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Archive for February, 2015

Brrrrr it’s so cold! I don’t mean to minimize all the real suffering this extreme cold causes, or even the grumbling and complaining, but, I have to confess that I smile and feel like doing a little dance when I notice that even in the brutal cold, the daylight hours are lengthening. On cue from the creator, the earth tilts a little towards the sun, and even if my teeth are chattering, it brings the hope of what’s to come. I have an assurance in my heart, that spring will arrive, as it always has, and I am content to wait for it.

This contentment that spring is coming, reminds me of Faith.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”

One thing that I have learned about worrying and complaining, is that it can consume you. Blinding you to the possibilities of other options, the negativity weighs you down, robs your energy. It is a slow slide towards hopelessness, denying the possibility that things could, or would work out for good. God revealed to me that it is impossible to wring my hands in worry, and trust God at the same time. And, if my words say that I trust God, but my actions or attitude reveal my constant worry, it will be confusing and misleading to others.

“So do not fear; for I am with you: do not be dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteousness right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Like many young adults, my sons sowed wild oats in their college years. I stayed awake many a night worrying about their safety and fearing mistakes that would haunt them for years to come. As a newly single parent, I struggled furtively feeling responsible to save them from themselves. I cried out to God to give me wisdom and he gently showed me that if I didn’t believe in my son’s ability to succeed in life, neither would they.

Trusting God to guide and protect them rather than relying on my own inadequacies, freed me to move in a different direction. What they needed from me was my commitment to always love them unconditionally. It was not helpful to them or me to second guess their every move, or try to block or remove consequences. It was my job as their mother to believe in them and remind them they had a good foundation in their lives and they would be able to find their way in life.

My children have now grown into marvelous adults, yet they know that their mom still prays daily for them. I am not filled with anxiety about their future but experience peace in my heart, trusting God. I remember God’s faithfulness to me throughout the different seasons of my life, and my heart is sure His faithfulness will continue until the end of my days, and on into eternity. Just as I am sure, on this frigid day, that spring will come!

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Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

A broken foot has provided a reality check on life’s limitations without mobility, but it has provided an equal example of the limitations on a life when fear is allowed to direct decisions. I lived for years with severe mobility challenges and have expressed thousands of times my gratitude to the Lord for restoring my health, but breaking my foot has given me insight on how limited my life truly was living in a wheelchair and on crutches. Taking a cup of coffee from the kitchen to the living room requires careful planning, slow and precise placement. Getting laundry from the bedroom to the utility room is a major adventure. These are but two examples of physical imitations experienced the past few days, offering me insight into how fear acts in much the same way. Much like safety has become my focus, when fear shapes our lives, security becomes our god.

When I have faith, I run with boldness. I don’t always win, but I keep moving forward. Living a life of faith is encapsulated in Isaiah 40:28-31, with the assurance that even when tired, weary, confused, or uncertain, the Lord God is always with us to make certain we have the strength and courage to persevere. With Christ, I can do all things. (Phil 4:13) Truly a life without limits.

When I act out of fear, doubt or uncertainty, I stumble, hesitate, and become methodical and slow at moving forward. Fear makes me plan meticulously so I don’t make a miss-step. Fear acts to limit my world; limiting my options and opportunities.

Jesus addressed fear even more than the challenge to love others. More than any other statement, Jesus told us “do not be afraid.” In Matt 8:26, Jesus said, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Fear and faith have something in common—they both believe in something we cannot see. Walking in faith acknowledges God sees the future from a perspective we don’t have. God’s Word offers us the promise that when we act in faith, He will meet our every need:

“So don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” Matt 10:31 (NCV)

“Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” Matt 9:2 (NASB)

“I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough.” (Matt 6:25 NLT)

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me…I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1, 3 NLT)

 

 


 

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“For God…made His light shine in our hearts

to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [Faith]

in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure [Gospel] in jars of clay

to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;

perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;

struck down, but not destroyed.”

2 Corinthians 4:6-7

Are you in a season of your life where the above verses resonate in a more personal way?  Perhaps you feel pressures on every side, wondering what your next steps should be in a challenging situation, and you feel like you are under attack.

Whether it is emotional or physical or mental or medical or relational…many of us can relate to what you are going through.  In fact, we are walking through our own challenges.  These kinds of hardships will do one of two things to our faith.  We can allow these challenges to either drive us towards the Lord and His “all-surpassing power” or we can choose to grow bitter and doubtful of God’s love and care, questioning whether we will survive this season of our life.

I love how the author of the above verses highlights that God is the founder of our faith and salvation.  He is the One who initiates the process of bringing us in to relationship with Him by revealing His light to us and by giving us the treasure of the Gospel.  And I also appreciate the author’s reality check for us, acknowledging that we are like jars of clay…fragile, breakable, cracked, flawed…which allows God’s “all-surpassing power” to shine through even our hardest challenges.

Our faith will grow brighter as we focus our eyes on the face of Jesus Christ, allowing His light to reflect off of us.  Our faith will flourish as we lean in to God’s Power, allowing His strength to carry us through the hardest of circumstances.

Lord God, we are so grateful that You are the One who reveals Your light to us and gives us faith.  We are not able to do this on our own…it is too hard.  We want to trust more deeply in You, but our circumstances feel overwhelming!  Thank you for preventing us from being crushed, thank you for leading us, thank you for not allowing these challenges to destroy us.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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I had been warned. Even a colleague had greeted me at the classroom door in the morning, acknowledging that she had been praying for me. Despite the many advisements, I stepped into the substitute teaching position. Only minutes into my day, the scene played out like a clip from “Kindergarten Cop,” and all I wanted was Schwarzenegger’s whistle. I’ll admit, I wanted to walk out. To call for help. To say, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore… but I stayed.

In the closing minutes of the day, the students greeted their regular classroom teacher with love and hugs. She returned their attention with a warm smile and a remarkable joy. And in that moment, I saw a glimpse of God’s faithfulness toward you and me.

I see my God so much like that. I am that disobedient, wayward, self-centered child who ignores His directions for my life. He is that loving, faithful One who does what He says He will do… who loves me in spite of all my yuckiness. Each morning, He greets me with His new mercies and remarkable love. There is no “give up” in God. He doesn’t tire of dealing with my crazy emotions and outbursts of anger. His commitment to me knows no bounds. His faithfulness makes me love Him all the more. That God will “stick it out” with you and me often leaves me awestruck.

If we read Psalm 106, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness toward the Israelites, His chosen people. Though they sinned… Though they forgot His works… Though they grumbled… Though they envied… “He heard their cry, He took note of their distress, remembered His covenant with them, and relented according to the riches of His faithful love” (44-45).

The psalmist David gave us this image of God’s faithfulness in Psalm 36: “Lord, Your faithful love reaches to heaven, Your faithfulness to the clouds” (5). Surely, the extent of His faithfulness is beyond our human comprehension. It is limitless.

In Exodus, God speaks this of Himself: “Yahweh – Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin” (34:6-7a).

When I consider His faithful love, what should be my response? Repentance? Thankfulness? Obedience? Devotion?

Father God, may my response to Your faithfulness encompass all these things and so much more. In the moments when I am tempted to choose my own way, remind me of the blessings of obedience and Your faithful love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Visualize with me walking on a warm, sandy beach on a tropical island. Why? Well, to make the toleration of this extreme cold more palatable for sure! But, seriously, there is another more relevant reason—walking on a beach describes what faith is, how it feels, and what faith often looks like.

Abraham didn’t even know where he was going, yet, he agreed to go because he trusted the One who was leading him; he was a man of faith. We are told his faith was counted unto him as righteousness in Romans 4:3. Jesus urges us to live by faith in Matthew 16. Throughout the Bible others took bold steps of faith beyond their “comfort zone” and were rewarded:

∼ Noah—a farmer who built a ship

∼ Nehemiah—a cupbearer (wine steward) who became an architect/contractor to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem

∼ Fisherman who became disciples and changed the world God’s word challenges us to step out in an action-adventure with the Lord on a faith journey. (Below, for further study you will find additional references on faith.)

So, what does all of this have to do with walking on a beach? Often when you walk on a beach, the sand shifts beneath your feet, or slides slightly until you get to a firmer spot or layer below the loose sand. Perhaps you have experienced the sense of sand rushing out with a wave and your toes curling to keep you steady. Taking a Faith Step can seem like that—as though you are stepping out into what is uncomfortable, or not a certain foundation. But just as the sand is hard packed under that top loose layer, so we can know that the foundation of our faith is solid and certain even if it may not feel like it initially.

As we learn to take bold steps of faith, we grow in our confidence in the unchanging, sure foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 28:16, Isaiah 33:6)

For Further Study (NIV):

Romans 1:17 “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

II Cor 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.”

Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Gal 3:11 “Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because the righteous will live by faith.”

Hebrews 10:38-39 “And, ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

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