Thursday, January 30, 2014

The God Who Sees Gives Sight

Just a note from my personal readings lately for encouragement:

Genesis 21:19: Then God opened her eyes [Hagar]and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink.

Impression: In Genesis 16:13: Then she [Hagar] called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” The first time Hagar was in trouble, the Lord came to her and SAW her. This time, the Lord was with her and opened her eyes. Is that not the way God works with us? First He sees us and makes Himself known, then He allows us to see His provision.

Application: God sees my need. He knows before I ask (Matthew 6). The question is, in my need will I call out to Him or try to take care of the problem myself? My need for and dependence on Him is a function of prayer. When I call, He not only sees, but eventually He will open my eyes to His provision. In this way, He is glorified and honored, praised and exalted for meeting my need. He is the God who sees. He is the God who provides. Am I willing to submit myself to His care?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Beautful Faith: One Woman's Testimony of Grace

Last week’s post, “Faith: Just Do It,” was written to myself (!) regarding areas of struggle where I get stuck. Over and over I give in to myself; to sin. Over and over I whine and wait for a “Shazam!” moment from the Lord. The small child who stubbornly refused to obey the nursery worker was a picture to/of me when I refuse to turn from my way to God's in brokenness, with neediness and humility of heart.

One reader commented: “I tend to think of it more of as a matter of trust. Trust and faith are exercised in tandem. For me it is a matter of choice and choosing to trust that which my faith is grounded in and then stepping onto the unknown path the Lord has me walking on.”
Her comment carries a great deal of weight. Although she is a young mother, she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and instead of getting better, the reports get worse.  I asked if she would share because of the tender, peace-filled words that come across the page. She answered, “I don't want to be the focus, I want Christ and what He is doing to be the focus :).” Below is her testimony of how God is revealing Himself during this time, for His glory.

She wrote:
I want you to know the Lord is amazing and he is growing me much in this area. I knew I had faith, I knew I wanted to obey, but without trusting in the promises he has given us you can't move when the storms come. I don't know where this journey will lead me, I don't know the path it will take, but what I do know is the more I place my trust in Him, my faith gets stronger and the ability to be obedient where fear, doubt and worry play are so much easier. The more I trust the easier each of these areas becomes. I have no fear, nor worries. I know I am being used by the Lord and my greatest pleasure is knowing that He will use this for His glory.

When I first was told that I had cancer, it was a shock because I had been told that the chance was very small, like only a 10 percent chance for several different reasons…  I knew in that moment I had a choice to make. I had to make a willful choice to trust in the Lord. Despite all odds tests kept coming back worse than anticipated, I chose to trust that because if the odds were against what was happening then that meant this had to be the Lord's will and therefore part of a larger plan. As I prayed and held on to the promises the Lord has given us and choosing to trust those things, I have grown to a different kind of obedience.

I think most of us get wrapped up in the obedience of works/actions (I don't think it is wrong but it is not the only way we are called to obedience) that we forget we have been called to be obedient in our emotional responses. This is where the Lord is working on me: Patience, fear, worry, doubt, stress, discontent. These are not God given and they drive a wedge, if we allow it, in our relationship with Christ. I made a choice to try as hard as I could to turn my back on these things and hold on to Christ as an anchor. What I have discovered and learned is that as I purposefully try to obey God in this way my faith has grown exponentially, I find it easier to trust in His word and consequently it is easier to obey. But for me it had to start with choosing to trust the promises he has given.

We get wrapped up in obedience and faith that we forget sometimes that we simply need to trust in the Lord and His promises. We forget to trust that the Lord is in control of all things and simply rest in Him. By the Word of God He does expect us to trust:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the Lord, I teach you today, even you. Proverbs 22:17-19

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

You who fear him, trust in the Lord—he is their help and shield. Psalm 115:11
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

 Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7

 ... that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:12

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.  1 Timothy 4:10  
In thinking through our inner motivation for obedience (love and trust--which pleases God or fear and a desire to escape punishment--which does not), may we offer our thoughts, attitudes, emotions and actions to Him in prayer first and foremost. He is the great Healer, the Sustainer, the Giver of all good things. He wants us to be at peace, to experience satisfaction and hope regardless of our circumstances.

As the Lord allows, please remember this dear sister and her family in your prayers.



Friday, January 10, 2014

Faith: Just Do It!

This week as I helped in the church nursery, one little piker (dearly loved by this author) refused to obey. Ugh. She didn't kick, hit, or throw a tantrum; she just. wouldn't. obey. Period. The grandma worker had asked her to "Say, 'No, thank you,' please." In love, she provided countless opportunities to change but refused to lower the bar, valuing obedience (the child's) and  integrity (her own). Minutes before Mommy returned, the little one uttered a sincere "No, thank you" and moved on.


The picture of that puffy lipped child in time-out came to mind as I read this passage for adults last night:

"'It does not take much faith to do great things. Even a small amount (as small as a tiny mustard seed) could do wonders. What you need is not more faith; you simply need to exercise the faith that you have and stop making excuses.'
"The problem, then, is not a problem of faith; the problem is much more straightforward, uncomplicated, and simple. It is a problem of obedience."  (Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor's Manual, p. 69).
And I was reminded of those things I would like to change--those areas where I sin against others, struggle with myself, and fail repeatedly. And I took great hope in Jesus, who loves me too much to let me continue and gives repeated opportunities for forgiveness and change.

Lesson to self: don't think about, stew about it, worry about it or excuse it--just do it. In faith. By prayer. Life's so much easier that way (for "the way of the transgressor is hard," Proverbs 13:15). When I obey, God is honored and I am blessed.
(With special thanks to our weekly nursery worker!)
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 
Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:14-26)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:1-3, 6)