Faith-Full

11 08 2015

Although the dictionary defines faith as confident trust, the world defines it as a nebulous belief in “something out there” – whether it’s God, or Buddha, or aliens…whatever.

But the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Why is this? As I read through James, I realized that many of the things that are commanded in the book cannot be done if I do not implicitly trust God.

When trials come, I will not shout, “Hurrah! God’s going to do mighty things, and I’m going to get to see Him at work.”

I will credit chance or luck for the good things that come my way.

Anger will come easily when others infringe on my rights. As a result, I will do some really ugly things – rampant wickedness, the Bible calls it – in an effort to maintain my position.

Every effort will be made to hoard all that I have. After all, It’s mine…get a job!

Without real trust in God, I will fall into the world’s belief that only those who have status, riches, or renown have value; and that I will only be a “somebody” by rubbing shoulders with them, or by becoming one of them. Heaven forbid I should be identified with the “wrong crowd.”

Consequently, I will scratch and claw my way to the top, stepping on others along the way. I will be unable to encourage or support others in my field, lest they gain an advantage and surpass me on the ladder of success.

Trust enables me to rest in the knowledge that God will avenge my adversaries on my behalf. Without trust, my belief is that I must seek revenge.

Unless I trust God, forgiveness is impossible.

These are just a few of the topics covered in the book of James. As you can see, without faith, we will fail in our attempts to do more and try harder.

Thus, our focus when we travel through James must be on learning to trust God. We must be able to rely on Him completely, or fail utterly.

This begs the question:

How do I learn to trust God?

The only way I know is by experience others’ and my own, and from my memories. This is what the Bible is all about: stories of people’s experiences with Him.

Paul said, “Forgetting the past, I press on toward the mark of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians) Time and again I’ve heard people use this verse to say, “You need to forget everything that happened to you, and everything you used to do. That’s not important anymore. It’s only today that matters.”

To a certain extent, they are right. If we live in the past with unresolved anger, resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness, we will be short-circuited and unable to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What Paul was stating is that he did not allow his past to define him. Yes, he used to be a Pharisee, harshly judging people. He had been transformed by the Lord’s hand.

Yes, he used to arrange to have people killed for following Jesus. He doesn’t continue to murder.

These are things he used to do, but now he was a new creation in Christ. The old was gone, the new had come.

On the other hand, God told the Israelites countless times to “Remember when I brought you out of Egypt. Remember when I parted the Red Sea. Remember when I took out your enemies…

“Remember.”

It would seem that our memory concerning God’s work in our lives is a big deal to God. Why is that? Well, this is where “theory meets reality” and experiences happen.

The same is true in our history. When I look back and remember times when I needed a home and God provided, I experienced Him as my Provider.

When I had to go to court because of an abusive husband, I experienced God as my Defender.

When I was in the hospital, dying from a bone marrow disease and God healed me, I experienced Him as my Healer.

When I was committing adultery and God continued to pursue me, I experienced Him as compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness.

It is in remembering that I discover that I’ve had many chances to experience the truth of Who God really is.

Today when my faith is weak, I have only to look back and remember all that God has done for me. Recounting the ways that He has been faithful, helps me to be Faith-Full!





By Faith, Gerbil…

11 06 2015

When our three-year-old granddaughter showed up on Friday with her swimsuit and goggles in her arms, I knew one thing for sure:

There was a pool in her future!

She had been asking Grandpa for one, suggesting that he take his truck so she could get the box home. This went on for a couple of weeks.

On Friday, she changed her tactics. Instead of asking to go to the store, our little Gerbil (affectionately so nicknamed for how she sounds when she speaks – too cute!), told Grandpa that she would take him to the sale. Now, who can resist a sale!

She returned home with her parents later that night, undaunted by the fact that her ‘prayer’ was still unanswered.

We marveled at her faith, her persistence – and her calm assurance that she would receive that for which she asked. No temper tantrums, no whining; just patient waiting.

Impressive for a three-year-old!

You know what happened next:

We went shopping on Saturday for a wading pool!

At the same time, I’d been asking Abba for a writing table; a dedicated place for my laptop where I could be with my hubby while I work. Like Gerbil, I was patiently waiting.

That same Saturday, Wendel said, “Hey. Why don’t we go find a writing table for you.”

Out of the blue, just like that.

“You know,” he said, “we could learn a lot from Gerbil. Instead of taking the car, let’s take my truck. That way, when we find your table we can bring it home with us.”

Following Gerbil’s lead, he took a step of faith.

(Or would it be called a “drive” of faith?)

We went to a consignment shop and looked at every table. They didn’t have what I was looking for.

I finally decided that I could ‘make do’ with one of them if we took the shelf off the top. We were looking it over to see how difficult it would be when the owner of the store came to see what we were doing.

After we explained, she said, “Did you see the drop-leaf table over there?”

Over where? We’d looked at every piece of furniture.

Or so we thought.

Sure enough, hidden in plain sight, was exactly what I was looking for.

It’s amazing what we can learn from a three-year-old!

It was fun to watch my Father reward the kind of ‘faith that asks with expectancy’ for both my granddaughter and my husband.

While this lesson “in the natural” was great – we all got what we wanted – it will no doubt encourage faith in weightier, “spiritual” matters as well.

Assurance of the thing for which we’ve asked is important

– especially when we know that what we’ve asked is in God’s will.

There was a matter for which I prayed with expectancy for years. As time wore on, however, my prayers became rote – I prayed less often, and more because I “ought” to, than because I anticipated the fulfillment of my request.

This is a dangerous state of mind. Doing so can cause us to miss out on the gift when it comes.

Like Zechariah, it can seem like too little, too late. We’ve lived with the stigma of barrenness for so long that it’s become familiar; comfortable.

Instead of gratitude, bitterness erupts.

That was my situation this year. Even though God spoke (Behold I am doing a new thing…Isaiah 43:19), and there was no denying the ever-enlarging abdomen of the forthcoming birth of the answer to my long-forgotten prayers, my response was less than gracious.

I’d resigned myself to the status quo. It became a ‘badge of honor,’ and for some absurd reason, didn’t want to give it up!

Much of the year was spent unraveling the multitude of lies I came to believe when God tarried (by my standards 😉 ) in moving on my request. Even though my request was being fulfilled, in my bitterness I nearly ‘aborted’ His gift, then considered putting it up for adoption. I came to believe that I didn’t want it anymore.

I was angry! At my age?? Really? Why couldn’t You have done this when I was young enough to fully enjoy it??

(No, I am not pregnant!)

You understand what I am saying? Sometimes the thing for which we ask seems like it would have been better ‘delivered’ when we were younger, more agile, and had more time to enjoy the benefits of the fulfillment…careers, relationships, etc.

I love that even when we’ve given up, God is faithful to do that which He has promised.

All that to say this:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. ~Habakkuk 2:3

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. ~Romans 8:25

When we patiently wait with anticipation – especially when everything tells us that it’s hopeless – our names are added to Hebrews 11:

By faith, (your name here!)…





Voices in My Head

23 04 2015

“Who said that?”

How can we tell when we are hearing from God, and when the source of what we heard is from elsewhere?

Although He speaks to me, to explain how I knew that it was my Father was not as simple as I thought. I tried several times, but my explanation fell woefully short. In the end, I was less convinced than was my audience!

At long last, I get it!

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

If we’re not careful, we can read this: “and hearing by Scripture alone.” God is without limits – and this includes the ways in which He chooses to speak.

(This first bit is nothing new. The second part, though, is what is new and helpful to me.)

Now, the most common way (to me, anyhow), is through His Word. A verse jumps off the page at me. I may not fully understand what is being communicated at that moment, but I know it has significance. It resonates within my heart.

This was my experience in 2014. Isaiah 43:19 (Behold I am doing a new thing…) came across my radar dozens of times, beginning in January.

What He meant, and what I thought He meant were two very different things…but that’s another story!

The “Verse of the Day” from the You Version Bible on January 1 of this year was – you guessed it! Isaiah 43:19. I get a do-over! Woohoo!

The point is this: He let me know through Scripture that He was on the move in my life. By highlighting that verse over and over, He was being very emphatic. No “Truly, truly I say to you…” for me. Based on the number of times I came across this verse, I think He might have been talking “good and loud” – maybe even shouting – so I would hear Him!

Another way God speaks is through others. This is one of my least favorites, for it takes great discernment. Is what they said in line with what God reveals about Himself in Scripture, and with who He says I am? Is it consistent with the Word?

These should be written down and prayed over, not accepted at face value – no matter how godly the person who gave the “word” seems to be. I’ve gotten myself into messes countless times because I trusted the person, thus their counsel – but did not bother to seek God concerning what was said.

Leaving God out of the loop is never a good idea!

Another common way He communicates to me is through nature. I have a windowsill full of heart-shaped rocks. Hummingbirds come close enough that I could reach out and touch them. These are like little kisses on my cheek and remind me that I am dearly loved.

There are many other ways in which He communicates, as well. You probably know them better than I.

The question becomes,

“How do we know for sure that God is the source?”

In the past, I’ve been unable to state this part – even when I’ve been absolutely positive that it was my Father who spoke.

I finally got a handle on this in a way that I can share.

First, when I think I’ve heard from the Lord I must consider:

Does this increase my faith? After all, faith comes by hearing. If I am less confident in the Lord, then He is not speaking.

Next, does it stir up the Fruit of the Spirit? Do I have more of any of them?

  • More love?
  • More joy?
  • More peace?
  • More patience? (This one is a big tip-off for me!)
  • More kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness?
  • More self-control? (Another cue that helps me)

For instance, God once spoke to me through a movie I was watching. He pointed out the main character and stated that this is what He was going to do in a rather unsavory person whom I knew.

His word to me immediately increased my faith. It changed how I treated this person, and gave me a great deal of patience with them. When their behavior was crazy, I now had the ability to bite my tongue and keep loving them.

That was several years ago, and we are seeing the fruit of God’s work in this person. On my own, I’d never have believed it to be possible. His word gave me faith to believe.

Finally, does the “word” release me? Does it bring freedom?

This isn’t the sort of “release” that says, “Go ahead and leave your marriage, quit your job, or (basically) run away.” It doesn’t instantly end a trial or make life all better.

It is the sort of release that frees me to persevere without the baggage of fear, anxiety, worry. I am released from the belief that it’s all up to me.

When I’ve heard from the Lord, I feel settled in my heart. The chains that previous bound me concerning the matter fall away.

If I think I’ve heard from Abba, but do not have an increase in faith, the fruit of the Spirit, or a sense of freedom, then I know it was not His voice!

That’s my 833 words on the subject!

Do you have other methods by which you determine “Who said that?” Do tell. ❤





The God of Second (Third…Hundredth) Chances

6 01 2015

January 1, 2015 began a new year, new beginnings…another chance.

When I opened my Bible app for the Verse of the Day, guess what it was?

Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19.

This is the same verse I received last year!

As I read the words for the umpteenth time, I sensed the Lord’s smile as He let me know that I have a “do-over.” I get another run at this promise. That’s good news!

Last year, I had expectations of what that would look like for me. Those are now gone. I have no preconceived notions of what He has in store…only that He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun.

Life took a crazy turn last year. As I look back at where I was last January, I am amazed at the growth He’s wrought in me – despite my confusion and disappointment. Through all that, the Lord took my faith in Him to a new level.

He used the trials to reveal some very ugly things that I believed to be true of Him, and replaced them with a greater understanding of His infinite love for me.

The training received on making disciples – have no opinion in other’s situations, do not judge, do not advise, only love them – was well-tested. I had ample opportunities to walk out what He’d worked in.

I didn’t do it perfectly {gasp!}.

However, I did much better than ever before.

Progress!

Nothing is resolved yet, but this year I have hope…hope for a brighter future, hope for transformation and restoration.

How I appreciate the fact that the Father loves us where we are, with all our messed up thinking about His character; and that He continues to pursue us in hope that we will finally see Him more accurately.

I said some really mean things to God last year, all borne out of my misunderstanding of what He is really like. My words did not deter Him. He didn’t throw up His hands in exasperation and write me off as a lost cause.

Instead, He continued to tenderly whisper that He loves me, that He understood my confusion but wanted me to know that what I believed was simply not true. He asked me to trust Him with the hard things I’m dealing with, and to believe that He will work all this for my good.

I saw this quote on someone’s blog earlier this week. It resonated with me, and so I share it with you:

“Everything is going to be fine in the end.
If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”

-Oscar Wilde-

And so I begin this year with my hand in my Father’s, trying to match my steps with His, in full confidence that He has this. It will be fun to look back over this year in 2016 and see all He has accomplished in, around, and through me.

To God be the glory! Amen.

How about you? Do you find this the Year of the Great Do-Over? Do tell!

PS If you live in Northern California, the Legacy class (disciple/mentoring) begins soon at The Stirring in Redding. Jim Bailey and his wife Amy are amazing, and very gifted teachers. Don’t miss it!





Of Promises and Poo (or “Messy in the Middle”)

29 12 2014

Diapers: The most appreciated gift any new parent will receive.

Oh, all the pretty little dresses, smart suits, and adorable shoes are loved as well; but without diapers, they will soon be ruined!

Why? Because “poo happens!” It’s unavoidable.

When yes wears a diaper in response to our prayers, we will handle things better if we know this “minor” detail:

We will be messy in the middle!

The sooner we learn to roll with this, the sooner we can trust God and His process. He has a purpose and will finish what He has begun (Philippians 1:6).

The year began with a promise from the Lord. It is Isaiah 43:19. I’ll bet He’s repeated this to me at least a couple dozen times this year. It reads:

Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Now THAT’S a promise! I was very excited, believing the “new” thing would “spring forth” from all the music studies of the previous year. Surely beautiful music would soon be forthcoming.

Next thing I knew, we had a houseful of people. There was no possible way I could work on music…or even blog. We had five adults and seven small children here for several months. Days consisted of housework, meal preparation, and child care.

To say that I was confused would be an understatement!

My confusion turned to hurt, as I began to believe that God had pulled a “bait and switch” on me. It felt like He promised me something wonderful then, when my hopes were high, switched it for something ordinary…like when my dad drove us to the gates of Disneyland, then said,”The guys said this is just a glorified fair. We’re going to Knotts Berry Farm.” (In the 1970s, Knotts was more like visiting a film set.)

In the midst of the chaos, God chose to bring transformation to a family member.

Now? Really?

You need to know that when a close family member begins to deal with their “stuff,” it’s like their anchor is being raised with all their junk on it. Because of your relationship with them, all your stuff gets hauled up as well.

That’s when things start to get messy in your middle. You’ll be dealing with your own “poo” – in addition to that of your family member!

You can put a pretty little dress on it, complete with ribbons and bows. Keep up appearances at all cost.

But the “mess” will leak out and be unsightly…no one will understand why you stink!

How thankful I am to be part of a congregation where it’s okay to be a mess; where people are willing to wade in and help clean things up!

It’s been costly, and I’ve had to say “good bye” to pride. I’ve had to reach out for help – including a counselor to help me sort things out.

To my surprise, we’ve talked very little about the current situation. Instead, we’ve mostly dealt with what their stuff was triggering in me…old, unhealed wounds and strongholds.

Having other people living with us was an effective way to keep me from saying things that would only delay, hinder, or halt altogether the work the Lord was doing.

His ways were very wise!

Interestingly enough, a “baby” promise kind of made me become the baby. Helpless, inactive, and in need of a lot of love – these became a reality for me. I cried so much that tears no longer came forth…only goo. We hit the bottom of the well of tears and sludge was all that left. Gross!

Through it all, the Lord kept asking me to sit quietly in His presence. As I stated in my last post, I was certain that a butt-chewing would be involved, so I avoided His presence…only to discover that He was making me into a new person in this process and wanted to get re-acquainted!

Every week from September through just before Christmas, God addressed another stronghold in me and together we tore them down. There have been more than a dozen…ones I’d previously been unaware of. There were countless lies, and an insane amount of forgiving that I had to take care of: others, myself, and even the Lord (who’d done nothing wrong! There were many lies I believed about Him as well.).

Much repentance had to be done, too.

It’s been a lot of work, but worth it.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I gained God’s perspective of what He’s doing. The promise given last January is a “baby promise;” one that I will have to grow up alongside. It’s been messy in the middle, and I may not be ready for my “big girl panties” just yet.

At least now I have hope that they will be forthcoming!