Waiting for the Letdown

 

“At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
    and I will punish the men
who are complacent,
    those who say in their hearts,
‘The Lord will not do good,
    nor will he do ill.’
 Their goods shall be plundered,
    and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
    they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
    they shall not drink wine from them.”

Zephaniah 1:12-13

 

“God…I trust you. I know you don’t want to harm us…I just…don’t really see how this could possibly work out well in the end. But, I WILL hold onto you no matter what happens, even if it is a disaster, and things don’t go the way I’m hoping.”

So often my thoughts have gone something like this, as I try to have faith for something that seems….well….just crazy. Maybe I struggle to believe that God can actually DO something that big…or maybe I struggle to understand why or how He would do something like that…….for ME. I don’t deserve a blessing like that…so…why should He see it through? I mean, I can believe for the same thing for someone else. But me? I brace myself for the disappointment. The letdown. The failure of my faith.

Faith?

What faith? Is THAT faith??

It is so easy to fall into this attitude that Zephaniah so poignantly describes in chapter 1 of his book. It is so easy to know deep in our hearts that God won’t do evil toward us…but…not letting — or MAKING — ourselves believe that He can and WILL also do good! We must guard ourselves very carefully from this attitude, for, as Zephaniah points out, this attitude breeds complacency; NOT the bold faith that sets out to conquer in the name of the Lord! We must push aside every doubt that tries to crowd into our minds and hearts when we set forth to pray in faith, and we must BELIEVE the Lord for good! For us! Today! He will not fail us, and our hope is NOT in vain. Unless we press the victory, and break through the hoards of doubts that try to stand in our way, to keep us from receiving that which we pray for, we will fall short of what God desires for us! It is like the story of Joash in 2 Kings, when Elisha told him to take a bow and shoot arrows out his window. And Joash took it, and shot 3 arrows and then stopped. Then Elisha was angry with him, because, he said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.” When we lose heart after praying only for a little while, we do not gain the victory we might have had if we pressed on! And unless we press forward in our trust in the Lord, we will be like those Zephaniah describes who never see the fruit of their labors. So too, if we do not believe the Lord for the answer to our prayers, and hold fast, waiting expectantly for His blessing, we will not get to see the fruit of the wrestling faith, and we will not have the reward of our faith. For, simply thinking, “God will not do evil….but neither will he do good,” is not enough.

Ask God to show you how you may have been doing this in your own life…and ask Him to teach you REAL faith and trust in His goodness and faithfulness!

 

 

Aesthetic the Idol

 

Emptiness abounds.  A click of a button can become a painful reminder of the parched souls and aching hearts that may be hiding behind the faces of our closest family, neighbors, and friends.  Sometimes, we see the pain; other times, we don’t find out until it is too late.

The church sees and often feels that same yearning for hope.  Christians know that their faith should hold the key to broken hearts feeling love again, to trials turning to gold.  They have a longing to see their brothers and sisters in Christ and those who are lost find a home where they can be loved, cared for, and feel the sunshine and warmth of peace again.  Those who know brokenness want to see the pain in others healed.  The Lord gave us hearts that long to see every tear wiped away.

And so the church set out to build homes: places for people to be reminded what it is like to feel, to see art and hear music that wakens a piece of their broken hearts, and to know that they are not alone.  We know that the Lord loves a sincere heart.  Giving Him our best to help others must surely be a blessing to Him, even if we’re not quite sure how to do it.

This is true.  The world will see Christ in the church because of something we have that is different from the world.  Unfortunately, with so much brokenness still in the hearts of many believers, much of the church has gotten swept up in the appearance of fulfillment in order to reach out to others.  It is widely circulated today that the way to reach people and show them that the church is different is to have stylish places to meet, sell quality coffee, and create music and media content that shows real talent and skill.  Some follow this idea because they believe the world will need something familiar to draw them to church.  Others think that the world is so busy pushing their way of thinking that they can’t make anything of quality anymore, so that if people see Christians making good quality things, they will have to admit that God exists, because quality must be something eternal, something meaningful.

This adoration of quality is something that has distracted many Christians from following Jesus.  We begin to try chasing away the darkness by embracing comedy and humor of all kinds.  We want to show the world we understand “real” problems by making art and music that captures the spirit of anger, terror, and hopelessness.  We want to us these things to show them that there is still hope, but because we have been focusing on refining skills and talents as a way to do the most for God, we have lost the key to salvation in all of the busyness.  The beauty, the art, the music, all have a note of hollowness to them.  We like to keep busy because we can often feel an ache in our hearts that tells us if we pause too long to listen to that hollow sound, we will see that all of our churches, our youth centers, our coffee shops, our hopeful homes, have become pieces of a ghost town.

Friend…

Sister.

You do not have the strength to heal anyone.  We cannot even heal ourselves.  Our words, actions, and creations can bless others, but the only way that they can be healed, can find a home, can know love and joy and laughter again, is not to have shadows of Jesus in your actions, it is to have the actual, real, full person of Jesus with them.  That can be very hard to hear, because we try so hard, but living fully in our hearts and in our actions is exactly where Jesus wants to be.

The weeds and whispers of the world can be very distracting, so it is very easy for us to become separated from our Father in a culture that is basically a shiny, colorful department store to our child-like minds.  Christians know in their hearts that Jesus is somewhere, but it can often feel like God is the watch-winder, and our job is just to keep ticking along until the right time comes.

As creatures made in God’s image, we have an innate desire to create.  We also have a strong connection to what we create, and what things awaken that creative nature.  These tendencies are wired into us so that spending time with our Father will bring us closer to Him.  However, when we start thinking that our talents are their for us to use—even to use for God—we often end up creating and interacting things that draw our affections away from the heart of our Father.

Remember that it is Jesus’ goal to bring all people to Himself (John 12:32).  Things that we create in and of ourselves will reflect our beliefs, but if we submit ourselves to Christ, and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the things He builds through us will actually introduce others of our precious Savior Himself!  In essence, we view our talents as our tools to serve Him, but in our surrender to His will, His complete will, we become the brush, and He becomes the painter.  We become the strings, and He becomes the sweet hands that give us music.  He has complete freedom to love others through us, to come alongside them personally, and to wipe their tear-stained faces with His nail-scarred hands, holding them close until they are made utterly whole again.

Kneel before Him and give Him all of your heart.  Trust Him with everything like Mary did in pouring out what she had for Him.  Whatever others may say, they will see Him at His work on the pages of your life.  Will you sing a more hopeful song without Him?

 

by Stephanie H.

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors | Book Review

 

Stop right there. Just go pre-order the book (click on the picture above). THEN come back and read all the reasons why. No, seriously…it’s THAT good. And I do not dole out compliments on books often. But this is one you just NEED to get. You can thank me later.

When I signed up to be a part of the launch team for this book, I had a feeling that this was going to be a tool God wanted to use to speak to my heart in a very particular way…but I really had no idea HOW meaningful it would be to my heart.

But, as I cracked it open for the first time earlier this week, and began to read, I couldn’t help but just shake my head and look heavenward. How did you know, God? HOW do you DO this?? How do you have someone on the other side of the world write a book that is SO…so…for ME?

As I sat and read this book, it was as if a dear friend was sitting beside me, speaking words straight from the Lord to MY heart. I could hardly bring myself to finish the last few chapters because I just didn’t want it to ever end. Someone understood. Someone who really, truly knows the Lord, in the truest sense of the word. Someone who had real truth to share with my heart, birthed out of having walked through the fire with the Lord, and having come out on the other side seeing His faithfulness. And it was like the sweetest fellowship you could ever hope for from the most kindred of hearts.

I could scarcely put the book down, and chapter after chapter, the tears tumbled down my cheeks.

Katie’s story is so raw. So heart-wrenchingly beautiful. So full of the reality that this life God has called us to is just not easy — nor was it meant to be easy…but He is WITH US. And He uses all of the brokenness of this world, and our own brokenness and wrestlings to draw us near. So close to His heart.

As she shared how she has found herself actually longing for the times of darkness and difficulty because she has found such a special closeness with the Lord through the midst of them, several memories of my own life flashed through my mind…and I had to nod, “Amen, Amen!” For I, too, have found this to be true. In fact, some of the MOST heart-wrenching circumstances of my life have become the greatest blessings, as they caused me to cling to Jesus with a fierce tenacity. And I would not trade the lessons He taught my heart as I walked through the midst of them, for being able to go back and have things work out differently.

“The invitation to experience sorrow and doubt and all those long nights WITH Him — THAT is favor.”

What do you do when your prayers have gone unanswered (ar at least, not answered in the ways you were hoping for)? What do you do when there is death instead of healing, heartache instead of comfort, and so, so much brokenness in this world that continually surrounds us?

Katie shares some of the bitter trials she has walked through since she wrote “Kisses from Katie”. She shares her wrestlings with the Lord — and perhaps you will see yourself in some of her struggles to hope…to trust…to understand why there is such heartache and pain in this world — and her triumphs, coming forth as she casts herself before the Lord, washing His feet with her tears poured out before Him day after day (and night after night), when the brokenness of the world around her was just too much to bear. Every bit of truth she shares in this book is tested by a life truly lived in the midst of the brokenness of this world — these are no trite quips written by a person sitting in their armchair by the fire in their multi-million dollar private mansion. These are truths birthed from pain, and springing forth from a life that is laid down for the sake of bringing Hope and life to those who are destitute.

From the depths of Katie’s weakness, the Lord showed HIS strength….and this book is SUCH a beautiful memorial to His faithfulness and power in spite of our weakness and wrestlings — our brokenness and scars. As she says so well:

 “All those cracks and holes and ruptures, they would be the places in my life where His glory would shine through.”

The resounding theme of this book is this: Those who hope in the Lord will never be disappointed (from Isaiah 49:23, Psalm 25:3)! We can cast all of the pain, and all of our weakness and burdens and fears upon Him…and know that He WILL come through. We can trust Him. We can HOPE in Him!

“When I hunger always for Him, even the hard satisfies. Even the grief gives way to joy. Even the bitter is sweet. Even in the dark, I can see His face. Because when we are looking for Him, we will always see Him. I have tasted of His goodness, and now I hunger for it.”

If you would like to pre-order this book (DO IT), watch the book trailer, or get more info on it, go to: https://amazima.org/daringtohope/

(Also, there is a special gift for those who pre-order this month!!)

 

And last, an excellent passage of scripture which sums up the book SO well:

Isaiah 49:13-16a

“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
    break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people
    and will have compassion on his afflicted.

 But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me;
    my Lord has forgotten me.’

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
    that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
    yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”

Living in the VICTORY of the Holy Spirit!

 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV)

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately praying for the Lord to fill me with the strength and tools I need to be able to do His work and not lose heart. And not only to do His work…but to do it *well*. In particular, I have spent a lot of time praying for Him to fill me with JOY in all the varied situations we find ourselves in, and His LOVE for the people we meet — a love that would compel me to reach out to them, and not be content to just let them pass by on their courses to hell.

But then, one day, I stopped in the midst of my prayers. I suddenly realized that each of these things I was pleading for — joy, love, peace, faithfulness, etc. — they are all fruits of the Holy Spirit, as Galatians 5:22-25 says:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

“Okay…” you might think, “I know those verses. I’ve sung the fruit of the Spirit song since I was three. I know all that already. What is so groundbreaking about that?”

Well, I sang that song all my life too. But here, just take a look at some more verses with me real quick…and then I’ll explain it:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13 ESV)

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 ESV)

“….and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5 ESV)

 

The Holy Spirit IS the power that we need to live victorious Christian lives, full of vibrancy and light! HE is the source of all JOY, all LOVE — all that we need for serving the Lord! Without the Holy Spirit, we do a pretty poor job trying to live righteously and godly in our own strength. We don’t need to try to manufacture these things in our own hearts — we can’t ever muster up enough faithfulness or love to live as God’s hands and feet in this world. We don’t need to spend hours and hours pleading with God to make us more loving, kind, or joyful! In fact…we need to get past our self-focused prayer times, and start using our prayer times to storm the devil’s fortresses, and set the captives free! We weren’t saved to feel good about ourselves. We were saved to serve our King…and to rescue others! And the fruits of the Spirit aren’t so people can think about how wonderful we are – they are to cause us to be better, bolder, more selfless soldiers who don’t back down from advancing the Kingdom of God! The Holy Spirit comes in to win victories for the Lord!

So…how do you get the power of the Holy Spirit then…if I just said that we need to stop our self-focused pleading every day for help to stop doing the things we know we shouldn’t, and start doing the things that we should…???

 

LET THE HOLY SPIRIT TAKE CONTROL.

Yep. That simple. Each of us has a “driver’s seat” of our lives. There is one of three chauffeurs. It’s either going to be yourself, the devil, or the Holy Spirit. Now, the devil is no gentleman. He just barges in whenever he can find a crack to squeeze through. But the Holy Spirit IS a gentleman. And He will never force His way in. He will always wait to be asked. Kinda’ vexing. 😉

So for starters, we must ask the Holy Spirit to actually not only fill us, but to take control of our lives, that we might actually BE the hands and feet of Jesus, doing HIS will, and not our own on this earth.

However, for the Holy Spirit to actually be ABLE to take control, we must be willing to surrender anything that is contrary to God’s Spirit within us; anything that would hold us back from being completely surrendered to His will and heart. In fact…any time we feel like we are lacking the power we need to serve the Lord more effectively, or when we are lacking the vibrancy and joy that we know belonged to those who have gone before us as they served — people such as Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward, Jackie Pullinger, Jonathan Goforth, D.L. Moody, Reese Howells, etc. — it is likely that there is something we are holding onto. Something that we have not been willing to let bow before the Lord.

And this is why I was so excited to begin thinking this way. Instead of pleading with God to give me more joy in my life, I can take hold of the Holy Spirit’s power in my life in a deeper way…and it comes from surrendering my heart and life more fully to His service!

How do you receive the Holy Spirit? Well, there is much division over things of this nature. Some believe there is no more Holy Spirit (I have already seen this disproved enough in my life that I don’t even consider it a valid argument any more), some believe that you automatically receive the Holy Spirit when you become a Christian, others believe it is a separate experience. Whatever the case, if you are already a Christian, it cannot hurt to just humble yourself before the Lord and be honest with Him. Just say something like, “Holy Spirit, I desperately need you in my life. I need you to live through me, to give me victory over my flesh, and to cause me to be fruitful in the Lord’s service. I invite you to take control of my life…and I want you to live through me, to do the things that the Father needs done on this earth. I also understand that it will mean surrendering my own desires and the things in my life that are displeasing to you…and I don’t know where to start…but I want to be willing. Please come in. Please make me willing…and please show me the things that are in my life that are hindering me from serving you with total abandon, and then, root those things out so that there’s not one particle of them remaining, but only YOU.”

And that is where I, too, am at today. Eagerly expecting the Holy Spirit to begin to work through me in a deeper, more effective way; making me more one with the desires of God’s heart. I want to be His hands and feet. Do you?

 

Facing Discouragement as a True Friend of God

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I don’t have a normal life.  In fact…my life is incredibly crazy.  I don’t usually like to write much about myself, but here’s just a little peek into our lives, as just a little bit of background for what I’ve been thinking about today.

We travel a lot, because of my husband’s family being a musical group.  We go anywhere and everywhere we’re invited.  And that leads to some pretty…interesting…experiences.  You probably wouldn’t believe the crazies we see.  People think that traveling and sharing the gospel and playing music must be so glamorous and exciting.  WELL…it’s exciting because we’re doing it for the Lord, and we get to see real and lasting fruit from our labors.  But…it’s not glamorous.  We chuckled today as we recounted some of the places we’ve stayed — from squishing nine people into one dilapidated motel room, to camping in tents next to alligator-infested waters, to…well…basically, if you can dream it up, it’s probably happened to us…and then some. 😉  We also find ourselves presenting our shows in many different places, to many different crowds.  Sometimes we’ve had a jam-packed full theater with four hundred people all riveted throughout the show.  Other times, we’ve had churches, partially filled, but with people who had tears streaming down their faces by the end of the night because the Lord had so touched their hearts.  And other times…well…other times, it can be downright discouraging.  Like last night.  We had a miscommunication with a newspaper that was supposed to run our concert ad for two weeks in a row, and it only got run one week……the day of the show.  We had eight people come.  In a large auditorium.  Eight people is not a lot.  In fact, it’s downright awkward in many ways.  But we thanked God for those eight people, and did a show for them anyway.  But afterwards, several of our family were feeling pretty discouraged.  It’s times like these when you’ve given all your own money and time and lots of effort and sacrifice for what you think the Lord wanted you to do…and held on in faith till the last moment…and then, things don’t go the way you thought they should, that the devil slinks in and begins to fill your mind with doubts.  Suddenly, you wonder…did you really hear from God??  Do you do the wrong thing?  Did you not have enough faith?  Should you even be serving the Lord at all?  Maybe there’s someone else who is better qualified…someone who could actually have the success you had hoped for…maybe…maybe…

 

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But as I pondered the night, the only thing that came to my mind, again and again was a quiet whisper of, “But…the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these.”

I paused…and pondered.  Yes.  It’s true.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of men and women who have given everything they had for Jesus…and many of them never saw any fruit for it.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of those who have laid down their very lives for Jesus, and never lived to see the salvation of many hundreds which has come from their sacrifice.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of those who have had many disappointments and those who have looked like complete failures to those looking on, for the sake of Christ…..and yet…..He looks down with the greatest love, tears pooling in His eyes, His heart overflowing with gratitude that He has found true friends; those who are willing to suffer with Him for the sake of some that might be rescued.  It is not an unusual thing for the children of God to encounter trials…but we must press forward, and not lose heart.  Trust…and obey.

So, may you be encouraged.  Whether you are in ministry, or whether you think God may be leading you in that direction, or whether you are simply trying to be faithful in reaching out to those God puts in your path — yes, there will be difficulties, hardships, disappointments, and much testing of our faith…but the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these.  God’s heart is so gladdened to have true friends, who love Him more than the comforts and success and acclaim of the world.  Friends who are willing to suffer with Him.  And God doesn’t say that if we have difficulties or what seems like failures we HAVE failed.  He just asks us to be obedient, to not lose heart, and to press forward in what He has called us to do.  We can trust Him, and entrust the fruit to Him.  He will bring forth a harvest for all that we entrust to His care…for any fruit that springs up can only come by Him and through Him anyway.  If you’ve ever tried making something happen in your own strength, you can attest to what I’m saying. 😉

 

Feel free to share what God has been teaching you lately in the comments, and what He has encouraged you with in the midst of your own difficulties and disappointments. 

 

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Saving Lives Before They’re Gone

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It happened again this week – a childhood friend had enough of life, and ended his. It wasn’t the first time it has happened with those I have known. But it doesn’t get less painful, or less heartbreaking…and distance of friendship over time doesn’t change a thing. It’s like suddenly the world grinds to a halt, and there’s a definitive end. Where there is life, there is hope… but when life ends, you can’t go back and say the things you wish you could have said, and there are no more second chances.

Nearly every time I have seen this happen, it has come out of a great hopelessness. A hopelessness birthed by a longing for fulfillment, but searching for it in all the wrong places. We all desire acceptance, fulfillment, and the feeling of having made a difference in the word. But oh-so many people seek after these things by chasing darkness. The devil makes many promises to broken, needy hearts, but never delivers. He may entice, but there cannot be any true hope or peace or fulfillment apart from Christ. Jesus is the only one who can break us out of the bondages to sin and darkness, and give us a hope and a future…but so many people do not know that. Now, all of us know someone like this – and, more likely, many “someones”. But, they continue in their dark and empty pursuits day after day. Why? We think it is more caring to just let them live how they want, and not “judge them” or make them feel uncomfortable by sharing Jesus with them.

But how can they know, unless someone tells them? How can they see that breaking God’s laws always leads to emptiness and pain, unless someone cares enough to tell them that what they are doing is, in fact, sin…and that they end of it will be darkness and destruction…and then, takes them by the arm, and shows them that there is, in fact, a better way.

How can they escape the quicksand unless someone tells them what it is that is engulfing them, and then throws them a lifeline?

Do we care enough to speak up?
Will we reach out with their lifeline before it is too late?

Suicide is an epidemic. We can’t tell what is going on in each person’s heart and mind, but from what I have observed, it seems that a greater number of people struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts than those who don’t. You just don’t know who is planning the end of their own life next, or when. We had a woman come to a concert outreach my family did recently, who was planning to kill herself the very next day! But instead, that night she found freedom and hope as she received a new heart from Jesus!

There is nothing that compares to seeing the chains of darkness and despair fall off, and the light of hope in Christ fill a person’s eyes. Prayerfully consider what you can do to reach out with the hope that only Jesus can bring to those you know who are walking down dark and dangerous roads, instead of just closing your eyes to their heart needs, and dismissing their pursuits that will end in emptiness, pain, and
dark despair.

Silence is not caring.
Truly caring is speaking up, and, like Jesus, wishing that none should perish.

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20 ESV)

When?

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This is a journal entry of mine…and I hope it is a blessing to you!

It can be so easy for us to go through our lives, just trying to be people’s friends. Giving them a big smile and some cheery small-talk, and hoping it will change their lives…somehow. Hoping that maybe they will see Jesus in that look. That smile. (And, by God’s grace, sometimes they do! And that is always a blessing.)

We give smiles and hugs out freely…and that is good — needed, even! But what about the one thing that will actually change their lives and give them lasting joy and hope for the future? We give them food and medical aid and clothing…..When will we also give them Jesus? We are so careful – so cautious, because, well, we don’t want to offend them! We don’t want them to be turned away! And so, we are silent. Day after day goes by…but the reality is, in desiring to not turn them away, are we selfishly taking from them the chance to be right with God, and to be free of their heavy burdens?

It is worth pondering. What is the real reason we are silent? Why do we withhold Living Water from their souls? Is it because of fear? Are we afraid of rejection – our OWN rejection? Are we afraid of their anger, or losing their friendship or respect?

Jesus Himself had to deal with all these things while on earth – and has to deal with them continually to this very day. Can we not sacrifice our own pride or respect in the eyes of others for His sake…and theirs?

It is a good thing to be a friend. It is good to give a ready smile, or a needed hug – even physical help and aid. But when…when will we give them Living Water? When will we introduce them to the Healer of their souls? He is the only one who can heal their hearts, and make them new and full of joy! We all have a limited time here on earth – and we cannot tell when a life may be cut short. I have already had several friends whose lives have ended too soon.

So what are you waiting for?

When will you tell them?

Pray and ask God to show you any selfish or fearful reasons that you have been silent…and ask Him to give you courage to speak, and to give your friends soft hearts to understand.

Don’t let your heart be plagued with the distress that comes when you miss a chance that never comes again.

And ponder this: when was the last time that you shared Jesus with someone? ”Tomorrow” may never come – so ask God to show you what you can do today!

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From participating in the Tuesday@Ten challenge.