“You Gotta Have Faith”

(1 Kings 17: 10-15)  When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.


Choosing to obey when it’s difficult is putting your faith into action.  I’ve always wondered why the widow in this account chose to believe what Elijah was telling her… promises that must have seemed lofty and somewhat sketchy at best.  But she did it.  I wonder, did she give up the last of her food because of the strength of her faith, or was it more of a gamble at seeing if this God would be true to His promises?  Maybe she said to herself, “It’s our last meal anyway.  We are going to starve either way, so I may as well feed this fellow too.”  However, it is also possible that something within her organically and innately just believed.

In our own lives, our faith often mirrors this widow…on both ends of the spectrum.  Sometimes our faith is strong and we jump right off of the cliff, KNOWING that we’ll be cushioned and held.  Yet at other times, it really is just a gamble.  We want to believe, but circumstance has brought us to a place of insecurity and doubt…yet off we go, over the edge, because we have nothing left to lose. 

Whether you act out of excitement or because of desperation, it’s all faith.  The faith is there, because movement and action…obedience…they require faith.  So don’t worry that when you jumped you were desperate or afraid, questioning even.  YOU JUMPED.  That’s what matters.  Moving forward in obedience…that’s faith.  When you’re still just standing there on the edge, questioning…pondering…trying to figure it all out…deciding…that’s when you should be worried about the measure of your faith.  Big faith isn’t always believing for the miraculous.  Sometimes big faith is making the sacrifices that are necessary.  Big faith is active.  So even when it hurts, move.  Even when you’re afraid, just jump.  Step over the edge and revel in the freedom that comes when you just obey.


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I recognize that weakness comes from being sedentary.  Give me faith to continue on, no matter the sacrifice, regardless of how I feel.  My strength comes from You alone, and I am made stronger in my faith by moving forward at all times.  I trust You, Lord, in all things.  Amen.

But I Don’t WANNA!

(1 Samuel 3: 11-18) 11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’” 15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.” Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”


Obedience is hard.  It just is!  Even when we’re grounded, and we’re fully committed, being obedient is difficult because it requires something substantial from us…humility.  For most people, humility is a personal sacrifice because to submit to someone else means that you have not only given up “ownership” of your life, but you have also said with your actions that you are not the one who matters most.

I’m sure it was more difficult than one could imagine for Samuel to share with Eli what God had shown him.  After all, it was harsh, and Eli had been Samuel’s surrogate father, his teacher, and his mentor for most of his life.  We know that Samuel laid awake until morning, seemingly in dread of having to be the bearer of such a “hard word” (as they say).  He didn’t want to do it.  His flesh resisted obedience, just like it all-too-often will.  However, when Eli demanded to know all, Samuel’s response was of the highest regard and the greatest humility…he held nothing back. 

Shouldn’t this be our response too, not only to God but also to those who have been given authority over us?  For in truth, if we are humble, then it’s not about ourselves anyway, and personal sacrifice then comes into play.  Fears are set aside, comfort is surrendered, we give our all, we tell the truth, we love by serving, and we OBEY. 

Sometimes part of serving God is submitting to the unpleasant.  We have to realize, like Eli, that the Lord is sovereign.  The Bible tells us that a man reaps what he sows, and unfortunately (even under the grace of Christ) the repercussions of sin must come to pass.  Consequences are absolutely unavoidable, but as God’s children we must recognize that He is the father and as such we must give to him the trust and respect he is owed.  In the words of Eli, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”

1 Peter 5:6  tells us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”  When we have been able to come to a place of humility and obedience, we become malleable in the hands of the Creator, who desires to make something marvelous and incomparable out of our lives…so that when He has completed the work within us, He is able to lift us up over His head as if to say, “Look at this masterpiece!”

(Psalm 25:9) He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”


Prayer:  Father God, I realize that without you I am nothing.  I accept your will and I recognize your providence in my life, even when I am facing consequence and hardship.  Help me to be humble in all ways, submitting myself as a servant to your call on my life.  I know that this is what you require of me if I am to be shaped and taught by you, my Creator and Lord.  Amen.

It’s Cold… So Plant!

Luke 13:18- He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

A mustard seed.

It’s the smallest of all seeds, yet grows to be the largest of all garden plants. It has several uses across the planet that stretch from spices used in cooking to oils used in body massages. And, the fact that fascinates me most is that it germinates best when placed in a cold atmosphere and relatively moist soil.

I love that because the mustard seed is referenced to on multiple occasions throughout Scripture, and therefore I look at everything about the little guys through a different viewpoint. So, when I read that mustard seeds grow best in colder temperatures, my heart felt a quiver of hope. Why?

Because the world in which we live is a cold one. People are cruel. Times are hard. Money is short. Bills are unending. Fear is celebrated. Christianity is mocked. It’s not uncommon for us to feel defeated, hindered, and/or ineffective. When your desire is to see peace and joy in the eyes of those around you, and your heart longs for hurting souls to find rest and solace in Jesus Christ, when we focus on the coldness that surrounds, we’ll forever feel like it’s impossible. (Matthew 19:26- But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”)

We just need mustard-seed-size faith! Just a tiny little fragment that we can plant somewhere in this bitter world. That’s all it takes. (Matthew 17:20- “…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”) It will take a little time to germinate underneath the soil that will remain unseen by us. But, one day soon after we’ll see a little sprout coming up from the surface, which will continue to grow into something vast; Proof that even in the coldest of atmospheres, fresh beginnings can indeed come to life.

The Kingdom of God cannot be defeated or stumped. God can take the tiniest amount of faith, the smallest act of obedience, and the most miniscule effort and form it into something vastly beautiful. It reminds me of a song I learned in Sunday School years ago,

“In the harvest field now ripened, there’s a work for all to do; Hark the voice of God is calling, to the harvest calling you. Little is much when God’s in it. Labor not for wealth or fame; There’s a crown, and you can win it! If you go in Jesus’ name.”

With all the pressures of life, we sometimes deceive ourselves into believing that there is just as much stress to be felt when living for and serving God. We have to let it sink in real deep that He is the one that does all the work. We just have to be obedient, do our small task, (plant the seed), and watch Him bring it to fruition.

So, don’t be discouraged when you look around and see the condition of the world we’re living in. Instead, thank God that He can make our little mustard seeds grow right in the midst of it. Check your faith today. Surely you have a tiny bit, right? Well, that’s all it takes! God can and will use that!

Prayer: Lord, I love You and thank You today for taking my smallest efforts and making something big and beautiful with them. I pray that You continue to grow the seeds I plant, and the faith with which I plant them. Thank You for Your faithfulness! In Your name, amen.

Where Are You Taking Me?

Mark 8:22-25-  And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to Him a blind man and begged Him to touch him. And He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when He had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees walking.” Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

 
When I was a child, one of my favorite places to play was our attic. It was fairly large, very well-organized, and the perfect little hideaway for a gal that liked to dream and imagine. I had a few lamps plugged in up there, a recliner we no longer used, and all my favorite books and journals. It was my favorite place…

Until that night.

I was making my way to the back of the attic… during a storm. I wanted to get all cozy up there and read a little while listening to the rain hit our roof. I was even allowing my little brother and sister to join me. Just as I reached the back, BANG! Lightning hit somewhere not too far away and all the power went off in the house… including my little plugged-in lamps. With no windows and the darkness that loomed about outside, everything went black. I blindly reached for my siblings and led them as best I could out of the attic. We made it out after what seemed like forever, and the fear that had been hot on my trail finally grabbed me. The thought of being alone in that attic in the pitch black sent shivers down my spine. Never again. I decided to try out the front porch from that day forward…

I’m now 28 years old… but I’m not afraid to say that I still don’t like walking around in the dark. I’m still frightened at the possibility of someone… something lurking around a corner that I can’t see. (Talk about a legit case of the heebee-jeebees.) Unless something extremely important demands I do it, I just don’t. Simple. There’s not an overabundance of scenarios that are more unsettling to me.

I can only begin to imagine how this blind man felt in Mark 8. Scripture says some people brought him to Jesus, but I’m sure it was people he knew; people he was comfortable with. How was he feeling, though, when this Man he’d never met takes him by the hand and leads him away from the people, sounds, and streets that were familiar? Living with no vision offered little sense of security, and that all lied within the walls he had always known. Where was he headed now?

Do you ever feel like that blind man? You know Jesus; Who He is and what He’s capable of… but does He ever lead you on these journeys that take you far away from your comfort zone? Of course He does! While I can guarantee that it is never His intention to scare us, I can just as accurately promise that He doesn’t want us to stay in the same place for the rest of our lives. He longs to take us by the hand and lead us out away from the voices that echo all around us; from the walls that have long surrounded and held us captive; from the place that over time convinced us it was okay to live with whatever ailed us.

Jesus, however, knows much better! He longs to give us our vision back completely! That blind man was used to seeing nothing but utter darkness. The first time Jesus touched him provided a better way of living, no doubt. He could make out shapes and sizes and movement. (“I see people, but they look like trees walking.”)  But that wasn’t enough. He spent just a little more time with Jesus and his sight was fully restored! (Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.)

The more time we spend with Jesus the more we’ll learn to trust Him. The more we trust Him, the clearer our “vision” will become. When He grabs our hand and starts directing us down some unknown path, we won’t hesitate to move our feet. We’ll see over and over again how He can offer us restoration like nothing else ever could.

Don’t live with your “blindness.” Don’t settle for groping around in the darkness, relying on the walls you’ve gotten used to. Make your way to the Savior and follow Him wherever He leads you. There’s always a blessing waiting!

 

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for opening my eyes to Your truth. But, God, I know there’s still so much more for me to learn. I long to grow in You, and I understand that in order to know You better, I must follow wherever You lead. Help me trust You more and more. In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.

 

He Gave You More than Enough!

Matthew 15:32-38 – Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

 

Sunday mornings… My favorite time of the week. Roll out of bed, blare some worship music, keep Jesus at the forefront of my mind, enter a sanctuary designated for holiness, and spend a time of worship and Word with those who share my faith. There’s just nothing better. But, let’s be completely honest- we can’t hardly make it through a two hour service without our stomachs rumbling and our minds wandering trying to decide what we’re going to grab for lunch after church. Yet, this large crowd, sat there with Jesus for three days – three days – without a bite to eat. Mothers wrestled with cranky children; husbands comforted tired wives… or did they? Could it be that they were so enamored with the words and miracles of Jesus Christ that they couldn’t get themselves to leave His presence? Were they able to clear their minds of earthly desires to the point that hunger pangs went unnoticed?

Our lives today are filled with so much. I’m sure each one of us could find something to direct our attention to nearly every moment of every day. But, do we fall in love with the voice of Jesus when we hear Him speak? Do we make time to listen? If we did, we would see the same compassion and miracle working power he displayed in this passage. We would hear the instruction He daily gives us to go out into a world that’s hurting and hungry- and offer them the only Thing that will forever satisfy. He is concerned with our spiritual and physical well-being. He is ever mindful of us, and no discomfort we face is unseen by Him. And, He has every capability of meeting our every need.

Knowing that, puts us in the place His disciples were in this story. We witness and understand His compassion to those hungering for Him; we tell Him what we have to offer; He then blesses, provides, and asks us to share the experiences we’ve just been a part of. At that moment, it’s imperative that we turn and give back to the crowds that have been waiting to receive something from Him. We are His hands and feet. Although this quote may seem cliche, it’s entirely true- “You (or I) may be the only Jesus someone ever sees.” What are we showing them? How are we introducing Him to those around us? Even when we find ourselves in the most desolate of places, He can still bless what we have. That’s His specialty. Growing flowers in the desert, parting oceans, and using broken people. He does what people don’t expect… When you think you’re only putting limitations on yourself, you’re hindering Him from achieving something amazing through you!

He has more than enough to meet the needs of us all. In this passage, He chose to use what the disciples already had to feed the crowd. He could have rained manna from heaven or brought honey from a rock. But, I believe He wanted to show us that although what we have may seem insufficient, when He puts His blessing on it, it’ll be more than enough. (And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.)

We humans have a real problem of noticing every fault we have. We cringe at our shortcomings and are ashamed of what we consider to be our inadequacies. Thank goodness the power doesn’t depend on us. It rests in Him! (Philippians 4:13- I can do all things THROUGH Him Who strengthens me.)

Just offer Him what You have! Then, be willing to be the vehicle He uses to deliver His goodness to those around you waiting. Just like He took a few loaves and fish and fed more than 4,000 people, He can use your few words and acts of obedience to fill the voids the multitudes we encounter daily are dealing with. He blessed you… now, turn around and bless the crowd.

 

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the many blessings You bestow on my life. Please, bless and multiply what little ability I have to help someone hungering for You. Help me hear You speak and give me the determination to always obey. In Your precious name I pray, amen.

God Doesn’t Make Suggestions

1 Chronicles 13:1-10- David consulted with the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader. And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and from the Lord our God… … let us bring again the ark of God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul. All the assembly agreed to do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people… … And David and all Israel went up… to bring up from there the ark of God… And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might… And when they came to the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah…

 

I’ve been a believer in Jesus Christ for 21 years now. I was only 7 years old when I felt a tug on my heart while my pastor was preaching. I remember walking down the aisle, kneeling my little self down at the altar, and crying when my pastor began talking to me.

“Kristi, do you want Jesus to live in your heart?”

I nodded.

“What would you like to tell Him?”

“Umm… that I’m sorry for being bad… and I want Him to help me be good… … … and I love Him!”

My pastor smiled, said a sweet prayer with me, and hugged me before I walked back to my seat… my life changed forever.

 

As much as I wholeheartedly love my Savior, I hate to admit there have been times I’ve simply grown accustomed to Him. Walking with Him just became “part of my life.” Saying I was a Christian- a follower of Christ- became a mere label I stuck on myself. While I definitely want His presence to be a natural part of my life, I never want to lose the wonder and awe that comes when encountering Him for the first time. When I don’t consistently commune with and worship Him… When I fail to recognize Who He is… I can take advantage of His grace and fail to give Him the reverence (and obedience) that He undoubtedly deserves.

That’s what happened here with Uzzah, I believe. See, God had given Moses strict instructions on how to handle the building and transportation of the ark. (The ark symbolized the presence of God.) Exodus 25 lays out exactly how God wanted it constructed. Numbers 4:15 plainly states that “no one should touch the holy things…”  Numbers 7 shows us who God intended carry the ark and how they should do so.

We learn in 2 Samuel 6:3 that Uzzah had been around the ark daily for a while. “And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab,  which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, with the ark of God…”

The ark of God was kept in Uzzah’s home for some length of time. Could it be that he had become accustomed to it? Could the ark have become so familiar to him that he had forgotten the Holiness and Authority it represented?

What he did seemed so innocent… good, actually. The oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out to make sure the ark didn’t fall off the cart. He was just trying to help God, right? But, who was he? How was he going to assist the Almighty God? God didn’t need his help; He wanted his obedience. (“no one should touch the holy things…”)  The ark of God was never supposed to be put on a cart in the first place. Remember Numbers 7? (…the sons of Koath… were charged with the service of the holy things which were to be carried on the shoulder…) We must be careful not to overstep. God is indeed gracious and full of mercy, but He is just, righteous, and sovereign, and He demands respect. He doesn’t make suggestions for us… He gives us instruction. When we choose to go our own way, do our own thing… we make a mess.

When we grow too comfortable with the things of God, we tend to lose trust in His promises and faith in His abilities, before we even realize it. This, too, could have been where Uzzah was. He acted too quickly in his flesh. When the oxen stumbled, he jumped in to secure the ark before he could even gather his thoughts. It’s human instinct to react to something the instant we think it could possibly fall or break. But, if his spirit had been tuned into the wisdom of God, he would’ve understood that God would have taken care of the situation and not contradict His command.

We have to humble ourselves daily. Every morning we need to remind ourselves Who God is. When we do this, we’ll understand He gives commands for a reason, and at no time are we given authority to overstep Him… even if it seems to be a good thing. (Proverbs 14:12)

Prayer: God, I humble myself today when I recall Your majesty and sovereignty. You are Almighty God and deserve reverence, respect, and my obedience. Draw me closer to You today. I love You. Amen.

May I Put You on Hold?

1 Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Arise, and depart with your household, and sojourn wherever you can, for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will come upon the land for seven years.” 2 So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. 3 And at the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she went to appeal to the king for her house and her land….. 6 And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, “Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.”

I must confess that being put on hold frustrates me. Sometimes it feels like I’m being put in a closet while the person on the other line goes on a break to get a fresh cup of coffee! I know that’s not true, (at least, I hope it’s not!) but it’s frustrating none the less. Sometimes being put on hold is necessary so that the right individual can be located, or until they can complete a call they are already on. To me, the very worst is being put on hold without any background music. Even though I may not particularly care for the music selection, at least I know that I’m still connected; when there is no music, I begin to wonder if I was disconnected. Still, when asked, “May I put you on hold?” I generally agree.

I was thinking about the woman in our scripture text today and wondered what it might have been like to be told by the prophet that she would be put “on hold” for 7 years. She had been the recipient of a life-giving miracle when her son had died. God raised him back to life and they were living in the moment of divine blessing. But, then…

The prophet instructed her to do the following:

  • Depart from this land. (God had called for a famine)
  • Take your entire household with you.
  • Go wherever you want to go. (The destination was not important.)

I looked, and then I looked again to see if the prophet included a promise of restoration. There is none. Only a call for obedience. I guess the word “sojourn” might be the closest thing to a promise because it would indicate a continual journey that might ultimately lead them back home. But that is a stretch… Instead, the prophet’s words are a simple explanation of God’s intention to put famine upon the nation for a period of 7 years.

So, what does one do when God calls for obedience without a corresponding promise of blessing? Scripture clearly records her response in verse 2. “So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.” I don’t see any questions. No discussion. No attitude. No rebellion. Just simple obedience. Her whole life was being put on hold, primarily because of the sins of others, and she basically responds with a shrug of the shoulders and a resounding, “Let’s roll!”

How did she have the courage to leave her comfort zone to journey into the unknown? Simple. She trusted that the word of the prophet reflected the love of God for her. After all, she had already received her son back to life because of the goodness of God. She could not see, and had not been told what the end result would be. She trusted God.

Sometimes the story ends right there. Just obedience. The writer of Hebrews tells us,

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:32-40)

At other times the story ends with greater blessing than we previously possessed. After 7 years, the woman returned home and requested her land be returned. The King appointed her own representative to see that her holdings were returned, AND that she was given ALL the fruit that was yielded from her land during the 7 years.

Are you on hold? If so, simply trust the Lord and know that your future is in His hands!

PRAYER: Father, my past experience with you allows me to trust during seasons of uncertainty. When I’m traveling a winding road, I’m able, by faith, to trust that you are directing my steps. Thank you for that confidence!

Sink or Swim

(Philippians 2: 12-13)  Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

No one ever said it would be easy…this pursuit of righteousness that we begin when we choose to live for Christ.  In fact, sometimes doing what’s right is the absolute hardest thing to do.  Sure, there are those who make righteousness and godliness look easy.  My grandmother was one of those people.  She just always did the right thing.  She was kind, thoughtful, reverent, prayerful, considerate, loving, generous, hard-working, accepting, forgiving, and just as Christ-like as a person could ever be.  Her life was a basket that was overflowing with every fruit of the spirit — and it spilled out into the paths of every person who ever had the pleasure of meeting her.  She made it look so easy.

Then there are people like me.  I have always sort of struggled with right and wrong.  I don’t typically see things in black and white, so the line between just seems a bit vague to me.  I’m a questioner and a skeptic, so I never take things as they are presented to me.  I want to know why.  I crave a deeper understanding.  I wanted to be one of those people who just ease into obedience and holiness without question, and I felt bad for having questions and for needing to know so much extra from God.  So many times I have stifled my own reservations and uncertainties, because I felt I should just be able to naturally trust and obey.  But it just isn’t easy for me…

But what are the “results” of our salvation?  Does that equate to ease and perfection?  Does that mean that we are all the same, without questions and struggles?  Of course not!  No!  These “results” are the obvious changes that are taking place in our lives as we go through our metamorphoses in Christ.  They are the things that make us unique individuals who are actively overcoming the battles that we face, both internally as well as on the surface. 

Whether we make it look easy, because it just somehow does come to us fluidly, never making any waves, or whether we are ones who jump in feet first and spend the majority of our swim thrashing and trying desperately to keep our heads above water, we are all in the same ocean together.  It’s a long swim, friends.  We are so blessed to have one another to hold onto when the waters get choppy and the waves overcome us.  We may look out at the vast and endless sea of our lives and think, “How can I do this with no end in sight?”  But God hasn’t called us to know it all — to have the answers we need.  He has called us to jump in, and our only job is to trust and obey, holding onto the anchor that is His word.  We can’t give up when it gets hard, because our lives are a testament to what He can and will do when we obey…so that others may see and know the beauty of this transfiguration that takes place when we offer our lives to Him. 

My life looks nothing like my grandmother’s life.  And do you know what?  That is okay.  It’s great even!  Because God created me to be exactly as I am.  My story will speak to others where my grandmother’s cannot.  My heart can go out to people that my grandmother’s could not.  My life is my own — in all of its frantic, mistake-laden, problematic flailing — it is mine, and I am going to work hard to show the results of my salvation.  When I mess up, I’ll keep on doggy-paddling, backstroking, treading water, or whatever I have to do!  Because I’ve come too far to drown now!

I can promise you this, you may not always want to do what’s right.  Sometimes it just feels good to be bad, because sin is what the flesh craves…day and night…and we tend to give into it from time to time.  However, remember that we are all works in progress.  God is doing a thing within us all — and if we are reverent, obedient, and daily seeking a deeper relationship with Him, then He will be faithful to His word…empowering us with the desire to please Him in every way with our lives.  Without Him, we simply cannot do it. 

It’s sink or swim, friends. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when it feels like I’m in over my head, when things aren’t easy and I want to give up, help me to remember that I am not alone.  Give me every ounce of strength and desire that I need to keep my head above water…no matter what.  Amen.

It’s Time to Quit Running Down the Hall

1 Samuel 3- “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.4 Then the LORD called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.6 And the LORD called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said,“Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.8 And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak,LORD, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.10 And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”…  (LATER) 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me… 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him.” 19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.”

Has there ever been a time in your life where you felt like something was compelling you to do, say, or try something? It seemed to originate from nothing, so you threw the idea around for a few, but then tossed it to the side, because it wasn’t making sense? You tried to have some heart-to-heart talks with people you’re close to, to see if they could give you any answers, but they acted oblivious to it all?

That’s how it was for Samuel. He hadn’t quite learned how to recognize God’s voice, and when He called for him, it left him running after someone else’s explanation. When none could be given, he went back to his normal state; but it happened again a couple more times. Thankfully, when he ran down the hall, he found someone with wisdom, able to tell him Who it was calling for him. But, do you ever get confused?

The first part of this passage reminds me so much of the world in which we live today. “And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision…” Commentators say that Eli and Samuel’s nation had become so impure and so corrupt that God withdrew the gift/spirit of prophecy. Sadly, it had become an uncommon and unpopular thing to listen to and heed the voice of God. Sounds a little bit familiar, huh?

Don’t let this discourage you, though! Just as He spoke to Samuel back then, He’s still speaking to people today. And it might even be you!

Sometimes we let our age convince us that we’re too young or too old to be called of God. Let this report prove otherwise. Samuel was just a child and Eli was very old, but they were still serving very big purposes. Got is not restricted by time in anyway, and therefore, age is never a factor in His decision to call. Maybe you feel “too new” to the faith, unqualified and unequipped, for God to speak to and use you. Again, this is in no way a hindrance to your ability to be called of the Lord. “God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.” There’s more proof in this Scripture to confirm this truth: “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.” Samuel wasn’t well-versed in the ways of God just yet, but he had a willing heart. God saw that willingness and called out to the boy.

By reading about Samuel, we quickly learn that he was not only willing, but obedient. Obedience is another attribute that “attracts” the call of the Lord. You don’t have to have all the answers, amazing talent, or even incredible resources for God to call you. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to have any of that whatsoever. You just have to be willing to listen for Him and obey.

Eventually, we have to quit “running down the hall,”  if you will. We can’t continually rely on someone else to tell us when and/or if God is the One speaking to us. Sure, sometimes, we might need that assistance from someone put in our life for such reasons, but we must develop our spiritual senses to recognize Him when He calls our name.

God uses the very uniqueness He implanted in us when He created us to bring about different, yet necessary, things to pass for the Kingdom of God, so don’t always expect something “simple” or “reasonable.” God has His own creative way of doing things. He will always find a way to achieve His will, but don’t you want to be a part of that? Aren’t you curious to learn what exciting path He will lead you down? Where will He position you? What is it He’s calling you to do?

There’s no reason to fear it or dread it. You’re never alone. “And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall…” He’ll walk with you each step of the way. He’ll give you strength, bravery, and boldness when it’s needed. Just open up your heart to hear Him speak. He’s calling you…

Prayer: Lord, speak to me today. Silence all other voices buzzing around me so that I may clearly hear You. Give me strength to always be willing to obey whatever it is You call me to do. Thank You for Your faithfulness, Your confidence in me, and the proof You give us in Your word that You will speak to and use anyone longing to hear You. Keep me close to You. In Your name, amen.

When You’re Marching Around in Circles

Joshua 6:1-5, 7, 15-17, 20-  Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in.  And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.  You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days.  Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.  And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat… And he (Joshua) said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord…” On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times.  And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.  And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord…” So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.”

 

If you ever need more proof that God’s thoughts far exceed any we’re capable of having, read the account of Joshua, the Israelites, and the city of Jericho. How a nation of people conquered a city by simply marching around in circles and yelling a little bit beats me. But, that’s because I’m not the One in control…

I know when we read Scripture it’s hard for us to imagine Moses, David, and Joshua as anything but spiritual giants. And while their faith is for sure something to admire, we also have to remember they were humans just like us. They doubted. They failed. They questioned God’s commands, were clueless about His motives, and probably struggled sometimes to obey Him.

I’m sure this was one time in particular where Joshua just didn’t get it. He marched around the city again and again, trying to figure out how this simple action would do any good. I’m sure he was waiting for an earthquake or some strong winds to assist them in weakening the city’s foundation, but neither happened. Still, Joshua knew his God and the might with which He reigned, so he continued to round those corners. He was going to walk… and then he was going to shout… and somehow those walls would fall and that city would be theirs.

Honestly, when following after God, it’s not our actions, per se, that get the job done, whether we consider them great or foolish. No matter how much we learn or how big our muscles get, if God has a plan for something, our knowledge and strength couldn’t stop it. That being said, even if His instruction sounds a little “off” to us, that doesn’t matter either. Because, the success of anything hinges on His approval and presence… which accompany our obedience.

There’ve been plenty of moments in my life where I’ve felt like I was walking in circles with the Lord. I didn’t see any progress being made, no walls coming down, and no victory in the near future. I knew God had made me promises and no one could make me doubt what He had said. Yet, even when trying hard to obey, I questioned His motives and His plan.

God, if You said “this,” why isn’t it coming to pass? When You promised “that,” I would’ve thought it would have happened sooner. You gave us “this” vision, but why are You still telling us to wait? I’m doing the same things, at the same places, with the same surroundings, and nothing seems to be changing.

Then it hit me… or maybe He gently showed me, that my realm of vision is very limited. I can only see so high, so far, and so clearly. He sits high enough that His vision is never obstructed. Because He’s omnipresent, He can see all things at all times in all places. And because He is the very source and definition of wisdom, He knows exactly what to do and at what time it should be done.

We’ve seen Him work things out enough in our lives that we shouldn’t have a problem trusting Him with anything… but we do. Just catch yourself quickly and remind yourself that you’ve always been taken care of and there’s no reason why this time will be any different. What He does doesn’t always make sense in our finite minds. I get that, fully. Still, His way ALWAYS accomplishes the most and brings perfect peace. So, let’s just trust Him and obey.

You might be walking today. But you could be shouting tomorrow… while staking claims on your next victory.

 
Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your wisdom that You give to all of us liberally when we ask for it. Thank You for Your patience with us when we constantly question Your ways. Build our faith daily. Strengthen our trust. Fix our hearts and minds on Your will. Help us push aside all noises that drown out Your voice so we can follow You unhindered. In Jesus’ name we pray this. Amen.