Obstacles & Uncertainties

There are times & situations when I don’t know what to do. There are also obstacles that seem to be unmovable. I can see where I want to be & what needs to be done, but I don’t always know how to get there or how to do what needs to be done.
These kinds of struggles can be experienced in our jobs, personal disciplines, education, relationships, finances, health, etc. So what to do?
Here are some things I’ve found to be helpful:

  • Pray more, worry less: ask for God’s intervention / interruption to do what seems to be impossible
  • God’s direction: what would God have you say or do in these struggles?
  • Active decisions: make intentional decisions to trust God, to speak faith filled words & to choose the high road.

 

The Lethal Hangnail

“The devil would kill ya with a hangnail if he could!” My dad had lots of fun quotes like this. From my childhood, I remember people laughing at this quote & I smiled like I understood, but I didn’t get it. Now that I have some life tread under my belt, I get it.

The enemy of your soul is out to rattle your cage, poison your thinking & sideline you with anything possible, even a hangnail.
Don’t let him – full stop.
Some helpful pointers:

  • Keep your eyes in Jesus.
  • Don’t quit.
  • Keep loving wholly.
  • Pray intensely.
  • Feed yourself the Bible everyday.
  • Chose faith & reject doubt.

Never forget that greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world!

hot topic: help my unbelief

I love this quote from a dad who was asking Jesus to heal his son.  Jesus says to the dad that all things are possible to him who believes.  The dad’s reply sounds like something I’d say, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

For me, believing is often easier said than done.  I can talk all day about believing God, trusting in God, having faith, etc, but when the rubber hits the road, sometimes I struggle with the believing thing.  Of course I want to believe, so the desire is solid.  But the actual believing is often where I fall short.  When I think about why I struggle with believing, it’s mostly because of either past experiences or my brain goes into skeptical mode.  So I deeply appreciate this dad’s honest words with Jesus, “Help my unbelief”.  Like me, he’s saying that he wants to believe, but it’s a hurdle and he needs help to overcome this hurdle.

Here are some pointers for overcoming unbelief:

  • be truthful:  hiding or cloaking unbelief is counterproductive, but bringing our weaknesses to Jesus is where strength starts
  • ask for Help!  Since the Holy Spirit is our Helper, seems like a good idea to give the Helper access to the places of unbelief with which we struggle.
  • Jude 20 says that we build up our faith when we pray in the Spirit #selah
  • let’s remember that faith works by love, so the absence of love could be the catalyst for our unbelief #selah

Let’s decide that there is no unbelief in our lives that cannot be transformed into a place of strong faith!

closed doors

I prefer open doors rather than closed doors, but it seems to me that God leads us not only with open doors, but also with doors that are shut airtight.  Sometimes it bugs me when a door is closed to me & I can take it as personal rejection, which is always tough.  But if I choose to see a closed door as part of God’s guidance, then it doesn’t seem to hurt as much & doesn’t feel quite so personal.  It also helps me to remember that the Apostle Paul had his fair share of closed doors, many of which he was locked behind as a prisoner!

Let’s consider that God has the right doors to open for us & we can trust that God is working all things together for our good as we stay in love with God & stay true to the divine purposes in our lives!

A Good & Practical Read

I’m a reader & I read a wide array of books on a plethora of topics.  So here’s a good one that’s uber practical for your body, soul & spirit:  30 Day Faith Detox.

I’m recommending this book because there’s not a single reader of this blog who doesn’t need some help in all three of these areas.  I’m also recommending this book because it’s practical, holistic, easy to read & implement.  So grab a copy today!

Path to Pentecost: Doubt

In the world of faith, doubt can sometimes feel like a cuss word of the four letter variety. On the surface, those of us who endeavor to follow Jesus don’t doubt, maybe. But when we’re honest, there’s plenty of times & situations when we doubt. And even today something will probably happen that could cast a shadow of doubt on our faith. 
Thankfully, Jesus has the capacity to accommodate doubt, as evidenced in the way He interacted with Doubting Thomas. 

Poor Thomas. He wasn’t around when Jesus first appeared to His disciplines after His resurrection & Thomas couldn’t believe that Jesus was risen when everyone expressed this jubilant transformation. “Not unless I touch His side & put my fingers in His nail prints, will I believe”. And for more than a millennium Thomas has been the redeeming hope for those of who struggle with doubt. Of course there’s a price to pay for doubting: for 8days Thomas was the lone doubting ranger among these hyped up believing disciples. But Jesus appeared to Thomas after 8days & Thomas did exactly what he required: he felt the nail prints in Jesus’ hands & he touched Jesus’ side that was sword pierced. 

Jesus most certainly accommodate our doubts, but let’s be willing to change our doubts & not cling to them in obstinate entrenchment. If we aren’t willing to change our doubts then we can become moribund, a word rooted in the idea of death & decay. 

Remember to grab your copy of Heavenly Help – this could be just the tool that Jesus would use to help you work through some doubts 🙂

Messy, Muddy & Murky Faith

  I’ve frequently thought of faith being this clean, powerful, superhero, handsome, supernatural ideal. Like if faith was a person, it would be stylish, muscular, manicured, well appointed, organized & timely – maybe like Captain America in The Avengers. Indeed, when I read about the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, they all seem powerful, competent, effective & generally great role models, mostly. 
In actual truth, when I look at these heroes more deeply as well as my daily attempts to live a faithful & faith-filled life, it often feels messy, murky & muddy. The outcomes of faith are very appealing but the walk & work of faith isn’t quite as pristine & manicured. It seems to me that faith is both a walk & a process. We love the results but sometimes we want to escape the work, uncertainty, mess & process that precede the outcomes. 

Just because faith can be messy, murky & muddy doesn’t mean we should quit. Indeed, the process is worth the results 🙂

let’s be honest

I had an interesting conversation with a friend last week about how she felt like some Christians didn’t accept her because of some of her questions, doubts and frustrations.  She explained how that in the past she’d expressed some doubts or struggles in her faith in a small group and some of the members of the group were unkind, dismissive and disdainful.

Seems to me that if we are going to sincerely love each other, as Jesus instructs, that we need to walk the journey together more than criticize, critique or exclude.  Jesus knew that Peter would struggle in his faith, deny and abandon Jesus, but that didn’t detour Jesus from staying Peter’s friend.  In fact, Jesus closed the loop on any questions about His love for Peter in John 21 with His questions about Peter’s love for Him.

Jesus love us, full stop.  I pray that I wholly let Jesus love others well & authentically through me 🙂

doubting & believing

This morning, I read the story of Doubting Thomas & how he didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he had physical proof for himself.  Despite what Thomas’ friends told him, he made the adamant position that unless he saw the nail prints in Jesus’ hands, put his finger into the nail prints & touched Jesus’ side where He was pierced, he wouldn’t believe.  Thomas’ belief had 3 pre-qualifiers, all based on physical evidence.

It’s interesting to me that we don’t read about any of Thomas’ friends getting cranky with Thomas for his unbelief – despite all of them following Jesus for 2+ years and seeing all kinds of crazy miracles.  But no one criticized nor chastized Thomas for doubting – maybe they accepted the truth that Thomas was on a journey of faith, not much different from their own journey.

Just because someone is at a different place in their journey of faith doesn’t give us the right to be critical of their lack of faith, anymore than we would want someone to criticize us for some faith deficiencies & shortcomings.  Let’s decide to encourage each other in our journey of faith & not throw rocks when someone is struggling with unbelief – indeed, faith works by love ,)

stop waiting: faith and action

If the truth be known, I’m not so good at waiting & I’m trying to get better at that whole foreign concept.  I tend to jump in & ask questions later, often getting WAY OVER MY HEAD & then freaking out.  I probably lead with my heart & let my brain come along for the ride from time to time.  Clearly, this has gotten me into some hot water & mildly comical situations, more than I’d like to admit.  But on the flip side, it’s also made for some really outrageous adventures & results, most of which I totally love 🙂

Thankfully, God has surrounded me with people who have their feet on the ground & keep me from floating away into some dreamy oblivion.  But perhaps God has me in the lives of these very grounded people, as well, so they can go & do far beyond their natural thinking.  Let’s value how God has made each of us & readily align our lives with faith, which is by definition belief in action 🙂

plankville

spiritual chats

I had an interesting discussion recently with a friend related to talking with people about Jesus. It seems to me that sometimes we can get a little jittery about talking about Jesus with someone who isn’t necessarily a follower of Him (particularly if you lean in the introvert zone). Our culture also says that we are supposed to be tolerant & any overt or heavy duty proselytizing is nothing less than entirely offensive, rude & even repulsive. So talking about Jesus can get dicey.
So here’s an interesting thought, let’s start having spiritual conversations in our daily living, even with people who don’t necessarily believe the same way you do. Some things that can be helpful when having spiritual conversations include:
*listen: ask questions & pay attention
*respect: winning, convincing, coercing & shame don’t belong in these kinds of conversations; be gentle
*avoid the subjunctive: “should” & “ought to” tend to be unhelpful at best
*have spiritual chats with followers of Jesus: share with someone what God has been speaking with you about

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hot topic: Mars Hill Church closing

Recently, the controversial pastor Mark Driscoll resigned from being the lead pastor for Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  Yesterday, the church announced that it was disbanding and dissolving all of its satellite campuses, giving each location freedom to chart it’s own path for the future.  Being a pastor’s kid and having lived in church for most of my life, this announcement saddens me for various reasons:

  • as humans, we often fall into the trap of following people more than we follow Jesus
  • oftentimes the people we think are leading us closer to Christ are made of the same flawed flesh in which we live and breath
  • we struggle with how to keep each other accountable without being judgmental, intolerant or divisive
  • we are susceptible to many internal deceptions that stroke our flesh and poison our passion for Jesus
  • somewhere it talks about striking the shepherd and scattering the sheep

So here’s my point:  there are lots of hurt, confused and disillusioned people from all of this fallout with Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, many of whom have followed Jesus because of Pastor Mark’s leadership and influence, as well as the communities that had formed around the satellite churches connected with Mars Hill.  In 1Cor 12, Paul talks about the how the body of Christ functions together, diverse parts and pieces working together in complementary more than competitive ways, promoting Jesus in all ways and opportunities.  In Galatians 6, Paul talks about how we should bear each other’s burdens, restoring, assisting and being part of Jesus’ redemptive work.

So as members of the body of Christ, let’s be devoted to pray for this situation and moreso for the people who may find themselves floundering from all of these changes.  Let’s pray:

  • that the enemy does not make progress with this opportunity for strife, dissension and conflict
  • for the body of Christ that has been a part of the Mars Hill fellowship – let’s pray for their hearts
  • that God redeems this hardship and struggle

 

God Makes a Way

Sometimes I get frustrated with God, not so much because I’m not getting my way (that was a problem when I was younger), but moreso because of some struggles I have with God about faith & trust.  As followers of Jesus, we know that we’re supposed to trust God & keep the faith, but sometimes this gets tricky.  It’s in those “sometimes” that I can get frustrated and even mad with God because it can get really difficult and seemingly impossible.  Maybe you’ve had some similar challenges in your walk with God pertaining to a health or relationship situation.  Maybe you’ve struggled with God about some decisions or the direction you’re supposed to go with your career, education or family consideration.

The Bible is full of people who have been in some of the exact same situations with which we may be struggling.  So here are some thoughts that can be helpful:

  • timing:  sometimes God does last minute work that can be really unnerving – consider when Abraham was about to sacrifice Issac in Gen 22
  • bits and pieces:  I often find that even though God knows the beginning & the end of stuff, we frequently find ourselves in the “need to know” zone, a little bit at a time and not the giant picture – consider Moses and the incremental nature of how God used him to liberate the Israelites from slavery in Egypt
  • honesty with commitment is important for intimacy:  you can be honest with God about your frustrations without putting your entire relationship with God at risk – consider Job
  • endurance & persistance:  the Apostle Paul comes to mind when I think about a biblical example of what endurance looks like, even finishing an extremely well run race with getting his head chopped off
  • community:  the Bible is full of examples of people encouraging each other in staying obedient to & passionate for God – consider when Jonathon encouraged David about being the king of Israel in 1 Sam

God makes a way when there seems to be no way so be sure to share this with a friend to spread some encouragement! 🙂

internal conversations

It’s important to consider / take an inventory of the thoughts that we allow to run around in our minds.  Such thoughts can have a significant impact on our decisions & behaviors.  For example, there have been many occassions where I’ve been in situations that were way beyond my skill set & I was in way over my head (sometimes in various leadership roles, sometimes in athletic competitions & often in my role as a mom).  There have also been situations where I’ve felt entirely confident, secure & proficient, to the point of being over-confident, cocky & even arrogant.

What we think in our minds is extremely important & I was reminded of this lesson from reading about the woman with the issue of blood in Matthew 9:21. In this verse it says, “. . . . ‘she said in herself, if I can touch the hem of His garment, I will be healed.'”  The outcome of the story is that she was healed, but her mindset was an important ingredient for her healing.  Some take aways from her internal conversation:

  • keep your eyes on Jesus more than fear, inabilty or even talent
  • nothing is impossible with Jesus
  • don’t quit / give up 🙂

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Potential

It’s my sincere belief that most of us under perform the potential God has put in us. I think we can often settle for mediocre & half hearted for various reasons (lack of effort or commitment, insecurity, unfocused / distractions, unteachable, etc). Here are some helpful thoughts about God’s potential becoming a reality in our lives:
*be teachable – learn from situations & wise people; arrogance will sabotage your potential
*improve – make the commitment to consistently improve, even if it’s only a little bit at a time
*faith in God – believing in ourselves is inherently limiting as opposed to believing in God; make the decision to always say “yes” to God without fail
*encourage others to pursue God’s potential in their lives 🙂

What do you have?

I’ve been thinking about how when God spoke to Moses about leading the Israelites out of slavery, Moses complained about what he lacked: I’m not smart enough, I don’t have favor with the Israelites, I don’t have Pharoah’s ear, etc. In reply, God told Moses to check out his hands & God did some really cool miracles: leprosy on Moses’ hand that God healed & Moses’ staff turned to a snake. While our hands may seem kind of trivial, lets never minimize what God has given us. God’s gifts are always supernatural 🙂

making faith effective

In the Bible, there are all kinds of things that happened because of faith (blind eyes healed, miracle provisions, raising the dead, family restoration, giant killing, etc).  Whenever I read Hebrews 11, I’m always really stirred up and motivated in my faith because the chicks & dudes in this chapter are AMAZING!!!  But here’s a simple essential to make our faith effective:  genuine love.

In Galatians 5:6, Paul says that faith works by love.  So whenever I’m not seeing the results of faith in my life, the real question doesn’t always rest on the quality / quantity of my faith, but moreso the reality of my genuine love.  Perhaps the evidence of our faith is directly related to the sincerity of our love 🙂

#somethingtoconsider

Being Offended

There was a woman in Jesus life whom He treated gruffly, He even called her a “dog”, which isn’t quite in the realm of chivalrous behavior. Here’s what was happening: this chick was harassing Jesus’ disciples because she wanted Him to come & heal her daughter but Jesus was ignoring her. When His disciples got fed up with her efforts, they asked Jesus to do something, to which He replied to His disciples that He wasn’t called to help dogs, i.e. this woman. What a slap in the face! He ignores her & then insults her! I know lots of people, myself included, who would sulk away insulted by this kind of treatment. But this chick held on & wasn’t deflected by how Jesus treated her. Her faith was stronger than her feelings & the goal (her daughter getting healed) was the main goal. Lets learn some great lessons from this chick that our faith stays stronger than our feelings & that we keep our eyes steady on the goals that conform to Jesus’ will 🙂

The Last Straw

Have you ever felt like you’re on your last straw? Sometimes we go through challenges, seasons & struggles that are well beyond our natural abilities & wisdom. If you’re like me, I can find myself getting quagmired in these things at the expense of trusting God. There are times when I get stuck in what seems impossible & I can get discouraged. Ever feel this way?
This morning I was having this kind of conversation with God about a few issues & I was reminded of a verse that is really helping me:
2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.
So lets remember that God is more than adequate for the various “last straws” that may be happening in our lives 🙂

Jesus Chix: Mary

Over the last few days, I’ve been reading about Jesus’ mom, Mary and how Gabriel came & announced Jesus’ birth to her.  Mary was an AMAZING chick!!  She wasn’t married, lived in a male dominated society & became pregnant out of wedlock, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.  According to the religious & traditional norms of her day, she should’ve been killed.  But she was brave and courageous.  She spent a few months with her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, who was miraculously pregnant in her old age and I think these months helped both women:

  • Mary – who was young, vulnerable & probably somewhat naive when it came to issues related to pregnancy
  • Elizabeth – elderly, toward the end of her pregnancy & probably tired, like we get in our third trimester

Mary, the mother of Jesus, a teenage girl, pregnant without being married – carrying in her womb the Savior of the world.  Let’s live like Mary:  Luke 1:45 “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”