Tag Archives: Trust

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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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.


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)


Mundane Courage

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(Originally published 9/3/13)

Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible says ‘do not fear’? Take 2 Tim. 1:7 for example;

‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’

We tend to associate the words ‘bravery’ and ‘courage’ with large scale endeavors. For example, if we find out that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, we encourage them, and ourselves, to be brave.

It’s like bravery is only needed in life and death situations, or acts of heroism, such as rushing into a burning building. But I think that courage should be far more common place than that.

I’ve always been an introvert, but even more than that, I’ve always been painfully shy. During my adolescence I was known as a ‘wall-paper kid’ and I remember once when I was around ten years old, it took me literally weeks to gather the nerves to strike up a conversation with a girl I wanted to befriend. I avoided the young adults group at my church for months because I was so self-conscious and afraid that people would find me annoying or stupid.

Though I’ve improved tremendously, I still struggle with reaching out to people I’m not comfortable around. There have been several times when I have felt God tugging at my heart to minister to someone, but, to my shame, I have only responded with obedience a few times.

Usually, I ignore the Lord’s call and walk away. I’m very good at signing up for the behind the scenes positions where I don’t have to talk to people, and while I recognize that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert, allowing fear of others to hinder my obedience to God is a sin. In Galatians 1:10 Paul asks if he is ‘now seeking the approval of men, or of God.’  This is the fear I suffer from most often.

The extreme situations we relate to the term ‘brave’ lead us to the misconception that courage is something we need only when we are approaching dangerous situations. There are certainly dangerous times in everyone’s life, but those aren’t the only times we need boldness.

Sometimes, it takes just as much courage to stand up to friends and family as is does to save someone from a fire; in fact, without the dose of adrenalin, we may have even more trouble steeling our nerves.

Maybe you fear others’ opinions of you, failing a test in school, or stuttering during a presentation at work. Others are afraid of being a bad parent or spouse or friend. Some people, like me, are paralyzed by the thought of asking the homeless person on the street if we can pray with them.

I believe one of the biggest fears among Christians is sharing our faith with those we know and love who don’t know and love Jesus. For most of us, the thought of leaving our comfort zone invokes the same level of apprehension as skydiving.

Anytime we allow fear to dictate our actions, or, as is more likely the case, our inactions, we are committing the sin of worry and we are not trusting God fully. Obviously there is a place for wisdom and prudence; I’m not telling anyone to knowingly endanger themselves just for laughs. But when it comes to actions that God has fully equipped us for – such as loving and reaching out to others with the message of Salvation – we need to be strong and courageous.

I would encourage you to be more mindful of those actions and/or people you avoid out of fear. For myself, I know there are a fair few instances when I listen to doubts from the devil rather than directions from God.

When you come up against an occasion that tempts you to give into fear, stop, be still and know that God is God, and, if He is telling you to do it, go for it! Be bold and courageous; God has already won the battle!

I leave you with one of my favorite inspirational quotes on bravery:

“The enemy is in front of us, the enemy is behind us, the enemy is to the right and to the left of us. They can’t get away this time!”
― Douglas MacArthur


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. 


I’m Melting

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Three months ago, almost to the day, I set out to have a great adventure with God. I left behind almost all the people and things that used to mean ‘home’ and headed out into the wild blue yonder, hoping and trusting that God had my back.

I was sure that taking this leap was going to strengthen my faith and bring me closer to Him. But as the days trickled into weeks and months, I felt my strength melting away and my faith felt weaker than ever.

I couldn’t figure out why all my best laid plans were crumbling. I had felt so well prepared, so eager to showcase God’s greatness. I felt like I’d spent months, maybe even years, sculpting this offering of a good Christian heart to lay at the feet of my King.

Imagine my hurt and confusion when my beautifully sculpted offering began to melt.

In Philippians, Paul calls us to be sincere. The root word of ‘sincere’ comes from the Greek and literally translates to ‘able to withstand sunshine,’ or ‘without wax.’

You see, it used to be that whenever the ancient Greek sculptors would slip and ding the marble, they would make a patch with wax and fill the gash. They would then present it to the patron as perfect. I’m sure you can guess what happened to the stature after it was left on display in the courtyard for a few days; the wax melted, ruining the artwork. So they began to inspect the statues before they were put on sale, and the true works of art were labeled ‘sincere,’ without wax.

Well, my offering wasn’t sincere. Neither was my faith. 

I made sacrifices, but only with the understanding that I would be fully compensated.

I trusted God to provide, but I figured it would only come through our plans and actions.

I set out to further the Lord’s Kingdom, but only as long as my own kingdom was likewise firmly established.

I sought the Lord, but not with an undivided heart jealously guarded from idolatry.

It’s no wonder I was unable to withstand the Son-shine.

It’s been hard to watch all my best efforts liquefy into a dirty puddle. There have been many times when I’ve shielded my work from the light and tried to harden the wax and put it back in place.

But God is immeasurably merciful to me, and so has continued to shine on my life. And my heart has continued to melt.

I resented the work, I tried to halt it. Then I noticed something wondrous. There, at the core of my creation, was a shard of pure faith.

Not faith in myself, my plans, my abilities, or those around me. And not something big, strong, and formidable. But none of that matters. The important thing isn’t how impressive this faith is; the crucial thing is Who this faith is in: Jesus.

That’s what the Lord was after; that’s what He was working to expose. Himself, there at the root of all my fleshly works. He’s been tearing down my work so that He can do His own.

And thanks to this long and painful process, today I was able to pray, sincerely pray, for the first time in a long time. And this is the prayer God led me to say:

“I am Yours; do with me as You will, and I will praise You for it.

Sincerelyme” 


Instead of Changing People

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(Originally published 8/9/13)

Picture, for a moment, going through life without worrying about anyone, without experiencing any strife with anyone, and without carrying around hurts inflicted upon us by others.

Sound a little to good to be true? Maybe. But if we can only remember how much God loves them and us, then even if they spit in our faces, as we did to Jesus, we will still have love for them that cancels out our own pain. We will be able to see past their actions to the hurting person inside who needs continual love and grace ever bit as much as we do. And God will give that love and grace to us to give to them.

Think for a moment about every person in your life that ‘needs’ to change in some way or other and imagine that they will never change, no matter what you do.

Now choose to love them anyway.

Can you feel that burden being lifted off your shoulders? Feels good, right?

Now, please, don’t misunderstand me; If your loved one is walking in sin, if they are suffering from circumstances and disease, if they are struggling in any way, yes, do what you can to help.

The Bible tells us to hold our brothers and sisters to account and to share the Gospel with non-believers. So whether the person who is sinning knows God or not, we are called to speak life to them and encourage them in the gospel. Contrary to popular belief, we actually aren’t called to judge those outside the church for their sins (1 Cor. 5:12-13), merely to show them that there is a better way through our words, actions, and, most of all, love.

Just as importantly, we are called to pray for others. Whether their troubles concern spiritual issues, physical, mental, emotional, or some combination, we are called to lift them up in prayer. And to continue in that prayer, even after we’ve told them everything God has placed on our hearts to tell them and it doesn’t seem to make a dent. Oftentimes, all that’s left for us to do is pray for them, love on them, and leave the rest up to God. 

Trying to do more for them in our own strength, apart from God’s will, is only going to hurt and frustrate us and them. 

There are also times when their sins are just cause for us to keep our distance. These times are outlined in the Bible where we are told that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor. 15:33) and it tells us not to associate with professing Christians who are walking in blatant sin (1 Cor. 5:11). This passage even tells us to turn them over to Satan, or in other words, just let them do what they want to do (1 Cor. 5:5). This may sound harsh but it just goes to support my point; we cannot change their hearts. Sometimes we need to step out of their lives and pray for them from a distance, especially if they are causing us physical/psychological harm or drawing us away from the Lord.

Even when we do have to step out of people’s lives, we should never hold grudges against them, despite what they may have done to us and we should continue to love them and lift them up in prayer. That way, when the Lord gets a hold of their heart, we’ll be ready to welcome them back. We will also experience greater freedom and joy by letting go of those past hurts.

After we have learned to trust God with the people in our lives – and this could very well be something we have to re-release to Him on a daily basis – we are free to examine our own hearts and see what God wants us to change in our own lives.


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