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Posts Tagged ‘God’s faithfulness’

If we can trust Him with eternity, let's trust Jesus with our today

What happens when God doesn’t meet our expectations? When we’ve slipped a toe into the edge of the Jordan and suddenly we’re neck-deep in the river–disillusioned and doubting the call of the One who promised us beauty…bounty…blessing on the other side? What happens when our hopes or dreams are dashed against the rocks–shattered and floating further from our reach?

Do we blame Him for letting us down…for leaving us–struggling to manage the rushing water as we’re dragged somewhere unknown and unanticipated?

Instead of trusting that our Rescuer has already journeyed into the depths for us, do we give in to the pull of the current. Drifting. Doubting. Denouncing Him in our inability to see clearly from this side of the river to the other.

Maybe you’re at the place in your journey where nothing rattles your beliefs or sends you reeling–wondering if the God of scripture sees you…hears you…loves you. No matter the size of the Jordan, you trust Him to carry you across.

I’m not that grown up in my faith.

At times, I’ve been overwhelmed by the dark waves. Smashed against the river bottom. Sputtering for air. Shouting my doubts into the mist. Because suffering? It hurts. And sometimes I’ve felt like I’m drowning even in my living.

Some of you have shared about the Jordan your crossing right now. Cancer. Anxiety. Death. Divorce.

Pain so big it’d be easy to lose sight of the largeness and power of God. My heart aches for that journey you’re taking right now–the one causing fear unequaled. Feelings of aloneness. Deep soul-sorrow.

Can I remind you? He is El Roi–the God who sees.  He is Yishmael–the God who hears. He is Adonai–the God who loves you. And He is the God who walks on the water–right next to you…reaching out for your hand…and reassuring, “It’s me, don’t be afraid.”

If we can trust Jesus with eternity, let’s trust Him with our today–even as we totter toward the beckoning hand over the next wave.

Scripture for Reflection

As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

 He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!” (Matthew 14:22-23, MSG)

 

Thought to consider:   In what area of your life is Jesus calling you to “come ahead”.

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“Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.”.png

One of the most painful seasons of my life was ushered in the day my husband boarded the flight to a training school on the east coast. A military wife, I’d expected challenges. I’d managed years of work-ups, cross-country moves, and deployments. But this time, it seemed as if the one person I’d relied on for strength and direction was stripped from my life when I most needed him.

 Our two young teens were in full-out rebellion and another little child suffered for months as doctors and other experts struggled to determine a diagnosis. Parenting alone through unknown territory, I desperately needed assurance.

Have you been there–in the middle of hurt, heartache, or hopelessness?

While your circumstances are probably different, my guess is that you carry personal scars from your own story. Perhaps some remain open wounds–festering and seeping at the slightest provocation.

I don’t want to suggest there are simple spiritual answers. Some wounds take years to heal–but, He is able. Like the men who inhabited the land God gave the Israelites, your wound may be a giant–large enough to cast a shadow over your faith. Sometimes you might even doubt God is willing–or able–to move you from a place of pain to one of joy. From feelings of desert wandering to the relief of righteous restoration. From self-conceived-condemnation to the comfort of Abba’s eternal approval.

Those doubts? I used to entertain them.

I believed the Word. But, just in case He didn’t come through…on the off-chance His promises weren’t meant for me? I prepared for disappointment.  I lived my faith as if God were only god and the giant loomed larger than the One by whose stripes I had already been healed.

Despite my trust-you-today-but-maybe-not-tomorrow attitude, our merciful Father did the amazing. He slew my giants.

He was able.

The behemoths in my life? They are no larger than those in yours and I am convinced the Healer wants you to cross the Jordan into the land where your Goliath lives. Let’s move ahead in faith, Friends, trusting Him to conquer those places where we’ve been spirit-bruised-and-battered.

He is able.

This is our time to move through the water toward to the shore. Grab my hand–I’m coming with you.

Scripture for Reflection

“We went to the land where you sent us. It really is a land flowing with milk and honey. Here’s some of its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are strong, and the cities have walls and are very large. We even saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev. The Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the mountain region. And the Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and all along the Jordan River.”

30 Caleb told the people to be quiet and listen to Moses. Caleb said, “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.”

31 But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!” 32 So they began to spread lies among the Israelites about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored is one that devours those who live there. All the people we saw there are very tall. 33 We saw Nephilim there. (The descendants of Anak are Nephilim.) We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that’s how we must have looked to them.” Numbers 13:27-33

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Anzac DayPhotos flashed across the large, mounted screen as people slid somberly into their seats. A copper-headed toddler pretending to fish…a lanky teen posing for a Kodak moment with his family…a soldier with his young wife and newborn child.

A brave, broken-hearted father stepped up to the podium to share stories from the young man’s life. And between tears and laughter, he spoke of the moments that made his son. Casting a line into the icy waters of a shimmering, Colorado river. Sharing the gift of laughter with family and friends. Contending with the relentless enemy–Depression.

The father’s pain—palpable and raw—struck at my core as I considered the struggles my own dear ones have battled. The what if’s invaded my thoughts and I shuddered in understanding. Two weeks later, the reality haunts me and I pray God will protect those in His care from the pain of the dark.

Depression is real. Depression steals. Depression debilitates.

If you’ve lived in its shadow—you know. If you’ve seen a loved one experience the dark—you know.

But, there is always hope in Jesus. Consider these words, Friend.

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand. (Isaiah 42:3-6)

Rest in this truth…find freedom from the emotions…rely on His promise. He will hold your hand every step of the way.

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Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons? (1 Samuel 1-MSG)

 

He didn’t understand. A loving husband, he reassured her of his devotion and cast aside the expectations of the day. But thoughts of the other woman intruded—unwelcome—and the cruel sting of her words embedded themselves in the tender places of Hannah’s soul.

At times, Hannah’s heart felt as hollow as her womb and, despite Elkanah’s gentle encouragement and generous love-gifts, nothing relieved the emptiness of her arms.

How she longed to hold a baby—feel its precious weight against her, inhale the fresh-from-heaven-scent, experience the ebb and flow of mother-life pouring sweet and abundant from her body to nourish a child.

Yet the years passed—one, two, ten or more–and the journey to the Lord’s tabernacle became Hannah’s personal trail of tears—the path from sorrow to depression and depression to despair.

Maybe He was her last resort. Perhaps it was the nudging of the Spirit. But, on one particular return visit to the tabernacle, Hannah made a decision that changed her life and impacted the spiritual direction of an entire nation.

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She prayed.

Crushed in soul (1 Sam. 1-MSG) and weeping with abandon, Hannah poured out every bit of her brokenness before God—the hurt, the loneliness, the desperation. Her fervent praying even caught the attention of Eli, the tabernacle’s priest. Mistaking Hannah’s silent muttering for drunkenness, God’s man even reprimanded her.

You’re drunk. How long do you plan to keep this up?

 Upon hearing Hannah’s story, though, he pronounced a blessing—a salve to an aching woman’s wounds.

Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.

 A few years later, Hannah returned to the place of her prayers—a young boy trailing by her side. Greeting the old priest, the woman who had bowed humbly before God explained that this child—her child—belonged to the Lord.

And they worshiped Him together.

What an incredible picture of God’s faithfulness and mercy! The God Who Sees All never lost sight of His daughter. He listened to her cries, captured each tear, and answered her prayers.

And this same unchanging, all-knowing, wonder-working God? He is there for us in the same way He was for Hannah—patiently waiting for us to come to Him with our needs…our burdens…our hurts.

And, one day? Maybe the same will be said of you or me.

She prayed.

 

Scripture for Reflection

  1.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that each time Hannah was preparing to worship, the enemy came against her?
  2. What causes you to struggle in worship?
  3.  How has God redeemed your past hurts?  Or, is there a heart-wound you are laying before Him now?
  4.  In what way does His faithfulness encourage you in your walk?

 

1 Samuel 1

1-2 There once was a man who lived in Ramathaim. He was descended from the old Zuph family in the Ephraim hills. His name was Elkanah. (He was connected with the Zuphs from Ephraim through his father Jeroham, his grandfather Elihu, and his great-grandfather Tohu.) He had two wives. The first was Hannah; the second was Peninnah. Peninnah had children; Hannah did not.

3-7 Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.

Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?”

9-11 So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:

Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.

12-14 It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!”

15-16 Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.”

17 Eli answered her, “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.”

18 “Think well of me—and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.

19 Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked.

 

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Giving God me was a moment in time—a five year old with cropped hair and knobby knees raising her hand in Sunday school. It was one of the rare Sundays my family attended church, but I met Jesus there and took him home in my heart.

That sweet encounter put me on the road to my forever home. I was as good as signed, sealed, and delivered to heaven’s doorstep.   But, that day was also the beginning of a relationship—one marked by trial, misunderstanding, faithlessness, and inexplicable, beautiful love.

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I’ve discovered that giving God me was more than the promise of Life. It’s a decision I choose to make—or not–each day and moment-by-moment. Some days I succeed. I loosen my grasp on my expectations…my fears…my hurts…my vulnerable places.

But there are times the struggle is painfully hard and I hold stubbornly to my life—unwilling to give up control of thoughts…circumstances…relationships. It’s a spirit fight—like Joshua and the angel—waged in weakness when needing God’s strength; borne out of mistrust while having experienced God’s goodness.

Three years ago, I engaged in the battle of my life. It rocked my family to the core and sent me to a place of such pain and confusion that life lost all promise and hope. I wasn’t sure I would survive the anger…the loss…the heartache.

And I wrestled with God—unwilling to give all of myself to Him. I didn’t always realize He was there with me in the filth, the dirt—holding onto me while I pushed Him away. I refused to look at Him…certain I didn’t deserve the love engraved on His palms. I shouted…I wept…I doubted my Savior. Still—He remained.

In the moment I finally gave all of myself? I realized complete freedom for the first time. Giving all of me to God was the exchange of chains for freedom,  self-condemnation for Christ’s acceptance, and the brokenness of the past for transformation in His mercy.

Friend, are you wrestling with God right now? Can I gently remind you that He guards you…protects you…loves you—even when the journey seems dark and lonely. Despite how you may feel, you are not alone. Why fight against God when He will do battle on your behalf? We know Christ intercedes for us in heavenly places—the victory has been won! Let’s give all of ourselves to Him today!

 

Scripture for Reflection

Gen. 22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!” (MSG)

 

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The familiar ping of the phone alerted me to a new message. A hurting friend and I had been sharing our thoughts and discussing the razor-edged struggles of the hard in her life. A loved one had said things….done things. She wanted to know–could the relationship recover?

I paused before responding. I don’t see the way. I don’t know how the hurt can be redeemed. I don’t have any great wisdom to offer. The words I chose? With God all things are possible. And you are worth it!

Tears blurred my miniature screen when this dear one answered —I feel worthless.

I understood. These words? I owned them for years. And I wonder…how many of us have been in that place? How many of us have felt the thrust of the enemy’s arrow digging into the tender flesh of our hearts with messages that seem more real than the love letters written so many years ago through the hands of those empowered by God himself.

Maybe you’ve believed the lies, too. The messages burning in your heart may have been lodged there since childhood—the result of words spoken by a parent, a teacher, or peers. Perhaps you were burdened with the weight of worthlessness when a marriage begun with promise ended in betrayal. Is it even possible that your own past—the sins you can’t seem to forget—prove you are worthless?

But Jesus wants to affirm you. He’s not offering a positive mantra for personal repetition or a feel-good, I-believe-in-you word of false praise. He wants to give you so much more!

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Listen… do you hear his voice? Just as He did with the disciples, Jesus is calling you to follow him. He shouts out your name–a personal invitation to leave your nets behind–those things that entangle and threaten to drag you into dark waters. Leave them in the sand, Friend. Like refuse scattered along the water’s edge after a storm, you can shed your hurts…cast off the lies…release your burdens.

I’m not suggesting Jesus is an easy answer. The world is still a place of broken people. Suffering continues. Tears still flow. Certainly, Jesus didn’t mince words when he said, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

So what does Jesus offer? He gives Himself! The God who gave you life reassures you of His love.

“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? Even if that were possible, I would never forget you! See, I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16 NLT).

The God of the universe and creator of all things loves you so passionately that when He spread His arms wide on the cross He was thinking of you! You are that valuable. What a beautiful, amazing affirmation!

Friend, in all of our difficulty and doubts let’s respond to Jesus. Will you follow after Him? Because one beautiful day we’ll celebrate a heavenly homecoming and Jesus will have been our destination.

 

Encouraging Bible Verses

 (Exodus 33:17 NKJV) So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”

(Psalm 100:3 NKJV) Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

(Isaiah 43:1-3 NKJV) But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. {2} When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. {3} For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

(John 10:3 NKJV) “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he callshis own sheep by name and leads them out.”

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What matters more than material blessings are the things He is teaching us in our spirit.

Charles Stanley

It all began much earlier for him, but most of the nascent signs were quiet and crept into life bit by bit–a silent predator slowly introducing the victim to its presence. Then two years ago, the boy’s everyday life shifted with such suddenness there could be no doubt. Our son knew what it was to struggle with anxiety and depression.

Sleep oscillated between the extremes of non-existent and constant.  Recurring migraines…weight loss…lack of appetite. And my adventurous, full-throttle son retreated to a solitary world that seemed impenetrable.  Once in a great while I would catch a glimpse of the boy , but the cloud of oppression that hung over him was normally the more visible of the two.

There is no heartache quite like that a parent has for her suffering child and in my grief I confronted God.  I wept.  I raged. I begged.  I prayed.

Please, Lord, please!

After more than two years of trial and error…missed school days and fading dreams, we discovered the right combination of interventions and supports–not the least of which included medication.  Finally…some relief for the boy I had soothed with lullabies not so many years ago.

During this time, my boy continued to seek after God.  He wanted more of Jesus–and, unlike me, didn’t seem to struggle with blaming God for allowing this trial in his young life.  Despite the depression…regardless of the anxiety…in spite of the weariness.

One evening he returned from youth group, his face transformed by joy.

We asked God to heal me.  I don’t need my medicine anymore.

christian : Man worshiping god shot at yellow grass Stock Photo

I was skeptical…fearful…doubtful.  I believed in miracles, but this? A young man’s life could be at stake.

Slow and methodical in my response,  I have taken the “yes, but” approach to this precious boy’s healing. “Yes–God can heal, but…”

Yes, but…healing is not probable…practical…likely.

Yes, but…this could be temporary…time-inhibited…explainable.

Yes, but…are you sure you can sleep…function…manage?

And he continues to do well.  Feel well.  Live well.

I have begun to relate to the Bible verse, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” in ways I never expected.  And I wonder if any of you understand?  If you’ve lived it, too?  At some level, those of us who are Christians must grasp the mystery of such things–at least a little bit.

We trust in Jesus, after all.

Yes, but…a virgin birth is impossible…unimaginable…implausible.

Yes, but…a resurrected Messiah is unbelievable…incredible…miraculous.

Yes, but…can we know we are sanctified…rescued…redeemed?

Yes, but…He was born of a virgin, died on a cross, and rose again in three days.

Scripture for Reflection

Mark 9:24

Genesis 15:6

Isaiah 43:10

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