Tag Archives: faith

Birthright

graveside

In modern America, we don’t usually think much about birthrights or inherited blessings.  The vast majority of us do not expect to inherit from our relatives anything of significant value.  Occasionally one of us will inherit an item of sentimental value, important to the beneficiary but usually a trinket or tool or book of little value to anyone else.  We don’t think about an inheritance that we can use as leverage or exchange for something else of value to us.

Genesis tells us about Jacob and Esau, and Esau’s infamous barter of his birthright for a bowl of stew.

“…and Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.’  Therefore his name was called Edom.  But Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’  Esau said, ‘Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?’  And Jacob said, ‘First swear to me’; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.”                  Genesis 25:30-33

The Hebrew birthright in the Patriarchal age was a right of tremendous importance.  Usually given to the firstborn son, the birthright consisted of a double portion of the father’s personal property; designation as head of the family entailing responsibility for all common family property and for all remaining members of the household such as widows, younger brothers and unmarried sisters; and, authority over extended family members.  The birthright also included receiving the blessing which put the beneficiary in close covenant relationship with Yahweh Himself.

This makes me wonder what my birthright in Christ is.  I received the blessing of covenant relationship with God Himself when I was baptized into the body of Christ.  I was born again of the Spirit and such a birth brings me a birthright.

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us, richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  Titus 3:5-7

“…we would be made heirs…”  My right of birth into God’s family is to be an heir to eternal life.  I don’t have to stand in line for it, I don’t have to wait for an older sibling to die to acquire it, I cannot buy it.  It was conferred on me when I was born of the Spirit.  My birthright.

“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ ”  John 3:5

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  …And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”  Galatians 3:26, 27, 29

If I am an heir to the riches of heaven, what does that mean to me here and now?  Are the only benefits of being a child of God relegated to the spiritual realm I will live in after I leave behind the bag of bones I currently carry around?

Only in Christ, I have this birthright today and forever:

Peace with God–I am reconciled to Him.  My debt to Him is paid in full by the blood of His Son.  I stand as a citizen of Heaven, now, today.  Ephesians 2:13-16

Justification before God–On my record, there is no mark of deficiency.  In God’s eyes this day, He sees me as His child of promise.  I pass the test.  I win the race. Today.  Romans 5:18, 19

Complete and enduring forgiveness–There is no record of my wrongs.  No sin can be attributed to me.  Once forgiven, He has no memory of my offenses.  Ever.  No matter what.  Ephesians 1:7-9

Acceptance into God’s family–I am His child, sister to the Son of God.  I am no more AND NO LESS important than any of my siblings.  No matter where I come from, where I have been or what I have done.  Complete and total acceptance through Jesus’ cleansing blood.  Ephesians 2:19-22

Freedom from the slavery to sin and self—No longer my will, but only His will.  I am no longer driven by a lifestyle that leads only to destruction.  I know the futility of living life without promise, of trying to see what is real through a haze of distractions.  In Christ I hold ownership to blessed outcomes and a meaningful journey.  By the end, He will make everything right, nothing will be wasted.  Romans 6:11

Resurrection–Yes, resurrection when Jesus returns, but also resurrection every day.  Each day is a new day.  Forgiveness through His grace allows me to start over, again and again, as many times as I need, cleansed and whole, each and every time.  God’s forgiveness is limited only by my repentance.  God’s supply of forgiveness is limitless.  Whatever I need, no matter how much I need.  I get to start over, always, until this life ends.  Romans 6:1-7

Direct access to God–God is MY Father.  I pray to Him.  I serve Him.  His Spirit indwells ME.  His begotten Son pleads MY case before Him.  MY relationship to Him is personal, intimate and priceless.  Ephesians 2:17, 18

Genesis 25:34 says that Esau despised his birthright, counted it as nothing of importance, when he sold it to Jacob for a meal.

Do I ever despise my birthright?  Do I ever trade it for what makes me feel happy, excited, loved, satiated, or proud in any given moment?  Do I ever treat my inheritance in Christ as if it were of no importance to me?  Do I listen to Satan’s whispers that tell me God didn’t really mean what He said when He said I would surely die?  When he tells me God doesn’t really love me?  Do I trade God’s truth that brings me blessings now and forever for lies that only rob me of what is rightfully mine in Christ?

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

God Answers Prayer

I like to get correspondence from friends and family–emails, letters, cards, old-fashioned, new-fashioned–it doesn’t matter to me.  I try very hard to respond to written  communication as soon as I possibly can, in particular if the writer makes a request of me or has a need I can assist with.  If I don’t answer right away, especially if it comes by email, I am prone to get distracted and forget to respond altogether.  Thankfully, God never gets distracted from the communication I send to Him.  And He always, always answers me.

“By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea; Who establishes the mountains by His strength, Being girded with might; Who stills the roaring of the seas, The roaring of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples.”  Psalm 65:5-7

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear or read someone say that God answered their prayers when they receive something they’ve been praying for.  The statement of celebration is not wrong, but the inference is.  Their inference, whether they choose to admit it or not, is that if God had not granted their request, it would have been an UN-answered prayer.  I know this is a sticky point.  Shouldn’t I just lighten up and let someone celebrate something good in their lives?  Be thankful that they are acknowledging God at all?  Most of the time I am thankful for God’s work in their lives and grateful for God’s loving care of them, relieved that they chose to honor God with thanksgiving.  Once in a while, though, it hits me hard that God is not getting all of the credit He deserves, that someone may be misrepresenting His work in their lives.  The infraction is usually unintentional, but I believe it is very important for me to witness about God’s work in my life and in the lives of others as accurately as possible.

Understanding and properly communicating how God answers my prayers is a big deal because the people in the world around me have the false notion that only granted requests are answers to prayer.  A quick Google search for “answered prayer” reveals  numerous sites dedicated to helping the reader get the desired answers to their prayers.  On Ask.com, the response to the question, “What is an answered prayer?” is “…a prayer that God, to whom the prayers are directed to, grants the wishes of the believer praying.”  Prayer request sites, where one can ask for a request to be prayed over, ask patrons to notify the sites when their prayer is “answered” (read “granted”).  The peoples of the world, even those who profess Christ, believe a “Yes” from God is the only answered prayer.

” ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!’ ”  Matthew 7:7-11

When I read this passage in Matthew, I often stop at verse eight.  Reading on, though, I see the key to how God answers my prayers.  He always gives me what is good.  Always.  Because He is my Father.  Because He is faithful to me, His child.  Because I ask Him.  If I ask Him for a snake,  He will not give me a snake unless there is some ‘good’ for me in it.  If I ask Him for a fish, He will provide what I need and it will be ‘good.’   Should I praise Him only when He gives me exactly what I ask for, even if it is not ‘good’ for me?  Does He only get credit for an answered prayer when He grants what I ask for?  If He gives me the snake that I ask for and I let it lead me to ruin, do I blame Him for not protecting me from myself?  If I don’t understand what the ‘good’ is in His answer to my prayer, do I wait to praise Him until I know?

God, my heavenly Father, is the best of parents, not a genie who grants my wishes.  He only gives me what is in my best, eternal interests in view of the best, eternal interests of all of those who love Him.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Sometimes, the answer to my prayer will be something that never occurred to me.  God is all-knowing, all-powerful.  He loves me beyond what I can ever comprehend.  He knows me best, knows my strengths and my weaknesses, knows what skills and knowledge I need to meet the coming challenges in my life.  The intense desire of any single moment may be completely irrelevant, or completely destructive, to what is coming next in my life.

So, I praise Him when He says, “No.”  I praise Him when He says, “Not yet.”  I praise Him when He says, “This is better than what you asked for.”  I praise Him when He says, “Yes, my child.  Use it to My glory.”

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:4-7

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Gifts

In recent weeks I have been posing this question to my Sunday morning ladies Bible class:  Are you more afraid of being punished by God or of losing your relationship with God?  It is a rhetorical question, very personal in its nature because the answer to it reveals the state of one’s relationship with God.  If my fear of being punished by God is my reason for seeking Him, then I see God more as a judge than any other role He may play in my life.  I can be a faithful follower of Christ and have this view of the God of the universe.  I submit, though, that if this is my primary motivation for following Christ, then my motivation is incomplete, and I am at serious risk of losing my relationship with God and the reward of heaven.

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Hebrews 10:31

I started as a young Christian with this avoidance motivation.  I remember well the ‘fire and brimstone’ preachers I heard as a kid in church.  They were successful in putting the fear of God in me.  I wanted no part of hell or God’s wrath.  This inspiration is still a part of my faith basis. Living with fear as my primary motivation for following Christ became very cumbersome, though.  If all I am doing is avoiding the bad, when life gets hard, my faith falls apart.  If I am already living some really bad scenarios, how much worse can hell be?  I have my own personal hell on earth.  Why should I follow a God who does not protect me from evil and brokenness and heartache here and now?

Looking through history I see a lot of bad stuff happening to Christians.  They were fed to lions and other carnivores, cruelly crucified, beheaded, drawn and quartered (look it up if you don’t know what that is) and burned alive, among many other horrifying methods of torture and execution, for remaining faithful to Jesus, for refusing to renounce His name, for refusing to worship any other god than the one true God.  Even today, in some parts of the world, Christians are tortured, maimed and killed only because they wear the name of Christ.  In modern, civilized society, Christians are demeaned, ridiculed, even caricatured by the loftiest in government.  Being a Christian puts a target on my back, and it is really hard to imagine a hell worse than one Christians already endure among their fellow humans.  Why would I remain loyal to Christ in the face of such discomfort and even horror?  And yet, multitudes of Christians remain faithful, even in the face of wretched torture and death.

” ‘The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet when he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.’ ”  Matthew 13:20, 21

It seems faithfulness requires more than just the fear of God’s punishment to keep me rooted and grounded in Christ.  Faith in Jesus must be deeply rooted in something that endures, that withstands the twists and turns of a broken world.  It must be rooted in a heart that is soft and vulnerable and secure, a heart that knows it is deeply loved.  Love  survives this world into the next.  It is the bridge that spans the divide between the carnal and spiritual.

“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”                 1 Corinthians 13:13

In addition to learning about God’s wrath while growing up in church, I learned about God’s love.  I do not know if it was my child mind or how it was taught to me, but God’s love seemed like a sentiment, a nice feeling I was told was important.  It did not occur to me until later in life that God’s love was something I could sink my teeth into or grab like a life preserver.  So God became my rescuer, the ever present Savior of my soul and my life on earth.  This concept evolved into God being my supreme Bless-er, the One who gives good gifts to His children.  None of these ideas is in error, but they are an incomplete picture of God on their own.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  James 1:17

God indeed is the One who blesses, saves, disciplines and judges.  God does all of these things because He loves me, hook, line and sinker.  Doubtlessly, persistently, relentlessly, passionately.  He desires a positive, healthy, fully functioning relationship with me.  One that is mutual.  A relationship He makes possible.  A relationship He wants me to desire with all of my being.

Matt Hammitt, in his song “Without You”, includes this line:  “I don’t want to love You for a blessing / I just want to know who You are / ‘Cause You could never give me something better / Than Your light in my heart.”  This line convicts me.  Do I want to know God for His blessings?  Or, do I want to know who He is?  Do I value His light in my life more than anything else He gives me?  Do I cherish the light He has put in my heart so much that the idea of being without His light, without Him, is terrifying to me?

” ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.’ ”  John 3:16

The most profound gift ever given is God’s gift of His Son for the redemption of man.  Do I want to know why He would do such a thing?  John tells us it is because of the love He has for each and every one of us.  What kind of love would sacrifice itself to save a worthless and selfish human like me, much less multiple generations of an entire planet of them?

God’s gifts in my life are many and varied and personal to me.  Do I value the love and thought put into each one?  Do I crave to be close to the heart that spends so much time and thought and energy on me to keep me safe in His arms for eternity?  The best gifts given to me by another human being were from my husband when it was obvious he had spent time and thought to give me something I would value.  I rarely remember the things he gave me, but I will forever remember the effort he put into selecting them.  With those thoughtful gifts, he spoke to my heart, made me feel important and loved.  Am I so intimately joined to God that His thoughtful, careful gifts to me speak love to my heart?  Do I value knowing Him more than I value anything else?

” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.’ ”  Deuteronomy 6:5

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Brokenness

On a recent Sunday morning I was struck with the brokenness that surrounded me.  From the sisters sitting on my row to the families sitting across the aisle, from the song leader to the speaker, from the weeping daughter on the front row to her terminally ill dad who was baptized into Christ that day, from the man who led communion to the person in my own skin, every week I worship with a building full of people who are battered and worn by life’s storms.  And we are winning.  We are torn and broken down but we are not defeated by illness, betrayal, injustice, disappointment, grief, abuse or any of Satan’s schemes.  We hobble into the church building on weakened legs carrying weary spirits, but we are a family and we are worshiping the one, true God.  We are winning this race called life.  And Satan is very unhappy.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,… Philippians 3:7,8

Knowing Jesus as my Lord and Savior is worth whatever I put up with in the time before I join Him in heaven.  Knowing He is near at any moment, knowing He loves me unconditionally, knowing He will lead me if I will follow, knowing He will work out whatever comes my way in this life into my eternal good, knowing He saves me with joy and thankfulness, these are the most precious gifts He has given to me.  And they are worth much more than anything this life has to offer.

…and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,… Philippians 3:9

Praise God!  I don’t have to be good enough to know Jesus.  I don’t have to pass a test.  I don’t have to meet a certain metric to have Jesus as my Friend and Redeemer.  My righteousness comes from God Himself!  I just have to believe in Him and act like I believe in Him.  What good is believing if I don’t act like I believe? (James 2:14-26)  If I choose to accept His gift of salvation, would it not be foolish to try to accept it any other way than the way He offers it to me–through obedient baptism?  To act like I believe Him means I yield to His will and obey Him.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  Galatians 3:26, 27

 If God redeems me from the penalty of all of my sin, if He bestows on me the righteousness that identifies me as His child, should I not wear that righteousness proudly?  Is there any thing in this life that matters more than wearing Jesus?  Illness?  Heartache?  Chronic pain?  Poverty?  Drugs?  Alcohol?  Injustice?  Pleasure of any kind?  Abuse?  Wealth?  Accomplishment?  Pride?  There is nothing in this life, or any life, that is worth more, that is more precious, that is more worthy of my complete devotion than being a child of God.  Nothing.  Ever.  No thing.

…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 3:10, 11

He will not leave me behind to rot in an eternity without Him.  Wearing His righteousness, relying on His guidance and His strength, I am secure in knowing He will come back for me to resurrect me from my decaying humanness.  If He leaves me here to a ripe old age, each day I walk knowing He will come back to get me.  If He returns tomorrow to claim His own, I have no fear.  He is coming to get me!

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,…  Philippians 3:12, 13

I press on.  I don’t give up.  No matter how badly I mess up.  No matter how much I hide the righteousness God gives me.  No matter how far I have walked away from Him, over and over again.  No matter how much injustice and abuse I endure.  No matter how much heartache tears at my soul.  I forget what is past.  I cannot change it.  I cannot wish it away.  I cannot fix it.  I forget what is past.  I press on and reach for what lies ahead–resurrection, reward for enduring, the end to my suffering.  I take off the rags of sin and selfishness, wash off the dirt of self-pity and again wear proudly the clothing that is Christ, and I press on.

…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Nothing is worth missing the prize of heaven.  Of eternity with God.  Of leaving behind all that is ugly and wretched and horrific about this world, forever.  Nothing.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.         James 1:12

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days.  Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  Revelation 2:10

Endure to the end of suffering.  It will end.  My brokenness will be healed.  And I win!

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Walking on Water

I cannot walk on water, liquid water, that is.  I do occasionally walk on the frozen variety, and slip on it, as the bruise on my back attests to.  I can walk among the vapor state of water, was driving through it last night, very slowly.  I cannot walk on water.  Not by my own power.  For the physics nerds I know, I suppose there might be some sort of device to attach to my feet to make it possible to walk on the surface of liquid water.  Something like a ‘snowshoe’ for water or boats for my feet.  After all, I am able to float on top of water when I swim, or when I am in a boat.  I leave that to the physicists.  Under my own power, I am not able to walk on water.

“And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.  When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’  And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'”  Matthew 14:25-27

Jesus, fully human and fully divine, walked on water.  He had human feet which displaced water the same way mine do.  Yet, He walked on the surface of the water.  His divine nature interrupted the laws of physics so that He could walk on water.  Mark would have us believe that Jesus was planning to pass by His disciples in the boat (Mark 6:48).  He needed to get to the other side of the sea, more work to do, more hearts to convince, more souls to save.  Always more souls to save.  His disciples were “straining at the oars”, the wind against them.  They were having trouble getting where they needed to go.  But Jesus walked into the head wind, with ease, on the surface of the water.

The disciples did not call on the power of God to help them overcome their predicament.  They did not marvel at their Teacher.  They did not recall the great miracle He had done just hours before, feeding five thousand hungry people with five loaves of bread and two fish.  Rather, they thought Him a ghost, something they did not understand, something they feared.  Every one of them saw Jesus walking on the surface of the water, and not one of them recalled the miraculous scene they witnessed just hours before.  No David in their midst to encourage faith instead of fear, to slay the wind with faithful courage and five smooth stones (1 Samuel 17:1-54).

Jesus calls out to them, tells them not to be afraid, that it is He, their Teacher, their Friend, who used the power of God to feed a multitude with a pittance of resources.  Peter is not convinced.  Or, isn’t he?  “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  (Matthew 14:28)  If it was not Jesus, Peter knew he would  start sinking with his first step on the surface.  If it was not Jesus, would a ghost command him to come? Finally, faith!  I can see Satan grinding his teeth at this one.  Peter, with the faith of a spiritual giant, proves faith true in one statement.  Jesus tells him to “Come!”  Peter steps out of the boat and walks on the surface of the water.  The great crescendo!  Peter does the physically impossible, just like the man who is fully divine.

“But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'”  Matthew 14:30

The scratching of the vinyl against the needle.  Peter starts thinking too much and loses touch with the divine.  Satan gives it his best shot, roars the wind and Peter sinks.  He takes his eyes off of the Teacher, the One empowering him to defy the laws of physics, and allows doubt to blow into his mind.  ‘What if He really isn’t the Lord?  What if my faith isn’t strong enough?  What if I am supposed to be doing something to make this continue?  What if He changes His mind?  What if I’m not strong enough to continue this walk?  What made me think I can walk on water?’

“Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Matthew 14:31

You were almost there, Peter!  Your doubt, your reliance on your own abilities, your fear, Satan’s windy distraction–you lost your focus, Peter, and you doubted.  But, you had faith!  None of your comrades in the boat did.  They didn’t step onto the surface of the water like you did.  They didn’t walk toward the Teacher like you did.  They had no courage to prove belief true, but you did.  The Teacher gives you a lifeline; your faith resurges as He grabs hold of you and walks you back to the boat.  Satan loses his power over you and your mates, and the wind stops.  The Teacher didn’t let you sink.  He was never going to let you sink.

Do I believe He will never let me sink–sink into my own despair, sink into my doubt, sink into Satan’s distractions–when I step out in faith on the surface of the water?  When He calls out to me to leave my boat in the midst of a storm and walk on water to Him, do I believe He will keep His eye on me?  Do I believe He will lead me to where He wants me to go?  Do I believe it is wiser to leave my faithless mates behind and follow only Him?

Common sense tells me it is impossible to walk on water.  Faith tells me I must walk on the surface of the water to get to where Jesus wants me to be, at His side and safe in His embrace.  If I stay in the boat of self-reliance, straining at the oars with the wind blowing against me, I will never get to the place of spiritual safety He intends for me.  By my own strength, I am powerless against Satan’s wind.

When I am at a point in life when a spiritual storm is raging around me, threatening to take me under, only by walking toward the Teacher on the surface of the water do I find safety.  A step of faith followed by another on uncertain surfaces, ever looking at His face and seeking His guidance, focused on His ability to rescue me if I falter, with the courage of a young shepherd facing a giant–this is how I should walk through the storms of life.  But, I have to get out of the boat.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”  Proverbs 3:5-7

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  Hebrews 11:6

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Bother Me

When my older daughter started talking, I don’t think she stopped until she turned fifteen.  She would talk about anything and everything under the sun.  On more than one occasion, I asked her firmly to stop talking because my ears were hurting.  As a mother, I recognized it was important to her development for her to exercise this ‘muscle’ that seemed to be so large, but it tested my patience to let her use it.  She matured into a bright and vivacious young woman who now uses her words to bless those around her.

My younger daughter tested me in different ways.  As a child, she was more subtle, more cunning and much quieter than her sister.  She was my cuddler and often attempted to use her gift to me to accomplish her agenda.  She tested my ability to remain an objective parent and not fall into her charming traps.  When she didn’t get what she wanted, she made sure I knew she was unhappy.  She matured into a sensitive and empathic young woman with a heart of gold and an artistic flair for life.

I wonder what it means to God as my parent to raise me from a freshly forgiven child into a mature and fully formed spiritual adult?  Does He get the thrill and satisfaction I get when I see my children become the self-confident adults I hoped they would become?  Does He feel the same heartache I feel when I see my children struggle and sometimes fail in their quest to be who they want to be?

One of the roles in parenting I liked least was making sure my girls followed through on the instructions I gave them.  Ragging on a ten-year-old was not my idea of fun.  I used several approaches to teach them the importance of doing as I said when I said it.  None of them really worked.  I grew up doing a list of chores, but I never instituted that system with my children.  It never seemed practical. Or workable.  My children were so different from each other and from me, cooperation was very difficult to achieve.  They approached cleaning up from very different perspectives, one of them getting so distracted that she rarely finished the effort.  Yes, I could have been much more diligent in my parenting, but somehow they grew up to be responsible, self-supporting adults in spite of me.

Thankfully, my Heavenly Father is the perfect parent.  He does not grow weary in directing my growth process.  He knows precisely what I need when I need it to help me mature in my faith.  He knows when I need to rest and when I need to be working.  He knows what works for me in my maturing process is usually different from what works for others.  His goal is to see me make my eternal home with Him, successfully withstanding every challenge and threat Satan throws my way.

One of the ways God seeks to mature me is in my ability to respond to His directions, to obey, to seek His will and then do it.  To choose to be His hands and feet on earth.  To follow through with my desire to serve Him.  So often, too often, I ask God to show me what to do next, to guide my steps, to give me direction, and I fail to listen or I fail to follow through.  Sometimes, I don’t like what He is asking me to do and I suggest He let someone else do it, someone else who I think would be more suitable for the task.  Sometimes, I don’t understand why He would want me to accomplish a certain task He puts on my heart.  It makes no sense, so I dismiss it.  Sometimes, I am so wrapped up in my own agenda that I do not hear His request.

I miss many opportunities for spiritual growth because I am not paying attention or I don’t want to know what God’s direction is.  When trouble comes, though, I end up back on my knees asking God to lead me out of it.  I find it hard to discern His voice from all the other noise in my life, though, because I am out of practice listening to Him.  I am out of practice following through on His direction.  My desire to please Him feels stale because I have been so lax in caring about what He wants.

So, my prayer is this:  Heavenly Father, show me Your will for this day.  Put on my heart what You want me to do and how You want me to do it.  And bother me until I do it.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”  Psalm 139: 23, 24

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Faith or Fear?

I don’t think I have any true phobias.  I hate snakes but growing up in Texas can do that to a person.  I don’t like bugs but that may be due to my being a ‘bug magnet,’ and I strongly dislike them flying in my face.  I have issues with heights sometimes and would never do a Wallenda-type stunt, but I would love to experience a zip line.  I have a limit to how long I can be in a large crowd before I need to retreat and regroup, but that is because I am, by nature, an introvert.

Most of what I am truly afraid of involves losses from which I cannot protect myself:  death, economic upheaval, broken relationships, and lost time are the key ones.   Events that are beyond my control.  I live in a broken world where bad things happen, sometimes senselessly, even to really good people.  I can’t control what other people do.  I have no influence over how the financial markets operate or the events that mold them.  Sometimes, time passes unused or is spent waiting, waiting, seemingly wasted.  I find myself making choices trying to avoid these kinds of losses.  I am afraid of encountering them because it hurts me when I do.

In my “Friend of God” post from August 28th, I list five Hebrew words for faith.  They are usually translated “believe,” “trust,” “refuge,” “hope,” and “wait.”  Reading this list I see a picture of how to live in faith, not in fear.

Believe God is who He says He is.  The Creator of the universe, my Savior, the only Victor over evil, the Comforter of my soul, Father, King , the I AM.  Believe it enough to lean on Him when times are good and when times are not good.  Believe that He will be there to lean on.  Israel, delivered by God from slavery in Egypt, sustained in the wilderness by God, still did not believe Him enough to lean on Him.

“In spite of all this they still sinned And did not believe in His wonderful works.”        Psalm 78:32

Trust God will do what He says He will do.  This is about knowing God well enough to understand He is faithful to me.  Knowing God is essential to walking with Him.  When I try to walk with someone whom I do not know, it is usually a trying experience.  I have no basis for anticipating their next move.  I don’t know how fast they will go, if they will defer to me or take the lead.  If I am walking with a friend, I have experience enough with them to anticipate how they will handle a variety of situations and obstacles that arise on our path.  I know how to adjust my speed or my position to accommodate them.   If I have enough experience with God, if I have a well-founded knowledge of Him from His word and prayer and meditation, I know what He expects of our relationship.  I know He will take the lead.  I know how to watch Him to make sure I can follow Him closely.  I know He will be true to Himself.  If my knowledge of God is too limited, I will wrestle with Him for the lead position, stepping on His toes or tripping myself.

“Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have not strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude.  O Lord, you are our God; let no man prevail against You.'”  2 Chronicles 14:11

–Use God as my refuge.  This is the point on the faith continuum where I begin to see how to deal with fear, to see God as a refuge from what frightens me.  Seek Him out as my safe place from evil.  Use Him as a shield, my Protector from spiritual harm, when I choose to face my fear.  Remember that His promise never to leave me is always true.

“…for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What will man do to me?'”  Hebrews 13:5b,6

I have been at several places of choosing in my life where there didn’t seem to be a wrong answer or a bad choice.  The choices usually consisted of two potential paths, although once there were three options.  One possible path commonly appeared comfortable, familiar, ordinary.  It was full of budding experiences that have proven positive in the past and it felt safe.  But there was no apparent potential for Godly change beyond what was ordinary and harmless.  The other was full of unknowns, but it held a promise of spiritual growth and greater eternal blessing.  I know that God can and will use whichever I choose to grow me spiritually.  Am I cheating myself, though, if I forget that He is always with me and is my refuge, if I give in to my fear, and thus choose the more apparently secure path?

“My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.  On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.  Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him;  God is a refuge for us.”  Psalm 62:5-8

–Stand firm on the hope God provides.  The healing salve of hope that enables the warrior to stay in the battle.  This life is not the end!  The Gospel story does not end at the crucifixion.  Jesus is resurrected!  HE IS ALIVE!  Nor does my story end at death or heartache or destitution.  God applies hope to my tragedy, gives it meaning and purpose, uses it to heal the spiritual wounds I sustain.  I can stand, face my fear, engage it head-on, knowing He provides the unwavering and certain hope that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God… .  (Romans 8:28b)

–Always wait on Him to lead me.  I often prefer to be out in front, taking the lead, taking charge.  I see life from a lot of different angles; I like to analyze a situation to the nth detail, weigh the possibilities and make plans to accomplish what I determine is the best course.  But God calls me to wait.  To wait on Him, His timing, His path, to accomplish His goals.  Wait and listen to Him, wait and watch what He is doing around me, wait and get out of His way.

“Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”  Psalm 27:14

There is courage to be found in waiting for the Lord, knowing He will not lead me down the wrong path.  He may lead me on a difficult path, but as the shepherd who leads his flock through the dangerous mountain valleys, it is not without purpose.  He is leading me to the luscious mountain meadows where I will eat my fill of His goodness.  To get to the mountaintop with Him, I must follow Him through the valley of the shadow of death and face my fear.  By waiting on Him I am assured He will be with me, ready to protect me from any danger.

Faith or fear?  I aim to choose faith.  When my family and I moved to New England, it was an act of faith.  We had never lived or visited here, knew the numbers of faithful Christians were small, knew no one.  It was the riskiest of the choices we faced–spiritually and financially.  But God led us here.  My husband and I knew, without any doubt, deep in our spirits, this is where God wanted us to be.   It has not been an easy road and we faced many fearful situations, but I know it was the road God intended for us.  My children are faithful Christians today because they grew up in an environment where they had to own and defend their faith or lose it.   At the end of my husband’s life, he was a leader in God’s church because he saw how much he was needed.  He had been one who would usually sit back and let others more qualified than he (in his mind) take the lead; here, there were very few more qualified than he.  The riskier choice, the more fearful choice, was the path to deeper faith and a closer walk with God because God led us to it and through it.

“And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.  Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’   And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’  And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.  And He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?'”  Mark 4:37-40

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.