Faith

Immersed Faith

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1
Marlene’s Baptism, July 1997
with Pastor Jon Courson

It was a bright, July afternoon when I entered the warm waters of baptism by faith. In the outdoor gardens of Applegate Christian Fellowship, I openly gave my life to God. I had already been transformed by Jesus shortly before that day and came with an expectation of public proclamation, “I am Yours, Lord!” The scent of Jasmin danced around me as I prayed and cried as if I were walking down the aisle. The veil had been lifted and I was His.

This memory helps me understand faith. Like a wedding veil separates a woman from her groom, the curtain of faith separates two realities. When I walked through the linen folds at twenty-eight years old it was like seeing daylight for the first time. I tasted grace and forgiveness and real love. And yet, it was a love bound by holiness. The perfect balance of truth and grace, Jesus is our object of faith. He is our groom. Hebrews 10:19 says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…” So, it is by faith we are ushered into His presence.

In other words, for those who realize their need for Him (and we all need Him), faith in Christ’s work on the cross is the doorway into the Holy of Holies. Here, by faith, we are ushered into the very presence of God. Romans 4:3 says, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness.” God offered. Abraham accepted. Only then did Abraham enter into a love relationship with the God of grace by faith. Fortunately, God makes us the same offer. But we have a deeper intimacy with God than Abraham. We have Christ in us. He abides in us through His Spirit. You can’t get much more intimate than that!

Fortunately, there is nothing we have to do apart from believing. “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law… since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” This tells us that it doesn’t matter if you are a “good” person who follows the Law (circumcised) or not (uncircumcised). Heaven is not some rich utopia set aside for “good” people. It is a place for forgiven people. It is a place for faith-filled people.

Also, Romans 3:28 and 30 make it clear that there is only one God. There is only one Savior. We cannot save ourselves through good behavior. We may think it’s not fair. We may want to explain that we have lived a good life and deserve Heaven. But, do we deserve it? How can we justify ourselves? There is only one way to Heaven and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot be our own God. We cannot save ourselves from destruction. We cannot clean ourselves up enough to be able to enter into the presence of a Holy God.

“There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NASB).

Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Therefore, you must believe for the veil to be lifted. As the person being asked (the intended bride), saying “I like Jesus” is not a profession of faith. Instead it’s a rejection of the groom. Jesus isn’t a novelty to like or dislike. He is God. God lays the foundation for a love relationship with Him. His cornerstone is Jesus Christ. And, you know what? We can trust that His Way is just and fair because He is just and fair. More than that, He is love. He bled for you. There is NO OTHER WAY. Faith is confidence in a God we cannot see but A God who has revealed Himself all the more, demonstrating His love on the cross. Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29, NASB). Immerse yourself in faith and believe.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Hebrews 10:19-23
Faith, grace, Hope, Humility, Jesus, Love, Trust

God Knows

Nothing about me is hidden from you!
I was secretly woven together deep in the earth below, but with your own eyes you saw my body being formed.
Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do.

Psalm 139:15-16 CEV

Do you ever feel like God has stepped out for a minute and isn’t paying attention? Or, perhaps it seems like a long time since you’ve “heard” from Him. Could it be that the subtle messages He’s sending are hidden in plain sight? Sometimes life is so distracting and overwhelming that we miss those little icons of hope and guidance God leaves for us in the chaos.

Recently, just after New Year’s, we went to Disney World with our two adult sons. It was the first time we had all been together at Disney since they were teenagers. The Holiday crowds had not left. There was hardly enough air to breathe let alone space to walk. Lines were long, rides broke down and we were feeling, well, not as happy as the happiest place on earth should make you feel. We did have fun, even waiting in line, playing trivia games and laughing way too loud. We were the crazy, joyful family that people rolled their eyes at but secretly wanted to join. Still, after the third time of standing in line for an hour only to have the ride break down and have to leave, we were discouraged. Then, I found Mickey. All the times I had visited in the past I never noticed the little Mickey symbols embedded in the most unlikely places. It was a sign to slow down and enjoy the little things they had to offer.

Walt Disney is no match for God’s creativity. He too leaves us signs of His thoughtfulness and attention to detail. When I am looking for Him in the everyday, expecting Him to show up in unlikely places, I see Him so clearly. Just last week I had several God symbols placed strategically in my path at the “right” time. On three different occasions God led me to a scripture passage or topic and reinforced the message through odd encounters that no one could have planned but God.

First, after preparing to teach a women’s Bible study on sexual purity, I searched for an audio teaching on the topic for more insight. I was on my way to the gym and wanted something quick. No luck. So, I hopped in the car and turned on the Christian radio station. David Jeremiah was on, which was odd because his program should have ended fifteen minutes earlier. Also surprising was the topic. He was teaching from Proverbs on sexual purity using the very same verses I just studied! In the same way the Mickey on the manhole cover revealed Walt Disney’s genius, God was showing me He was the master of detail. God knew what I needed to hear. He also knew I would miss it if He didn’t change the timing. The programming was off by fifteen minutes but God wasn’t! Okay, it’s not quite like “making the sun stand still,” but can I get a “wow?” Yes, He could have ushered me out to the car earlier but He chose to make it obvious, like the Mickey symbol I had never noticed before. So clear. So cool.

The second “God symbol” was in Acts, chapter one. (I’m reading the Bible chronologically and this is where I happened to be that day.) Again, while driving, I turned on the radio and heard Chuck Swindoll reading from Acts, chapter one, preaching about Jesus’ ascension. His focus was on the joy the disciples felt after Jesus ascended, verses the depression they felt after His death. They understood the big picture. Their eyes were opened and they were filled with joy. They knew they had a job to do and they had a promise. None of this occurred to me that morning. I had failed to meditate on the word, even though I read it. But, God had more for me.

I discovered the last “God symbol” after having lunch with a friend who was navigating conflict with friends. She had been rejected by two friends in the same day. The two incidents were unrelated and not her fault. No grace, no love, just yuck. Ouch! After encouraging her and sharing what I knew from life and God’s Word about healthy, Godly friendships, I went home. As I was preparing dinner that night I decided to listen to the In Touch podcast by Charles Stanley. Guess what? The program was called Right Relationships! Stanley talked about how Jesus is our perfect friend but He made us for relationship. Then he went on to share what a healthy, Godly friendship looks like. He quoted Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times.” I quickly sent the link to my friend and thanked God for His ever-present help.

Imagine, everywhere you go and everything you do, God is a part of your journey. God revealed so many wonderful truths to me in a very short period of time but the over-arching truth–the aha moment– is that God is with me! He is my intimate friend. He guides me and loves me through His Word, His Spirit and through other people. He makes Himself known in miraculous ways, proving that He is real, loving and knows our name. My friend, God is Good. God loves His children. God is intimately involved in our lives. God is always with you. God’s timing is perfect. God knows…you.

But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

1 Corinthians 2:10
Faith, grace, Humility, Love, Pride, Sanctification, Self Righteousness

I Forgot

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

Have you ever forgotten something important? I have.

“Did everyone grab their passports,” I heard someone ask their family as the bus passed the road sign for Mt. Arbel on our way from Galilee to Jerusalem. Panic struck me as I shouted, “I forgot my passport!” My face was hot and my heart pumped hard with fear. I heard people saying, “We have to turn around!” and “Thank God you remembered!” There was so much grace. Inwardly, though, my pride was crushed and what I heard in my heart was,”What a stupid little girl.”

Once again I was “that guy,” the one who inconvenienced an entire busload of people and threw off the schedule for the whole day all because I forgot to check the hotel safe. When we finally “snuck” back onto the bus everyone was very gracious, kind and loving. My husband, Marty, was struck by their reaction and looked up John 13:34-35, “Everyone will know you are My disciples by your love for one another.” Well, anyone who witnessed the grace and love that morning would have no doubt that this was a group of Jesus’ disciples. We didn’t deserve grace. We were “losers” who forgot their passports — the one thing you don’t forget when visiting a foreign country. But, what we experienced was the love of Jesus.

Ironically, before I realized my mistake I was feeling quite good about myself. We were on the bus early. I was a “good girl.” I was obedient and thoughtful. Then I wasn’t. Just like that I was the bad girl, the stupid girl and the inconsiderate one. Feelings of incompetence and humiliation overwhelmed me until God, through his people, showered us with the love of Christ…

“It’s okay.”

“Others have done the same.”

“Thank you because we got to use the restroom.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Praise God! I’m thankful you realized it now.”

Through all these comments God was saying, “I love you, even when you make mistakes!” The truth is, I can be absent minded and forgetful, but that doesn’t define me. God’s love defines me and my value comes from the fact that Jesus paid a very high price for me. I am His beloved and He is my Abba, Father.

So, why am I surprised by the grace and love of fellow believers? Because I believe I deserve rejection and condemnation when I mess up. In fact, I have been programmed to expect it. But that is not God’s heart. He is a good Dad. He is a patient Father. He is love. Likewise, Jesus revealed the Father’s heart when He touched the afflicted, caring for the needs of God’s messy children. He came to save me even before I knew I needed saving.

Over the years, God has taught me to renew my mind with His word, allowing it to clear away the dirt of the past. The things done to me He calls me to forgive. The lies I believe, like “I have to be good, perfect, etc. in order to me loved and accepted,” He tells me to lay down at the cross and trust His unconditional love. Like the man He healed at the Pool of Bethesda He asks me, “Do you want to be made well.” Then He reminds me, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Go and sin no more.”

Yes, striving to make myself good is sin. Pride is a false God and one I too often trust. I am thankful that God allows us, all of us, to fail. (Even the most competent people fail.) It is an act of grace. Only then, when we recognize our sin, be it pride or shame, can we walk in the light of His forgiveness. There is no striving for God’s love. He is love and bear hugs us to death! He knows to be humbled is to be saved from ourselves. To mess up is to need Him. It is all those empty places He longs to fill in our hearts. Those places we try to stuff with pleasure and performance will never be filled apart from Him. The hole is too vast and only God’s love can fill it. In fact, He made us that way.

This Christmas let your light shine in the lives of those who are not perfect in the same way our fellow bus-mates did for us. Leave room for mistakes in all your relationships (and for yourself), allowing God to cover the offense. We are not perfect and cannot blame or hold tight an offense when we have been forgiven so much. This Christmas, don’t forget.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8
Covenant, Faith, grace, Hope, Insecurity, Jesus, Love, Redemption

Love Happened

Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”

John 14:22-23 NASB
A stepping stone on the beach of Tabgha, Israel on the Northern Shore of the Sea of Galilee where it is believed Jesus restored Peter after His resurrection.

Marriage in the Middle-East looks very different than in the West. In general, the son prepares a place for his bride by building another story on top of his father’s house. Therefore, tiered homes with flat roofs pepper the hillsides, each tier representing another generation of the same family. The son is expected to stay with his father. The bride, however, leaves her family, exchanging her identity for her husband’s. The son loves the bride and she loves him and he brings her to his father.

When I was ten years old my mother finally left my father. He was, what would be called today, an abuser, albeit a charming one. He was not a good example of a father, and yet I loved him. Unfortunately, the day we left was also the last time I saw my father. His infrequent calls did not help the fact that he never came to see us. Not once. Somehow, he was able to disconnect with his three children and forget. No longer in my father’s house, I felt abandoned and dismissed. I also felt vulnerable, weak and unprotected. Over time I learned to hate my father and blamed him for my insecurities. He was the source of so much pain that I shut him out of my heart altogether. Then, at the age of fifty-four, my father died. I was only sixteen but I remember feeling nothing at all. I thought, “He obviously didn’t care about me so why should I care about him?” Years passed before I felt the love of a father again.

Because of my experience, when I read John 14:22-23 what popped into my head were the words, “Love happened.” When Judas (not Iscariot) asked the question, “What then has happened,” instead of a direct answer to his question Jesus gave him hope. He basically said, “I happened, Judas.” It wasn’t about the past. It was about Jesus as the Bridegroom who loves His bride. It was about the covenant that was about to be made. It was about Jesus allowing us entry into His Father’s house. It was about redemptive love.

When I was grown all I wanted to do was get married and have a family. I wanted to belong to someone who loved me. I could not wait to change my name and enter into marriage. Unfortunately, because of my brokenness and that of my husband’s my marriage looked similar to my mother’s–full of conflict and void of love. Those familiar feelings (abandoned, dismissed, vulnerable) slowly crept into my everyday. I had no hope. Then I met someone who swept me off my feet. He offered to come live with me and I said, “Yes!” His name was Jesus. 

Finally, Love happened! Jesus scooped me up, revealing Himself to me. He bound my broken heart, dressed me in white and gave me a secure place to abide. But, He also loved me deeply and promised to never leave me or forsake me. He ushered me into a family I did not know and gave me His name, “Christian.” Even still, He is preparing a place for me in His Father’s house. His Spirit, which abides in me, is like an engagement ring–a promise of forever. My part is to love Him by keeping His Word. My part is to love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and to love others as myself. My part is to wait, preparing myself for Him. My part is to receive His everlasting love.

If you were wondering, my husband and I are still married and he loves the LORD too. Jesus eventually gave us both hope and not only redeemed us individually but our marriage as well. As this advent week of hope comes to a close, remember the hope of Heaven where we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! Remember that we are not home yet but are confident of our future with Him. Remember, Love happened. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 NIV

Confession, Depression, Faith, grace, Jesus, Trust

The Sea of Grace

Sea of Galilee, Tiberias

Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.

Matthew 15:29 NIV

We are back. Thirty hours of travel and several days rest have given me time to reflect on the trip and I am undone, overwhelmed, grateful and so much more. One of the highlights was sailing on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee people! The  same body of water Jesus walked on two-thousand years ago! This region of Israel was the most dear to my heart, not because it was greener than southern Israel but because so much of Jesus’ ministry happened around the shores of this beautiful lake. As we sailed, our guide stretched out his hands, one toward Tiberias and the other toward the setting sun, and said, “Two thirds of Jesus’ ministry happened in this region.” This was Jesus’ home.

Capernaum, Magdala and Tiberias still exist and their ancient beauty lingers. Magdala is a little town on the western shore where a first-century synagogue was recently uncovered. The Roman road next to the dig points south. When I stood beside the the synagogue and walked over the worn pavers I prayed with wet eyes and a soaring heart. “Jesus, you were here!” I know Jesus is everywhere but I was struck by the reality of the stories in the Bible. Not only did they really happen but they happened here.  After worship I wandered down the “road” toward the water. In ancient times it was a fishing village, a place of processing fish, on the Sea of Galilee. A place of sustenance. A place of grace.

This lake, called a sea, is still a place of grace. Just think about what happened here. The calling of several Apostles, the healing of the demon possessed and the restoration of Peter all took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. So Galilee is a place of grace not because it is beautiful, which it is, but because it is a place of restoration, reflection and rejuvenation. I can imagine Peter’s soul was as dark and pitted as the basalt rocks on the beach. Heavy with the memory of the denial of His Lord, his guilt would have felt like his water-logged fishing net. In the flesh Peter self-protected. His love for Jesus and passionate resolve evaporated in the heat of fear. Before this Peter was rebuked for “protecting” Jesus twice but now he was left only with the memory of his betrayal.

But Jesus is always waiting for us in the place of grace. And, to Peter’s credit, remembering Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:32, “But after I have been raised I will go ahead of you in Galilee,” Peter went home. Ahhh, Galilee! Right away this must have instilled hope. Before Peter ever denied Him Jesus planned to restore him. Not only was Peter’s home in Galilee but Jesus grew up in Galilee too. As an adult Jesus walked on the surface of this lake and its shores heard many of His sermons and the surrounding hills witnessed many miracles. Galilee is a symbol of the hope, dare I say it, of Heaven, where we too will be free of sin and we will be home with Jesus. 

However, we are not home yet. Jesus also used this lake as a classroom. It is where Peter’s faith was tested, as was the faith of the Apostles. During the storm Jesus challenged them to believe and trust in Him even when things looked dark. Even when the sea looked anything but merciful, Jesus made it so. We have Jesus in our boat. He is in our body traveling through the mountains and valleys and stormy seas of our lives. But look! He is the captain! It is not about us or about the journey. My life is about Jesus. My beautiful, stormy, rocky, amazing life is about Him. I think that’s why this body of water moved me so profoundly. My smallness and insignificance became obvious and His glory screamed through every cloud as the sun set over the water and I heard, “Do you love me? Then feed My sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:17 NIV
Control, Faith, grace, Insecurity, Restoration, Sanctification, Surrender, Trust

Neon Signs

“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.” 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Neon signs, although effective, annoy me because I can’t ignore them. They are the sign equivalent of yard gnomes. You don’t want to look at them but you can’t help yourself. Throughout my life I have encountered God placed, in your face, neon signs. It always means He’s leading me into some kind of change which is usually painful.

The most recent God placed neon sign I’ve noticed is Proverbs 3:5-6. First, I saw it during a Bible study on Proverbs. Then, I heard it during a message on the radio. Finally, I heard it again before a worship song at church. And, just this week, I read it in a friend’s blog. Unable to ignore the neon signs, I opened my Bible and read…

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” Proverbs 3:5a

What came to mind was an incident that happened when I was eight years old. My father bought a small motorcycle and wanted me to ride it. He set me on the seat and then he hopped on the back and told me to take off.

Scared out of my little mind I shouted, “I can’t do it! You’re too heavy!”

He laughed confidently and said, “It’ll be fine. Let’s go!”

I took off but we immediately crashed (just like I knew we would). The motorcycle fell on my left leg so my father, worried that I would get burned, thrust his hand under the bike to free my tiny limb, slicing his palm in the process. I was fine but my dad wasn’t. I felt responsible.  When I went inside the house to check on him I saw my mom in full R.N. mode cleaning his wound. At the time I didn’t know how bad the wound was.

“What happened?” I asked.

Smiling he said, “Look what you did,” as he showed me the bloody flap of skin on the palm of his hand.

That hurt. I still cannot look at any bloody wound without feeling sick. In hindsight I know my dad was being sarcastic, perhaps trying to lighten the mood, but my little girl heart was broken. I felt betrayed. My father, who was supposed to protect me, was blaming me! What I learned that day made a life-long, therapy worthy, impact.  Because I listened to my dad I was physically and emotionally hurt. Therefore, I cannot trust my father.

I know many of you, if not all, have wounds too. It doesn’t matter what the intent was. What matters is the message we perceived. The neon signs at that time in my life said, “If bad things happen it’s all your fault” and “I can’t trust anyone to listen to me or take care of me so I have to protect myself.” Because of this, it is not natural for me to trust anyone. Of course, I trust God with all my head but not with all my heart. I naturally lean on my own understanding and acknowledge Him when I run out of ideas or hope. Then I get confused when His will or path is not clear.

Unfortunately, because of my experience, I still feel deep, deep, deep down inside that I have to protect myself above all else. At some point in my childhood this became my mission — self-preservation. I didn’t get it from the Bible. (Stop looking, it’s not there.) On the contrary, Jesus tells us that we are to die to ourselves. Matthew 10:39 says, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it.”

Ironically, loss is what I’m trying to avoid. I think of Churchill’s speech when he said, “We will never SURRENDER!” Surrender. The one word that came to mind when I read this verse along with Psalm 3:5-6. Trusting the Lord is giving yourself over to Him like a bride gives herself to her husband. It is a willing love offering that acknowledges His death on my behalf because He first loved me and “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB).

Have I surrendered my heart to God in a way that allows me to always be of one heart and mind with the only One who loves me perfectly? Hardly! But God is pursuing me to this end. I am so thankful for His persistence and faithfulness.

Have I unintentionally sent similar messages to my own children? Yes! I pray for God to heal their hearts and redeem the pain, using it to help others as they learn to trust God’s perfect love even though mine was far from perfect. I pray this prayer because that is what God has done for me.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

Commitment, Faith, Obedience, Perseverance, Sanctification, Spiritual Battle, Surrender, Trust, Victory

Chomp Chomp

“May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!” Psalm 20:5

Recently, my husband and I spent the weekend in Gainesville, Florida visiting our oldest son, Sean.  On Saturday we made our way to the UF football game. Traveling by foot through campus in the human current of orange and blue we passed some professional tail-“Gators” anticipating the sure victory over Colorado.  However, the majority of fans were, like us, eagerly speed-walking to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, nick-named “The Swamp.” It was the second hottest (and I’m guessing the most humid) game-day on record for the Gators. Regardless, we all rose up the ramp in ant-like procession. Everyone was so excited — joyful even — as they took their seats.  Although fans (literal paper fans) were waving, no one complained about the heat. Apparently Gators don’t sweat.

Soon, the band played and everyone cheered as the team streamed onto the field. Then it happened. Thousands of arms lifted, right over left, elbows locked, and moved up and down, like an alligator’s mouth. At the same time ninety-thousand voices shouted,”Go Gators!” Go Gator’s is their battle cry but there is something about this chomp, chomp motion that motivates both fan and player. It gives them a sense of belonging — a confidence because they know they are part of a winning team. And (chomp, chomp) they wanted their opponents to know it.

Wow! This kind of community is inspiring! I’m not even a football fan and I enjoyed it. However, this experience made me question my own approach to the spiritual battle we find ourselves in as Christians. We too are a part of a winning team. However, we are not always excited to gather together. And even though we have the best quarterback, coach and manager in the universe we don’t always trust Their judgement. We may have a rag-tag team but because of Jesus – because he resides in us – we are victors! What is our intimidating war cry? “Jesus lives!” and our motto, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” Romans 8:37. What is our uniform? “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience Colossians 3:12.

Do I believe Jesus has secured the victory? Do I act like it? Do I confidently endure all things by faith? Struggles, like conflict, pain, heat and injury, are expected by the football player. But, he doesn’t overcome these obstacles alone. He stands on that battlefield as part of a unit. We too are part of an enormous community. The “great cloud of witnesses” cheer us on because they already know the outcome.  The individual Christian is encouraged while doing his part as the sure victory unfolds because God provides us with a team called the Church. Instead of The Swamp we have The Sanctuary and instead of a war cry we have praise. Instead of tailgating we have fellowship and instead of a winning season we have salvation by grace, through faith in our leader, Jesus Christ. So, this Sunday put on your game shirt and cheer on your “team” while raising your hands and shouting with joy! Chomp, chomp!

“For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.” Psalm 18:39

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

Anxiety, Control, Faith, Insecurity, Life, Obedience, Patience, Pride, Trust, Worry

Waiting

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.”  

Psalm 25:4-5

 

Although waiting is defined as “The act of remaining inactive or stationary it seems it takes more energy to wait upon the Lord than it does to jump ahead of Him and do what we think He wants us to do.  Right now, my husband and I are experiencing a time of waiting and it’s hard. At times I feel like a little kid holding my breath, about to burst with anticipation. It isn’t a matter of doubting God’s goodness or faithfulness but it is a matter of not trusting His timing. As we wait I feel restless and sometimes anxiety rises as I think about the options before us, including all the possible outcomes. I find myself wanting to do something, anything to make me feel like there is progress being made. But, the Bible says to wait upon the Lord. The problem comes when I focus on the next step rather than on the relationship. In all things God draws us to Himself. In waiting He is asking for us to trust His love. He is asking us, as our Heavenly Father, to believe His plans are for our good.

However, right now I feel like I’m warming a bench at a bus stop. I’m not sure of the bus schedule but know it will come eventually because my father told me it would. But it’s been awhile and I’m starting to wonder if I heard correctly, so I call Him.

“Hey, Dad, it’s me.”

“Hi sweetie! How are you?”

“I’m ok. Just sitting here waiting for the bus. It’s been twenty minutes. I was just wondering if I’m at the right stop.”

“Are you where I sent you?”

“Yessss!”

“Then you’re at the right stop. Is there anything else? You seem stressed.”

“No. I just think it’s taking too long. I was thinking of walking.”

“Just wait there. I’ll talk with you until the bus comes.”

“Ok. I’m kind of anxious about the trip anyway. I’ve never been there before. How do I know I’ll like it?”

“I understand. Doing something new is hard, but I wouldn’t send you someplace that wasn’t going to be good for you. And you can talk to me anytime. Just trust me.”

“I do. It’s just I don’t always feel good about it.”

“Just remember I love you. That’s it. I love you.”

“Okay Dad. I know. I love you too.”

Do you believe God is there, talking to you in the waiting? Many times, instead of talking to God I look for the next step. Something to “do” instead of spending time with Him in intimate conversation. Of course, sometimes it’s hard discerning between the vision and the timing. Like Abraham, God showed us a picture of what would glorify Him–what He wanted us to do by faith, and yet we do not have the green light. Instead of peacefully waiting on the bench God has provided, I feel like walking or hitch-hiking or maybe taking a scooter. I want to be set free to do what I want (for God of course) without any restraints. But God is not incompetent, nor does He procrastinate. The waiting period is a time of molding and testing and a time to cultivate intimacy with Him. Just like a wild horse is mastered in the coral, God pens us in for the refining process, keeping us close to Him as he works out the willful pride and self-reliance that I am so easily bent toward. I don’t like it–AT ALL! But, because of His love, I am willing.

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

Habakkuk 2:3.

Anxiety, Faith, Trust, Unbelief

Irrevocable Trust

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” Psalm 56:3

My father stood across the living room in his purple, cotton shirt. The ceiling of the Quonset hut curved behind his wavy, black hair.  His bleary eyes stared at my mother who was dark with anger. Sitting upright on the Naugahyde couch, she cradled my sister and me on either side of her.  I could feel her thin build stiffen next to me as she narrowed her eyes. There was vomit on the green, shag carpet from a guest who had passed out – the catalyst of the argument. Earlier that evening, the house was full of laughter as colorful people drank and talked in our living room.  Cigarette smoke swirled overhead while ice clinked in glasses and the reel-to-reel boomed songs by Sinatra and Martin. I was young. Four or five. Alcoholism was not in my vocabulary.

“We’re leaving!” my mother announced as she ushered us into the bedroom.

My sister was older by two-and-a-half years.  Her taller frame stood next to mine on the bed as my mother briskly tied our puffy kimono-like robes around our thin, tan frames.  My mother’s short, black hair did not move. Everything about her was efficient, clean, crisp. She was an R.N. and worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on base.

“You’re not leaving! I won’t let you!” my father said as he entered our bedroom.  The gun was obvious, but my mother didn’t flinch.

I loved my father. When he was sober and wearing his Air Force blues he seemed safe. But, I couldn’t trust him.  He was unpredictable. Scary. In my heart that night I vowed that I would never trust a man.

“Go ahead. Shoot us!” my mother blurted as she scooped us up and walked briskly outside before plopping us in the car.  We drove away to the sound of locusts screaming in the trees.

For many years this event, and others like it, colored my relationships, even my relationship with God. To cope with the instability I withdrew, surviving through a world of fantasy.  Fear defined my inner life. Fortunately, many years later, God revealed the vow I made as a little girl, “I will never trust a man.”  This vow was like a seed that germinated behaviors like self-protection and distrust, enabling me to shut myself – my real self – off from the world. But, God rescued me at the age of twenty-eight and brought me into a love relationship with Him that forced me to question my normal. Intimate relationships were terrifying, painful and not worth the effort. Eventually, through prayer and counseling, God revealed several deep-rooted lies that had been hiding in my heart for years.  The lies, like weeds, choked out the roses of security, love, patience and trust that God longed for me to experience. He spoke these tender words to me from Isaiah 43:1-3…

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”  

An unstable childhood is a reality for many of us. Like me, you may have struggled with reconciling the truth of your past with God’s character. When I was a young believer God’s personality was morphed together with my father’s.  It was a distortion; a Holy God I couldn’t trust. A God that may not be there when I need Him most.  A God who loved me but wasn’t always delighted in me. A God who would abandon me…someday, just like my father.  It took many years for me to see how I was dishonoring God with these lies. Fear and anxiety took over as I tried to protect myself and failed.  The pain crept in and I felt…abandoned. Forsaken. Betrayed.  In a pit of self-pity God showed me my sin saying, “I am not a man that I should lie. I am not your father.”

He is not my earthly father. He is trustworthy and always patient. He will not love me one minute and dismiss the next. He will not abandon me. He is Love. I can trust Him…irrevocably. It has taken many years of walking with God to come to a place of owning these truths. I still struggle with trusting men in general and have lapses where I forget I have a Godly husband who loves me. The trust struggle also continues with God as I recognize the familiar feelings of fear and anxiety in situations where I feel helpless. However, I have learned to accept these moments as gifts of reflection. No one likes to have their faults exposed (ouch) but God gives us the gift of a holy mirror, allowing us to see the smudges of sin on our faces.  Only then will we allow Him to gently wipe them clean with His blood.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.”

Psalm 23:1-6, NIV