me how to discern the will of God, there is no telling where I would be today. But if you will allow me, today I am going to zoom in on one aspect that seems to particularly trip us up.
Martin Luther’s Reformation unchained the Word of God from the pulpit and reminded believers that they had a relationship with God personally. Although we Protestants (hopefully) still value confession, Luther showed us that we could go to the Father directly to confess and have conversation with Him. Hearing Him, however, has many believers jumping at the first “whisper” and leaving many confused when something doesn’t feel right, or go right. How are we to tell the difference between our own thoughts, the Holy Spirit, and the enemy?
Let’s start with this. Nothing that God says to us will ever go against scripture. Scripture is the living, breathing, Word of God that is alive- meaning that we are moved and changed by it daily and it’s words give us direction today even though it was written forever ago. Along with that, it is clear that God created a special need for community that we will never be able to escape.
We are flawed. Each one of us. Me, you, your parents, your children … and our spouse (just in case you were expecting them to be more than what you are capable of being). We were designed to be flawed- if we weren’t, we would be God- and there is only one God that can be all things, to all people, watching our beautiful planet at the same time as He is whispering your name. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will learn to forgive those who accidentally (or purposefully) harm us and learn to accept the love that they try to give that may be different from ours. Being flawed means that we desperately need a God in our life that is trustworthy, there, perfect, all knowing, and peace-giving. And having God in our life keeps us humble by not carrying the burden of imperfection and brokenness and instead leaning on Him to sustain us to do what He gives us the desire to do. Yet He knew, that if we only heard it straight from scripture, or His Spirit in prayer, that we would close ourselves off and dangerously mix our flawed thinking with His truth- thus cults and cult leaders. Being flawed means that we can conjure up the wrong things, believe lies, and then think it’s God’s voice. So, he brilliantly designed the body of believers, the Church (not to be confused with the institution or building), to be an extension of Him. A bunch of other flawed individuals that are also trying to study and hear Him. These believers, those who have confessed and chosen to follow Him (including you), are called to prayer and service to each other. Why? Because we are a physical extension of this God that we cannot see with our eyes, but feel within our spirit.
“But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lack it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” 1 Corinthians 12:24-25
We desperately need each other. He created it that way. And so anything that we “hear” from Him, must be taken to the body- to at least one believer who is actively following Him (spouse, small group, accountability partner) for confirmation. It is when we receive confirmation from the body (within whom He is also actively involved and moving) that we move forward on that internal whisper. Brilliant, isn’t it? Thank God- for He is good. This is what keeps us from going “crazy”, and leading other people into “crazy”. This is why when I had a boyfriend that told me that we were hearing different things about God on what was clearly unhealthy behavior- that I knew something was wrong- especially when I had friends who loved me confirming it.
When we serve one another, we are “doing” for another what Jesus would still do today if he were physically still on Earth- how else are people today going to experience Him? When we say we are going to pray for someone, people are actually asking us to pray (not just think about) so that we may be the person from the body that gets clarification and confirmation for what they are struggling with. So, when you hear that whisper in your mind, it is not time to move- it is often time to dive into scripture, pray, and share it with someone you trust who is actively in scripture, and wait for God to confirm it within the body. This is also true vice versa- if someone in the body tells you a “word from the Lord”, align it with scripture, pray about it, and seek confirmation from someone else in the body. If you are married to a believer, this is most often your spouse, but for marriage decisions- someone who mentors you.
If all gifts are given to edify, or encourage, the body of believers- then all that we experience with God is ultimately, in a timely manner, meant to be shared and used to encourage each other- thus the power of testimony. We tend to find ourselves “in the weeds”, struggling over whether it is God’s will for us to take the tiniest step- and while God is present in the decision making of your tiniest step- He is simultaneously zoomed out to His timeline of eternity. God cares about that tiny step that is causing you stress. He may even choose to whisper truth and direction to you about whether or not you should take that tiny step- but make no mistake that He has authority over everything that happens in your life. Nothing passes by Him without Him answering on whether He will allow it to happen. No evil, suffering, or obstacle is a surprise to Him (read Job). And while we often confuse this with thinking He “inflicts us” with our circumstances, He knows that life and sin “happen” and are followed by consequences that will hopefully give us the opportunity to glorify Him. The ultimate purpose in everything He allows, is that we glorify Him- that we give credit to Him for the gifting, the blessing, the sustaining, the direction, the rescuing, or the comfort through the worst of it.
“teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” Psalm 86:11-13
Finally, the enemy is talented at knowing exactly what to whisper to you. Our childhood Sunday school classes taught us that he is evil, dark, and scary and while that is true- he is also deceptively attractive. That is what deception is, trickery at it’s best that lures someone away form the truth. Lures and baits only work if they mimic something true. And so the enemy often will whisper and tempt us with something that sounds like what God has called us to, but is only slightly off to a degree. If we follow that lie, it will send us in a direction that is completely off track from God’s desire for us. Yet, if we believe that all authority is given to God, and nothing slips by Him- then we must also believe that He allows this temptation to happen in the hopes that we will change course after searching the Word, prayer, and confirmation within the body. It is something to confess, as we chose something other than Him, but He allowed it so that we would be changed by it, remember it the next time that lure shows up and know how to respond. Then, we will sing His praises, glorify Him in His wisdom and grace in our life and testify it to all who have ears to hear.
So, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6
Tags: Working Out Faith
“Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
In the military, discerning the will of God can feel a bit backwards. For instance, where we move is often completely out of our control, yet whether we should volunteer (and where) can completely rob us of peace. No matter the size of your decision, you can discern God’s will by lining up your outer circumstances, inward impressions, and comparing it to the truth of God’s Word. To break it down further, ask yourself four questions. Think of it as a chair with four legs requiring all four, grounded, and firm before acting on it.
1. What does Scripture say about it? If Scripture is a lamp to my feet, lighting my path (Ps. 119:105)- should it not illuminate at least the next step? Scripture is full of wisdom, direction, and examples of how to walk closely with God. Knowing how to “correctly handle the truth” (2 Tim 2:15) by reading it in the context in which it was written helps us apply it to “train and equip us toward righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). For example, randomly opening the scripture and doing whatever the verse our finger lands on is not the wisest way to use scripture to discern God’s will for our situation.
2. What does godly counsel say? Scripture is clear that we are not alone, but have the body of Christ, working in unity for the encouragement of each other. Seek godly counsel, mentoring, and close relationships (preferably not extended family members) like your spouse and accountability partners for wisdom. Some of my best moments of conviction, change, and revelation from God involved key people that spoke truth into my situation. Something I could not have done on my own.
3. What about common sense? Does what I want to do make sense? Some decisions are easily right or wrong on our moral compass- others are more difficult to discern. I remember being in an unhealthy relationship in college and asked for my grandfather’s wisdom, he simply said, “God gave you a brain and he expects you to use it. He won’t always hand you the answer on a silver platter if you have the ability to make sense of it.” Still, our Creator may choose to speak into our inward thoughts when we need help. Although it may not be loud, we can hear a voice behind us saying “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
If you can’t answer that it is clearly right or wrong, then ask is if it is wise or foolish. For example, setting boundaries in a difficult relationship can be both wise and right in that God desires you to feel safe, valued, and loved. However, whether or not you work in the home may be wise or foolish based on your circumstances, but not wrong. Remember, trust that every decision is from the Lord, even though we may cast the lot (Prov. 16:33). Do your best to make the right decision, He is there.
4. Are the doors around you open or closed? Paul refers to looking for open opportunities several times throughout 1st and 2nd Corinthians. We may not know until we are about to walk through the door if it will shut, and sometimes we walk through only to find ourselves thrown out. Paul described in Acts 16 that the spirit of Jesus would not allow him and his companions to enter into a region to preach. God has an amazing way of refining and focusing our passion towards where it can best be used and received. Our obedience requires effort, self discipline, humility, and obedience to Him, but it should never feel forced or worse- leaving casualties or destruction behind us.
Now of course, a few comments must be made about the foundation on which we process all of this beginning with sound theological and doctrinal beliefs. Truths related to the Trinity and its relationship with humanity, salvation, and sin, for example, set the foundation. Our time with the Lord in worship and in prayer is not replaceable when it comes to hearing from God. God desires an amazing relationship with us that can only happen when we draw near to Him. There, we discover our strengths, shortcomings, confession, forgiveness, and restoration that lead to our obedience to Him.
Finally, remember that God never tempts us to sin but will lovingly test us. A time of testing, may feel like chaos, God may seem silent, and the enemy may attempt to confuse us. His wisdom, though, is that when that season passes, you will discover confidence in Him, yourself, and new purpose. Therefore, “commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” (Prov 16:3).
To see this article as seen in Wives in Bloom On-line Magazine, click here
Tags: Working Out Faith
“You are overwhelmed,” my husband said to me. “You can do a lot of things, but you can’t do everything!” I had over-committed myself once again. He was right. I had let my interest sway towards so many things and lost my sense of purpose. Opportunity had become more important than following God. I prayerfully committed my day to sorting out my purpose and what I found was peace, fulfillment, and the time to do it all.
When I think of “purpose”,my first thought is my boys arguing. I eventually will ask the question,“Was it on accident or on purpose?” If it was on purpose,it was intentional,however,on accident implied that it was a haphazard reaction and perhaps by chance. I don’t know about you,but the thought of living “accidentally” sounds like chaos! I want to live with purpose,engaging life thoughtfully of why I am living it. But how do you find purpose? Contrary to the thought that God has hidden it, He has revealed it to each of us already and specifically to you.
The entirety of scripture is about our purpose. From beginning to end it describes the journey of God’s people knowing Him,leaving in search of something “better”,and then returning once experiencing His immeasurable love. The life of Jesus is the first step in understanding our purpose. It involves embracing “God with Us” as he experienced humanity in a way we cannot overlook. Jesus lived,breathed,and felt everything we could ever feel convincing us of His ability to “know us”. He loved in a way that changed our perception of serving. And let us not forget that his death enables us to approach the Father,as we are,and have grace and forgiveness instead of shame. Our purpose is simple,my friends,we are asked to be as much like Christ as humanly possible;to love,serve,and follow God. Jesus,in his resurrection,made it possible to strengthen us to do it all. We were not created to succeed on our own,thus,my over-committed chaotic life to this point. We needed a savior. Unfortunately,the enemy would like nothing more than to convince us we don’t have a purpose to live for. He is an expert at confusing scripture and getting you to question if God might be holding back something from you. Satan used this exact technique to tempt Jesus of his own purpose in the wilderness and even while vulnerable,Jesus quoted scripture back.
My purpose was simple: To become like Christ,to focus my efforts on bringing the truth of God into darkness,and serve with a community who longs to do the same. Once I understood the frame around which all my decisions would be made,I was able to write out my mission statements for each area of my life.
Your mission is the way in which you will live out your purpose. For example,I divided my life into priorities:Devotion for God,taking care of myself,my family,my work and my community. I then defined my mission for each of those areas (i.e. for family: To offer my best to my family before giving to others by serving my husband,investing in my children,and guarding my family’s time and resources.)
Do not be confused,sisters;your purpose has already been revealed to you! God desires to love you and give you the strength to live your life with passion.Wait upon the Lord,ask that he refine you and instill a strong sense of your purpose as clearly stated in His Word. Write it out,and the issue will not be “why haven’t I found my purpose” but will be to live confidently on purpose,with a mission,and know exactly why.
Click here to see this article as seen in Wings for Women
Tags: Working Out Faith
“Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Col 2:7
I recently pondered on the well-known Scripture, “Be still, and know that I am God.” I have thought on it many times, reminding myself to slow down and listen for God’s voice. This particular day I sat down with the Word and read the verses before it to understand it in context. To my surprise, these words were not written in the friendly tone I had long assumed. In fact, it was a command!
“Come see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Ps 46:8-10)
I suddenly felt put in my place. How long had it been since I had been quiet before Him? God is basically saying, “I AM the Almighty! If I am in you, you will not fall. But if you do not exalt me, the rest of my creation will.” As hard as it is to hear, God can hand us over to our desires if we are not listening to Him. In other words, He will let us live out the consequences of our choices if we refuse to hear. Hear my heart, sisters! He loves us each deeply but if we know Him, quieting our souls before Him is not a request, it’s a command.
It is so easy to evaluate the “fruit” in our lives by whether or not our day has had an inkling of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And to be honest, that list sounds exhausting! If your days are like mine, you quickly realize that by dinner time, a few of those have flown out the window and perhaps taken a bit of your attitude with it. And yet we try to muster up that joy, don’t we? Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit- fruit that will last…” (John 15:16) But Wait! Before you walk out the door to spread the joy, listen to what he said before that verse,
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.… Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:5,9-11 (Emphasis mine).
We are walking around incomplete each day if we forget to spend time with the Trinity. We forget that the very presence of God is what makes us whole, complete- how he designed us. It is there, that we confess our need for Him, see our shortcomings, allow forgiveness to change us, hear His fatherly wisdom, and give Him the permission to go before us in our day. We are changed there and the result is His illumination that others can see. Approaching our family and the world after that seems effortless because authenticity is by God’s effort, not ours. Fruit “happens” when our humanity is exposed and God’s grace illuminates us. Glory is then His because of the change seen in us. You may not even realize you have more patience until you begin to see God’s work around you.
After reading the context of the Psalms verse, my forehead immediately hit the floor in humility as I quickly knew my place before the throne of the Almighty. I tearfully asked for forgiveness as I realized that any fruit of my life to that point was God’s, not mine. If I don’t exalt Him, and give credit to Him for blessings in my life the pouring out of His love will never end, but His blessings may. Blessings are an outpouring of God’s favor, again, for His glory. You may feel you are in a drought and that His blessing has passed over you. My dear friend, merely a moment with the God of Lights will illuminate your spirit and bless you beyond anything the world could offer. Test Him, He will not let you down.
As I thanked Him for changing me, I heard him sweetly finish the Psalms verse “Now Go! The Lord Almighty is with you; the God of Jacob is your fortress.”
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Tags: Working Out Faith
It’s not everyday that we get a word from the Lord regarding our future. Most of us live in a constant state of uncertainty as our soldier is just as likely to get orders to deploy as it is he will tell us moving orders have been canceled. If we are on top of our game, we move throughout the day having surrendered our control to a loving God who waits to surprise us with his thoughtfulness. Yet, soon after hearing from Him, we all too easily take our eyes off of the risen Savior.
In the last chapter of John, Peter and the newly resurrected Jesus are walking when Jesus speaks prophetically about Peter’s future:
Now Peter seemed to have a love-hate relationship with following Jesus. When he asked to follow Jesus in death, Jesus told him no, that he would actually deny following him three times. We also see Peter following Jesus out on the water and later verbally running in front of the Savior and called Satan for it. Here, he is given three chances to recommit his love, follow, and given a glimpse into his future death. Strangely, Peter looks behind him to ask about John, “What about him?” Why would he be so interested in John’s story?
Jesus answered Peter’s question by saying “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” He rebuked Peter saying it was none of his business and to simply follow, a familiar challenge for Peter. The result remained captured by the sinfulness of humanity when the disciples spread ridiculous rumors that John would never die. Its painful how we can twist the direct words of our Savior and miss the point.
C.S. Lewis wrote beautifully about this in “A Boy and His Horse”, as the lion Aslan, and symbolic figure of Jesus, recounts to Shasta his unknown and quiet presence throughout Shasta’s life. Shasta, (astonished that Aslan had been so good to him during his seemingly “unlucky” life) questions Aslan’s involvement with his friend Aravis during the journey together. Aslan’s response was “Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”
It is hard to assume the motives of Peter. At this point in his story, it was a question of could he keep His eyes on the Savior and follow Him into and through the suffering. Yet something kept him from hearing the message. Was he worried he would be alone in death? Did he worry if John would find the same fate? Did he think Jesus loved John more? Or was he just curious like Shasta was at John’s experience compared to his? Regardless of his motive, or ours, Jesus’s answer is the same, “What is that to you, Follow me.”
Intimacy is found in the presence of Jesus. There we find answers to our deepest questions about God, suffering, humanity, and grace. In his words, we find that we are deeply loved, valued, and in-comparable to any other creature he has made to date. Only in following Him to the cross, do we find rest in uncertainty, fellowship in our despair, and the courage to forgive those who have harmed us.
All Jesus ever asks is that we follow Him. When we are consumed with another story, we take our eyes off Him and begin to sink. If we are not following then we may be at risk of going no where, going the wrong way, or trying to take the lead. Either way, the rebuke is still the same. The Savior reminds us to not be so concerned about the story He is writing for someone else and to simply follow. The timing and storyline He writes for each of us is unique and if we lose focus, we will be tempted to write it ourselves. Keep in mind even a marriage contains three stories; yours, your spouse’s, and the marriage itself.
Shasta and Aravis later share their story with each other and have a greater understanding of Aslan together than if Aslan had just told them separately. Fellowship is designed to provide the bigger picture of God, and connect us to each other in our experiences of Him. Peter himself wrote, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:8). Thank goodness He is patient with my progress and doesn’t gossip my story to others. Instead He lets us share our story when the time is ripe for harvest. Let’s follow His lead in patience with ourselves and others and maybe we will hear what He has for us more clearly.
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Tags: Working Out Faith
Waiting on the Lord is not an easy thing to do. You wait for an answer, for community, to feel His presence move in a way you haven’t felt in a long time. Some are waiting for healing, some are waiting to find fulfillment and purpose. Why is He so quiet? Does He enjoy toying with our emotions as we flail about in our circumstances like a fish out of water? Every situation is unique and we may never fully understand, but make no mistake, when He chooses to move we will be transformed.
We have a human tendency to automatically assume that silence means we have wronged God or that he has abandoned us. Scripture, however paints a different view showing that although He promises to not abandon us, His “presence” is unpredictable. The Word of God, though is constant, it provides a familiar voice in the silence. Leaning on what He has said before during the historical times when He has chosen quiet can give insight to what He is doing. Scripture is a timeless game plan, an instrument of His making that guides us in our darkest moments. It is a place to turn when we feel alone, confused, and desperately scrambling for a lantern to light our way. It is there that our heart is first checked for any way we may have grieved the Holy Spirit. Confession, then, cleanses our heart where any cobwebs of wrong-doing have grown. It is often there that we find His mercy and grace waiting to speak to our heart, breaking the silence.
When it remains quiet though, He is doing more. He is moving elsewhere. When I think of scriptural references that mention God’s silence, the biggest most obvious one is the 400 years before Christ was born. Can you imagine? 400 years! Not just a lifetime, but four or five generations of no new word from the heavens. What did they do? Waiting on “that feeling” of God’s presence to give them the warm fuzzies for the day was worked out through generations until the presence of God must have seemed like a folks tale. Life did not let up for God’s people during this time, it included years of oppression and internal strife. But His people were busy in that Jewish legend states they translated the Torah into Greek (known as the Septuagint) and due to exile, learned to focus on what they still had rather than what they had lost. There were many groups that rose up in that time with differing opinions on “righteous living”, however they held to what they had already been given. What a reminder to not lose sight of the blessings we have, even when we long for something else!
When God is silent, we must check our heart, right ourselves with Him, and continue to wait. Time was pregnant when heaven opened and shared God with us so long ago. But because the world was ready and hungry for God beyond what they could bare, His movement was perfect in every way. In a different way, perhaps time is pregnant for you. Perhaps God the Father desires to move when you are most hungry for Him. Perhaps Jesus is there to open blessing upon you when your heart is most ready to be changed by it. Maybe when you have released your desire to control, have called out to find Him will you look back to see you were never alone in the chaos but that He sustained you, quietly.
“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:25-26
And so we will ask Him to remind us of His voice, love, presence, as we turn to His historical words. Trusting that we will recognize Him when he speaks again. Take heart! Time may be pregnant for you and His movement is surely coming in a way you may not expect, but He is certainly here.
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Tags: Working Out Faith