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Archive for the ‘Faith Challenge’ Category

 

“The people walking in darkness 
   have seen a great light; 
on those living in the land of deep darkness 
   a light has dawned.” Isa 9:2

“He reveals the deep things of darkness 
   and brings utter darkness into the light.” Job 12:22

“I have come into the world as a light,so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46

I took this picture while walking through an old ravine in Amman, Jordan. I have never forgotten this moment.

You see, prior to this shot, I was walking in darkness. The only light shining was in the sky above the ravine. I could not see more than fifteen feet in front of me for a mile.

Local travelers would rush past me. My guide would would just turn and smile, and all the while I was wondering how he knows where to go.

I know now that his smile was filled with the knowledge of what I was about to see. 

Just at the point where I adjusted to the darkness, we rounded the corner to see a great light shining through an incredibly sculpted opening.

All this time we were walking towards light. 

The sight of this light was more amazing than anything I had ever seen. This light was filled with the promise of beauty and the illumination of a whole other world.

This light showed a glimpse of something amazing to come.

God’s light reveals.

God’s light shows through our deepest darkness to illuminate something amazing to come.

Even as much as I had adjusted to darkness, I could not help but be drawn towards the light.

I am so grateful that his light reaches into my deepest darkness. His light smiles with the knowledge of what is to come.

I am believing for the hope of his light to reach into the ravine of me and smile. 

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The bible is filled with amazing stories of miracles and wonders. Jesus did incredible things. He healed the sick, and raised the dead; gave the blind person sight and the mute a voice.

Jesus was active. His abilities matched no other.

Homes and courts would overflow with people just trying to get a glimpse of him. People traveled from all over bringing their needs to place before him, and hear his words.

Jesus did illogically astonishing things.

I shake my head at the amazing things Jesus did; story after story of miracles and wonders. God’s abilities were seen very clear through Jesus. Nothing was impossible for Jesus.

I read some of these stories and wonder about the person who didn’t get healed by Jesus. Was there a person he did not touch or heal? Were there people he did not “come through for?

There is a harsh reality that I bet there was. There is a harsh reality that even today things happen that make us question God’s abilities.

This world is filled with things that happen and we wish God would do, or would have done, something.

There is a part in the bible that every time I read it I am left with the question of why? Hebrew 11 is a great chapter of incredible faith. However, it is also a sobering chapter of faith that would seem to cause a tension between what happens and God’s abilities.

Hebrews 11 talks about amazing people of faith. It goes on to describe people who had received back their dead raised to life, those who shut the mouths of lions, those who escaped the sword, and weakness turned into conquering power. In the same breath, there is a list of those who seemed to die by the sword, flogged, imprisoned, stoned and killed.

What do we do with the tension of when God seems to use his abilities and when he seems absent?

God is able.

He is also always doing things we do not see or can even grasp.

There are stories like Lazarus, one of Jesus’ closest friends, who was sick and Jesus waited to show up. John the Baptist, a man Jesus described as one of the greatest men who ever lived, stayed in prison while Jesus did not free him. Jesus, God’s own son, hung on a cross. Battered and beaten, Jesus hung on a cross.

Many mocked Jesus’ abilities to be able to save himself. They called out to him to pray and ask God to save him. Jesus never did.

Jesus never questioned the father’s abilities in the midst of his circumstances.

It is so hard to reconcile our circumstances and God’s abilities. It is easy to claim his abilities when they seem to be for us. What about claiming his character and ability when they seem to be absent and far?

Our circumstances do not reflect the way God feels about us.” Andy Stanley

How do your circumstances stir up in you thoughts and questions about God?

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I am a fighter. I always have been. Maybe growing up with an older brother has engrained survival into me.

My brother and I would wrestle a ton. I would always lose. Looking back, there was not one time I can think of where I just didn’t try and fight back. I was never going to win no matter how many rounds we went. However, the reality of not winning was never my first response. I tried. I fought. He would literally toss me and I would just try running harder all the more.

Everyone experiences reaching that place where all of our resources are exhausted, and so are we. Every game has an ending where no more moves can be played. Every match has a final point. Every war requires someone to surrender in end.

I have been facing the reality, and the tension, that there is never a great time to surrender, but it is also never too late to surrender.

Surrendering is so hard for this self-sufficient girl. Surrendering seems to be the choice I make when it’s the only choice left to make.

This pattern of surrendering is costly to my heart and others. I usually get to the point of exhaustion before I realize what I have been running so hard after, has failed.

Surrendering can be associated with weakness. This is a misconception that can be costly. There is a lot of wisdom in choosing to surrender.

I was sweating it out on the Cross Trainer at the gym tonight. It was a simple but powerful metaphor for me. Sometimes I feel like I am trying so hard to pour all I have into life, relationships, transitioning, and even hoping. In the end, I am sweating hard, but still stationary.

Surrender is just hard. It is the wise choice to make before exhausting the road that leads to self-sufficient failure.

God is patient. He is always faithful in redirecting my failures back to him.

I need to get better at assessing the battle. This doesn’t mean to not try, but it means to try well.

For me, surrendering facilitates waiting, as well as enabling me to choose faith verses my own abilities.

Surrendering does not mean the white flag of failure. Surrendering is the wisdom sustaining obedience.

Today, I am going to try and walk out my day surrendered.

What does surrendering mean and look like for you?

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Have you ever experienced a time where you found yourself in a waiting season?

I will admit to being a person who struggles when it comes to waiting.

Our fast paced culture does not enable waiting well. People who are waiting constantly look at their watches and are most likely agitated.

Waiting can be accompanied by fear as well. Waiting can stir up the fear that someone has forgotten us. Fears that arise when in a waiting season can challenge our sense of value.

How do you wait well?

How do you wait well when the season of waiting seems long?

Now waiting for the bus is way different then waiting on a dream or direction. Waiting can cause us to question and doubt. Waiting requires faith and trust. Those two words are very challenging.

Andy Stanley did a great series that tackled the question of, “what do you do when you feel like God is inattentive, uncooperative, and late?

All three of those words come to mind when experiencing a waiting season. I battle with those words a lot, and sometimes on a daily basis, in this waiting period. It is hard not to play the comparison game and even be jealous when it comes to waiting.

Waiting seasons challenge my faith and trust. Waiting is lonely.

Andy talked about a key verse that speaks directly into the heart of waiting. Jesus said, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.

Such a powerful verse! This verse speaks to waiting. Waiting comes with the expectation that God should do something—that he should do something for me. Honestly, I have expected God to do something and act in my waiting. I used the words that God knows my situation; he is able to change it.

Ever felt like God is silent when you don’t think he should be? Ever felt like he must not care if he is not doing something?

We can start to equate our situations with how God feels about us.

Blessed are those who do not stumble when we feel like God is inattentive, uncooperative, and late. Blessed are those who choose faith even though the waiting continues. Blessed are those who choose to hope when hoping seems in vain. Blessed are those who still know God is able regardless of the waiting time.

I am holding on to the truth of Andy words that, “our situations do NOT reflect the way God feels about us.

I am working on waiting well. For me, that means not letting it affect the perception of my value and self-worth.

What does waiting well look like for you?

 

 

 

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I love me some peace. Who doesn’t, right?

But how often do we know it and feel it?

Peace seems to be a rarity. I don’t think I have ever talked to someone who has said that they were rocking the peace.

We are filled with messes and mixyness of heart. Thousands of things catch our breath and make us anxious, and this happens all in one day.

Our battles are constant.

Peace can seem impossible.

I have been realizing just how much Jesus talked about peace. Jesus was bombarded with people pleading for him all day long; people who craved his touch, words, direction, and healing. I think the undercurrent of it all is that we crave his peace.

Jesus greeted people in peace, “peace be with you.” When he left the earth, Jesus stated, “my peace I leave with you.

Why did Jesus talk about peace so much?

Let’s be honest, peace did not accompany Jesus. He was constantly being questioned and ridiculed. People were constantly coming to him with demands.

I think that one misconception we have with peace is that it absolves the circumstance as if instantly all is well when we have peace. We can tend to think that peace only happens in the absence of stress and hardship.

This weekend, I heard about peace in a new way. Justin Davis talked about “peace not being the absence of our circumstances, but the presence of confidence and quietness.”

Jesus was never without circumstances. Neither are we. However, Jesus knew how to rest in confidence and quietness in the midst.

Peace is choosing to believe God is enough and present even though…

Peace is responding to our life in confidence and quietness even though it does not make any sense to do so.

Peace is a choice.

In what ways can you view your circumstances through the lenses of peace? 

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North Point Church is an amazing church. Andy Stanley is my favorite communicator to listen to. His wisdom and knowledge have been the best counseling for my life.

North Point just ended one of their programs called “Be rich.” This is a time they raise money to give away to the organizations they partner with in the community and over seas. IN-cred-ible!

Andy broke down our giving motivation into two parts. He said that we give to things that are serving the purposes of intervention. This is giving to something to help and immediate need. Intervention is the way most people give. Intervention giving is measurable and emotional.

Prevention giving is the second way of giving. This is giving in a way that is steady. Prevention giving is giving to something that is going to yield fruit over time. Prevention giving is not measurable, but it is the more valuable of the two.

I know this talk was about financial giving, but this awakened my heart in a new way. Andy unpacked the way we can take on the bible as well, or even our relationship with Christ.

I have been marinating on the question of, “In what way do I pursue God?

I am so grateful that we have the bible. It provides God’s truth for times when we need intervention in our lives. There is truth for every struggle and fear. But do I only use scripture for that? Do I only fill up on what I need for that particular thing, and then come back only when I need another intervention?

As a counselor, I have many sessions with people that look just like this. People will come to counseling when they are at their stuck point, or need for intervention into their issue. Sometimes, I have sessions with clients that revolve around the same issue. We have the same conversations. The truth is that nothing about our situations change until we are willing to shift into a prevention mindset.

I see the same pattern with how we apply truth to our lives. We can always use the bible for the purpose of intervening into our issues and sin. The hope is that we apply those same truths to our lives in ways that become prevention tools.

When we first enter into this place of learning about who God is, his truth intervenes with our sin. The more our relationship with God grows we begin to see how life can be different. Reading the bible provides alternative ways of living life. Applying the his truth begins to prevent what we used to need intervention for.

Prevention giving happens over time. This is the same for our lives. It takes time to see the fruit of our risks to apply God’s principles to our lives. Just like any relationship, the fruit takes time to see.

My hope is that we move from using God’s truth as ways of intervention in our lives to the application of prevention. 

The more be believe God to be the way, and the truth, we will start to apply his ways as our life. 

Do you use God more intervention or prevention in your life?

 

 

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Asking for help is not something that comes easy for me. I always try and figure out every way possible to do something on my own. I will also assess how much I can do on my own before asking for help.

Moving is a great example of this. We all have things we can move on our own, like boxes, but when it comes to furniture, we need help. I am a person who thinks that furniture can be moved by my own strength. It’s a losing battle.

Self-sufficiency is one of my greatest weaknesses. Being stuck in a life-long pattern of self-dependency builds walls in lots of areas.

The areas I am most self-sufficient in are those related to my heart. I am not a person who discloses much, or easily. There are many scars on my guarded heart, which have paved the way for my choices of self-sufficiency.

Most often, the fruit of self-sufficiency is isolation, frustration, and failure.

Self-sufficiency is a huge barrier between me and God. Every time I say, “I can do this,” God is taken out of the equation. God is always patient in letting me exhaust myself before I come back and surrender.

I have been going rounds with God about breaking this pattern in me. I am a visual learner, so it helps me to see it to get it. I finally got a glimpse of how self-sufficiency plays out in my relationship with God.

There is a story in the Bible where Jesus and his disciples take off in a boat. While in the boat, a huge storm begins to swell. Waves were crashing over the side while strong winds challenged the boat’s engineering.

Jesus was asleep in the stern while the disciples worked furiously to save the boat. It was only when the disciples had exhausted all of their options that they included Jesus in their crisis. When the disciples finally approached Jesus, they did not just ask him for help, they blamed him for not caring.

I can see how this scenario has played out so many times in my own life with God.  I have blamed God for not acting, when in reality I never even asked him to participate. The disciples blamed Jesus for not stepping up and saving them from drowning. I am facing the reality that I call on God most often at my own drowning points.

The truth is that Jesus is the one waiting to be involved in our lives. My self-sufficiency illuminates my feeble faith. I always come up short on my own strength. The storm is always bigger than me, and beyond my ability.

God is waiting to be invited into our everything.

What are you trying to do on your own that is NOT working?

Are you going through anything where God might be waiting on you to invite him in?

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