Purposeful Faith

A Grave & Scary Mistake

I’ve tried my best to not to agree with fear this CoronaVirus season. And, for the most part, I’ve won. I’ve been at peace in the midst of this mayhem-producing world. Until, today, a Walmart incident got the best of me…

I was on a school supply hunt with my two, I-have-a-bazillion-and-one-questions, kids in tow. Trying to focus, while looking high and low, I found treasures and shoved them in my cart. Then, I marked the things off my list. I had this shopping-thing down. The only issue came when — near the toilet paper lane — I inadvertently drew a black pen mark right down the side of my brand new light pink purse. Grr…

Completely not thinking, I ripped my mask off. I licked my finger and rubbed, rubbed, rubbed. I licked and rubbed. I wasn’t about to let that ink, set in.  I got it; I won!

Or did I? Then, it settled on me —  what had I just done?!

I just licked the finger…that had touched that Walmart cart, that held the 50+ school supplies I had handled, which also swiped the much-walked-over floor when my school supply paper dropped only a few aisles back. The very cart that probably dozens of other people had used, before me. What had I done?

In a split-second my heart started pumping.  Am I going to get sick now?

Fear wanted to grip me. It wanted to make me anxious. It wanted to make me relive that moment. It made me think about myself sick, within a week. I could hardly listen to my kids.

What would I do? I stood at a crossroads. I could either obey God and not fear or I could let my worries overrule His command.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

I could either walk by a Spirit of fear or by the Holy Spirit…

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

Grr… I know the enemy too. If you give him an inch he’ll, before long, take a mile. If you fear for five minutes, by the time you get home it will be full-blown. If you worry about it endlessly, by the end of the day it will be all you can think about.

I repented of my fear and released my body into God’s care. If He created the whole of me,  He can protect me from a measly germ.

And, then I went on enjoying my kids, singing music, and enjoying the breeze of the day.

Where is fear trying to gain an inch in your life? Shut him down and shut him down, quickly…lest he gain a mile.

 

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A Secret to Communication

I knew I said too much. 

She was sharing her heart, but for some reason I felt like I had to have her “fixed” by the time the call ended. She phoned me because she needed help. And, I wanted to really be there for her. To leave her where she was — didn’t feel right.

I offered some advice. I gave her some strategies. Yet, after hanging up — I had a sinking feeling that I said too much. That my words were — input-overload.

In retrospect, she didn’t need my lofty words, but just my care. My heart. My presence with her in the heat of a hard moment.

She didn’t need an answer as much as she needed an ear.

I noticed when I did stay quiet on the call, she had room to pray. I also remember how she seemed to pray her way out of her own hole.

It was my pride that made me want to be a savior.  It is also my pride that makes me unload harsh words on others because of my inflamed emotions. It is pride that feels like it has to have an answer to everybody’s every question.

Humility does the opposite, though. It says less so that God can move more.

“A truly wise person uses few words…” (Prov. 17:27)

Wise people say less and listen more. They weigh words carefully before blasting them like a water gun. They intentionally think about restoring the other person, rather than ripping them apart or giving too much advice. They don’t let their emotions get the best of them.

Wise communicators know they don’t have to respond. They are okay with silence. They give space for others to help themselves. They allow ‘no response’ answers or ‘let me think about it’ approaches so they can release life-giving, redeeming words.

Using less words provides more impact. Where, in your life, might God be calling you to use less words? What would this look like practically?

 

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He’s Already There

The group was going one way; I was intent on going another. I wasn’t about to eat ice cream this late. That was fattening and I still wasn’t over my eating disorder.

Walking away from the retreat group, I headed back to the cabin. That was –until I felt God stop me in my tracks. It was as if I got hit by a 2×4. God placed on my heart, “Turn around. Go back with the group.” I knew to ignore His pull would be direct disobedience. Direct disobedience comes with consequences.

So, I turned around and, somewhat begrudgingly, walked all 23-years of me back into that line. And, as I met up with a group of girls I recognized, I discovered — He was already there.

The man I would marry. He was already there. He saw me pass Him and that’s when he caught up with me to get to know me. Thank God I obeyed God. Not only that, but Jesus was already there too. After that weekend, I accepted Him into my heart.

Jesus was already there. Do you know that whatever boat you may find yourself in today — in singleness, in financial ruin, in hopelessness, in defeat, in confusion — that Jesus is already there?

“So they left the crowd; the disciples got into the boat in which Jesus was already sitting, and they took him with them. Other boats were there too.” (Mk. 4:36)

Jesus was already in the boat where a wretched storm was about to hit…. He was already there. He knew. He could see. He was aware of what was to come. He was already a step ahead.

“Suddenly a strong wind blew up, and the waves began to spill over into the boat, so that it was about to fill with water. Jesus was in the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a pillow.” (Mk. 4:37)

Just because a storm is raging doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t already there.

The disciples woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” (Mk. 4:38)

Maybe you are saying… don’t you care God? Why am I here? What is happening?

Jesus hasn’t fallen asleep on you. He hasn’t lost touch on what you are going through. He goes ahead of you.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31:8)

God is already there — His love goes ahead of you. Be not afraid, my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world (1 Jo. 4:4). This isn’t a cheap line, but truth.

Prayer: God, you are amazing. You go ahead of us. You care for us. You are with us. You strengthen us. You empower us. We say thank you, thank you, thank you. Please add all these things to us as we come into loving you more and more and more. Great is your faithfulness! We do not waver, but trust you today. You have not fallen asleep on us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

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When you Want Deeply

“You want what you don’t have…” (Ja. 4:2)

How many of us desire what we do not have? We want a bigger house, a better husband, a different school year, a more satisfying job, a better family situation… then, life would be good.

There are things that I want. I desire them. Badly. Yet, the time isn’t right. Nothing’s changed. I am at a standstill.

I believe, one of life’s greatest hurts is mental fantasies, unrealized. We create storylines about how things should be. Yet, the more they are not the way we think they should be, the more hope deferred we feel.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” (Prov. 13:12)

Our sickness causes us to act out with schemes to help ourselves feel better… We get jealous of others. We demand people do things our way. We take things into our own hands. We bang our head against the wall out of frustration. We retaliate.

“You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them…”  (James 4:2)

But, what if we stopped — to pray God’s way?

James 4:2-3 continues on……”Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3)

What if God was our greatest motive? Our love for Him, our greatest pursuit? Our hope, His way of showing up? Our belief, who He says He is — Provider, Shepherd, Keeper of our Soul, Comforter, Redeemer. Our steadfast belief, He is greater than any fear or worry we face.

God will show up; it just may not look exactly as we think. Are we willing to surrender our thoughts of how things should be for His best plan?

Prayer: God, let me desire you more than anything else on this earth (see: Psalm 73:25) All other things will fall into place as I trust you. You have a good plan and you are worthy of all my trust and faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

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Wait and Renew Your Strength

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…” (Is. 40:31)

When I wait, I usually don’t feel strength rise. Instead, I’m wondering…

“When will you show up, God?”
“Why is this taking so long?”
“How do I do things differently?”

The more I wonder, the more I feel confused. Ever been there?

Well, I asked God about this verse I could not understand. I knew the issue was not with God, but with me. I needed clarity. Ironically in-line with this bible verses whole concept, I didn’t get an answer from for a while…that is, until He provided me clarity in the most unlikely of places… the ocean.

Surrounded by waves, with my son on top of a boogie board, I was looking into the ocean for just the right wave for him. I explained, “You gotta look for the right wave, son.”

I went on, “If you take any old wave, it will be a dud. If it is a dud, you’ll ride that wave and go hardly anywhere, and then you’ll have to fight all the waves to get back out to where you originally were.  That’ll tire you out.

Wait, son, don’t go too early, and when the time is right — go!”

God hit me in that water. I realized, just like riding dud waves, we often let our mind go where it wills when we are waiting. We ride dud emotions and little lies and let them take us where they will. No wonder we feel tired as we have to work our way back; We fight the tides of opposition to get back to a place of faith and trust in God.

Yet, when we stay near to God, keep our eyes on Him and remember that He has the perfect wave of faithfulness coming our way — we stay at peace. We feel renewed. We often see God’s mini-encouragement show up through His Word or people along the way. We stay afloat with God. There, we can enjoy His creation around us and all He is doing.

Here, we rest.  We rest and see His nature. We rest and wonder at what He is about to do. We rest and remember how good He has always been to us.  We rest and wonder what that beautiful wave of His might look like when it comes…

All these things renew strength. And then, at just the right moment — He breaks through and, boy, were we glad that we didn’t follow every little emotion and instinct that came on us along the way…

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Encouragement: God Will Provide

God is Provider. He shows up just on time. He provided His Son, at just the right moment, to literally save our souls. He knows what He is doing. He has a pulse on every detail that we need. He knows everything He is working together. He has us in the palm of His hand.

“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” (Is. 49:16)

God has us so much so — that we are engraved in the palm of His hand. We are ever-before our Maker. He thinks of us. He has a mind — to mind us.

He also has a plan to provide.

If you’ve lost hope around God providing a way, a means, a hope, finances, or a great rescue for a need, allow Him to renew your hope…

28 Verses Showing: God Provides

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19)

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb. 11:6)

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it(Psalms 81:10)

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Ps. 84:11)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Mt. 6:33)

The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. (Prov. 10:3)

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Ro. 8:32)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  (Eph. 3:20)

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Ps. 18:2)

Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. (Gen. 22:8)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12:9)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (Gen. 9:3)

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. (Ps. 34:10)

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Mt. 21:22)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (Jo. 15:6)

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Mal. 3:10)

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. … (Mt. 6:25-34)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Mt. 7:7-8)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Eph. 3:16-17)

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (Jo. 14:13-14)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. (1 John 3:22)

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (Jo. 14:26)

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Pet. 3:13)

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Ps. 145:15-16)

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)

For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. (Psalm 107:9)

 

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Did They Take Advantage of You?

take advantage

Someone has taken advantage of me. By all appearances, it seems they’ve used a position of power to force my hand. They’ve taken from me. It smells like trickery because I am left the fool. Now, I have no choice but to do what they want. Grr…

Yet, the more I pray, the more I feel God nudging my heart: not to fight back, but to give-in. Yes, to give in to what they want.

It feels like the lesson of this situation wants to stick to my heart. It tries to teach me that I am weak. It wants to convince me that people will take advantage of me again.

I can’t trust again.
I must rise up and be powerful, so I don’t get hurt.

Yet, God speaks differently.

In His Word, I am reminded of the time the Arameans were coming against Elisha and the Israelites. Here, the enemy had the whole city surrounded and was about to strike. Elisha was trapped; the others had a clear advantage.

At this point, Elisha used wise prayer; He asked God to blind His enemies. When the forces finally opened their eyes, they quickly discovered they were defeated. They went in the wrong direction. The Israelites had won.

Although Elisha used a powerful powerful prayer strategy, this is not the part that most speaks to me. The part that speaks to me is how Elisha appeared to give way, to give in, to an enemy.

Take a look…

Once they had the Arameans trapped, “The king of Israel … shouted to Elisha, “My father, should I kill them? Should I kill them?”

“Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.”

So the king made a great feast for them and then sent them home to their master. After that, the Aramean raiders stayed away from the land of Israel. (2 Kings 6:21-22)”

The enemy didn’t just get food, they got a feast. Why was this able to happen? Because they trusted God more than the people who hurt them.

And, this is what speaks to my heart today. I can trust God more than the person who hurt me. Why? Because God holds all power. God holds the purse-strings to everything. God makes armies bow. God brings redemption where things were stolen. God restores. And, He is always faithful.

Much more do I want to rely on God, than to allow a person’s actions declare who I am or how I will act. No. I won’t do that. God wins. He knows.

So, I go ahead and prepare a feast for someone who is acting like an enemy.

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How to Return to Trust

trust

Common to man is the subtle inclination to stop trusting God.

“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field…” (Gen. 3:1) Just as the snake came subtly to entice Adam and Eve in the garden — out of trust — so his tactics work similarly today. We must be on guard.

We seem to live in an era of confusion. Some things seem right, but they are not. Others seem wrong, and we get angry. In this day, it is easy to become afraid, disoriented, or unsure about the future. It is easy to feel unsure about what is really happening.

With our eyes on all that, we can lose focus on God. With emotions at peak levels, they can flood us and make us feel far from God.

So, what can we do about it?

I always think it is good to examine our own heart, first: Are we trusting God or beginning to take things in our own hands? Are we at peace or are we worried? Are we thinking more about God or ourselves?

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt?” (Mt. 7:1-1)

Our own heart tells us heart things about us — apart from the world we live in. It shows us if we trust — or not.

Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.” (Ps. 37:3)

When I see my trust waning, I do three things:

One: Repent from what has distanced me from God, then let it go. To dwell in it too long is to become far too self-focused (aka. self-centered).

Two: Reflect on the lies I have been believing. If it doesn’t line up with God’s Word, it should be out-of-line.

Three:  Re-establish God’s greatness in my mind. I remember who God is and who I am. I remember that He is Mighty, Able, and All-Powerful. I remember nothing can stop my Lord Almighty. I remember He is Conqueror and Overcomer in all ways and at all times. I remember He has good for me, His child.  I speak these things out. I dwell on them.

Trust is not always natural, sometimes it has to be fought for. Just like in any marriage, sometimes you have to fight to keep on loving and believing in the one you most love. Likewise, focused attention gives way to a greater relationship with God, so that lesser offenses and the world around — don’t subtly pull us away.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  (Prov. 3:5-6)

 

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For the Tired and Weary

Do you feel tired? Weary from world happenings? God knows.

Do you feel lonely? Perhaps, many around you — don’t fully understand you. God understands.

There are seasons where God sets us apart to figure things out: us and God. It can feel odd.

I feel this right now. The Lord has positioned me in such a place where there is risk…where I need to pray…where I have to trust Him for big things…where He is working on me…where I have to look at our relationship afresh..where I am not sure what the future holds…where I’ve been going, going, going. Yes, it feels odd, annoying even. I am set apart from what is normal for me.

The feelings could overwhelm me — if I am not careful.

Yet, I know this: a wise person never allows feelings to force them to give up. They see them for what they are — like little waves — that are passing emotions. And, they come to understand the reason they are set apart — is to be with God.

Did you know that the biblical word “holy” (Hebrew: Qodesh) means set apart?  Whether we are John, Jesus, or David, there’s a God set-up for God’s setting us apart. This setting apart was always a part of God’s plan to use them in mighty ways.

John paved the way for Jesus. Jesus paved the way for sinners. We are set apart to pave the way for God’s great moves in our hearts, as we let Him do what He wants to do even through discomfort. We are set apart — so we can meet with Him.

We are set apart so that His leadings, love, and lessons can teach us to not only survive but to thrive, no matter what we face. It is here we learn to rise above other’s opinions, the world’s estimations, and natural limitations.  Here, we learn to completely rely on God.

So, don’t let a feeling throw you. This too shall pass. But, God’s love endures forever. And, perhaps, He is setting you apart because He loves your time together. And so that you can know that He has a very, very good plan for your life… And so you know Him as your truest King, above finances, health or relationships.

Take hope.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Is. 40:29-31)

 

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Did God Really Say?

Sometimes, I say to my kids, “To delay is to disobey.”

For instance, I may instruct them, “Move away from the cake so you don’t end up eating it!”

If they delay and linger by it…eventually, they’ll put their finger smack dab in the center of it and lick the sugary icing off their finger. The temptation will be too great.

So often, to delay is to disobey. It leaves room to ask, “Did God really say…? Maybe it is okay if I…” (See: Gen. 3:1).  It opens the door to justification and rationalization.

Recently, God showed up in a big way in my life. It was an awe-inspiring breakthrough. I got clarity to a decisive next-step from God. On day 1, I was all in. But, day 14? I started to wonder, “Was that really you, God? Did you really say that? I am not sure it can work that way because ___, and ___and ___.”  I got an Eve-complex.

Questions — and all the reasons why it “couldn’t work” — were zapping my faith.

The delay was causing disobey to rise up in me. I began to sway.

It won’t be good because…
What I have here is really good…
It can’t possibly work out…

Rather than looking ahead to where God was taking me, I looked back at my circumstances.

Another woman did this. Her name was “Lot’s wife.”

And, God was not pleased with her behavior: “But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.” (Gen. 19:26)

She looked back at sin, at Sodom and Gomorrah. Today, I repent of looking back, delaying, and rationalizing my own way. I can’t move ahead when looking back. Nor can I go with God, when I’m going against Him. Forgive me, God!

And, He does, forgive me.

What about you? Where have you strayed? Looked back? Delayed? Where does it feel that you are working against God, rather than with Him?

You know, things of God won’t always make sense. They won’t always seem easy. They won’t always come together as we expected. But, this doesn’t mean God isn’t working in our life.  When we trust Him, even though, He helps us. When we keep our eyes on Him, despite what we think, He leads us. When we remember our best work has nothing to do with us, He equips us.

God has your best path and all you need — you already have — through knowing Him.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet. 1:3)

Be encouraged, even if your way doesn’t make any sense.

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