Tag Archives: walk by faith

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.

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

 

 

Feeling Frantic?

Do you ever feel frantic? I know I do, and I’ve learned it is a sure sign that rather than trusting God, I am seeking control. Basically, it boils down to idolatry. Idols are the things we run to for comfort so that we can keep things from getting out of hand.  Yet, from time to time, in spite of all we do, things do spin out of our control. As people of God, those times are wake up calls to help us realize only he is sovereign over everything, and our efforts are feeble. They are an illusion, because in reality, we have control over very little. The One who holds everything together could allow it to fall apart at any time, but because of his grace, he sustains us. He is good, so he can be trusted. And trusting him leads to joy (being blessed), while trusting in flesh (self and other shallow substitutes) leads to misery or being cursed. The choice is clear.

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jer. 17:5-10

Jeremiah’s task as a young prophet was to proclaim God’s coming judgment against his people, because they had forsaken him and turned to idols. Yet, even in judgment, he was offering hope to those who would chose to trust him. It’s interesting to me that while much of Jeremiah’s warnings against the people are related to sins of commission and omission, this passage seems to get to the heart behind those sins. It’s all a matter of trust. The blatant sins were idolatry and failing to honor the Sabbath, but at the root of those sins was a lack of trust in God. As God’s people we are supposed to be different. The tendency of human flesh is to trust in self or others that we can see and touch. It it not in our nature to trust an unseen God. We want to be in control. We can control flesh, but we cannot control the unseen. It seems unnatural for flesh to trust in supernatural, but that is what God calls us to do, and if we don’t, there are consequences.

To be cursed means to be miserable, as opposed to being blessed or happy. Trusting him results in something else that is unseen—our roots are firmly established. They develop deep and tap into the fountains of living water. Being tapped into those streams of living water is the key to blessing. This is not based on activity, but trust. Trust stands still and waits. It does not feel the need for control, and it is never frantic. When we realize we have no control, and that the One who does have it is good, and wants the best for us, we can choose the blessing of trusting him.

Oh Lord, help us to trust you rather than frantically strive for control. We know you are good, and you can be trusted, but sometimes we are afraid anyway. Help us to be still and know you are God and that your love for us is everlasting. We can trust in One who loves us that much. So even though circumstances and things in this seen world try to move us, we will not be moved. We will be like trees planted by streams of living waters and have no need to fear. We choose to believe you. Amen

 

Hope for the Discouraged

Those who belong to God have no reason to walk in fear or discouragement. His promises and presence help us overcome our natural tendencies to be fearful and discouraged. Walking with him sets us free from fear. My reading in Joshua recently emphasized that point.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)

I find it interesting that God repeatedly told Joshua to be strong and courageous, but that wasn’t all. He also repeatedly told him he would be with him. That is where our source of courage comes from—from walking with him. When we go out on our own without his leading, we will end up walking in fear. His presence and his Word are the remedy for fear and discouragement. Discouragement is strongly related to fear. When we are afraid we can’t do something we become discouraged. When we are afraid of failure, or afraid of looking foolish, we get discouraged.

In this passage, God is surely asking Joshua and the Israelites to do something that would seem foolish in the eyes of the world. The task alone would make most discouraged, but rather than standing still in fear they chose to move forward in the promises of God. Rather than cowering and longing for the comforts of Egypt, they chose to follow God’s leading and believe his promises. The generation before them had failed this same test. They looked at things from a human perspective and failed to enter the Promised Land. Finally their children made the better choice to walk by faith, and they were able to take the land. They even walked into it on dry land as the waters of the Jordan parted for them.

When we choose to trust God, rather than looking at circumstances, he makes a way when there seems to be no way. It involves a choice on our part to walk by faith, to believe his Word, and to stay in his presence. When we do these things, fear will not be able to overtake us.

Lord, it is so easy to live by fear rather than faith. In fact, I would say fear is our natural human tendency, while faith is a choice to reject our natural inclinations. Faith is not the easy road, but it is the better road. When we decide to walk by faith, you always make a way. I am so grateful to be your child, because otherwise I would be paralyzed by fear on a regular basis. Thank you for delivering me from myself. I love you Lord! Amen

Standing Alone in Faith

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Nu. 14:1-9)

 Standing in faith is never the stance of the masses. It seems to go against every bit of human logic. Ten out of 12 of the Israelite spies came back with negative reports based on fear, but only Joshua and Caleb reported in faith. Only these two would be allowed to enter the Promised Land, and the rest would perish. After the other 10 died, the people who had been swayed by their report decided they would go into the land after all, even when Moses warned against it. The result was complete failure, and the Amalekites and Canaanites chased them out of the land. The bottom line was that they wanted to be in control of the situation. First they fell into fear because of the negative reports of the ten, and when faced with the consequences of their disobedience they decided to “fix it” in their own strength. What a typical reaction. It’s so much easier to barge ahead than to wait on God in faith. It’s also not easy to face the consequences of our sin, so we usually try to figure out how to avoid them. The problem is that our actions generally make things even worse.

The better place to be is standing in faith, and trusting God, even when it seems foolish by human standards. Sometimes the blessing is not immediate, and even if the Israelites had been able to enter the land at this time, they would have faced many battles (just as they would in 40 years). Standing in faith does not guarantee an easy path. In fact, the easier path here would have been to remain in Egypt, where at least all their physical needs were met, (even though they lived in bondage). Isn’t that interesting? They wanted to go back to bondage, because walking by faith into the Promised Land was too hard. Waiting on God is not easy. Believing in spite of circumstances is not easy, but that is the path to blessing. Only the 2 spies who believed would enter the land, and their blessing would be delayed by the unbelief of the majority. Still, they never wavered, and when the time finally came to enter the last, they were blessed beyond all others. Waiting and standing in faith is not easy, but it’s always worth it, because he is faithful.

Lord, I ask you to keep me from being swayed by what seems most logical, especially when it contradicts your calling on my life. You have called me to walk by faith, and sometimes it seems absurd, but I trust in you. I know you have a good plan, and I know in your timing it will all be clear. Help me never choose bondage over the adventure of living by faith. I love you so much, and choose to stand in faith. Amen

Treasures from Leviticus… Say What!?

I’ve got to admit that reading through Leviticus is not one of favorite pastimes, but I want to be acquainted with the whole counsel of scripture, so I do it anyway. It recently came up in my yearly bible reading plan, and I actually found myself complaining to God about it. Rather than deciding to skip it, I decided to ask him to help me get through it and find something valuable for my spiritual walk. Who knows? Besides the clear references to Messiah Jesus in feasts of the Lord in chapter 23, I could possibly find some other nuggets of truth for daily living. I realize that the temple was a shadow of Jesus’ sacrifice. The book of Hebrews seems to connect the dots fairly well. However, there is still so much I struggle to get through in this book. Take all the blood for example. When you read it, you realize what a bloody place that temple had to have been. The pathway to the Holy of Holies was covered with blood. For a woman who gags over raw meat, it’s just not a pleasant read. Yet, Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. The penalty for sin is death and separation from our holy and perfect God (Rom. 6:23). In the Old Testament, the priest laid his hands on the animals, and the animals bore the penalty for the people. When Jesus laid down his life, the sacrifice was made once for all, and animal sacrifice became unnecessary. Interestingly, the temple was destroyed within a generation of Jesus’ death, and sacrifices have not been made in Israel since then. He was the perfect, spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Because of his sacrifice, we can come boldly before his throne (Heb.4:16).

Under the old covenant, only the high priest could come into his presence only once a year, and he ran the risk of dying if he failed to follow every detail of instruction on atoning for sin. However, now “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). I find that completely amazing! In a world that is so tainted by sin and evil, we have been washed and made holy— even as he is holy. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Co. 5:21). That just blows my mind. Can you believe that you are the righteousness of God? That you are holy? I have a hard time wrapping my head around that, because I know how weak I am. I fail daily, and yet my amazing and gracious Lord sees me without spot or blemish. Wow! I truly do stand amazed!

This morning as I read chapter 14 of Leviticus, I found myself pondering verse 14. The verse pertains to lepers who had been cleansed. Many believe leprosy to be a picture of sin. The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot. When I did a little research I saw that Moses had done the same thing to Aaron and his sons when they began making sacrifices in the wilderness tabernacle. After the sacrifice had been made, the blood was applied to these very specific areas. Obviously, we hear with our ears. Faith comes from hearing (Rom. 10:17), and Jesus often ended his messages with “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Obviously, our hearing has to be redeemed so that we can hear his message. The world’s message is loud and clear, but hearing and understanding spiritual things does not come naturally. In these Leviticus passages, the blood was mixed with oil to anoint the ears. Oil in the Old Testament seems to represent the Holy Spirit; so not only do we need redemption to hear his voice, we need his Spirit. These things are foreign to those who have not been redeemed.

After anointing the right ear, the priest would anoint the thumb of the right hand and the toe of their right foot. As I thought about this, it seems the hands represent doing. Redemption involves a change in what we believe, but “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20). Those who have been set free become his instruments of grace to a lost and dying world. This is not about following a bunch of rules, but putting action to our love for God and others.

Finally, the priest would anoint the foot of the cleansed person, which would seem to represent going or walking. Galatians 5:16 tells us that if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of our flesh. It is so easy to follow our own desires and once again, without his Spirit, we cannot do it. We must daily surrender our flesh to his Spirit, and keep in step with him. Those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb are empowered to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). As his children, we are called to be his hands and feet in this world. We should reflect his goodness and grace in all we say and do. Thank God it is not dependent on us, but his finished work on the cross and his Spirit. When we fall in love with the one who loved us and gave his life for us, we will be forever changed. He imparts his Spirit into us, and as we daily surrender to him, we will listen for his voice, do his will, and walk in his ways to impact this dark world for his kingdom.

Oh Father, I am so grateful for your provision. Thank you for sending Jesus to take the penalty for my sin, and for sending your Spirit to empower me to walk in your ways rather than mine. Thank for the love, joy and peace that flow from walking in your Spirit. You have freed me from myself! Hallelujah! I praise you and ask that you will help me to daily yield my ears, my hands and my feet to you so that my life will make an eternal difference in this world. Amen

When Everything is Shaken

For me, the past year has been a year of intense shaking. It hasn’t been quite as traumatic as “the great shaking” that occurred 20 years ago when I finally became a disciple rather than a mere believer, but it has been extremely difficult. I have grieved, I have questioned God, I have questioned myself, and I have come to realize that I bring nothing to the table in my relationship with the Most High. He is my strength and source—He is simply everything to me. The thought of life without Him is beyond dreadful. How do people do it? Sometimes when you have walked with God for a long time, you tend to get complacent. You forget that you depend on Him for everything. You take his blessings for granted, as though they are inevitable. They are not.

Nothing on this side of eternity is constant, only He is. I am sure He allows these times of shaking to teach us complete and utter dependence. After all, what else is there to hold onto when all the temporary things are being shaken? Not only is He the sole constant in life, He is the only all good and all loving one in the universe. He can be trusted. I can lay all my burdens and failures at his feet and wait for his amazing redemption. He has given beauty for ashes and turned mourning into dancing on multiple occasions in my life. I am so grateful to be his child. I would not trade that with all the pleasant circumstances in the world. After all they will simply fade away.

So right now, even though life remains difficult, I am putting my armor on, and I am fighting the battle in the strength He gives. I am boldly holding on to the One who is worthy, and trusting him for the good purpose He intends in the midst of this mess. Part of this upheaval has been to direct me towards a ministry that has been on my heart for years. The call has become stronger than ever this year, but I have found myself saying it’s just too big. This morning while reading The Circle Maker, I came across this. “Too often we let how get in the way of what God wants us to do. We can’t figure out how to do what God has called us to do, so we don’t do it at all” (p. 49). That’s exactly what I’ve done until this year when I stepped back from a sure income to a less demanding business in order to launch a ministry– although I still have no idea of how it will happen. This year He has shown me that just about everything in life is impossible without his amazing grace and providence. I have to live in complete dependence on him for everything. So if I am going to believe him for something small, I might as well believe for something big. For him, everything is possible, and though it seems big to me, it’s nothing for him. I don’t just believe, but I know He is at work. I am waiting, and I know I will not be disappointed, because He is so good!

His voice shook the earth at that time, but now He has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven. This expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what is not shaken might remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Heb. 12:26-29

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Pet. 5:6-10