Finding Faith to Ask

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Mathew 21:22 NIV

I read the above verse, wishing it applied to me. Closing my eyes, I willed to experience first-hand the promise it contained.

But I had already resigned myself to lesser things.

Life in this world can be tough. I was overwhelmed, plain and simple. There was a mountain waiting to be accomplished and not only was I lacking the time, I was lacking the necessary knowledge. And, I wasn’t sure where to find either.

I bet you’ve been there.

“Lord, I need help. I can’t successfully be the person you’ve called me to be when I’m this overwhelmed and stressed. I try to be positive. I try to smile. But, there’s just no end in sight.”

Over the next three days, something unexpected took place.

I began learning what I needed to know. And, amazingly, it was not actually all that hard! It slowly began to enter the realm of “doable.”

Then, some unanticipated time descended upon me. I awoke well-rested and realized we had a delayed start at work; two whole extra hours which I put to good use!

By the end of the week, the deadline loomed just hours away, yet I was pretty certain I’d not only meet it, but excel at it- something I’d imagined impossible just days before.

Most of us know theoretically God can do anything. After all, He made everything. He can do anything, right?

Maybe you’re like me and need a gentle reminder of His power. Maybe there’s a history of asking and not receiving yet  that can jade even a seemingly simple request.

We don’t always get the inside scoop of why we might need to wait, a very long while at times.

But we shouldn’t let that halt our faith, or requests for other things.

He loves us more than we can imagine.

He loves you more than you can imagine.

Maybe like me, you need to try trusting Him again. Not misinterpret His silence for apathy. Because nothing could be further from the truth.

If you’re feeling short on faith, ask for it. He will provide.

He always does.

Prepare Before Battle

“I signed up for a marathon in six months, I’ve got to get training,” Sami said as she pulled her hair from her face, “but it’s been a long day and I feel so tired.” She glanced around at the mess in her room. “I’ll start tomorrow.”

Tomorrow was born a crazy day. The alarm somehow didn’t go off early, as she’s planned. Rushing out the door, her thoughts rushed ahead to the evening, I will make time then.

That evening, her workload stacker higher and she knew she couldn’t possibly take the time.

By the end of the next week she had not started. Nor by the end of the next month.

Time for the marathon came and Sami thought, “Well, it’s for a good cause, even if I only go partway, I’m doing something.”

Three miles in she was out of breath and in significant pain. It was time to quit.

Why did I never make the time to train?

Maybe like me, you can relate to Sami. I meant to start this good habit. I knew I would reap many benefits, but somehow I just never found the time.

I have done that with Bible Study. Yes, I want to know God better. Yes, I want to know what His word says. Why can it be a hard habit to start? Why does it seem that everything goes wrong, preventing me from having extra time, extra energy, extra determination needed?

“I can all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 promises.  Did that promise only things which required physical strength? Emotional strength? Spiritual strength? Organizational strength?

It says all things…

All things.

Christ knew what it was to walk this earth, to live with earthly demands. He also knew what was important. He called on God’s strength to steal away and spend time with His heavenly Father.

We need to follow His example. At some point in this life, we very well may be called to run a spiritual marathon. That marathon jut might be the toughest situation we never could have imagined, never could have possibly prepared for. Yet, by getting to know God and His word in a regular routine, when called upon to run that marathon, we just might be ready if we start today.

Lavish Love

She smiled as she handed me a cup of tea. I had a cold and our nine-year-old daughter insisted on caring for me.

“Did you remember a little honey?” I asked.

She started to shake her head then stopped. “A little more than a little,” she confessed sheepishly while covering me with a favorite blanket.

I had to smile, momentarily wondering just how much “a little more than a little,” literally was!

One sip confirmed it was definitely more than I would have added, yet tasted much better too!

She certainly had gone above and beyond.  All because she loves her mom and was concerned about her.

We each have a heavenly Father who loves each of us lavishly. His heart is concerned about each one of us. And He certainly demonstrates His love lavishly.

Have you sat and recounted how God has lavishly loved on you? If you’re like me, when the storm comes and I’m swimming in disappointment, I can easily forget all of life’s blessing.

Maybe it’s time to come up for a breath of fresh air. No matter what has been happening, take a mental inventory of the last few years, or even decade. How has God blessed you abundantly? How have you witnessed lavish love?

Thank God for His many blessings.

“Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deed of the Lord, or declare all his praise?” Psalm 106: 1-2 (ESV)

 

Awaiting An Invitation

Miranda angrily shook her head, eyes flashing as she read the text message on her phone.

Are you kidding me? she thought. God doesn’t want me now.

She knew her friend on the other side of the words meant well, but really, she’d turned her back on God a long time ago, a lifetime ago, it felt to this young woman.

Ding.

Another text notification. Glancing at her phone, she sighed, Will she never give up?

Read Nehemiah 9:27b- 31.

Really? She stared at the phone remembering the warm hugs and constant encouragement; she felt her heart soften. Looking online for a Bible site, she found Nehemiah.

In their time of distress they cried out to You, and You heard from heaven. In Your abundant compassion You gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the powers of their enemies.”

She knew enough bible history to recall who these rescued people were: the Israelites. They had a history of walking with God, turning from God, then repenting and walking with God, then turning from God.

A pattern she knew well from personal experience.

When they cried out to You again, You heard from heaven and rescued them many times in Your compassion.” (v 28b)

She read through verse 29, key concepts leaping from the screen: You warned, they acted arrogantly, disobediently. They sinned, resisted You stubbornly.

You were patient.

Your spirit warned, but they would not listen.

Verse 31 almost stopped her heart: “However, in Your abundant compassion, You did not destroy them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God

He was waiting for an invitation, Miranda thought, tears blurring the words on the screen.

God was patiently waiting for an invitation back into their lives. No matter what idols they built, or sought, or worshipped.

Her heart quaked at the next thought. Could He be waiting for me to invite Him back into my life?

That overwhelmed her as she recounted how she’d lived life after kicking God out.

He can’t care for me now, she thought, almost digesting the lie the Enemy fed her.

But Truth won out. She had been wrong, but He was waiting. It was time to make things right.

Reflections:

How have I turned away, believing the lie that God wouldn’t want me now?

 

What do I need to do to make amends?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, How easily I can get sidetracked, focusing on others things, other relationships, other priorities, other than You. When that distance builds and it’s been a while since I was close to You, it seems easy to believe You wouldn’t want me. Remind me of Your truth. You always want me. No matter what. My choices may separate us, but just as a loving Father, You are waiting for my return with open arms. Thank You for being such a good father, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pause, Pray

End of the day,

but not the list,

Burnt meal narrowly missed,

Pause to pray

 

Piles of laundry,

dishes to do,

A dear little girl sporting a boo-boo,

Pause to pray.

 

Thunderstorms,

Electricity out,

Repair truck on the long route,

Pause to pray.

 

Drop dead tired,

the house to clean,

Confronted by a girl who is mean,

Pause to pray.

 

Angry at life,

frustrated and sad,

refusing to find a reason to be glad

Pause to pray.

 

Crunchy, brown earth

dry as a bone,

the drought and fire endangering homes.

Pause to pray.

 

A dad out of work

who doesn’t know what to do;

how much he is loved, he hasn’t a clue

Pause to pray.

 

A soul longing for God

But certainly can’t see

just how much He loves humanity.

Pause to pray.

 

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasion with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV

 

“Pray continually.” I Thessalonians 5:17

 

 

 

Time for Everything

Have you ever felt both happy and sad at the same exact time for the same exact reason?

This week, I will drop off our first child at college.

I celebrated with her when she read the acceptance letter to her first choice school. I really got excited when her scholarship came through, making the dream a reality.

I look at the wonderful young lady she has become and I could not be happier for her. She’s been offered many opportunities and I continuously encourage her to seize them.

I’m her mom. I am so proud of her, so excited for her, and can’t wait to see where God leads her next. As her mom, I know I will miss her desperately.

As she’s been saying good-bye to everyone, it’s really sinking in. She won’t be at the dinner table. I won’t she her across the church, seated in the teen pew. I won’t get to embrace her and pray with her before bed each night.

How can I feel so happy, so excited, and so sad, simultaneously?

The God who created those emotions and who created me also gave recorded wisdom on this matter. Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 reads, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

In her preparations to move over 2000 miles away, we have shared much laughter! In those quiet times before bed, I’ve solitarily shed some tears.

God knows about those tears. He also knows about the joy I harbor,so thrilled at seeing His plans for her unfold.

He created all the emotions I’m feeling today. He knows. He will help me leave her there. He will be with her. He loves her even more than I.

Yes, there is a time for everything. Even when we weep and laugh and mourn and dance in rapid succession, He knows. He understands. And He will carry us through.

 

Known Heritage

Where do you come from? Families created through adoption often witness a teen’s curiosity about their birth parents as they grow up.

Who are my birth parents?

Where was I born?

Under what circumstances?

What is my biological heritage?

When we become followers of Christ we have a spiritual heritage. The best documentation of it is the Bible. God recorded people and places, promises and predicaments all inside, to pass down our heritage through Him.

He wants us to know what He has done; not only creating the world but also creating plans for you and me.

Not only working wondrous miracles, but weaving unfathomable disaster into faith-building redemption.

He wants us to know the legacy of:

His character,

His laws, and

His promises.

He wants us to know Him.

He wants us to follow Him.

He wants us to love Him as He loves us.

To know Him, follow Him, and love Him, we need to understand our inherited heritage He lovingly bestowed on us.

We need to know the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We need to understand how those stories apply to us today.

Like the people of Nehemiah’s day, learning our spiritual heritage can spark tears, sadness, and conviction.

Sometimes, we clearly had no idea.

But, as Nehemiah proclaimed, our heritage is a cause for celebration. As we know God more, we recognize His great love for us.

His heritage will captivate our hearts.

Suggested reading: Nehemiah 8; John 3:16

 

 

Navigation Desperation

Panic seized me as I desperately glanced from the GPS to scan the street signs.

The GPS did not know where I was! The connection icon swirled endlessly, indicating not only was I lost, but there was little hope of pinpointing my location anytime soon.

That thought terrified me as I followed traffic, frantically searching for a place to pull over, pause, and regroup.

Why isn’t my phone working? What is wrong with the connection? Do you ever feel that directions from God are not clearly coming through? Are prayers seemingly not heard? Have we lost that connection?

Even a long-time Christian can suddenly feel stranded on occasion.

But the  Lord promises to never leave nor forsake us.

So how can we reconcile that lost feeling with the promise of Deuteronomy 31:6?

God is there, always even when we can’t discern Him. (Joshua 1:9)

Feeling lost provides us with an opportunity to grow our faith as we witness His faithfulness. (John 14:23)

Cherish the thought that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. When we are lost, He is already coming to find us. (John 10:27-30)

Those three truths can alleviate the anxiety that can creep into a lonely and lost heart.

When we find ourselves lost, we need to find a quiet place to pull over and pause, pinpointing our present location and desired destination.

Sometimes, our usual communication seems to break down. My GPS wasn’t working and Siri was not telling me turn by turn where to go.

However, the Maps app was working. while parked in safety, I navigated through the app to turn myself around.

If prayers don’t seem to be providing answers, checking in on God’s map, the Bible, may clarify a direct path to your destination.

Getting lost can be terrifying and humbling. Once we’ve found our footing in familiar places again, we may see God was leading and teaching us every step of the way.

 

 

Conquering Foes

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who set out to do the impossible. He planned to rebuild what had been destroyed. He engaged a king to find him supplies. He journeyed a long distance, taking nothing but faith with him.  He was quite confident in his calling to construct a wall.

He had to motivate his coworkers.

He had to ignore the nay-sayers.

He had to fight the enemies who tried to stop him.

Staying away from the enemies had not worked. The enemy was bent on coming to him.

What did he tell his coworkers concerning the enemy’s arrival? “Do not open the gates of Jerusalem until the sun is hot.”

Nehemiah knew he could not stop his adversaries from approaching, but he thoughtfully determined the details of what they found.

Let them approach in the light, when they are clearly seen.

Let them approach when it’s the busiest time of day, with many others around.

Let them approach when we are ready.

Nehemiah’s plan offers wisdom for us today. Our enemy may not always be a physical soldier but a spiritual warrior bent on killing just the same. We can not control our enemy’s arrival. But we can control how he finds us.

Make him come into the light to find us. The Prince of Darkness loathes the light of Jesus. Let’s saturate our spirits, our minds, and our hearts with God’s love through His word, the Bible. When we are reflecting the light of Jesus, Satan has no choice but to approach the light if he’s trying to get at us.

Nehemiah wanted others around when his enemy approached. We need the love and encouragement of people who will spiritually fight for us when the enemy authors an agonizing battle. We do not want to face him alone. Friends and family of faith will happily hold us in prayer and keep words and deeds of encouragement coming.

Nehemiah wanted the enemy to find him ready. How do we prepare for our enemy?

Prayer

Reading and knowing God’s word

Refusing to yield to fear and anxiety

Self-care for the best physical, mental, and spiritual health

Nehemiah did not halt his efforts to fulfill his calling in order to prepare for invasion. He constructed the wall while fortifying his own defenses.

God calls us to follow Him and His leading while trusting in Him. By following Nehemiah’s instructions we can survive the enemy’s attacks and even emerge victorious!

Heart Guard

I am so blessed, I get to go to work today! Sierra thought as she jumped from bed minutes before the alarm sounded.

Humming happily, she buzzed through her workout and breezed into the shower. Smiling as she shampooed, she thought of how she might create today.

Her first commissioned work was foremost on her mind.  She needed to do her ultimate best to boost her work, promote the studio, and hopefully someday earn a comfortable living.

How blessed am I to use my gifts, my passion, to glorify God. Stepping out onto the fluffy, white towel, she suddenly stopped; realizing something which halted her heart.

All week I’ve been thinking of and planning for work each morning, breaking my routine of focusing my thoughts on the Lord. I’m so anxious to use the gifts He gave me, to see what I might accomplish in a career, and so excited to finally see the end product; I’m more focused on what I might create than the Creator who gave me the gift.

Sierra slowly toweled off, her heart deeply troubled. “Lord I didn’t mean for my love of my art to overtake my love for You.”

Proverbs 4:23 quickly came to mind, “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Her heart had hung all week on her artwork, her masterpiece-in-the-making. It was filling her final thoughts as she drifted off to sleep and consuming her conscience as she awoke each day. It was forever on her mind, always the top priority.

Not today, she thought, shaking her head. She turned on the Christian radio station, streams of Scripture flowing through the lyrics, soothing her longing soul.

After completing her grooming, she carried her Bible to the breakfast table, vowing to start her day with Jesus. She began a conversation that she would revisit throughout the day.

Can you relate to Sierra? I know I have. I can get so excited about an assignment, especially when ministry related, sometimes I forget the true purpose in pointing life toward God.

In the work He gives us, He wants us serving Him, loving Him. What a blessing to enjoy the assignment! But we need to be on guard that the assignment we get to do does not overtake the position of the One who assigned it to us.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember our hearts are to be first and foremost overflowing for God, not for our God-given assignments.