Tag Archives: Faith

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.


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.


Earning Grace

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A little while ago, I wrote about the trouble I have accepting love. One point I didn’t really touch on was accepting grace. When I refer to grace, I mean the unmerited favor of God. Keyword: ‘unmerited.’

It scares me that I didn’t earn grace. If I had, then I would be able to sit here, secure in the knowledge that I had brought something to pass and therefore have control over it. It’s difficult to explain how my mind works (even to myself) but basically, I feel like if I had earned grace, then I would have control over maintaining possession of it.

As it is, grace was a free gift to me. It is mine to keep but I’m left feeling like there’s some other secret half of a contract I have to fulfill. It makes no sense in my mind that I (of all people) would have received such an unfathomable gift for free. So my human reasoning has informed me that I did, in fact, do something to earn it.

But rather that fulfilling my end of some bargain, I feel like God must have seen something good in me and the grace He gave me is more like an investment. The danger with this conclusion is the understanding that if I don’t live up to expectations then the grace will be withdrawn.

This thought pattern is a lie from satan, and I don’t think mine is the only ear he’s whispering it in. The entire concept of modern day ‘religion’ is based on the notion that we have to perform set standards in order to keep our grace. If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, He will naturally develop fruit in your life. But this fruit is not good enough for most of us; we need to feel we have produced something in our own power.

The Galatians had a similar problem and Paul had some choice words to say about it. In Gal.2:21 he writes,

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

He goes on to say,

“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by obeying the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?… Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Gal. 3:2-3,5)

Very clearly, grace is a free gift, one wielded by faith, not by works. It must, because there is no way in our human capacity that we could ever follow the law to the extent that we earn our own righteousness.

That is why Gen. 15:6 says, “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

“But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Gal.4:9)

The answer to the second question is, ‘Yes! I do!’ I feel more secure in my enslavement because there I have the illusion of control. If I’m a slave then it is by my own power that I am saved, or so my deceitful heart tells me.

I know I’ve said it before but I’m finding more and more of my problems run back to the same core issue: I need to trust Jesus. It’s scary relying on Him to continue to give me un-earned grace. It’s scary to feel like the power and control are in His hands rather than mine.

But it doesn’t matter how scary it is, it remains a solid fact that I cannot change. The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus. And I rely on Him completely. I cannot take my next breath without Him. I have no grace without Him. There is no love apart from Him.  Therefore, what other option do I have but to trust Him?

Gal.4:6 reassures that,

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

The name ‘Abba’ most closely matches our word for ‘daddy.’ Thinking I can reach God in my own strength is a dangerous notion that has fed my actions for far too long. It is a fantasy, one that is hindering my relationship with my Daddy. I’m claiming the truth that I can do nothing to earn grace and that I can trust my Daddy for an unending supply of it.


How Big is a Mustard Seed?

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At church, a missionary from Guatemala shared a testimony about a construction worker who’d had an accident. The man had been repairing electrical wires on the third story of a building when he was electrocuted and flung off the roof into more wires, was electrocuted again, then fell the three stories to the pavement bellow, cracking open his skull. As the missionary and a crowd gathered round, it was agreed that the man was dead. Then the missionary prayed and the man started to sit up. Long story short, after this horrific accident that nobody had any business surviving, the man was raised from the dead.

The thing that caught my attention was the missionary’s statement. He said that after he saw the man lying on the ground, and everyone was sure he was dead (the missionary even examined the head wound and saw the man’s brains) the missionary said he had no faith the man could live. He said that he proclaimed the man dead and only prayed because he kicked into religious mode and praying is what spiritual leaders do. He said he knew the man was dead, but also knew that God can do whatever He wants.

The prayer was only thirty seconds long and even when the man started to sit up, even when he rose to his feet before the ambulance got there, the missionary and the other witnesses were convinced he wouldn’t make it to the hospital. It wasn’t until the doctors said they could find no internal damage, no broken bones, and only a minor cut on the back of his head, that the missionary could say with any confidence that the man would live.

I always expect these testimonies to have a claim of mighty faith, the huge amount of faith you need to make a miracle happen.

Turns out, God doesn’t need us to have a ‘huge amount of faith’ before He does what He wants to do.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been struggling for more faith. I’ve been recalling verses like Mat. 9:29 which says, “It shall be to you unto your faith” or Heb. 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

I’ve been walking around under the assumption that I have to reach a certain level of faith before God will move on my behalf.

Listening to this story, however, reminded me of the father in Matt. 9:24 who said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief,” or the famous ‘mustard seed’ verse from Mat. 17:20. I think I’ve been going about faith the wrong way.

 I don’t think it’s quite as important how much faith I have, so much as what, or rather Who, my faith is in.

I can have a huge amount faith in my ability to fly, but when I take a swan dive off a cliff, I’m gonna splat, no matter my amount of faith. To think that if I achieve a high amount of faith, God will answer my prayers is both manipulative and arrogant.

It’s as though God has risen from His throne and is anxiously pacing back and forth, hoping I can pull together the needed amount of faith in time for Him to help. Or that if I reach a certain quota, God will have no choice but to give me a miracle.

Of course, strengthening our faith in Him is important because it means we will trust Him with more of our lives and put Him first more often, therefore growing closer to Him. But He doesn’t need us to have a certain amount of faith before He shows up in our lives. In fact, without the grace of God, we wouldn’t have any faith anyways, so it’s really God’s show from beginning to end.

If my faith is in God, then who’s responsibility is it to act? His. If I’m thinking that I need a certain level of faith, then I’m really putting my trust and belief in myself, convinced that God needs my help. But God is God, and He has ultimate authority regardless of how much I believe that. What really matters is that I believe in Him, trust in Him, and rely on Him to do what He knows is best.

I can move mountains even with faith the size of a mustard seed. Why? Because I’m not actually moving the mountain. God is.

I need to stop stressing and focusing on how much faith I do or don’t have, and start focusing on Who I’ve put my faith in.

God doesn’t need my help, my advice, or my permission. He doesn’t need me to believe that He is God in order for Him to be God. He will have His way with or without my faith. But He is loving and gracious and enables me to trust Him. He lets me focus on Him. This is a precious gift that I need to just accept and rest in.

He is God and He will work according to His good will. And even if His good will differs from my good will, I know I’ll be alright, “for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Tim. 1:12.

(Originally published 9/9/13)


Riding the Waves

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Last week, I had the privilege of listening to an amazing sermon by our new pastor, Ty VanHorn. In it, he shared a story about a time when he was swimming off the coast of Hawaii.

He was in the water when the life guard started blowing his whistle and pointing emphatically at something beyond Pastor Ty. Ty turns to look and sees that the horizon morphing into a huge swell that quickly gains in speed and size what it loses in distance.

Ty understands the lifeguard to be warning him of the wave and, as most of us would, swims like mad for shore. All the while, the lifeguard continues to blow his whistle and point at the wave.

The wave begins to suck water from the shoreline, drawing Ty with it and, despite his frantic efforts to reach land in time, the water’s pull drags him back. When it finally crashes, it does so right on Pastor Ty’s head.

He likened it to being in a washing machine. Up was down, all was chaos, and he received the thrashing of a lifetime. But when the water calmed, he was able to stand up and wade quickly to shore before the second wave hit.

It was only later that he realized the lifeguard wasn’t warning him of the wave, he was telling him to swim into it. Had he done so, rather than being sucked under, he could have ridden the top of the wave safely to land. This misunderstanding on Ty’s part nearly cost him his life.

The moral of the story is that when God sends waves our way, the worst thing we can do is try to swim away from them.

The second worse thing would be to stay still and hang on tight to whatever we happen to be using as a floatation device.

Instead, what we need to do is let go of anything that is hindering us and swim for the wave with all we’ve got so we can rise above it and ride it home. Instead of fearing the wave, we have a unique opportunity to trust God for the ride of a lifetime.

As I sat in church listening to this metaphor (oh how I love a good metaphor), I wondered to myself why this message was coming now, and not two or three weeks or even months ago. My (nervous) thought: The last three and a half months, the move, the job search, all of it, has only been training.

Now for the real work. I confided my nerves to Hubby who replied with the affirmation that he too felt God saying He was sending quite the wave our way. Gulp.

I don’t know about you folks, but I’m not a fan of winkled plans and boat rocking. I’m also not too happy with the idea of surrendering floatation devises.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that God knows best, and I think I’d rather be riding on top of the wave than beneath it.

So as I enter this next season of life, I’m praying that God will help me lay down my plans, schedules, preconceptions, and sandcastles in favor of enjoying some pretty awesome waves.


Even When

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I’ve recently learned something about faith: it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. At least, mine isn’t. Let me explain.

As many of you know, 3.5 months ago my husband and I moved across country. Reason being, we felt God telling us to. We had no friends, no job prospects, and a rapidly dwindling savings.

But hey, that’s the perfect recipe for adventure, right?

I thought I was prepared for what God would do in our lives; I thought I had a pretty good idea of what He had planned.

Haha, silly Leah.

As I shared last month, what I thought was a beautiful representation of a faithful Christ follower turned out to be something very insincere. With this revelation came a clue as to what God was up to, supposedly confirming what I had suspected all along.

I decided that everything we were going through was God’s way of strengthening my faith. This was the crux of the matter. It had to be.

So I surrendered myself to the lesson but, as is my wont, more so I could learn it and be done. I thought that we were stuck in unemployment because my faith wasn’t strong enough so I focused on faith strengthening exercises so we could get un-stuck.

And when Hubby completed not one but two very promising job interviews, I thought my new plan was working. They even said to him, and I quote, “We’ll call you with next steps.”

But they didn’t call. Not that day, not the next one. By day three, I was done. I felt like I was riding a roller coaster and was sick to my stomach from the hopeful-disappointed-hopeful up and down motions.

So what did I do? I did what any self-respecting adult would do. I called my mommy and cried to her over the phone about my wussy faith.

It was while I was sitting on our front steps, pouring my whiny heart out, that Hubby stuck his head out the front door to tell me that he had just received the job offer.

Ah the irony. Here I am convinced that God will move only when my faith is strong enough – my very own brand of name-it-claim-it – and He waits until my very weakest moment.

The conclusion I’ve drawn from this? It’s not my faith that moves mountains, it’s God’s faithfulness.

If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.

2 Tim. 2:13

All that to say; PRAISE REPORT! God has given us a job! My thanks to all of you who kept us in your prayers =)

He is faithful!


Baggage Claim

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(Originally published 8/26/13)

Last Sunday they showed this video at my church:

I’m not trying to promote Celebrate Recovery because I’m not sure exactly what it’s about or if I’ll go, though my church is offering it. I just really liked the video itself. There’s a lot of truth there.

We sure do love our stuff. And it is very hard to let go of. I myself carry a lot around with me. Worry and anxiety are chief, followed closely by grudges and insecurities. And it’s so true that these are things I have to let go of on a daily bases. Usually multiple times a day. And a lot of the time, that makes me feel that either I’m doing something wrong, or that there is something wrong with me.

We live in an instantly gratifying culture. We’re so used to getting what we want when we want it that when it takes an extra minute or two at the ATM, some of us (myself very much included) even get indignant. As far as self improvement goes, you only have to glance at the self-help section of the book store to see title’s like ‘A New You by Friday,’ ‘Change Your Life in Seven Days,’ or ‘How to Heal a Broken Heart in 30 Days.’ But the sad truth of the matter is that life changes, especially big ones, take time. It’s unrealistic to imagine years of thought patterns and habits will disappear in a fortnight and yet that is so often what we expect.

Anything worth having is worth working for, and that includes the freedom of an intimate walk with Christ. And the beautiful part of the Christian walk is that God has already done all the work for us. He has already won the battle and we already have ‘Everything we need for a godly life’ (2 Peter 1:3). The old fleshly man has been crucified with Christ and all we have to do is walk in the freedom and grace of the Holy Spirit living through is.

That isn’t so tough, is it? Ok, so maybe it’s a daily struggle for you like it is for me. But what a worthwhile goal we’re reaching for.

If you are anything like me, you will lay your burdens down at the foot of the cross, exhale a sigh of relief, and five minutes later, take them back again. It’s a constant back and forth, give and take, motion. Kind of like tug-of-war only God will not grab your burdens from you. He’ll only take them if you ask Him to. And He’ll give them back if you ask Him to. The good news is that as in any activity or exorcise, practice makes perfect and the more you trust God, the stronger your faith muscles will grow.

So maybe you were only able to lay that burden down for six minutes yesterday before you took it back, but today it was seven minutes. Even if you backslide back to five minutes, God has grace for that and if you keep pressing into Him, He will keep giving you the strength you need until one day, you have laid your burden down for good.

So keep fighting the good fight! I know it’s hard and it can get downright exhausting (Believe me, I know). But God has promised to help us with this and it pleases Him when we trust Him with our problems. He wants us to come to Him, even if we have to keep coming to Him. He will keep ‘raising us up on wings as eagles,’ strengthening and refreshing us. His grace is sufficient for us, so all we need to do is trust Him and walk in it. 


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