Friday, September 30, 2011

By Faith

One of my favorite chapters in the New Testament is Hebrews 11: (NLT)

Great Examples of Faith
1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. 2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.”[a] For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. 6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed[b] that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.

13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.

21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.

22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.

23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.

24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. 27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. 28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.

29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.

30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

It is hard to live in the present- letting the Lord shape and mold us into the daughters and sons He has called us to be. I, for one, am not a very patient person. I have my moments and I learn from them... usually the hard way. Often, when things aren't moving the way I'd like, I have been known to do everything in my power to change the circumstances I am in so that I do not have to deal with the pain that comes from waiting on the Lord. My faith, at times, seems very shallow and muddied with false truths that say, "I am capable to stand on my own, to make my own choices, to do what I need to get done." I feel disappointment with God's plan for my life when I look at friends that seem to have the life I want. I become jealous at the seemingly successful marriages and the new families, wondering if and when it will be my turn. In my rebellion, with a quick turn from the Lord's promises to me, God suddenly becomes a big bully rather than a suffering Savior. Yet, He gently calls me back to himself, and reminds me of the ways he has and continues to use me. I am humbled and find myself back on my knees time and time again, begging Him to cleanse my heart and to help me trust Him and His plan for me.

I am comforted by the characters of scripture that waited and trusted the Lord, especially in times of trouble. The men and women that God has used in significant ways in the Bible weren't superheroes either (Praise the Lord!)- they struggled with patience and faith throughout the scriptures. Yet, the Lord put His hands on them and gave them purpose in those years of waiting on the Lord, by letting them take part in an even greater story. None of them have seen the completed story. Neither have we.

Rinehart writes, "If you have traveled far at all in this journey with the Lord, you know the significance of that phrase- to smile at the future. How do you do that when you are staring in the face of what's been lost along the way? How do you look with hope to the future, if the present is vastly different than you anticipated? Smiling at the future is possible if it holds all you've longed for." Your faith is not a story you made up so you could sleep better at night. The fairy tale does come true. It's just not now. Not here. And not yet. We smile because God always has more to this story. We live in hope because whatever tragedy strikes (and believe me, it can strike hard), it CANNOT usurp the blessing of God on our lives as we walk with Him.

I am reminded of David, who said "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13) Have faith, dear friends, for this adventure you and I are on actually leads somewhere! Whatever you are struggling with in your heart, know that the King has something beautiful planned for all of us in the end. He uses the suffering we experience to grow us and to act out the Gospel for the world to see. Rinehart writes, "God takes us down some narrow paths, full of briars and thorns. Would we come, by any easy route, to those broad, open spaces where his grace is poured out through our cracked pots into the lives of others? Would we find our dancing shoes any other way?"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eyes on the Prize

I lovvvvvve Sara Groves. I've had this new song on repeat. Here's the link and the words are below:

Eyes on the Prize

Paul and Silas, bound in jail,
Got no money for the good they bail(?),
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

Paul and Silas thought they lost,
The dungeon shook and the chains fell off,
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

Freedom's name is mighty sweet,
and one day soon we are gonna meet.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

Got my hand on the gospel plow,
Won't take nothing for the journey now.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

The wait is slow,
And we've so far to go.
Keep your eyes on the prize, (x2)
Hold on.

The only (?) chain a man can stand
is that chain of hand in hand,
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

Ain't no man on earth control
The weight of glory on a human soul.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.


When you see a man walk free,
It makes you dream of jubilee.

When you see a child walk free,
It makes you dream of jubliee.

When you see a family free,
It makes you dream of jubilee.

Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Only God Can Name Me

I read a little this morning from Paula Rinehart's "Better Than My Dreams". In it, she writes, "God wants us to listen through the noise: there is a Voice, and that Voice predates every negative voice in your head. His deeper magic is truth. No abuse can undo it. No condemning words in your past absolutely have to shape your future. There is a deeper magic, and it's unspeakably strong stuff. We have been ushered into life with an invitation engraved in blood, delivered in the body of a suffering God with our names on His lips. The road home, always, is allowing myself to be brought back to this simple place over and over again- and often by the impetus of a difficult relationship. I let the love and blessing of Christ on my life be enough because it is. I get captivated by the deepest magic of all. I hear him name me as his own- and I let that stick to my ribs. When I do, it no longer feels like someone is standing on my air hose. My life and my worth are not at the mercy of any human being. From here, I can actually offer myself to others with a measure of unconscious abandon. I get to give a teaspoon of the very love that's flowing through me. That, I realize, is the magic at its very best. " Praise the Lord for this reminder today. Only God can name me- as His own.
Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance."- Psalm 66:8-12

Friday, September 23, 2011

He Knows Us.

Excerpt from J.I. Packer's "Knowing God"
"I am graven on the palms of [God's] hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.
This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort- the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates- in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.
There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that he sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and I am glad!), and that he sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, he wants me as his friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given his Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose."- pp. 41-42
What an incredible truth. What is important is not merely that we know God, but that HE KNOWS US. To know Christ as the intimate Savior that knows the depths of my soul breaks my heart and continues to draw me closer and closer to Himself through this truth. No human relationship I've ever had has equalled the depth that I share with the Lord Jesus. It isn't because I do good things, or have earned this kind of mercy, but instead, it is because he sought me out, saved me, and brought me into a knowledge of Love that is far better than anything I could ever have imagined. To walk this journey with a King helps me to keep stepping forward and encouraging those walking with me to our Home with Him. We walk, amidst the pain and obstacles along the way, because He gives us HIS strength to do so.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New Start.

I read recently another book by Paula Rinehart that really spoke my language. She writes, "Many women feel caught in a destructive pattern they feel powerless to change. It is not enough to say that Christ forgives. Can he also give the grace to take hard steps in a new direction? Will he meet me when I am alone and feeling desperate, and I want to give in to what I know has worked for me in the past? Is his love that real? Each of us is like this in some way. We return to the same sources of comfort... until they control us. When Christ says that he has come to give us life, he means that he intends to love us out of every false refuge, no matter how long we've called that home. It is a tender mercy- but it's a rather painful love. This journey with the Lord literally brings light into the darkest corners of our hearts. The farther we travel, the more we see."
The farther I am looking, the more I see what I was made to do. My heart longs to be serving Jesus in another land. Over the past 3 years, I've been praying through an opportunity to move back into North Africa and possibly Spain. It is a new country, a new life, with old friends that desire to see the gospel transform hearts in this particular region. After many ups and downs, fears and obstacles along the way, yeses and nos, other opportunities to serve... I finally have been called to go. I will be moving from St. Louis down to South Florida in December to make a new start/raise support as I look forward to the future in a new continent next year. I am finally free to let go of those things that nearly destroyed my heart. He has reminded me of the way in which he made me- to share His Word with those that need to hear. I have the Lord to help me take these steps towards health, towards His touch, and His plan for the nations. He is my Steady Hand, my Redeemer, my Rock. He's helped me find my heart again. He's walked me into the embrace of His love. I think, perhaps, that's the essence of what I was looking for all along. To Him be all the glory in this exciting time!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Strength of Vulnerability

The strength of vulnerability is a curious mixture of discovering your heart and sharing your real self, as best you can, with the people God has put in your life. You can't shut down on the inside without quelling the very passion that makes the journey worthwhile. Those walls around the heart take buckets of energy to maintain and God has better things for his children to do. When we close off our hearts, we dishonor him.
God bids us come into the vulnerable place his Son occupied where the power of his life was born out of fearless trust in his Father. God offers us a special kind of strength, one that is rooted and grounded in a reality that transcends ourselves. It is a place from which risk- and therefore, love- is actually possible.
The strength of vulnerability is the fire of a tender heart that forges steel in the soul. As difficult as it is to live with a vulnerable heart, it is far easier than camping out behind a facade. Jesus is the Lamb who conquers. He says: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light." Matthew 11:28-30 Paula Rinehart

I don't seem to have a problem sharing the stories of my life and how they have shaped me throughout but oftentimes, I choose to close certain places of my heart to protect myself from getting hurt. Sometimes this can be helpful. Other times, it is more hurtful than anything else. Discovering who I actually am in light of these stories is what frees me- through the life, death, and resurrection of the One who came to love me more dangerously than anyone ever has or ever will. I can face adversity, trust in my Savior, and know He will lead me down a path that is not necessarily easy or pain- free, but is full of passion and Great Love.

Monday, September 19, 2011


My thoughts have circled back to Abraham yet again. I've been spending time with God, asking Him what it means to suffer well, especially when my own fears stare at me in the face. Oftentimes, I want to run from the things that try to shatter my faith and, sometimes, they beat me down enough to question God's provision and mercy. I was reading today about Abraham and the ways in which he was asked to surrender all that he had- at various seasons of his life. The promises of God provide a powerful antidote to all our fears. It is in this submission and surrender that we find our true selves and the face of the Father.

"The surrender points Abraham faced over the course of his life may be similar to some you have faced: leaving family and friends behind and moving to a new city where you didn't know a soul... making choices to sacrifice your own interests for the sake of others... staying engaged with and pursuing the heart of a rebellious relative... living with infertility... turning down a lucrative offer that you know is not pleasing to God... giving up the life of a child.
When it comes to the uncertainties that keep us from sacrifice, surrender, and slavery to God, we, like Abraham, have "exceedingly great and precious promises" (2 Peter 1:4) from God's Word- promises that powerfully counteract our deepest fears. If we trust those promises and the God who has made them, we will be given courage to make each sacrifice He asks of us.
If we do not trust God's promises and, therefore, do not step out in faith and surrender, we will ultimately find ourselves in bondage tot he very things we refuse to surrender. We will end up being controlled by that which we are seeking to keep within our own control.
Trust or tyranny. That is the option. Trust the promises of God- which will free you to live joyfully under His loving lordship- or live under the tyranny of that which you will not surrender.
God wants us to experience provision, pleasure, protection, and personal relationships. But He wants us to seek them in the only place they can be found- in Him. And He doesn't want us to settle for substitutes for the real thing." Nancy Leigh DeMoss "Surrender"