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Doug’s Birthday

5 Feb

A tired and nervous new mommy and Doug.

Today is my son’s birthday which, of course, takes me back to the first time I saw him, the first time I held him, and the love that instantly began to flow through me toward him.

I’m thinking today about the hopes and dreams we have for our children.  And the fears we have for them.  I remember talking with my mother-in-law about this during a particularly tumultuous time during my sons’ teenage years.  I asked her how she managed her fear, because she has 17 children.  She looked at me with what I swear was confusion on her face and said, “Sue, I gave them to God when they were born.  Why would I be afraid?”

For her it was a done deal.  For me?  I keep giving and taking and giving and taking.  What about you?

When I get really afraid
I come to you in trust.
I’m proud to praise God;
fearless now, I trust in God.
What can mere mortals do?

Psalm 56:3,4 The Message

Waiting in the Lord

5 Jan

When I hope in the event, I feel like these flowers which always look semi-collapsed!

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Is. 40:31

To hope in the Lord is to wait for Him and expect Him.  The tense could be written more like this:  but those who are waiting in the Lord.  The promise given to people who are waiting is that they will renew their strength. I always thought about “will renew” as being in the future because waiting on the Lord can be so exhausting.

The tense renew is written in is used many ways, but as I reread it and think about it the following usage seems to be the best:  “The kind of progression or imperfection and unfinished condition  of the action may consist in its frequent repetition”.  (Online Hebrew Lexicon)  In other words waiting on the Lord results in renewed strength now and in the future.

One of the meanings for strength is wealth of soil.  This makes me think of Matthew 13:23:

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

I want to be fruitful and have a wealth of soil!  Iwas listening to Beth Moore the other day and she said that she realized that waiting is so exhausting because she was waiting on the event and not in the Lord.  Oh, did that ever clobber me upside the head.  That’s exactly it.  I’ve been waiting for my loved one to change/to live close to my grandchildren/my vertigo to stop instead of simply waiting on the Lord.  My focus has been on the event and not on Christ.  Help me refocus, Father, please.

3 Stages of Faith: Stage 3 — Faith in God

1 Dec

I love mystery books.  I say mystery books and not mysteries, because I like to know that the mystery will be solved.  I don’t like loose ends.  I hate it when I see part of a drama on the streets and don’t know what happened afterwards.  Although God is a mysterious God who works in mysterious ways, he has tied up the mystery.  The mystery is Christ.  Christ is “the mystery of God,” but no longer hidden, but manifested and meant for us to know to the fullness of our capacity.

I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery! I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or “the Secret.” Col. 2:2-4 The Message

As we pass through stage 2 faith, where our faith in faith system is dismantled by a loving God, we have the privilege to enter stage 3:  A mature faith in God no matter what happens.  Job reached that point.  He repented for his conditional faith, for his bartering,  and recognized God’s immensity.  (Job 42:1-6)

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. 1 Cor. 13:12  Amplified

Christ is the fulfilment of the mystery and as we gaze at Him, we become more and more trusting and content and rested and fearless because of His amazing love, grace, mercy, and holiness.  He is in us.  We are in Him.  He is under us, above us, and around us.  We are important to Him.  Not as a group, but as individuals.  He wants us to grow in Him and have a mature relationship with Him.

Mike Erre says,

“We don’t like mystery because mystery forces us to trust and wait and be patient.  Mystery is painful.  Mystery and patience are certainly not the American way.

Faith in God is the kind of faith that says, ‘It doesn’t matter if God answers my questions or removes my pain.  I am content with him.” — The Jesus of Suburbia pp. 132, 130

If Jesus is the mystery, look for the clues.  The clues that He loves you.  Today.  And.  Tomorrow.

3 Stages of Faith: Stage 2 — Faith in Faith Dismantled

29 Nov

The problem with what I call bartering faith or conditional faith and what the author of The Jesus of Suburbia, Mike Erre, calls “faith in faith” is that it is an immature faith.  For our faith to become mature, we need to stop relying on a bartering system with God and begin to rely on God himself in order to enter into true faith-rest.

In order to achieve a mature faith–in which we walk fearlessly KNOWING that God always knows what’s best for us–we need to have our works righteousness system dismantled.  And God so lovingly does that for us so we can grow.  We need to follow in Job’s footsteps and say, Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. (Job 13:15a)

God purposely introduces paradox, mystery, tension, and suffering into Job’s life in order to dismantle the religious system Job had set up.  Everything Job had hoped to gain through his religious performance (what we are calling “faith in faith”) was lost.

God sometimes, it seems, lets our systems crash, not because we’ve done something wrong but because he has something better for us.  — The Jesus of Suburbia pp. 127-128

I know many people who are casualties at this stage of faith development.  People who think they do not deserve suffering because they are good Christians and go to church  and perhaps even tithe.  People who turn away from growth because they like the simple bartering system.  (i.e. I give God something; He gives me something.)  God does not want to barter with us, He wants us to trust Him for who He is not what He gives.  He is not Santa Claus leaving coal or gifts in the stocking hung by the mantlepiece.  When our “faith in faith” systems crash, it gives us the opportunity to seek Him, to gaze at Him, to grow in Him.  To trust, not fear.

3 Stages of Faith: Stage 1 — Faith in Faith

27 Nov

A while back I mentioned that I was reading the book, The Jesus of Suburbia by Mike Erre.  I set it down for awhile and picked it back up yesterday.  I love the premise of this book:  that God is HUGE, mysterious, and paradoxically knowable–although far from predictable.

As I’ve studied the subject of fear, I’ve come to believe that the antidote for fear is faith.  Mr. Erre proposes three stages of faith as illustrated in the book of Job.  The first stage is demonstrated in Job 1:1-5:

1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.  4 His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

We see several important points in these verses:

1.  Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil,

2.  Job was rich,

3.  Job offered sacrifices for his children just in case they had sinned.

“We see throughout the book that the predominant paradign for understanding God was this:  If you do good things, God will reward and protect you.  If you do bad things, you will suffer and be punished. . . . [Job’s] faith wasn’t in God yet; it was in his own ability to please God through his religious activity.  His faith rested in his religious his religious performance.  That was why he sacrificed to God on behalf of his children. . . .There is no joy or peace in this kind of faith because whether or not we receive God’s blessing ultimately rests on us.  We have to get everything just right.” — The God of Suburbia p. 125, 126

Bartering faith.  Erre calls it having faith in faith.  If I do this, God will do that. For this to function, we have to be always scanning our behavior.  Am I praying enough?  Reading my Bible enough?  Am I loving my neighbor as myself?  The whole thing comes down to a question of motive:  Am I praying because I want to communicate with my Lord or because I want blessings?  Am I reading my Bible because I have a vital need to hear from Jesus or because I want to be rewarded for my faithfulness?  Am I bringing my neighbor cookies because I want to be seen as loving or because the love of God is flowing through me?  Sometimes we don’t even know our own motives.  Faith in faith will not deliver us from fear, worry, or anxiety.  In the end it makes us more anxious because it’s all about us!

Reality vs. Fantasy

24 Nov

Pansies or Little Friends?? Reality or Fantasy??

When I teach storytelling seminars, I always remind the storytellers to separate out reality and fantasy for the little guys.  When we create a fantasy world for them, they can easily believe that monsters are real!

Speaking of confusing reality and fantasy, last night I was partially awakened by Mike thrashing around in bed while dreaming and then thoroughly awakened when he grabbed my stomach in his fist and squeezed as hard as he could.  He snapped awake when I screamed and explained, “Nicholas Cage was going to kill me!” and then apologized profusely for hurting me.

We often get reality and fantasy mixed up when we believe Satan’s lies instead of God’s Truth. In John 8:44 we see Jesus speaking to the Pharisees giving a description of just how Satan operates:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

What lies does Satan whisper in your ear?  You’re not good enough??  Things will never change??  You’re not thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough??  You’re a terrible mother, wife, daughter??  Turn to Christ and believe what He says about you:

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:31, 32

When we believe what God’s Word says about us–we are free, from many things–but in this context we are free from believing the fantasy  lies that the devil tells us.  The reality is we are (according to Ephesians 1: 3-11) blessed, holy, blameless, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and chosen.  Rest in that!

Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/powi/3738303395/

True Bravery: Believing God

21 Nov

Facing life head-on with faith in God = fearlessless

A woman (who I will call Maria, although that is not her real name) began attending our church and received Christ as her Lord and Savior.  One day she asked to meet with my husband, Mike (a.k.a. the pastor), and consulted with him about her situation. Her husband was dead, and she was currently someone’s mistress.  She wanted to know if this was wrong.

 If you’re anything like me, the word “mistress” conjures up a picture of a kept woman living in utter luxury.  Well, disabuse yourself of that notion.  “Maria” lives in abject poverty and met with this man so her family could survive.  Mike explained that she was prostituting herself–not for money, but for food.  Jobs are very hard to come by, but he encouraged her to believe in God as her provider. 
And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. {Jehovahjireh: that is, The Lord will see, or, provide}  Genesis 22:14 KJV
“Maria” did choose to believe that God sees her needs and the needs of her children and would provide for them.  She stopped seeing this man and JEHOVAH-JIRAH has provided. 
 
She puts me to shame.  She was willing to face life head on–including gambling the survival of her children–with “only” her belief in God’s faithful provision.  How often do we evade faith lessons in our lives? 
 
 

Cut to the Core

14 Nov

Spirit vs. Flesh

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).  Galatians 5:16 Amp.

I don’t know where I got this chart, but I wrote it in my Bible and it seems appropriate to meditate on today as I reflect on how many fears, anxieties, and worries result from living in the flesh. 

Life in the Flesh                                                                    Life in the Spirit

My will be done.                   ← Core Attitude→          Thy will be done.

I expect good things.             ←Core Hope→              I expect to become like Jesus.

I will do it.                                ←Core Strategy→          I trust God.

I must get it right.             ← Core Experience→       I celebrate God’s glory.

I live to be blessed.               ←Core Passion→           I live to know Christ.

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. Galatians 5:16 Message

Roll Your Work

31 Oct

Roll your work upon the Lord

Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed. Proverbs 16:3

The scientific definition of work is Work=Force x Distance. For example: we apply force to a wheelbarrow and it moves in the direction we push it in.  My definition of work is anything that makes you sweat–metaphorically or physically. 

We are to roll our work (sometimes translated as burdens) onto the Lord.  What is a heavy weight for us is a feather to Him.  We do this knowing the incredible love he has for us.  When we do this (and don’t fear and worry make us sweat?) our thoughts become aligned with His and become firm.  The more we do it, the firmer they become.  Here’s to rolling and firming!  (Please imagine the clink of coffee cups in a toast right now.)

From Tumulated to Stable

29 Oct

Seek to know Jesus

OK, I admit it.  I’ve fallen in love with the word tumulated.  I’d never even heard of it before I began studying Psalm 42.  My American Dictionary of the English Language says that tumult means:  The commotion, disturbance or agitation of a multitude, usually accompanied with great noise, uproar and confusion of voices.  Isn’t that how we feel when our soul is disturbed?  Tumulated? 

We recently had to make a decision whether to stay here in Guayaquil for the school year 2011-2012.  The deadline to decide was last Friday.  I was definitely tumulated in the week leading up to the decision.  I listened to many voices inside me:  the voices of our church; the voices from another church that had asked Mike to work with them; the voices of my children, grandchildren, and siblings; the voices of my job; and the voice of my tiredness. 

The morning before we decided, God’s peace washed over us both.  We were in agreement.  We would commit to another school year beyond this one, which commits us to another joyful year with the church in Guayaquil. 

I yearn to be stable, though, and not tumulated.  I yearn not to be tossed to and fro by the waves of life.  I yearn to walk gracefully through times of decision.  So many times God has proved himself.  I don’t know why I continue to tumulate.

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Eph. 4:11-16 NKJ

It seems to me that the road to stability would be:

  • Learn from wonderful men and women of God;
  • Come to know Jesus; and
  • Grow in Christ becoming an edifying part of His Body.

Today I challenge myself to receive, grow, know Christ, and edify others. 

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind [tumulating].  James 1:6