Tag Archives: Christian

Unburied Treasure

My pastor recently introduced me to the S.O.A.P. Bible study method and, as I’m enjoying it quite a bit, I thought I’d share some of what the Lord’s been teaching me. Hope you enjoy!

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Scripture

Gen. 45:26  

‘They told him, saying, “Joseph is still alive, and indeed, he is ruler over all the lad of Egypt.” But he was stunned, for he did not believe them.’

Observe

As far as Jacob was concerned, his son Joseph was dead. Jacob hadn’t trusted God to give him Joseph in the first place; he didn’t pray for Rachel in her infertility and even chastised her for her despair. He didn’t have hope that Joseph would ever exist to begin with and he didn’t have hope that he would still be alive. Even though he didn’t know for sure that Joseph was dead, even though he’d never seen a body, he was ‘stunned,’ which literally meant that his heart was numb. He was as dead on the inside as he believed Joseph to be.

Application

I’ve come very close to accepting the death of some of my dreams, even though I haven’t seen any bodies. My heart has slowly been growing numb. When I look to the future and think about all the plans and hopes and dreams I used to have… now I see only tombstones. Little tombstones. Because my children – the ones I’ve hoped and dreamed and begged and cried for – they feel dead to me, like I’ll never get to hold them, never get to see their little smiles or kiss their fingertips… I’m slowly losing hope, just like Jacob did.

But just like Jacob, the grave I’m crying over is empty. The battle I’m fighting isn’t over. Any day, the news I’ve so longed to hear – the news I would give almost anything to hear – could come over the hill and speak life into my dreams. It isn’t over yet. God is still good. He is still on the throne. And He can still breathe life into my numb and weary heart. If I turn it over to Him. If I have the faith and the guts to fight off the numbness and choose hope again.

Prayer

Father, please keep my heart from going numb. It’s so tempting to let it grow cold to hope, so it won’t hurt me anymore. But what kind of a relationship can we have if I don’t believe in Your goodness? How can I want to grow closer to You if I think You’re working against me? Hoping in You is costly… it means opening up the wound and leaving it in Your hands, in Your charge. But where my treasure is, there my heart will be also. Please don’t let me bury my dreams, not yet. You’re really good with empty tombs, help me to trust You. Please take my most treasured dream, my children, and hold it close so that I may draw closer to you in pursuit of it. It’s in Your precious name I pray, Amen.

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Saving Grace… for Later

My pastor recently introduced me to the S.O.A.P. Bible study method and, as I’m enjoying it quite a bit, I thought I’d share some of what the Lord’s been teaching me. Hope you enjoy!

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Scripture

Titus 2:11-12

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”

Observe

God’s grace is what enables us to deny ungodliness. It just ‘appeared’; He chose to give it freely and not in response to anything we’ve done. It’s all Him. He is the one who gives us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure. We can’t do anything in our own strength, we can’t even want to follow Him without Him putting that desire into our hearts first.

Application

I don’t rely on God’s grace. I don’t fall back on it, or revel in it, or seek more of it. Deep down, I feel like His grace is too basic, like it’s only for new believers, baby-Christians. It’s sort of the starter kit, something to get us headed off in the right direction. So I would have to back-slide pretty far to need grace. After all, I’ve been a Christian all my life. I’ve read the Bible all the way through, several times. I don’t need to go back to milky doctrines like grace. I only need it if I fail, so I’m going to try to get along without it. Plus, what if, heaven forbid, I really did need it one day and I’d used up my limited supply? What if I become dependent on it and the source runs out on me?!
Oh. Brother. Grace is the central doctrine to the Christian faith and none of us will ever get to the place where we no longer need it, least of all me. Grace isn’t the like training wheels on a bike; it’s the main wheels, and the bike frame, and the peddles, and the handle-bar… and the helmet… and the ground… and gravity… and…. You get the picture.

How sad that instead of enjoying one of, if not the greatest (*insert theological semantics here*), gifts I have or ever will receive, I try to keep it stored away for a really rainy day and get along without it. Trying to live a victorious Christian life without grace is like trying to run a marathon while holding your breath: it’s just not going to happen.

Prayer

Father, please forgive me for my pride and faithlessness. I don’t want to need Your grace in case one day You decide to withhold it. I want to be my own ‘Plan B.’ Please forgive me and please give me the faith to trust in – to revel in – Your amazing grace. Help me to accept this gift and let it work in my heart, so that I can deny worldliness and sin. Please let your grace tear down my idols of self-reliance and flood in to replace them. In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

Do you enjoy grace or are you trying to take the ‘training wheels’ off?


What I Really Believe About God

My pastor recently introduced me to the S.O.A.P. Bible study method and, as I’m enjoying it quite a bit, I thought I’d share some of what the Lord’s been teaching me. Hope you enjoy!

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Scripture

Titus 1:16

“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”

Observe

It is possible to know God without following Him. You can believe in Him and still be ‘detestable’ and ‘worthless’ in serving Him. This was written to a group of people who lived in a world where professing Christ cost them something: comfort, security, social standing, persecution. In today’s first world society, it doesn’t cost us anything to say we’re Christians. It’s too easy to give God lip-service while doing and giving nothing else whatsoever.

What you do is what you believe, the rest is just talk.

Application

I need to act out what I believe. And what I believe is that God is God, that He is good, and that He is in control. That’s what I say I believe.

But the beliefs I live out suggest that God is only sort of sovereign over a couple things and even with those, only if He gets the voicemail I left Him. He is good to other people and even though He’s proven His goodness to me, that goodness can and probably will run out soon. Besides, it’s not always my idea of goodness so it doesn’t really count. And even though He probably did create all of time and space, it’s okay if I don’t read the Bible today; He understands that watching the new Gilmore Girls special is important too.

These are the beliefs my actions imply when I spend my time worrying, envying, pouting, ignoring Him, and blatantly sinning. If I really do believe that God is a good Father, my good Father, then my actions and attitude must reflect that.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, thank You so much for loving me, for giving me endless second chances. Please forgive me for taking You for granted, for using pretty language and talking until I’m blue in the face then turning around and acting in direct opposition to what I just said I should/could/would do. I’ve been so wrapped up in myself that I’ve been worthless for Your Kingdom. Please let that stop here. Please help me to put my money where my mouth is. Bring  my beliefs and actions together and please help me to live what I claim to believe. It’s in Your precious name that I pray, Amen.

So, based solely on your actions, what do you believe?


The Christmas Wait

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I’m very excited about Christmas this year. Unnaturally excited. Weirdly excited. I’m not even sure why. Typically, I give the Grinch a run for his money. This year, I was the annoying girl who was humming Christmas carols half-way through November.

As I’ve written before, 2016 has been a disappointing year. Furthermore, I spent all of October and November working weekends (as in 12hrs a day) and I missed my sweet hubby even more than I expected to. So, the approach of year’s end and some much needed hubby-time had me tapping my foot impatiently at November, telling it to get a move on.

But impatient foot-tapping isn’t new for me; it’s sorta my M.O. I’m like a Geico commercial: “If you’re Leah Ness, you wait impatiently. It’s what you do.”

So here’s the really weird thing: I’m super excited for Christmas, but I don’t really want it to get here. Not just yet. My sweet hubby is so eager to give me my presents that he bemoans the distance between now and the 25th on a daily basis. Me? I’m reveling in the anticipation.

How I wish that could be the case in other areas of my life.

I’ve been waiting for motherhood for about 14yrs now. It was all I really wanted to do with my life, the end goal of all my decisions since the age of about 16. After 2yrs of infertility and a failed foster application, I’ve had it up to here with waiting.

And I have to wonder, what would it be like if I could have the certainty that my dreams were safe? Christmas morning will be here before I know it, I have experience in that. Whether I wait patiently or impatiently, the 25th will get here all on its own. I really don’t have to worry or rush it.

If only I had that same assurance with the desires of my heart.

If only I had as much faith in Christ coming through as I do in Christmas.  

I don’t know what God’s plans for me are. He could have a baby in mind for us. Hey, He might even be planning twins (*hint, hint Lord*). But even if His plans for me do not include ever hearing a little one call me mommy, I know those plans are still good.

I serve a great, kind, faithful God. His plans for me – His thoughts on me – are far greater and more beautiful than I could ever imagine. And far more important than I may ever understand here on earth. And I can trust Him that they are good. I can trust Him to be good.

With that truth in mind, I should be able to sit back, relax, and revel in the anticipation. The operative word being ‘should.’

I wonder what my life would look like if every morning, instead of checking the calendar to see how long I’ve waiting and wonder how much time is still left, I just trusted God to get me where I’m going when I’m ready to be there.

What would my days look like if I trusted the Lord so much that I wasn’t in a hurry for my dreams to come true?

How would my relationship with my Father change if I enjoyed the act of walking with Him more than the idea of getting to my destination as soon as possible?

What if I slowed down and took every day as the blessing it is and just enjoyed His presence, safe in the knowledge that wherever we’re going, He’ll be with me?

His presence is the real prize. And in the end, I get heaven.

I know Christmas will be wonderful because I know that my husband loves me and that I get to spend the day with him. And I know that the gifts he’s gotten me will be wonderful because he loves me and cares about me and knows me better than anyone. He’s chosen my gifts with care and is eager for me to enjoy them. So I’m going to rest in the expectation of Dec. 25th.

I know heaven will be wonderful because I know that my Jesus loves me and that I get to spend eternity with Him. And I know that the gifts He’s planning for me will be wonderful because He loves me and cares about me and knows me better than I know myself. He’s planned my future with care and is eager for me to enjoy it. So I’m going to rest in the expectation of eternity.


What Mary, Joseph, and Mulan Taught me About Regrets

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Mary and Joseph (wonder why) and one thing that struck me for the first time was that they must have felt terrible when Jesus was born.

Think about it. Mary, who is legally bound to Joseph, becomes pregnant before the wedding day. Joseph, instead of divorcing her quietly, as he was tempted to do, takes her public shame and covers it with marriage. Now, not only does Mary look bad for being pregnant, but people are probably looking at Joseph and thinking either he sinned and the Child is his, or he has no problem with Mary’s apparent sin and is guilty by association.

I’m sure they were the biggest scandal to hit their town in quite a while.

Then Joseph and Mary make the long journey to Bethlehem and end up spending the night in the stables with the animals, where Mary goes into labor.

If I were in their shoes, I would have panicked. Mary has known this whole time that she is carrying the Messiah and Joseph has just had a confirming dream. They must be feeling overwhelming pressure. And they end up in a situation where the King of kings, the Savior of the world, is going to be born in the hay, amidst animal droppings and half chewed food.

Joseph and Marry must have wondered where they went wrong.

Their circumstances were as far from ideal as it gets. They must have wanted to give so much more to God. They must have expected it to be so much more glorious than it was.

If I were them, I would have felt like I’d let God down, by allowing His Son to be born in such a place, to disgraced parents, with nobody caring about the birth except for a few shepherds.

I think we all feel like that from time to time. We sit down and sing the shoulda’/coulda’/woulda’s, tasting the bitter regret of having failed God.

I know I have. I’ve sacrificed a lot to be where I am today. Only, where I am isn’t where I expected to be. Not even close.

I feel like I let God down. I expected my sacrifices to produce something so glorious for Him. My struggles in obedience, my striving to do His will… it all seems empty now. I wonder where I went wrong.

When we feel God’s calling on our lives, we start to dream big. We think of all the things we want to do for Him, all that we want to accomplish for His Kingdom. But the accolades we plan are not what matter to God.

I’m going to do something completely uncharacteristic now and quote Disney, because it’s what popped into my head as I was writing this. In the movie Mulan, a young woman sets out to bring her family honor and ends up saving China. But when she returns home and offers the Emperor’s gifts to her father, he throws them aside and tells her, “The greatest gift and honor, is having you for a daughter.”

Day 21-favorite quote

God prizes people.

God is after you. He is after your heart. He is after your love and obedience. He wants to be your Dad.

The successes and honors of this world mean nothing to Him. He planned for His Son to be laid in a manger, instead of in a palace. He planned for me to write this to an audience of 100+ instead of 100,000+.

He does not value the things of this world like we do. He values us.

So if you, like me, are harboring regrets, let them go and grab hold of God.

Because you are all He’s ever wanted. And by making Him all you want, you bring Him glory.

 


Get Behind me, Santa

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Tis the season, so I suppose I should probably have a Christmas themed post or two. Trouble is, I’m a self professed Grinch.

The other trouble is that I love and follow Jesus and I enjoy giving gifts to no end.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this time of year is a bit confusing for me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love all the holiday spirit: the tree, the food, the gifts, and most of all the family and friends. I love the traditions and the general good-will mood.

The part I can’t stand about this time of year is the politics.

Everywhere you turn there are the debates over ‘Happy Holidays’ vs. ‘Merry Christmas,’ Hymns vs. Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, nativity scenes vs. Santa and his sleigh. It seems like you can’t make a move without stepping on someone’s toes.

It’s the season for political correctness to run rampant and offenses to run high.

We Christians are all but commanded by the church community to ‘Keep Christ in Christmas.’ But I was thinking about that phrase the other day and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s really a very dumb phrase.

Think about it: the implication here is that if we Christians do not fight tooth and nail campaigning for our rights to our music, decorations, seasonal greetings, and shopping hours, that Jesus will be taken out of Christmas. This call to action is basically stating that non-Christians have the power over Jesus to ban Him from this time of year.

And it’s not just Christmas either. The Church is campaigning to keep Jesus in our schools, in our government buildings, in our currency, in our laws, etc. As though to say that if we were to step out of politics, Jesus would be ousted and denied re-entry.

But I’ve got news on the political fighting point: God is omnipresent.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Watching the evil and the good.

Prov. 15:3

This means that God is in every single government office, every school, every college lecture hall, every supermarket, etc. Furthermore, wherever there is a Christian, there can and will be Holy Spirit anointed prayer.

Even if there were no Christians for miles, God would still be there. His presence is not dependent on us. It’s not like He needs us to get Him into a building and the lack of Christians will keep Him from standing in the oval office and seeing that everything goes according to His perfect plan.

I really don’t think that we Christians are meant to be campaigning so hard on the political front (with the exception, of course, of those who God has called to political office). I don’t think it shows the love of Christ to get our noses bent out of shape when we hear ‘Happy Holidays.’

Those types of political concerns are for the world to worry about. There’s no mention of the apostles marching up and down the street with picket signs. They were too busy loving on people and preaching against sins. Not the sin of Santa and his reindeer, either.

I just worry that the church may have its priorities out of order and that we are fighting in battles that don’t concern us.

If someone wants to sing frosty the snowman and wish me Happy Holidays, then groovy. The far greater concern to me should be whether or not that person realizes how much Jesus loves them and how much they need Him. Because if they don’t have that, then they could celebrate Christmas in the Godliest manner possible and still lose their soul.

So this year, let’s not worry about keeping Jesus in Christmas, in government buildings, in schools, etc. He is already there, and I can assure you that no scheme of man can keep Jesus away from any place He wants to be.

Let’s focus instead on whether or not He is in our hearts and the hearts of those around us. Let’s just love on people this year, pray for those in power, and live lives that are glorifying to God.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Tim.2:1-4


The Christmas Scandal

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A scandal has arisen in the UK over the release of a Christmas commercial by Sainsbury Grocery. The commercial (which can be viewed here) spends about 3 minutes depicting the Christmas Truce of 1914, with the end goal of selling chocolate.

Apparently, people are upset that such an extraordinary event should be used for advertising purposes… which, let’s be honest, is a tad ironic given that the whole season – one said to celebrate the birth of Christ – is basically one be advertisement at this point. (Yes, I’m Charlie Brown, I admit.)

However, I’m very grateful to this ad and its controversy because it stopped me dead in my tracks and caused me to look at the Jesus’ advent in a way I never had before.

We all know (some have experienced) the trauma of childbirth for the mother, but I think few of us really reflect on the trauma the child goes through.

Everything the baby has ever known about safety and warmth and care is suddenly ripped away as the poor little infant is squeezed slowly through the birth canal.

He then emerges into a world of lights and sounds and cold that is completely foreign and uncomfortable. The baby experiences hunger for the first time, and cold, and weakness.

He is totally and completely helpless, too frail to even lift his own head and completely at the mercy of the strange giants around him. He can’t communicate his needs or desires through anything other than plaintive wails.

He is completely helpless.

Now picture the Almighty Creator of the Universe, Perfect and Holy God condescending to put Himself through this.

Condescending to experience pain, hunger, weakness, shame, rejection, betrayal, helplessness… in short, humanity, in all its splendor.

I don’t know where theologians stand with this, but I personally believe that Jesus was fully conscience of His God state in the midst of this event.

And He suffered through all this completely blamelessly, totally undeservedly.

From the Lord’s side of things, His birth was more unjust, more scandalous than anything that has happened or ever could happen here on earth, in war time or in peace.

And yet He submitted to it willingly, for your sake and for mine.

Every year, we hear a lot about ‘the reason for the season’ and words like ‘gratitude’ and ‘greatest gift’ get bandied about. I feel like this discussion has grown stale, and we don’t stop often enough to think about what it is that we are actually grateful for.

We’ve been told that Jesus died for our sins, but how often do we stop to think about how He lived for them? If you ponder the physical side of humanity, it can be stated that we begin to die as soon as we’re born, so Jesus’ death really began with His birth.

I like the commercial above. The company uses the word ‘share,’ but what I see is sacrifice. And maybe that’s what this season is really all about, the opportunity to truly reflect on the Sacrifice that was made on our behalf, and the chance to look around for opportunities to make sacrifices on behalf of others.

(Originally published 12/1/2014)


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