Give Hope

“Everyone is going to make it!”  In Acts 27, these were Paul’s words to his fellow travelers who were on a ship, when everyone had lost hope that they would survive.  And these travelers had very good reasons to have lost hope:  an horrific storm that lasted more than two weeks, no sun or stars (so there was no navigation ability), sailors who were trying to abandon the ship, endless ups and downs, rain, wind and instability on a ship, and no sight or inkling of land for numerous days, to say nothing of not eating for two weeks because of raw nerves and fear.

In our daily living, we get to choose how we will respond to the ups and downs of life.  The people around us can be despondent and lose hope, but let’s be the one who stands confident in God’s goodness and love, offering hope and future, just like Paul in the middle of a brutal storm.  Let’s actively choose to trust in God’s love and goodness, while offering hope as a life preserver to anyone around us who may be discouraged by the storms of life!

More Than Enough

“We only have two fish & five loaves of bread. It’s not enough for such a big crowd!!” These were the disciples’ words to Jesus about feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 people. And the observation is valid when we think about the provision in contrast to the need.

I see this mindset in many perspectives in my life. My needs for energy, time, resources, friendships, favor, wisdom, etc often seem to dwarf whatever provision may be available at the time. And as I read today about Jesus multiplying the fish and bread, I was challenged by this whole stark contrast between provision and need. I can belittle and grieve what is lacking or I can give Jesus whatever provision I have, let Him bless it and live in the resulting abundance.

In Jesus’ hands, little provisions can become multiplied abundance!

When God Doesn’t Make Sense

More than 50,000 soldiers dead all triggered by a concubine running away from her husband. I’m reading the last few chapters of Judges in the OT & these events leave me baffled & cold. They baffle me because even though Israel obeyed God’s directives, they still lost two battles and 40,000 soldiers died.

These events leave me cold because of the human ability to be barbaric: the concubines husband cut her up into 12 pieces and sent her body parts throughout the 12 Tribes of Israel. Clearly, this is a very dark time in Israel’s history.

And there are times / events in our lives when we don’t understand God. Why does an omnipotent God allow atrocities and deplorable behaviors? And how does
God’s loving character reconcile with His judgment? Making these questions get even more personal, why doesn’t God heal various ailments & terminal illness?

Or why does a cheater co-worker get the promotion & we get bypassed, again?

I’m grateful that God is abundantly able to handle our questions, doubts, fears, uncertainties & pain.

While we wrestle with these questions, or different ones, let’s stay in fellowship with God for the simple reason that He holds us together because of His infinite love for us!

More Doubt than Faith

“Who ME???”  I think Gideon said this several times in Judges 6-9, in the Old Testament.  I like Gideon alot because he’s relatable.  His dialogue with God and various people around him reveal that he wasn’t a faith giant – anything but!!!  Replying to God’s directives, Gideon put out fleeces, questioned God’s participation with Israel, snuck around at night to obey God & eavesdropped at the enemy’s tent to hear of Gideon’s impending victory.

Gideon wasn’t the poster child for supernatural faith and courage in the face of impossibility.  But he is the posterchild for all of us who have doubts, fears, frailties and deficiencies.  No matter how your faith feels at this moment, robust of ragged, God can do the impossible!  More importantly, God isn’t repelled by your questions, doubts nor fears.  Be encouraged in your heart, no matter how much fear or faith you may feel at any given moment.  We can remain encouraged because God loves us and that love is never dependent on our faith, fear nor frailty!

Where’s the Proof?

Do you remember having those recess arguments in elementary school when you’d defiantly exclaim, “Prove it!!!”?  It seems like we humans have a passion for certainty & evidence helps to prove certainty. 

So I find it interesting that James 2:18 says, “ . . . , You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”  When I read this verse, it provokes me to look at my actions more than what I say. It’s easy to say that I believe in Jesus & I believe in the Bible. But the real evidence of what I believe is demonstrated by what I do. So let’s endeavor, with God’s Help, to be doers of God’s Word & not merely people who hear or talk a big game. Proof of our faith is in doing & not just speaking 🙂

Faith & Security

A lot of times, we think of being obedient to God on the pre-condition of guaranteed outcomes. We link our obedience to required outcomes we want from God. And unfortunately, too many times we withhold or change our obedience when we don’t see the outcomes we want. But conditional obedience leaves us immature, shallow & unfruitful. For example, if Paul had obeyed Jesus proportionate to his safety, comfort & health, then likely the early church would have severely faltered & been significantly less effective.
Let’s base our obedience to God on His unchanging, faithful & loving character. Faith in God facilitates internal security for external obedience 🙂

Taking Risks

For some people, risk is like running through an amusement park in wild expectation of the thrills on the horizon.  For other people, risk is like running the gauntlet of would be gladiators, awaiting impending torture and possible death.  No matter how you see risk, walking in faith is risky because it’s the decision to do what’s unknown, uncomfortable and uncertain.  But the other side of faith can be worth the risk:

  • knowing Jesus better,
  • supernatural achievements,
  • stronger confidence in God,
  • experiences with God that don’t happen without faith

I can appreciate that risk is scary, but I invite you to join me on the faith journey that can be risky rather than the fear journey that can be constrictive.  And of course, let’s ask for wisdom along the journey so that our faith / risk isn’t foolish 🙂

 

X-ray Vision

“. . . . , those who previously saw him as a beggar.” John 9:8b

I read this verse today & it really stood out to me about the power of vision & how we see people. In John 9, Jesus heals a man who was born blind. Before his healing, this man sat outside the temple & begged, so everyone recognized him as, ” that beggar guy.” When he was no longer blind, the people struggled to see him as anyone but, “that beggar dude.”
This has started me to think about various people I see: Bob the homeless guy at Starbucks, Tina the blind chick, Marion the needy one, Jerry the deaf dude, . . . .
If we see people only in the quagmire of their pain, dysfunction & disability, then maybe we’re limiting God’s power to work through us.
Maybe it’s a better strategy to ask God to reveal that persons true identity & divine design so that we call out their potential & not merely their inabilities & weaknesses. I’m more than a little grateful that God calls things that are not as though they are!

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