Tag Archives: Faith

Priorities

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When God is quiet, it forces me to recognize that I so often value:

1. His voice above His promised victory

2. His gifts above His endless grace

3. His safety above His sure salvation

4. His presence above His perfect peace

5. His Provision above His constant presence

6. His marvels above His ceaseless mercy

Is it just me, or have we become a church that prefers the gifts above the Giver? Have we forgotten our first Love and been drawn away by a lust for signs and wonders instead of the steady and wonderful person of Jesus Christ?

May we never tire of who God is. May what He can do for us never be the soul substance of our faith.

Don’t Create Grey Matter

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I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  I’m not the “brightest crayon in the coloring box,” if you will. Philosophy 101 pushed the limits of my intellect. Concepts like “chairness,” edged dangerously close to brain melting depth.

I prefer to explore the simpler things; ideas that maintain a very vivid black or white identity.

Grey matter never really did much but confuse and frustrate me. Not because I believe that there is no such space as a “grey area.” Rather I never understood why so much time was spent somewhere that simply had no definitive end.

Instead of focusing on  the question we can not answer, why not focus on the answers we are already have?

For the believer in Christ, we have the answer to so much of what is now debated in society, challenged by culture and being redefined by government. And while we, as Americans, are encouraged to be welcoming, tolerant, and open-minded to those who may hold different values and beliefs, it is the Evangelical Christian Church that is not welcomed, not tolerated, and declared closed-minded and thus, it’s becoming increasingly ostracized for its’ lack of grace and Christ-like love.

This is not meant to be a political post, however politics make for the best example of the point I am trying to make, which is this:

If we, evangelical Christians, bend to any form of pressure outside of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the “truth” and “answers” that have held so closely to and tried so hard to uphold will become blurred, diluted, and eventually nothing more than “grey matter” that is subject to subjective and personal interpretation and no longer considered perfect, holy, or inherent.

Perhaps maintaining the view that Biblical scripture is God breathed, inspired, perfect and infallible is not a popular opinion. So be it.

Jesus Christ was controversial. His claims were preposterous and provocative. He was thought outlandish, arrogant, intolerant and completely irrational.

Does not it sensibly follow then, that those who claim to be His followers have similar reputations?

The era for being singled out and labeled “one of them” has never been more fertile.

God help me, I choose to be among the few.

He calls to you too.

One Word: A Year to Behold

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It’s December.

How did that happen? I wrote the first post about the seemingly simple word of “behold” nearly a year ago and I remember exactly where I was when it came to me.

On the toilet.

I’ll give you that it wasn’t a particularly romantic or spiritual experience, but that’s when the theme for my year came to me none the less. In discovering where the Lord has brought me this year though, I must start first with the view of where I was when He and I began this journey.

Last December I was tired. I hid a broken heart and a weary soul.  I felt as though my spirit was but a shadow of a girl I once was. I thought, at the time, part of my personality’s sobriety was adulthood settling in. That my lack of enthusiasm and imagination was simply, and tragically, the reality of being older and carrying the weight of life’s responsibilities.

Last December I was scared. Last December I was so scared people mistook me for being a strong and independent woman. Last December I was blind to just how big God was and just how close He would get. So when a faint voice whispered “behold,” I had no idea how vivid my sight would become 12 months later.

The vision of myself has always been that of a girl who is moderately good at some things, but not extraordinary at anything. I’m not a musician and I’m not an artist. I’m not a skilled problem solver and I’m not destined to be a world leader. The fact that I was never, not one single semester, a straight A student still haunts me. I’m athletic, but I was never a star athlete. I never had a boyfriend in high-school and I never dated in college either. My social resume of what the world would deem certifiable “accomplishments” has always been severely lacking. My self-perception, for as long as I can remember, has been that I am a disappointment to God.

But this year, the way I see God and His love, and the way that I know He sees me, has truly transformed me from the inside out.

In 2011, I beheld a God that is a fountain of grace that does not run dry. I beheld a God that sympathizes with feeling ostracized and misunderstood. I beheld a God that would not let me stand on the outside alone.

I beheld a God that loves me before I am able to prove that I am lovable. I beheld a God that wanted to give me good things before I was able to earn them.

This year, I beheld the God of the Bible that revealed Himself to me through dreams and the prophecies of friends.  I beheld a God of tenderness and I beheld a God compassionate enough to prune away strongholds that clung to me like deadly vines.

This year, I beheld a God that showed me that He remembered childhood prayers and answered them when it would mean that hope was alive and healing had come.

This year, I beheld a God that was, is, and will continue to be faithful.

This one word for this one year, has changed 25 years of misperception.

Beholding God, as He really is, has changed everything.

there’s something to be said for…

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I’m beginning to notice a pattern as I get older.

Life is becoming more complicated.  More decisions need to be made. More responsibilities are  graciously bestowed.  More time is requested.  More attention needed here.  More detail needed there. More bills come monthly.  All in all, more experience is available to be had, whether you went looking for it or not.  And that experience than needs to be filtered; it needs to be  unpacked and repacked into something useful.  Like perspective.

There’s something to be said for perspective. There’s something to be said for being able to seeing beyond your circumstance and considering that where you are not is now where you’ll always be; you’re only passing through and for some reason you may not understand, the Lord saw fit to take you on a scenic route.

There’s something to be said for perspective and how it’s ultimately undergirded by faith. Oswald Chambers illustrates it this way:

God called Jesus Christ to what seemed absolute disaster. And Jesus Christ called His disciples to see Him put to death, leading every one of them to the place where their hearts were broken. His life was an absolute failure from every standpoint except God’s. But what seemed to be failure from man’s standpoint was a triumph from God’s standpoint, because God’s purpose is never the same as man’s purpose.

If we are in fellowship and oneness with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, then we will no longer strive to find out what His purposes are. As we grow in the Christian life, it becomes simpler to us, because we are less inclined to say, “I wonder why God allowed this or that?” And we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose. A Christian is someone who trusts in the knowledge and the wisdom of God, not in his own abilities. If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the calm, relaxed pace which should be characteristic of the children of God.

There’s something to be said for perspective.

There’s something to be said for understanding and  accepting the fact that we are simply not our own. And if we’re not our own, then where we go, what we do, and how we get there isn’t up to us. But what is up to us, is what we do with everything we encounter along the way to being drawn closer to the heart of God.

Will we look for the mysterious ways that the Lord has woven together a tapestry beyond our wildest imagination?  Or will we see only the other side of the pattern? The knotted and messy strings being pulled and poked here and there without realizing what lies on the other side?

One Word: Six Months Later

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I jumped on this bandwagon a little late so it stands to reason that I would update late as well. Luckily, this is voluntary and not graded which means… I do what I want.

You may remember a post I wrote earlier this year called One Word. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions that I would undoubtedly give up on, I chose to focus on one word instead.  To be honest I haven’t been as diligent as I would have liked in keeping this theme at the forefront of my mind, but I am here to refresh my own memory, to reflect on the ways that I have been able to “behold” God’s goodness, and hopefully inspire a little more focus on the back half of this year.

A lot has happened in the last 6 months.  For starters, I got engaged which, I’ll be honest, I didn’t see coming. And while being betrothed to an incredible and Godly man would be a sufficient thing to behold and reason to count this year a success, it was what led up to the engagement that is what I am truly in awe of beholding.

I’m a bit over-analytical.  I think too much about too much. I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a real kill-joy.  My way of preparing for the unknown/future is to conjure up the worst possible case scenario and plan from there.  Because, in my poor little head, if I am prepared for the worst possible situation, then I will be all the more equipped to handle a potentially great scenario.

The tragedy of this kind of thinking is that a state of angst, worry, and fretting tend to smother any hope for a good situation completely. That and this kind of thinking demonstrates two things:

1. Little to no actual faith (exemplified through a mind at peace and a heart at rest) in a sovereign and holy God

2. A serious control issue

What I found to be God’s response to an unfortunate twit like me is this: He’ll prove Himself. Unwaveringly gracious and tirelessly patient, He will come down and make Himself undeniable.  He will reveal Himself to the doubter, worrier, and pathetic pansie (*pointing to myself*) and He’ll settle in close.  And when you’ve (me again) done everything you can to keep things clean and tidy and right where you want them, because you’re comfortable with never rearranging or changing anything, He’ll rearrange and change everything for you.

He’ll uncover all the desires of your heart that you didn’t have the strength to hold onto and shoved under the rug. He’ll dust them off, polish them up and remind you that He made it for you; He created such a treasure for you to experience.

For me, that was hope for a relationship, the dream of marriage.  And to make the giving-up of such hope a little easier, I put up road blocks and fortress walls. “Do Not Enter” signs hung on my heart.

Then Toby gently began to break them down.  He didn’t even ask to, he just started to chip away here and there. Layer by tender layer.  What scared me the most was not letting him in.  What scared me was the reaction of what he would find.

Instead of being disappointed or surprised or even deciding to walk away, he loved me more. He loved me intentionally, with grace and compassion; his mercy on my mess felt like the warmest and most welcome blanket.

So what did I behold? The love of Christ. Unconditional, non-judgemental, and completely accepting. Real love. Transcendent of accomplishment or right standing. God drew near, spoke sweetly to me and whispered “I want you.”

One of the biggest certainties I have in marrying Toby is this: his display of God’s love and pursuit of me makes me desire the Lord. Do I love and appreciate Toby? Of course.  But I need the Lord more.  And my genuine desire is that I encourage Toby, in my love, to press into Christ; to lean on Him and to know Him better.

Six months in to 2011 and God has done a miracle.

Bring on six more months.

 

 

Streams in the Desert

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I realize that it’s been a while since I have written an original piece, but this was too powerful to not pass on. 

They looked… and behold the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.” Exodus 16:10 

Get into the habit of looking for the silver lining of the cloud and when you have found it, continue to look at it, rather than at the leaden gray in the middle.

Do not yield to discouragement no matter how sorely pressed or beset you may be. A discouraged soul is helpless. He can neither resist the wiles of the enemy himself, while in this state, nor can he prevail in prayer for others.

Flee from every symptom of this deadly foe as you would flee from a viper. And be not slow in turning your back on it, unless you want to bite the dust in bitter defeat.

Search out God’s promises and say aloud of each one: “This promise is mine.” If you still experience a feeling of doubt and discouragement, pour out your heart to God and ask Him to rebuke the adversary who is so mercilessly nagging you.

The very instant you whole-heartedly turn away from every symptom of distrust and discouragement, the blessed Holy Spirit will quicken your faith and inbreathe Divine strength into your soul.

At first you may not be conscious of this, still as you resolutely and uncompromisingly “snub” every tendency toward doubt and depression that assails you, you will soon be made aware that the powers of darkness are falling back.

Oh, if our eyes could only behold the solid phalanx of strength, of power, that is ever behind every turning away from the hosts of darkness, God-ward, what scant heed would be given to the effort of the wily foe to distress, depress, discourage us!

All the marvelous attributes of the Godhead are on the side of the weakest believer, who in the name of Christ, and in simple, childlike trust, yields himself to God and turns to Him for help and guidance. –Selected

On a day in the autumn, I saw a prairie eagle mortally wounded by a rifle shot. His eye still gleamed like a circle of light. Then he slowly turned his head, and gave one more searching and longing look at the sky. He had often swept those starry spaces with his wonderful wings. The beautiful sky was the home of his heart. It was the eagle’s domain. A thousand times he had exploited there his splendid strength. In those far away heights be had played with the lightnings, and raced with the winds, and now, so far away from home, the eagle lay dying, done to the death, because for once be forgot and flew too low. The soul is that eagle. This is not its home. It must not lose the skyward look. We must keep faith, we must keep hope, we must keep courage, we must keep Christ. We would better creep away from the battlefield at once if we are not going to be brave. There is no time for the soul to stampede. Keep the skyward look, my soul; keep the skyward look!

“Keep looking up–
The waves that roar around thy feet,
Jehovah-Jireh will defeat
When looking up.

“Keep looking up–
Though darkness seems to wrap thy soul;
The Light of Light shall fill

“Keep looking up–
When worn, distracted with the fight;
Your Captain gives you conquering might
When you look up.”

thy soul
When looking up.

We can never see the sun rise by looking into the west. –Japanese Proverb

From Streams in the Desert for April 2.

Disappointed Faith

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I’ll be honest with you. Being a Christ follower hasn’t always panned out in ways I would have expected. There have been seasons in my walk with God that I have been disappointed, frustrated, confused, and even apathetic.

Why?

Because I am human. And because my finite intellect only allows me to rationalize and understand a fragment of who God is and what He is capable of.  I don’t intend to keep Him in a box, but I do. I simply lack the ability to understand Him outside of measuring Him against myself.  

And there in lies the problem.  I have stripped Him of all mystery, omnipotence, sovereignty and glory because I have attempted to contain Him and shape Him by my limited imagination into what I know best: my own limitations.

There were two avenues that led me to this realization on Sunday.  The first avenue was during the worship portion of church service. I don’t remember now, three days later, what song it was that we were singing, but there was  a line in it that had to do with the forgiveness we have received. So I began to repent and ask forgiveness for various things until I heard the Lord say,

I have already forgiven you of those things. Stop repeating your requests and thinking I didn’t hear you the first time. I can’t move on with you until your forgive yourself.  What’s it going to take to let go? What’s the hold up?

Huh… that was not the response I was expecting.

The hold up is me… again.  It’s all my pride attempting to dictate when I have finally paid my penance.  What a shameful waste of time.  And what an obvious root of frustration. My pastor once defined frustration as “unmet expectation.” 

Finally, dots began to connect themselves. Any frustration I had with the seeming stillness of God was simply me keeping Him at bay and then blaming Him for not answering when I called. Same song, second verse, and what a tragic tune.

The second light bulb lit up when my pastor began preaching his sermon entitled “Disappointed in Jesus.”  In Luke 7: 19, John the Baptist sits in prison, awaiting a sure death, and in the midst of what seemed to be likely uncertainty, sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was who He claimed to be. Was He “it” or should they look for another?

John the Baptist questioned in the final moments. John the Baptist, the forerunner and literal cousin of Jesus, wavered beneath the weight of his circumstances and asked the question so few of will ever admit to: “Jesus… are you really who you say you are?  If I did all that you asked, how did I end up here?”

And how did Jesus respond to His beloved?

“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). 

Typical Jesus. No direct answer.  Instead, He quotes Isaiah and challenges John, and us, to recall what we have seen Him do because in His actions alone, is proof enough.

It’s no secret that I wrestle with fear, insecurity, and doubt. A lot. But why I continue to is beyond me. The only evidence I have in my life of God is His hand at work orchestrating my every day, providing for my every need, and revealing Himself clearly when I choose to look. And still, I find myself disappointed or frustrated that it didn’t pan out just how I imagined because I have days, like the rest, that are hard.

But I haven’t sat on death row before, like John. I honestly can’t imagine the disappointment or perhaps even disillusionment he may have felt as he sat there trying to rework the equation of his life’s work.  How was this the sum total of his efforts? 

My pastor quoted Gene Edwards, author of “The Prisoner in the 3rd Cell.”  In his book, Edwards concludes,

Die, my brother John, in the presence of a God that did not live up to your expectations.

The question I walked away with was simply this: Do I believe God enough to trust that should the rest of my life bring nothing but suffering, He would walk beside me, ordaining each pain for His glory and my good?

I pray that tomorrow I answer with a resounding yes. I hope the same for you, friend.