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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

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What is it that can cause a man who has lost almost every earthly blessing to pen it is well?

My most favourite hymn of all time is the haunting story of the blind-eyed faith of Horatio Spafford’s It is Well.

No doubt the story of Spafford writing it, when crossing the Atlantic, at the place where his four daughters drowned (after previously losing his young son to death, and experiencing his financial ruin in the great Chicago Fire) only enhances the significance of it’s meaning.

When I am faced with life-shaking struggles, or mountain-high obstacles that seem impossibly unmovable, or when I just cannot seem to see what is around the next corner, I am confronted with the question,

can I still sing, it is well with?

And I do sing it, sometimes with expectant joy, more often through clenched teeth, robotic.

God does not ask for me (us) to be a mannequin-like worshipper, he wants my (our) gritty heart-broken soul. He wants me (us) to understand what faith is, “the confidence of what we hope for, the assurance of what we do not see” (Hebrews 1:1).

Following this definition of faith are reminders of the those who have lived with blind-eyed faith (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab etc.). The chapter ends with these words:

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 1:39-40)

If we can have the confidence in our God, that he sees and knows what we do not. If we can hold to his promises, that he has something planned that we might not even live to see. If we can trust in his love for us, then it is well, with our souls.

Though the song below is not Spafford’s version, it holds that same blind-eyed assurance of his faithfulness to us.

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It was months in the waiting … five months, to be exact. I had waited so long that I thought I might just lose my mind! There were more bad days than good. Mornings were a time of fear, not sure what I might have to face, as dawn’s early morning light emerged. Variety was no longer the spice of my life, as I was limited by my weaknesses.

Finally, it was time for …

a haircut.

Last week, I got to sit and have what is dry, lifeless, dead

cut away, tossed to the floor, swept up and discarded in the trash.

I walked away feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.

The old was gone, and I felt like a new woman.

Ever wish you could have other dead weights lifted so easily? Other lifeless parts of your life, left on the floor, only to walk over them on the way out the door, about an hour later?

If only there was a ‘hairdresser’ for …

a downcast heart …

an empty bank account …

an unfulfilling job …

a child with learning challenges …

a marriage of strangers …

an illness or disease …

so that we could walk in, have whatever is ailing us trimmed, cut away, redesigned and walk out again feeling like a new creation, with a fresh start.

There are some who have tried the hairdresser method of getting the life equivalent of a new do. Maybe a divorce would cut away the marriage with split ends? Maybe a second, a third, a seventh glass of alcohol will give a new look to trying life circumstances? Maybe leaving your current job on the floor will give a fresh start?

Is the haircut method, of dealing with the dead stuff in life, the only option? the best option?

Obviously, no one option, for all, is any more appealing or beneficial than one haircut style for all. We were created as individuals, with different lives to live. Not only do we have different lives to live, but we also have the ability to make our own choices in how we will live our lives (and experience the blessings and curses that follow those choices).

All that we share, in regards to our lives, is that we were created to worship our Creator, fully reliant on Him.

It is in recognizing and living in a such a way that we are fully reliant on Him, that we can keep going through the dead, split ends of life …. and put our messy mop lives up into a ponytail … while we wait, in faith, for it to grow out.

The only way for a beautiful braid to be formed is by letting the hair grow … looking ahead, in faith, to the beauty that will come.

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Can you name something you really want?

I am not talking peace on Earth, or for the males in your house to put the toilet seat down, or to win the lottery. I am talking about wanting something so badly, that your heart aches for it.

In my life, there have been few times when I truly wanted something that badly.

There was that day, late in spring, when hubby and I were discussing how we might spend vacation. For the past five to six years, our family (or parts of it) spent a week on the Oregon Coast, being nurtured physically, spiritually and relationally at a Christian convention center (check out http://www.cbcc.net). For me, this place has been my place of rest and renewal.

But, this year we would not be attending.

Sometimes we do not know what we want, until it is out of our grasp.

As the final decision to not go was made, tears began to fall, uncontrollably, from my eyes. As a matter of fact, whenever our ‘Cannon Beach’ friends asked if we would be there, a hard mass settled in my throat. Whenever emails from ‘there’ were in my email inbox, I would delete before I had to face pictures of the beach. Then the week when we normally would have been there … well, lets just say I did get my fair share of salt water (tears).

There was not a day this summer when I did not pray that God would make a way for us (or at least me 😉 ) to go.

Never in my life had a thing or place been so desired.

Things kind of bottomed out at the very end of summer, when hubby left for his third trip to the East Coast (our native land). I remember driving home, after dropping him off at the airport, and I had my getting real with God monologue (what a gentleman He is, to quietly put up with my pity party). I cannot remember all that I said, but the words “it’s not fair that he gets three trips” do still ring in my head.

After that very real confessional, I had finally let my desires go. And I awoke the next morning, still disappointed, but finally able to let it go.

About a week ago hubby had to call the conference center office on another matter. Out of the blue, the person on the other end asked, “you’re a pastor, aren’t you?”

To make a long story short, they have rooms available to pastors, on the off season … for free. To shorten it more, this past Monday hubby called (as soon as they opened) to reserve three nights. It also happens that we could do it without my having to takes unpaid days off.

I am delighted!

And I am cognizant of the fact that this provision was not something that just happened, but that every detail, down to the timing, was orchestrated by a God who cares about the desires of our heart.

I love Psalm 13. It is not a joy-filled psalm, but a lament … kinda like my getting real with God monologue. The Psalmist is feeling forgotten, ignored, and is throwing his very own pity party

… who cannot relate to hosting such an event?

Unlike myself, when the psalmist, David, comes to the end of his rant, he seems to take a humble posture, committing his trust in the mercy of God, thanking Him, ahead of time, for how bountifully God has/will deal with him.

And that is faith in the unseen, in the things to come.

“I will sing to the Lord,
for he has dealt bountifully with me!”
Psalm 13:6b

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What a summer it has been in our world.

in this world

Planes have fallen from the skies.

you will have

Belongings and bodies of fallen aircraft pillaged.

tribulation

Governments have fallen.

but

Countries taken over.

take heart

Bombs dropped upon cities.

I

People buried under their homes, rocked by an earthquake.

have

The right to exist of one group threatened by another.

overcome

A deadly viral disease epidemic.

the

Christians in a town taken over by terrorists are told to “leave, convert or die”.

world.

God, we trust that you have overcome the world, but we are … human. We cannot see the big picture of life and of the events in our world … we see only today, and today looks ominous, scary, hopeless. God, please be with the sick, the homeless, those who mourn, those who are hungry and thirsty, those who are threatened, those who are being forced to choose their love for you over their very life. Lord, help our faith that you have overcome the world to increase.

 

 

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Holy multiplication

As I spoke to that mom, on Christmas Eve, she shared her own loaves and fishes story.

Things had been tough financially … really tough. Every cent was going into bills, mortgage, fuel for the vehicles and groceries … and the New Year was not looking much better.

Oh, corners could be cut, and pennies could be pinched, but providing the usual Christmas trimmings for the kids was looking impossible to this mom.

As I stood facing her, on the 24th of December, her smile was wide, and a magical light emanated from her eyes.

Generous gifts of money had been sent from the grandparents to be divided among their adult kids and grandkids. So, the mom set to work, spending the expected amounts on the kids, from the grandparents. What remained, that which was intended for she and her husband, she used to buy stocking stuffers and gifts.

In her heart and mind, Christmas was saved, by the generosity of her the grandparents, as well as by God, who from her perspective, orchestrated the provision of every penny. Her words to me were, “I didn’t even have any loaves and fishes, yet my nothing was multiplied in the most miraculous ways.”

Oh, there was nothing under the tree for this mom and her husband, but her mother-heart was full of excitement and joy, that nothing in a gift bag or shiny paper could fulfill. She knew in her heart that what she had received :

  • came from a God who cared even about stocking stuffers
  • was the gift of giving

The model of giving was provided by God … He gave. As Christ-followers we are to follow His example … we give.

And so we are encouraged to share, to give …

not from our excesses,

from our want, and in the anticipation of God’s provision.

It’s a thing of faith, not of sight.

“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
John 6:5-14

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The other day in my post, The Gateway to the Soul , I wrote about our eyes being the lamp of the body. Today I am focusing again on eyes.

In our household we have a variety of eyes. There is our ‘faux son’ (an International student who we parent while he is here) from China whose eyes are a deepest brown, almost to the point of black. My oldest daughter, son and hubby all have blueberry eyes, simply the bluest blue I have ever seen. My younger daughter and I have eyes that, although are blue, can change color, depending on our moods and what colors we are wearing.

There is not much sweeter thing in life, for me, than to look into the eyes of those I love, and see them staring back at me … of course if we are in the midst of battling each other we are still eye to eye, but it is not so pleasant.

Looking into another person’s eyes is truly an intimate act.

In the Bible’s story of Peter walking on the water to Jesus, we get to see the power of eye contact.

So, the disciples are out in a boat, after attending to more enormous crowds who had come to see Jesus … and they didn’t pack a lunch! But Jesus had compassion on them, and worked His magic, and voila … from two loaves and five fishes, a meal for five thousand!

Back to the boat …images

Jesus sent His twelve out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, and he climbed back up to hill to pray, and be alone with His father (aka. Father-Son time), saying He would meet up with them later. I have to say, I really wonder how the twelve thought that He was going to meet up with them? Surely they did not expect Him to come prancing on top of the water? What were they thinking?

Later that night, they see a really bright light out on the Sea. Remember this is before lighthouses, so this was not a normal sighting! They thought it was a ghost, a spirit … something not good.

Jesus identified himself. Then Peter, oh Peter, said something like, “if it’s really you, tell me to come to you,” so Jesus invited him to catch some waves.

Peter stepped out of the boat, and was actually doing it, he had heard Jesus words, looked to where He was, and stepped out of the boat, “but when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). Peter could not have “seen” the wind if he had not taken his eyes away from those of his Savior. His little faith was not in his fear, it was that he moved his eyes off the one who could calm the storm inside of him.

How often do I take my eyes off the one who can keep me afloat? In my relationships? My finances? My future? When I keep my eyes fixed on my only hope, I stay afloat. Bad things still happen, but I have the constant reminder that if my eyes are on Jesus, I will not drown.

When we can look into the eyes of another, we are trusting our view to the other person, we are in a sense making ourselves vulnerable, giving our time and attention to the other person. Looking into another person’s eyes is truly an intimate act.

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A covenant is more than just a promise. A covenant is something agreed upon by at least two parties … both knowing what they are agreeing to.

The Bible speaks of a handful of covenants between God and people.

God made a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy the Earth with a flood (Genesis 9:8-11), and gave the rainbow as a reminder of his covenant.

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.” Hebrews 11:7

God made a covenant with Abram (later Abraham) when He said that Abram would be the “father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4).

Poor, old Abram, with his old wife Sarai (well beyond childbearing years) … this covenant sent Sarai into laughing hysterics. But, God did as he promised, and Sarah bore Isaac to Abraham, and God’s covenant flowed through his descendants.

By faith Abraham fulfilled his end of the bargain, and he went where God sent him (Hebrews 11:8). By faith, Abraham was circumcised, along with all males in his household, as a sign to set he and his descendants apart (Genesis 23:27). By faith, Abraham lay Isaac on an alter, willing to do whatever God asked of him (Genesis 22:8) … and so thankful that the Lord did provide.

God made a covenant, through Moses, with His people (not all people, but the children of Israel … the Jewish people), in the form of the Ten Commandments. This came after God, with force, brought His people our of slavery in Egypt. Before Moses had even written these laws in stone, the people, by faith, said, “everything the Lord has said we will do.”

And after he read the Book of the Covenant, Moses took the blood of young bulls that were sacrificed as offerings to God, and “Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”” (Exodus 24:8). The people, who, by faith, said “we will obey” were, quite literally, covered by the blood of the covenant … their sins were covered by God’s promise.

God made a covenant with David, that the Messiah would come through the lineage, the house, of David. David wanted to build a house for God. Instead, God sent a message to David, a house would be built, through the One who would come after him, through his very own bloodline. This builder “is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son” (2 Samuel 7:13-14). David responded to God: “your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant” (2 Samuel 7:28) … David trusted his God, he had faith, that that which God promised, and David would never see in his lifetime, would come true.

Over and over we see that when it comes to a covenant with God, the equation is :

Covenant = Blood (Faith + Promise)

I suppose we should consider that fulfillment of God’s covenant with David :

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel (the Jews)
  and with the people of Judah (the Gentiles).
I will put my laws in their minds (not just knowing, but understanding)
  and write them on their hearts (intimacy).
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
(Hebrews 8:8-10)

A new covenant, “has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Previously, “the law required that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus Christ was the final blood sacrifice for sins. “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:14).

Jesus’ blood covers God’s promise and our faith.

And now, our part in the covenant:

Do we have the faith to follow, and obey? to be His?

 

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The guest post today is written by Deidra Riggs, whose blog Jumping Tandem is where I read this post that I want to share with you.

Deidra describes her blog as “a company, or a ministry, or a project, and this blog is where it all got started. I write about life as I see it. Most of the time, I’m just trying to figure it out. But always, I’m saving a place at the table for you.”

She is a mom, wife, dog owner, writer, speaker and event planner.

In the post I am sharing here today, which she calls “The Fullness of Our Faith“, Deidra speaks to my mother heart. I get her, where she is coming from, and I think that you will too.

“Where do you think he is, spiritually?” she asks me.

We are vacationing together, and we’ve decided on fried rice, egg rolls, and stir-fried deliciousness for dinner. We sit in the restaurant, our plates half empty, the sun inching its way toward the horizon. She is asking me about my son.

No one asks these questions about my daughter.

If I’m not careful, I fall into the very same trap. I look at my daughter, a youth pastor at a gigantic church on the east coast, and I don’t think twice about “where her heart is.” On the other hand, Christmas Eve may be the last time my son went to church.

You’d think you could figure out a thing like this, simply by looking at a person’s life.

In the restaurant, I give a long-winded answer. I tell the questioner about David Kinnaman’s research regarding people the age of my children — 18-29 year olds, raised in church, but more than half of whom have decided church is no longer the place for them. I’m telling her about nomads, prodigals, and exiles when my husband says, “But what’s your answer?

My husband always sees right through me.

“He believes in Jesus,” I say. All I really needed to say was those four words. Why had I said so much?

We finish dinner and pay our bill. We climb into the SUV and we make a few more stops along the way to our resting place for the night. And all of it still niggles at me.

“It must be hard to be a parent,” my son said to me one day last summer.

My mind was spinning, trying to figure out, of all the difficult elements of parenting, which one was front and center in his mind.

“Why do you say that?” I asked him.

“Well,” he began, “I imagine you have this kid, and right from the beginning you have hopes and dreams for how that kid will live his life. But the kid grows up, and that kid has a mind of his own, and he ends up doing his own thing and living life his own way. And it’s not anything like what you imagined.”

I remember being speechless.

“That must be hard,” he’d said into the space between us.

I remember that conversation with my son as I sit in the SUV, with our vacation companion. I think about my daughter, and about all the ways we each are still growing up. How we never really reach the fullness of our faith this side of heaven, I don’t think.”

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Main-Street-Baptist-Church-image-1-129656914499250000This year, the church my hubby grew up attending celebrates it’s 250th anniversary. The building, itself is well over one hundred years (and hubby says there may still be a few original members 😉 ). It was a place of great learning, of inspiration and of feeling loved and accepted by hubby from birth to adulthood.

This anniversary makes me think of other ‘old’ churches.

I am not sure of the age of my grandmother’s little county church, but there are tombstones in the cemetery behind which date back to the late 1800’s. I remember, as a little girl, staring at the beautiful stained glass window image of Jesus cradling a lamb in His arms (while the pastor preached of the need of salvation, living ‘rightly’, and loving your neighbor … and probably a bit of fire and brimstone). . The window stories solidified my flannel-graph Sunday School lessons.161

I remember visiting the beautiful St. Dunstan’s Basilica in Charlottetown, PEI, a number of years ago with our young children. It was build in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s (a fire of the original structure delayed it’s completed construction). There is something about a place so old, so ornate in it’s use of dark wood, and colorful window story-telling that ‘oos and awes’ emanated from even the youngest among us.

114982872_e311f849e7One of my favorite churches, because of it’s setting, is the Saint Thomas de Memramcook Church (in New Brunswick). With it’s tall center spire, and perfectly balanced stained windows below. It sits atop a hill, overlooking flat lands that the Bay of Fundy flow into. It always takes my breath away when I look at where it sits … like a beacon, a lighthouse, for weary travelers.

When I was younger I scoffed at the wasted money that went into the maintaining of these aging structures. That money could be used to meet the needs of people today, rather than to do upkeep on history.

I am starting to see, now, the benefits of these still-standing, brick and mortar, structures.

You see, these physical structures are evidence of God’s faithfulness, evidence of hundreds and thousands of people who put their trust in God to see them through to the completion. Not just of a church building, but of living a very real, skin on, life. Life with illness, and death, and abandonment, and struggle, and heartache … and joy, and celebration, and redemption, and saving, and love.

These buildings are memorials to faith.

After the Israelites followed the art of the covenant through to the center of the Jordan River, Joshua was told told (by God) to have one man of each of the twelve tribes, to pick up a rock from the middle of the Jordan and bring it to the other side. Later on God explained the significance of these rocks:

“He (God) said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:21-24)

When I look at, and think of, old churches (and there are certainly more in the world that are much older) now, I find myself paraphrasing the words from the book of Joshua:

In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stone and wood buildings mean?’ tell them, 

“People …

simple, hard-working, fallible, messed up, people …

they lived, they loved, they gave, they ached, they got sick, they suffered …

they didn’t have all the answers, couldn’t see the big picture …

they didn’t have the strength to go on, didn’t have the funds to go on, didn’t have the support to go on …

but, they had God.

The one, true, living God …

and they trusted Him …

with EVERYTHING!

And, He carried them through to dry land (carried means that He never left them … ever).

He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.

And another stone of faith that was written in 1837 …

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coffee-beans-and-womans-handsYesterday I wrote about the struggle to make coffee before having had that first cup of morning coffee, in my post Making Coffee.

There are many tasks that are difficult to accomplish without first having gotten to the main event.

It can be difficult to get a job without having experience.

It can be difficult to make a recipe when you have never tasted the food it makes.

It can be difficult to play football against a team you have no prior experience competing against.

Such is the same when it comes to faith in a living God.

To believe in the existence of, in the power of, the living God, one needs to have faith in what is unseen, not experienced.

Many people say, “if I could only see God, or see Him perform a miracle, then I would have faith in Him.”

Faith does not work that way!

Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists.” We cannot have that assurance, that certainty in God without first going through the leap of faith to believe what we can only hope for, what we cannot even see.

It would be so much easier to believe in God if He would just simply show Himself to us first. But we must believe first (faith), and then we will get to see. The apostle Paul said, “for we live by believing and not by seeing” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

faith first

sight second

Paul continues his focus on faith and sight in Romans (8:24) “for in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

Faith breeds hope … faith breeds trust …

… faith before sight …

Coffee would be easier to prepare in the morning if only we could have a cup first.

But …

make coffee before taste

Faith would be easier if we only got to see God, face to face.

But …

faith before sight.

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