Tag Archives: faith

When God Shows Up

Many years ago, in a small church in Mexico, I interpreted a whole sermon from Spanish to English. That might not seem very remarkable to some of my readers, but to those who know me (and my very limited Spanish skills) it was nothing short of miraculous. We had just spent a week helping two small churches with their missions to the local community, but just before the end of our trip our interpreter had to leave early.  When we arrived at the church that Sunday, I looked at the two young men who had been interning with a local missionary, waiting for them to begin interpreting. However, they just looked at me and said they couldn’t. I tried to tell everyone that I was absolutely not able to interpret a sermon, but seeing that no one else was able or willing I agreed to give it a try.

As I opened my mouth, God showed up. Somehow I found myself understanding words I had never heard before, and in the few spots (at the beginning) where I got stuck the pastor’s gestures were enough to help me get it. By the end of the message I was getting nearly every word. To this day, I find it hard to believe that happened, but really I should’t have been surprised. If I’ve learned anything in the last few decades, it is that God does miraculous things when we step out in faith.

For years I knew he was calling me to begin a domestic violence ministry, and I sat back waiting for him to show me the details. I prayed and waited for him to provide the income, but nothing happened. Eventually the calling became so strong I began to pour all my effort into developing an alternative source of income so that I could do the ministry. But that didn’t work either, nor did any of my efforts to figure it out and make it happen in a way that seemed safe and secure.

One day as I was crying out to God, I clearly sensed his voice in my spirit telling me that his calling was not for me to make it happen, but to be obedient-– even when I couldn’t see how he was going to do it. I had been spending all my efforts trying to do it in a way that made practical sense, but he was calling me to the impossible. He was calling me out of my comfort zone into the miraculous. Often when God calls it makes no sense in the natural realm. Consider the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan. They arrived there when the river was at flood stage, but God told them to walk through the river.

“Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.” Joshua 3:15-16

Isn’t it interesting that the flow of the river didn’t stop until the priests put their feet in the river? It seemed crazy by human standards, but that’s exactly how God works. He calls us out of our own understanding into his ways (Pr. 3:5-6).  We simply have to be obedient to walk towards his calling. Until we put action to our faith, nothing changes. That does not mean we try to force our idea of how his plan might look. Instead, it means trusting as we walk towards his calling. When we do He shows up mightily.

 

 

Grace for those who Blow It

I get so much encouragement from the story of King David—up till the very end of his life. The fact that God called him a man after his own heart is what I find most encouraging. David blew it again and again. In 1 Kings chapter 1 we find that his parenting left something to be desired, but God still delivered him out of every trouble. This is not to say there were not consequences for his mistakes, but it is to say that God is gracious beyond what we deserve. He even takes delight in his flawed children. David continually turned towards the Lord for help when he messed up. Check out these passages below. David’s son Adonijah had set himself up as king against David’s wishes. He had the backing of Joab the commander of the army, and the priest Zadok. In his weakened state, it may have seemed impossible for David to overcome those odds, but he called on the One who had delivered him from every trouble!

Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. His father had never rebuked him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” …

The king then took an oath: “As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel…” (1 Ki. 1:5-6, 29-30a)

From David’s life I get the feeling that the Lord would prefer an honest, repentant heart who messes up a lot than a proud, hypocritical and judgmental heart. David is my hero, because I can relate so much to him. He ran from an abuser for years, and learned to cling to God. Perhaps his personality was a lot like mine in that he didn’t like to confront anyone—we do tend to be the ones who are targeted by abusers. We are also the ones who might fail to rebuke our children like we should, or allow fear of what people might do control us occasionally.

Still, our troubles send us to our knees, and we know where our help comes from. If you’ve ever found yourself in a position of complete desperation with no place to turn (except to God) you can understand David. When every human resource fails us, we have an amazing opportunity to prove Him faithful. In his early years, David’s brothers scorned him, his father-in-law the king tried to kill him, and he lost his wife. Yet, in Psalms we get a beautiful picture of how these trials drove him to God. In Psalm 42 he  compared his desire for God to an unquenchable thirst. Once we drink deeply from the goodness of God, we can never doubt him again– not even when we blow it. Hallelujah!

Lord, we are so grateful for your amazing grace that could even call someone who messed up a lot a man after your own heart. We pray that regardless of our flaws and mistakes we will be people after your heart. We pray for grace and mercy to cover the mistakes we have made. Father, redeem it all, so at the end of our lives we can say you “delivered [us] from all [our] troubles.” We love you Lord. Amen. 

Could God Ever Use Me?

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Judges 6:13-15

I love that scripture is filled with weak and reluctant heroes of the faith. I love it, because I know how feeble and hesitant I am. People often tell me they think I am so strong for all I’ve endured, but without Him there’s no way I could even stand. He has been my strength when mine was depleted. Gideon’s story could have turned out much differently if he hadn’t expressed his doubts and weakness to God. He had seen God work miraculously when he consumed the meat and bread Gideon prepared with fire (Jdgs. 6:21), but that was not enough to overcome his doubts. Next he laid fleeces before the Lord to test him, although the second time he apologized for doing it.

Finally, Gideon became convinced that God would keep him promise to defeat the Midianites, but in an interesting turn of events, God turned the tables on Gideon and tested him. He reduced the number of troops to fight Midian from 32,000 to 300. The amazing thing is that this previously trembling man did not hesitate to obey God. God did give him another sign that he would bring victory, but somewhere in the process Gideon had changed.

Not many of us start out strong in faith. We all come to God with brokenness and doubts. Life experiences and hurts have shaped our thinking, and warped our faith. The biggest difference between those who become heroes for the kingdom, and those who continue to wallow in doubt is that the heroes come honestly before God and confess their doubts. Then, they choose to act on the little faith they do have. Gideon’s story would not have made it into scripture if he had failed to act.

In my years as a Christian, I have let fear and doubt paralyze me, and the result was catastrophic. Even after I broke free of years of abuse, anxiety continued to rule my heart until it almost destroyed me. One day in the midst of a crisis, it dawned on me that I was living by fear rather than faith, and I knew that was so wrong for a Believer. I made a decision that day to choose faith over fear, and since then when doubts come, I refuse to allow them to control my actions. Instead I act on His promises, and the outcome is usually amazing. He never ceases to amaze when I choose to act in faith (in spite of my doubts)! I don’t always get it right, but I’m learning and I know that the God who could use Gideon and 300 men, with cracked pots, to defeat and entire army can use even me. And he can use even YOU.

For the entire story of Gideon, see Judges 6-7.

Stumbling in the Darkness

Have you ever tried to walk around in the darkness? It’s not easy! Without some source of light, you are bound to stumble and fall. That’s exactly how scripture describes our lives without God. I know it’s how I felt before I came to know him. I felt lost and empty. Nothing made sense. I knew that God had created the world and me, but I had no idea why. It was only after his light shone into my darkness that life began to make sense. And while I still stumbled from time to time, his light was ever with me. I could depend on him. I had been rescued!


The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Pet. 2:9


I came across both of these passages this morning, and they reminded me of how wonderful it was to step into his light all those years ago. God did not leave us on the earth to stumble blindly through life. He revealed himself to us! The Prophet Isaiah spoke foretold of how God would reveal himself to those “walking in darkness.” In another passage, he proclaimed that a virgin would conceive and bear a child whose name would be Immanuel (which means God with us! -Is. 7:14).  Isaiah 9:6 predicted that a child would be born who would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Over 700 years before Jesus came to earth, his birth was promised. God promised not to leave us in the darkness, and in him, there has always been hope.

Scripture says that Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4:3). The promise Abraham believed was that through his Seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Around 2000 years later, that promise was fulfilled in Jesus. The Light came into the world, but many did not recognize it.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:9-13

When I first became a Believer I remember my pastor telling my mom, it seemed like I had swallowed a light bulb. I also remember reading Colossians 1:12-14 and thinking that’s exactly how I felt. I had been rescued from the dominion of darkness.

“and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Col. 1:12-14

Since, I stepped out of darkness into the light, I have longed to share the freedom and joy of walking with him with others, but I’ve found that many prefer the darkness.


 

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-21


I know what it’s like to prefer the darkness. I had resisted Christianity, because the people who claimed his name were too flawed for my liking, but picking up a New Testament and reading about Jesus for myself changed all of that. I saw that he was nothing like the religious hypocrites I had seen all of my life, and I chose HIM. We all have a choice. Reaching God is not about following a bunch of rules, but rather about stepping out of darkness into his light. When the light replaces the darkness in your soul, your life will change automatically. You will not have to clean up your act, but suddenly you will shine. My prayer for you today is that you will see his light, and make the choice to receive it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something New

It seems that God is doing something new in my life lately, and I have found myself at a loss as how to proceed. Even though I am not a very structured person, I still find myself wanting to do things the way I’ve been doing them for such a long time. Change is difficult for us. Even the most flexible of us create our own traditions, and breaking out of them is HARD. This passage from Mark seemed to be exactly what I needed to read today.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Mark 2:21-22

Jesus came and challenged everything the religious leaders valued. He questioned their way of doing things, and even their interpretation of the law. They constantly criticized him for violating the Sabbath, but he pointed them to the heart of the Law, rather than the letter of it (see Mk. 2:23-28). As Believers, I am sure most of us see ourselves as far more spiritually savvy than the Pharisees and Scribes, but I’m not so sure we are. We get used to our traditions, and begin to see treat them as though they are the very oracles of God.

In my own case, I’ve been doing good things–even spiritual things, but I’ve come to realize that I may have been focusing on things that were not my calling. So now, I find it difficult to figure out how to order my time. Should I continue to do the good things, or should I jump out in faith? God is calling me to take some huge steps of faith, but continuing on the path of least resistance is so much easier. The problem is that it’s not so much more blessed. I know that until I am obedient, I will not be able to walk in his best for my life. So today I’m making a choice to throw out the old wine skins. I reject my own “old” way of doing things, and choose to embrace the “something new”to which he is calling me.

How about you? Have you held on to your old ways for too long? Are you willing to walk in the newness of life he calls us to live? I know it can be hard, but it is the only path to blessing. So out with the old! In with the new!

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. Is. 43:19

BeginningIsNear

 

 

Living in Dread…

I often tell people that whatever we fear is what we serve, so that the object of our fear basically becomes our god. This morning a passage in Isaiah reminded me of that truth.

“Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me, and have neither remembered me nor pondered this in your hearts? Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear me?  I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you. When you cry out for help, let your collection [of idols] save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.” (Is.57:11-13).

“Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me…” I’m not sure how much more clear that could be! At the heart of being unfaithful to God is usually a fear of something else (no matter what that something else is, I’d call it an idol). An idol is anything we meditate on, and spend our time trying to appease. For years, I did the dance of fear trying to keep an abusive husband happy so he wouldn’t lash out. I feared him much more than God, and the result was I served him rather than God. In fact, he became my god, because of the way I served him.

Another interesting thing about this passage is “I will expose your righteousness and your works…” Very often people do good works out of fear—they worry what people think and are trying to impress them rather than God. This fear of man is idolatry of the worst sort. It becomes works-based rather than love-based. God does not desire our feeble efforts; he desires our love. From that love, genuine works of righteousness will flow naturally. The ones born of fear of man are wood, hay, and stubble mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor. 3. These works may look wonderful to people, but they cannot stand before the Judge.

This passage should be a wake up call to the people of God. The warning here is not based on actions, but on misplaced fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and when we are more worried about pleasing him than people or unpleasant circumstances, that is wisdom. Then we will be like the man who built his house upon the rock in in Matthew 7:24-25. No matter what life brings our way, we can overcome because we know the One we fear is in control and his love casts out sinful fear. We can stand firm knowing he is in charge. Sinful fear dreads losing control, and that is why the Israelites sacrificed to idols. They believed that appeasing them would make things run smoothly, and that if they didn’t sacrifice things would go badly. When we live in fear of man, we have a similar mentality. “If I can just…” everything will be ok. We’re trying to maintain control. Yet, the Lord calls us to leave the control in his hands. That is what the fear of the Lord does. It trusts in his goodness for the outcome, and we have nothing to dread.

Lord, help me never dread anything more than I desire to love and please you. Help me to avoid the trap of misplaced fear. Nothing on this earth is more powerful than you, so I need to reserve my fear for you alone. Yet, it is a different sort of fear than dread. It is honoring you above anything else, and resting in your control rather than trying to be in control. You are worthy of all honor and praise. Nothing on earth can ever cause me to be consumed with fear as long as I am consumed with you. Amen

What Defines You?

As I look back on my life, I realize that the most trying times have turned into the biggest spiritual triumphs for me, but I believe I could still be living in defeat if I had made different choices. It would have been easy for me to take on a victim mentality and remain stuck. As I was reading the first chapter of Ruth today, I recognized that all-too-familiar victim dynamic in Naomi. She had been through a long set of tragic circumstances, and when she returned to her hometown she was so bitter people barely recognized her. When they called her Naomi (which means pleasantness), she corrected everyone and told them to call her Mara (which means bitterness). Naomi defined herself as a victim.

When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi, ” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning (Ruth 1:18-22).

Isn’t it interesting that Naomi wanted to be defined by her circumstances? Rather than choosing to cling to her faith in God as Job did when he lost everything (Job. 13:15), she chose to make tragedy her identity. Ruth had also suffered loss, but she chose to love God and love others. She took action and did not profess bitterness as Naomi did. I love the way this passage ends. Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was beginning. Hopeless and bitter Naomi was too consumed with her pain to see that God was at work, but Ruth took action. She walked in the little provision afforded her by the law, and arrived just in time to do it.  As a result, God blessed her by sending her to the field of the very person who could change their circumstances—their kinsman redeemer.

Without Ruth, Naomi could have very likely perished in her bitterness. At the end of this story the women of Bethlehem said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer. May his name become well known in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, had given birth to him.” (Ru. 4:14-15) Boaz and Ruth’s child did become well known in Israel. Through his line would come both King David and our Messiah. Truly Ruth was better than seven sons, because she did not allow her circumstances to define her. She chose to follow God, and to love others. As a result, history was changed forever.

We all have tragedy and unpleasant circumstances at some point, but we also all have choices. We can choose to be defined by our circumstances, or we can look for God’s provision in the midst of it. We can choose to follow God and love others, or we can choose to be bitter and self-centered. Our choices will determine the outcome. God will make a way for those who refuse to allow calamity to define their lives. Our Lord always has redemptive purposes in mind for those who love him and are called by him (Rom. 8:28). Our job is to simply choose to believe and follow him daily. Those who belong to him are his heirs (Gal. 3:29). That is who we are, and that is how we are defined. Circumstances do not define us, unless we choose to let them. All things are possible to those who believe (Mk. 9:23). Will you choose to believe?