Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Starting Your Own Relationship With Jesus Christ (And Why We Need Him!)

(Updated 3/12/20, to simplify it, add new stuff, and make it cleaner-looking.  I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time.)

John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God so loved the world.  He didn’t just love the world; He so loved the world.  He so loved the world that He (Jesus) would die in our place before He would miss out on an eternal relationship with us.  He knew that we would disappoint Him and hurt Him and fail Him, but He still so wanted a relationship with us that He made a way.  He knew that there would be many, many people that would reject His gift of love and salvation, but an eternity spent with those who would choose Him was worth the price of dying on the cross.  That is some amazing love!

Let me ask you something: If you were to die today or if Jesus came back today, would you be ready?  Seriously.  This life as we know it isn't going to go on forever.  And we are not invincible.  People die every day, in every kind of way.  Are you ready to face eternity, whatever comes the moment after you take your last breath?  Have you figured out who Jesus is and why He matters so much?

Because this will be what matters most the moment after you die.  Actually, it's what matters most in this lifetime, too, because it greatly affects what happens the moment after you die.

What to Expect When You're a New Believer

            What can we expect after our conversion?  After saying that prayer to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior?  What is the Christian journey like?     
            I was thinking about my post “Starting Your Own Relationship with Jesus Christ” and about how saying a prayer to accept Jesus’ offer of grace, forgiveness, and salvation is just the beginning.  But then what?  What comes after that?  Are there any help, tips, or cautions that we can pass on to new believers, something to help them in their walk with the Lord?

250 Questions to Ask God

            A thought hit me one night as I went to bed.  A new idea.  Something I thought was a fun, exciting idea.  I would love to write a list of questions that we can ask God, one a day.  Questions that we might not normally think to ask Him.  (This is reprinted from my other blog.)      
            I am passionate about learning to walk and talk with God, not just talking at Him.  And in the John Eldredge books I have been reading (he is my and my husband's favorite author . . ., he talks about going off into the wilderness and spending personal time asking God a question.  And then waiting for the answer.  I love that idea, especially since I believe that it is so important to practice hearing God and to deliberately invite Him into our days and our thoughts.  But it is so easy to let a day slip by just being busy with life. 
            And so I thought it would be great if there was a book of questions that would help us do that.  Now, there probably is a list like this out there somewhere, but I haven’t seen it.  And so I figured, I’ll make my own.  I’ll compile questions that I think are important to ask God, for the sake of learning to listen, to obey, for abiding in Him, and for walking with the Spirit more throughout every day.   

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I've Got It Good!

            As the two bouquets of flowers that I received (one from the stranger in the store and one from my friend, in the November post “A Ray of Sunshine”) began to fade, I went to Hobby Lobby to find silk flowers to match them so that I could have a permanent reminder of this special gift that I was given.  I wanted to be able to glimpse the flowers throughout the day and think of the people who gave them to me, who noticed me and that I needed a pick-me-up.  And so I set out to put together a similar bouquet of silk flowers.
            And I had fun searching for the right ones, considering colors and shapes.  I worked on it for a good, long while.  And when I thought I had picked the right flowers, I went to the back of the store to find something else I needed.  As I did, I calculated the cost of the flowers.  Full price, they came to about $60.  But since it was 50% off, if would only be $30.  How wonderful, I thought, that they happened to be on sale the day I chose to go out and buy them. 
            But you know the funny thing?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Overcoming Spiritual Fear

            Are you ultra-concerned about being a “good Christian” and doing the “right” thing, praying the “right” way, having the “right” attitude, and making the “right” choices?
            Do you find yourself desperately following “do and don’t” lists, afraid that you might step out of line?
            Are you often afraid that God is going to blast you with a lightning bolt for saying or doing something wrong?
            Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells with Him, always afraid of displeasing Him?
            Do you feel like no matter how much you strive to please God and do the right thing, you are always letting Him down?
            Are you afraid that He really isn’t listening to you or really doesn’t care that much about your “little problems” or aching heart?
            Do you hesitate to pray or share your concerns with God because you are afraid of burdening Him?  Afraid to have Him waste His time or energy on you, especially when there are greater tragedies and concerns in the world that deserve God’s attention more than you do?
            Is it hard for you to share your true feelings, thoughts, fears, and doubts with God because you are afraid of disappointing Him or earning His wrath?  So you put on a nice, polished, acceptable, capable, “good Christian” mask?
            Are you afraid of needing God?  Of truly, desperately needing Him?  Relying on Him?  (To really need Him is to be really vulnerable.  If we let ourselves need someone, we take the risk of getting let down, of being dropped on our faces.  And so, many of us don’t risk needing others, even God.  We try our best to be self-sufficient and self-reliant, even with God.  Which doesn’t work.  Eventually we will all find our self-sufficiency tested, in order that we might learn to rely on Him.)
            Deep down, do you doubt that God is a good, loving God who really does want the best for you?  Do you see Him more as a God who is unfair, harsh, or indifferent?         
            Have you ever secretly wondered, How could God ever really love me?  I’m just . . . me!  Messed-up me!  Surely, He could never forgive me or want a relationship with me?

            Whether or not we admit it, many of us have these kinds of fears.  And they hinder our spiritual walks and our relationships with Him, others, and ourselves.  So how do we deal with these kinds of spiritual fears?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Questions for Getting to Know Yourself and Others Better

            I didn’t know where else to post this because it is so random, but I wanted to repost this list of questions from my other blog.  I was sitting there once with some family members, waiting in the hospital waiting room.  And it seemed like there wasn't much to do but wait and look at the television and wait some more.  Minutes turned to hours.  And I thought, Wouldn't it be great to have a book of meaningful questions that we could ask each other, just for fun and to hopefully learn more about each other and ourselves!  I wanted to go to the bookstore and find a book like that, one that could help us pass the time and yet talk about meaningful things.  And then I thought, Why not write one myself?  And that's how this list came to be.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

How to Make the Right Decision

            This weekend, I was struggling with a decision I made, wondering if I made the right one.  I do this a lot.  I always doubt myself and then have to re-evaluate my choice before I can feel confident that I made the right one (unless, of course, God lets me know that I was wrong.)  In this post, I want to look at ways we can evaluate our decisions and do our best to figure out which one God wants us to pick. 
            How can we know that we are making the “right decision”?

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Ray of Sunshine

            Sometimes, a ray of sunshine breaks through the clouds of life and grants you one wonderful moment of warmth and light. 
            In case you can’t tell from all my last posts, I’ve been working hard this past year to live with certain disappointments.  To stop hoping that something will change.  I know this sounds like a bad thing, but it’s actually a good thing.  Because it’s allowed me to start living again, living life as it is instead of waiting for things to be just right. 
            But I will admit that sometimes the discouragement gets the better of me.  The past several weeks, whenever a disappointment that I can’t change pops into my head, I try to wave it off with this self-pitying line, “Well, I deserve it . . . so I just have to live with it.  You don’t need to do anything to change it, Lord, because I deserve it.”
            I’ve got this lingering eczema rash on my neck which looks repulsive . . . well, I deserve it.  I have a lingering ear problem that I really thought the Lord would heal . . . well, I deserve it.  This house is an under-construction mess that I simply can’t turn into a home . . . I deserve it.  I don’t have a close family-of-origin, I have very few friendships, and I always feel like I am on the outside, looking in . . . I deserve it.  So many attempts to do something for the Lord seemed to fail . . . I deserve it.  Prayers have been unanswered and God has been very silent lately . . . I deserve it.
            Somehow, convincing myself that "I deserve it" helps me to accept them as part of my life.  Not in a good way, of course.  But if I keep looking at life as unfair then I get bitter and sad.  I would much rather convince myself that I’m just getting what I deserved and so I have to accept it as fair “punishment” or consequences.  Once again, this is pathetic and unhealthy.  But so is being bitter. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Beautiful In Its Time!

            Yesterday, it started snowing.  It’s barely mid-November and it’s already snowing.  Everyone says it’s going to be one of the worst winters.  And after last winter with its endless piles of snow, many people are already groaning at the sight of more flakes.  But you know what?  I’m actually looking forward to winter.   
            Of course, I do not like bitter winds, freezing fingers, and being shut up in a house for months on end.  But I have an odd sense of peace about this winter, like I’m going to find it enjoyable and comforting.  And it really has more to do with my spiritual life than it does with the environment.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Just Keep Falling

            Can I admit something that sounds terrible?  I haven’t felt like praying lately.  For a long while, actually.  I have been struggling a lot with thoughts of Prayer doesn’t really work anyway.  God doesn’t respond.  It doesn’t make much difference, so why wrestle and wrestle in prayer if the same disappointing thing is just going to happen anyway?  May as well just save myself the struggle and the pain that comes with hoping.  He’s just been so silent that I don’t feel like I can keep talking and talking. 
            The thing is, I know the truth in my head.  I know that He’s listening.  I know that He’s sovereign and He will work things out, that He holds everything in His hands.  I know that His grace is sufficient.  I know that He loves me and has blessed me in so many ways and granted so many prayers.  If He were to take away everything He blessed me with, I would be in terrible shape and realize just how many prayers He did answer.  I know that prayer works, according to His Will and His timing.  But sometimes . . .
            Sometimes I just really want to hear or feel something from Him.  Anything.  Well, maybe not anything.  I’ve read about the ways some people get hammered in the Bible.  I don’t want that.  I just want to feel . . . alive again.  Like I have something to be happy about, to feel excited about.  I want to feel Him speaking to my soul.  It’s been a long, long time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #9: Humility and Brokenness

9.  Humility and Brokenness
(Once again, another long post which repeats some things that I’ve said in other posts.  But it’s totally worth reading.)

            Matthew 18:4:  “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” 

            Whoever humbles himself like a child!  This, I believe, should be the ultimate goal of every believer.  Humility.  Brokenness.  Now, everyone might define humility a little differently, but here’s my attempt at it: 
            Humility is recognizing and freely admitting that we are needy, helpless, and dependent.  It’s knowing that we need our Heavenly Father desperately, that we are helpless to do anything without Him, and that we are fully dependent on Him daily.  It’s resting in and so completely trusting His goodness and love that no matter what happens, we can still say, “Father, I trust You.”  And it’s knowing that everything is by His power and for His glory, and wanting nothing more than to see Him glorified in our lives.  To me, this is what it means to be humbled, to be “sweetly broken.”

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #8: Matthew 6:33

8.  Seeking God’s Kingdom and Righteousness
(This will be a long one because there is much to say about it.  And I am drawing in a lot that I wrote in other posts because I think it is all worth repeating again and again.)

            Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

            We all know that we are supposed to be seeking righteousness and God’s Kingdom.  But are we actually doing it?  And do we really even know what that means? 
            The reason I ask is because our country is getting so lukewarm and relativistic about spiritual things.  Whole denominations are drifting away from Biblical Christianity and becoming social clubs where the speakers tickle the ears of the congregation and make them feel warm and cozy and comfortable.  But that is so not what Jesus did and what the Bible is about. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #7: Accepting Love & Forgiveness

7.  Letting Yourself Be Loved or Forgiven

            Not everyone will face this lesson, but those with broken pasts will know what I’m talking about.  One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn in my spiritual life (and in my earthly life) is to let myself be loved by someone . . . by Someone.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #6: Accepting God's Timing

6.  Being Okay with God’s Time and God’s Way

            1 Peter 5:6-7:  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”

            In due time!  Such a scary thought for us.  Such a hard thing to accept, to wait for.  How hard it is to humbly submit our lives to the Lord’s timing and way.  But if we want to have the kind of life He wants for us, then we have to learn to humble ourselves before Him and to wait for Him to lift us up in His time and in His way.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #5: Do Your Job!

5.  Obediently Doing Your Job and Letting God Do His

            Okay now, be honest and raise your hand if  . . . you like to lead instead of follow?  To push through with your plans and make things happen?  To set your own rules and goals? 
            Our world values go-getters and leaders - people who succeed, who make the impossible possible, who dream big dreams and make them come true.  It doesn’t put much value on followers who wait to be told what to do and who then immediately and completely obey (or at least try their best to).  The world overlooks people who shine the spotlight on someone else and who spend their lives in service to someone else.  It doesn’t respect submission because it values autonomy, self-reliance, and independence way too much.  So the world can’t really understand or value me.  But God does!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #4: Thankfulness

4.  Being Truly, Humbly, Actively Thankful

            Luke 17:15-18:  “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.  Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’”

            Ten men were healed.  Only one came back to thank Jesus.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #3: Praise

3.  Learning to Praise and Trust God Anyway
            I think one of the hardest lessons to learn and one of the greatest indicators of humility is whether or not we have learned to praise God, to trust Him, and to cling to Him in the pain and in the hard times. 
            It is easy to be thankful and to trust Him and to “sing His praises” when things are going our way and when we have more than enough (which is why I wonder about the level of spiritual maturity and commitment of those who are richly blessed on earth with success and money and power and who have not been broken by the trials and hard times).  But it is so hard to do this when we are in the “desert times” of our lives and when we feel like life is letting us down, like God is letting us down, and like we have been abandoned by Him.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #2: Pruning

2.  Being Pruned So That We Can Bring God Glory
            This isn’t all that much different from #1.  But throughout our lives, we will find ourselves being pruned over and over again as God continues to weed out anything that doesn’t bring Him glory and that isn’t for our best.  And this isn’t always easy.  We like things to be our way.  We like holding onto certain ungodly or selfish things.  We want certain freedoms and pleasures.  But in order to grow in righteousness as Christians, to reach wholeness, and to get to the point where everything is about God’s glory, we need to be pruned . . .

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #1: Let Go?

            My kids and I started our new homeschooling year this week.  And so we are back to work, and I will be busy with them and with just keeping up with the house and the cooking.  (Ugh!)  I also have plans to finally paint all the rooms for which we bought paint four years ago.  Ah, so goes life.  Anyway, because of school starting and life just being busy, these may be my last posts.  I know I’ve said it before, but I mean it this time.  (So, we’ll see, huh?)  So for my last nine posts, I wanted to summarize what I think are the nine hardest spiritual lessons to learn. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Get Comfortable

            In our country, we are told over and over again things like:
            “Follow your heart.”
            “Make your own way.”
            “Never take ‘no’ for an answer.”
            “You can be anything you want or do anything you want.”
            “Apply yourself and all your dreams will come true.”
            (How else could we have so many reality shows where people want to be singers?)

            We are told that anything is possible.  We can make it happen by dreaming big and reaching high and wanting it badly enough.  In fact, look at all the commercials and advertisements that tell us that “We deserve it.”  It doesn’t matter what it is – a luxury car, a vacation, a break, a new phone . . . “We deserve it.”  And it doesn’t matter how little effort or hard work we put in . . . “We deserve it.” 
            But while these statements can be encouraging and can get young people to dream big and try hard and aim high (and become greedy), I think they can be misleading and give false hope.  For many of us, no matter how high we aim, we can’t seem to reach the moon.  Our great efforts fizzle and we end up crashing back down to earth, landing in the mud. 
            What about all those wonderful promises that we can get whatever we want and that “we deserve it”?      

Prayer, Faith, and God's Will

(Summary of “Understanding God’s Will,” Question 9, Q9a-Q9i)

            “‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered.  ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’” (Mark 11:22-24)      

            I have to be honest.  I struggle with this verse more than any other.  I really do.  I mean, it sounds pretty straightforward to me: believe that you’ll get what you ask for and you’ll get it.  Name it and claim it!  Sounds great! 
            But there’s a problem.
            It doesn’t always happen.  There are things that we pray for and that we are confident are in line with God’s Will, and yet they don’t happen.  The mountains didn’t move. 

            How come some prayers don’t seem to work, even when you believe that it’s God’s Will?  And how long do you keep praying for something (especially when it’s a painful issue) when God seems to not be listening or answering?   

"Understanding God's Will" synopsis

            “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:1-2)
            We all want to know what God’s Will is, don’t we?  But do we really know what we are asking?  Are we willing to put in the required effort to know it?
            Usually, when we want to know God’s Will, we want to know what our next step is or what plans God has in store for our future.  We think of “His Will” as “His plans for our life.” 
            But is that how the Bible defines “God’s Will”?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Blessed are . . .

            “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . those who mourn . . . the meek . . . those who hunger and thirst for righteousness . . . the merciful . . . the pure in heart . . . the peacemakers . . . those who are persecuted.”  (Matthew 5:3-10)

            These are those whom Jesus calls blessed.  But who do we call blessed?

Jesus wept!

“Jesus wept.”  (John 11:35)

            What a tiny sentence, but so meaningful.  Have you ever really thought about what this verse means for us?  Because once you do, it really changes the way you see God and your relationship with Him.

Meeting Your Needs

            “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19, KJV)

            We oftentimes use this verse to convince ourselves that God will give us what we “need.”  We “need” more money, a better job, more appreciation, more success, a better spouse, to seek revenge or dish out justice, a bigger home, a fancier phone, a better entertainment center, physical healing, etc. 
            And then, if we don’t get what we “need”,  our spirit gets crushed and our faith gets shaken up. 
            But does God always provide what we “need”?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Weak Jesus

            “When Jesus said this, one of the officials standing nearby struck him in the face. . . . Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.  The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. . . . And they struck him in the face.”  (John 18:22, 19:1-3)

            Jesus, our Lord and Savior, didn’t do what we would expect a Lord and Savior to do.  It’s not like in the movies.  When the soldiers were coming at Him, He didn’t raise a hand and blow them back with some sort of force, knocking them down unconscious.  He didn’t use fancy martial arts moves to take down a whole room of soldiers, leaving only Himself standing in the middle while everyone else groaned in pain on the floor. 
            No.  Jesus - our Lord and Savior, God in the flesh, Creator and Sustainer of all – took a beating.  He let Himself be mocked and beaten and spit on and dragged away and crucified.  And He didn’t fight back.  The strongest person in that room looked the weakest.  The chicken at the bottom of the pecking order. 

The Gifts or The Giver?

            “When Simon Peter saw this [that they caught a large number of fish when Jesus told them to lower their nets, even though they had caught nothing the whole day], he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’  For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of the fish they had taken,”  (Luke 5:8-9) 

            Does God’s goodness to us, His wonderful blessings, astonish us anymore?  Or do we expect them and take them for granted?  Food, shelter, a good friendship, health, an adequate job, children?  Do we really notice them and live with a thankful heart for all the ways He’s blessed us?  Or do we wolf down the blessings and then look for the next one, barely taking the time to praise Him for His goodness and appreciate the things He has already done for us?
            Do God’s blessings make us look at Him more closely, make us recognize Him for the good, generous Father that He is?  Do they make us realize how inadequate we are on our own, how dependent we are on Him, and how undeserving we are of His blessings?  How far we fall from His righteous standards?  Or do we focus more on playing with our newest toy and on how it makes us feel happy and warm and cozy?  Always keeping our eyes open for the next thrill?
            Our answers to these will tell us if we are more focused on the gifts or the Giver!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A "Mary" Kind of Faith

            “On the third day, a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’
            ‘Dear woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied.  ‘My time has not yet come.’
            His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”  (Mark 2:1-5)

            This, to me, is an excellent example of coming to God with a need, in faith.
            But it is so different from how I think we normally approach God.  We don’t just make a request; we tell God exactly how we think He should answer.  We tell Him our plans and dreams and wants and “needs,” and we hope that He blesses them.  We expect Him to agree with us and bless us.  And we are discouraged and confused when He doesn’t.

An Opportune Time

             “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him [Jesus] until an opportune time.”  (Luke 4:13)   

            Jesus had just gone through that time of testing in the desert.  He successfully beat Satan with Scripture and by resisting temptation.  He was hungry and probably physically weakened.  And I am sure that He would have loved a long rest from Satan’s attacks.  Didn’t He earn it, after all?  A nice, long rest?

            But Satan doesn’t play fair.  He doesn’t run off with his tail between his legs and say, “Okay, I give up.  You win.  I’ll leave You alone now.  You are too strong for me.”  He simply slinks off to the side, into the shadows, and begins watching for an opportune time.

            Until an opportune time. 

Sleeping on my Sword

            “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’
            Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’
            Then the devil took him to the holy city . . . ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down.  For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up . . .’’
            Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’’
            Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’
            Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan!  For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
            Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”  (Matthew 4:1-11)

            Wow!  There is so much going on here, so many great spiritual lessons.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

            “And throw the worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  (Matthew 25:30)
            “The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  (Matthew 13:49-50)

            I used to wonder about the “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Where does this happen and who gets thrown there?  It sounds like an awful place to be, and I always assumed that it happened in hell.  But what I couldn’t figure out is why the “servant who hid the talent” in Matthew 25 is thrown there, too.  It makes it sound as if a believer (a lazy one) ends up in a place with weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But how can that be if “weeping and gnashing” happens in hell, as seen in Matthew 13?  How can a believer end up in hell? 

Biblical View of Prayer!

            John 15:7:  “. . . ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
            Mark 11:22-24:  “‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered.  ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’“   

            One of the most damaging things to a young or weak believer’s faith is not having an important prayer answered the way they expected.  When a desperate prayer is not answered the way we want, it can destroy our faith in God.  All of a sudden, we question our faith, our God, how He views us, how we view ourselves, etc.  We feel like our faith was weak, like God didn’t care, and like He let us down.  And many people end up retreating from God in confusion and bitterness. 

A Modern Day Pharisee

            “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Matthew 12:7
            “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:20

            There’s an older couple in our area.  They are a nice enough couple, but the wife is the kind of person who likes to comment on and be in everyone else's business.  And her favorite past-time is noticing every time someone else’s lawn gets too high.  That’s pretty much what they do all summer . . . mow their lawn every three days and watch everyone else’s grass grow.  Lawn height is one of their biggest concerns. 

God Would Never Do That! Or Would He?

            God would never send a famine or economic distress to get our attention.
            God would never send disease to open our eyes to our bad choices and to call us to repentance.
            God would never use wars or violence to cause us to cry out to Him.
            God would never use a tornado, earthquake, or tsunami to draw our hearts back to Him.
            God is not like that.  He is a soft, squishy, feeble, all-loving, ever-forgiving God who would never dream of punishing or disciplining or causing any kind of pain for us.  He’s all about catering to our requests and pouring out His goodness on us and allowing us to live life on our own terms, because we are the center of the universe.  We are the lords of our own lives.  Aren’t we?  Isn’t He?
            Surely, in this day and age of rampant sexual diseases, violent wars, economic recession, famines, natural disasters, devastating consequences of our choices, etc., none of this has been allowed by God in order to open our eyes to our need for Him.  God would never do that!
            Or would He? 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mocking Pigs

            “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who were going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!  Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God! 
            In the same way the chief priest, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.  ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!  He’s the King of Israel!  Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him. . . .’”  (Matthew 27:39-42)

            Jesus was always misunderstood by people.  Mocked and discredited.

Do You Grieve?

             “. . . Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen . . . and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”
            As [Ezekiel] listened, he said to the [other men], “Follow him throughout the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. . . . but do not touch anyone who has the mark. . . .”  (Ezekiel 9:3-6) 
            Do you grieve over the condition of our country?  Over the ways people are trying to erase all signs of God, to make Him illegal, to change morality into fifty shades of gray instead of biblical black-and-white?  Do you grieve over the lost souls, the condition of godless schools, the broken families, broken vows, broken homes and broken hearts?  (Over the condition of your own heart?)  Are you okay with the changes?  Or indifferent to the immorality and indifference all around us?  Do you dabble in it, just a little bit?  Enjoying a tiny taste of sin here and there?  Do you partake in the degrading, immoral television shows and movies and music and lifestyles?  Because it won’t affect you, of course . . . would it?  Do you grieve?

Abraham: Right Where God Wants You

            When I was going through a difficult time waiting for God to bring us a house, Genesis 13 brought me a lot of comfort.  I don’t remember how I ran across it at the time that I needed it.  Maybe it was just the next passage in my regular reading or maybe God led me to it?  I don’t remember.  But we were waiting for years for God to get us out of the rental we were in and to being us the place that He wanted us to be in.  (All of this is in The Sweetly Broken Journey on the other blog.) 
            And as I waited for Him to show us the next step – to bring us the right place - I was so afraid that I’d miss the sign.  I doubted my ability to know when God was showing me the next step.  I desperately wanted to wait for His guidance, but I totally expected to fail to recognize it.  I was a mess.  And I was pleading with God to help me hear Him, to help me know when He said “Go” or “Stop.” 

Abraham: It's All About the Journey

            I love Genesis 12.  Notice in the first verse that God says “Leave your country . . . and go to the land I will show you.”  He basically tells Abram to step out in blind faith.  First he is to leave his home and then, eventually, God will show him the land he is to go to.  But for me, so often in my life, I want to see the map ahead of time, the exact route I am supposed to take and the place I’ll end up, the rewards that I’ll get for the effort, before I decide if I want to go or not.  But that’s not how God works.
            God’s way is to call us to go before we have any idea where we are going, to give us trials before we have any idea what He wants us to learn through them.  And we learn as we go, as we rely on Him and draw closer to Him during the journey.  He does not tell us His plans ahead of time.  But our faith deepens and grows as we walk the twist and turns, the hills and valleys, the dead-ends and turn-arounds with Him.  We may not know where He is taking us, but He does.  Our job is not to know ahead of time, it’s just to walk with Him.  And eventually, we’ll find ourselves in the place that He wants us to be.  If we are obedient and listen to Him.

Noah: God Will Remember!

            Look at the first four words of Genesis 8: “But God remembered Noah . . .”  The previous verse says, “The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.”  Five months of sitting in the ark while the waters killed off everything around them.  Five months of being locked into a floating box, waiting for an indication of when the door would open.  Five months of waiting for God to move.  And then . . . God remembers them. 
            Do you ever feel forgotten by God?  I know I do.  I have been in my own floating box before, trapped and feeling like I was suffocating because God wasn’t opening a door.  I went through years of feeling this way.  Feeling like I was just waiting for God to open a door, point the way, or show me any indication that He was still there and that He cared about me.  Did He even remember that I was waiting for Him, pleading with Him?
            But if there is one thing I have learned from being trapped in my own floating box, it’s this: God will remember you!