Faith in What is not Seen

We live in a world that loves to see to believe. We believe only if we can see, feel, touch, and experience. We need something tangible. We need to have reasons for our findings, and data that can back up those reasons. Like Thomas, we demand to see the nail marked hands and the speared side of Jesus before we will budge from our unbelief. Yet, Jesus says those who have believed despite not seeing are the ones who are truly blessed. Because ultimately on this side of heaven, faith is not seen, but it is the hope that we hope in.

This season of life has been upending for a lot of us. We feel as though the rug of comfort, stability, and security, has been pulled out from under our unsuspecting feet, and a lot of us are reeling. We’re struggling with the sudden loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of our freedoms, and the uncertainty of the once so certain future. And yet in spite of all this, in spite of all the turn over and turmoil, God remains the same. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is us that have forgotten truly that faith is not guaranteed continuous sight, but hope in the faithfulness and promises of God, even when we cannot see them. Last night the Lord provided me with a really good example of what this looks like.

Before bed each night, I make sure that our front door is locked, and then I take out my contacts. But even after I take out my contacts, I still want to (in my anxiety and fear) go back to the door that I have locked to check and see if it’s locked, and sure enough it is. Why is that? Because even though I know in my mind that I have locked the door, once I take my contacts out, from a certain distance, I cannot see that the door is locked, and so it produces anxiety. And so I return to the door, many times, before I finally believe that the door is locked in spite of me being able to see at a certain distance whether it actually is or not.

I think this example portrays many times how we approach faith. We believe that Jesus is good and faithful as long as we can see Him working. As long as we can see Him moving in us, and protecting us, and keeping us, then we rest easy that He is with us. Our struggle with faith comes when we cannot really see what He’s doing, like during this pandemic. We begin in these times to question the goodnes and faithfulness of God when we cannot truly see Him in action. Like many of us, even though we believe faith is there, and we can see a blurry outline of it, we begin to question the hope that we have when faith is not as clear as it once was.

I love the Apostle Paul’s declaration here in Romans 8:18-24 of God’s faithfulness, in spite of his inability to see it clearly:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

I love Paul’s confidence here in the unfailing faithfulness and goodness of God. Though he and other’s are experiencing sufferings, these sufferings are temporal, and not only that, but also these aren’t worth comparing to what is coming. He says we’ve only been given the firstftruits, a taste, of what is to come, and we’re groaning for that day when all will be made right. So what do we do in this already but not yet period of redemption? We hope in what we do not see, believing in the faithfulness of God, believing in the love of God, believing in the truth of the Father, and we wait eagerly with patience for our full redemption.

Paul writes in another Scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Here is the good news in the midst of the uncertainty of the times that we face. While we do not see Christ fully now, we will one day. Our view of Christ that is dimmed now, as if we are looking through a miror, will be fully clear. So we rejoice in the fact that God has graciously revealed Himself to us, even just in part, and we have faith in the hope of what we have truly hoped in. Even in the times when we cannot see that hope clearly, we continue to hold onto that hope and faith with patient endurance knowing that our sufferings here on earth are finite, and that one day, if we are in Christ, we will see Him, and know Him fully, even as we are now fully known by Him.

Jesus says in John 20:29 in responce to Thomas “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I don’t know where you are in this season of life. What hurts, disappointments, tensions, and struggles you are facing. But know this. If you are in Christ, what you see now, if only dimly, is enough to carry you to the end. Hold onto to that hope, and don’t let your own blurry vision or dimness diminish the hope that you have in Christ. Right now, we only see in part, but one day, we will see in full. I pray that you will hold onto that hope, and that the hope of the gospel and faithfulness of Christ will carry you throughout your entire life joyfully, humbly, and graciously, leading others to experience these same things along the way.

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Blessings.

The Lord is my Shepherd

I am physically near sighted and because of this I wear contacts which give me the visual clarity to see things that I otherwise would be not be able to see. Yesterday I was changing out my contacts, and was opening up a new box to replace them. Usually within the box there is a container for the right eye, and for the left, as well as usually a third empty container which gives me the prescription of each eye. I have an astigmatism (one eye being stronger than the other), and therefore have separate prescriptions for each eye, so it is important to have that third box as a guide to know which container of contacts is for which eye. Yesterday I did not have that though, and just had to guess at which container was for which eye.

I put in my contacts based on what was comfortable, and I thought I could see pretty well. As I went throughout the day, what was most comfortable though, ended up not being what was most beneficial. Though my eyes were comfortable, my vision was somewhat blurry. I could see pretty well, but ultimately I could not see the best that I was intended to. Why was that? Because each eye required a certain prescription contact, and each contact was intended for a specific eye. Because I had placed my contacts in the wrong eyes, the prescription that was intended for one eye was instead being used for an eye that it was not intended for, and vice versa. Thus, the contacts that were designed to give me clarity, ultimately blurred my vision. It wasn’t until I switched my contacts to the right eyes that I could see as my doctor had intended me to see.

How true this is in life. We many times take our sight into our own hands. We attempt to see the truths of life on our own. Without a guide, we wing it. We find what’s comfortable, and that becomes our truth, all the while not even knowing that our vision is blurred, and that we truly cannot see. We need a guide. A guide that will take our blurred vision to life and give us sight.

In Psalm 23, the Psalmist speaks to this guide that we have in Jesus:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Psalm 23)

We have always needed a guide, but even more so now, in this season of pandemic, loss, and uncertainty. I’m thankful that we have that guide in Jesus. Our shepherd who will provide for us, and lead us to green pastures of spiritual nourishment. Our shepherd who leads us to rest and the restoring of our souls. Our shepherd who leads us in the right paths for His glory and His name’s sake. Our shepherd who will walk with us through our darkest valleys, riddled with fears, anxieties, hurts, and disappointments, but who will be our comforter through it all. Our shepherd who will prepare a table before us, even within the presence of our enemies. Our Shepherd who has steadfast love and kindness and goodness that will follow us all the days of our lives. This is the Shepherd and guide that we need.

I hope you will be encouraged today that life is not aimless, purposeless, or void of meaning. It may feel as though everything in this season has been stripped away from us: our freedoms, sanity, even health, but we can always count on Jesus being our good Shepherd, who will guide us through the hard times, rejoice with us in the good, and lead us to good paths even in the uncertainties of life.

Here is a link to our Sunday Sermon:

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Picture taken from: https://padreperegrino.org/2017/04/

 

Blessings.

Lessons in the Midst of a Pandemic

We are all living in quite a remarkable time in history. The sudden emergence of COVID-19 has had an impact on the lives of each one of us, whether it be big or small. Anywhere from losing our jobs, to the inconvenience of stores being closed, the sickness or losing of a loved one, to the fear, panic, and uncertainty that it has brought. Still even in the midst of this dark season of life, with the uncertainty of the future hovering over us each and every day, I think there is much to be gleaned and thankful for. Here are some things that I’m learning, remembering, and thinking on currently.

COVID-19 has reminded us that we are not in control of our lives or our future

Before this virus hit, many of us went about our daily lives. We worked, shopped, ate, drank, and lived, not imagining in our wildest dreams that there was something coming that would interrupt everything. Now, just a few months later, our entire lives has been shifted. Our well beings have been questioned. The things we put our hope and security in don’t feel that hopeful or secure at all anymore. I think it has reminded me, and hopefully you, that we are not in control of our lives, or are futures. In Proverbs 16:9 it says “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” We can plan our future, live in our present, but only God knows truly what will materialize in our lives. I think more than ever, this virus, has allowed us to step back and see how little control we have. 

COVID-19 has reminded us that life is finite and shorter than we’d like it be

If I would have asked you before this pandemic hit, how long you thought you’d live, I’m sure a lot of you would have said a long time. The hope I think for all of us would be that we would live a long and healthy life. COVID-19 though has interrupted that perspective, and instead reminded us of how finite life is. To put it into perspective, since the first presumed Corona Virus case on November 17th, 2019, according to https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ there have been 393,284 cases worldwide resulting in 17,161 deaths. It’s easy to look at numbers and see already that that is an alarming amount, but let’s break it down further. Each one of those 17,161 people who died were individuals. Individuals with families, dreams, jobs, friends, and in a matter of a few short months, their lives were over. James writes in James 4:13-14, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Our lives here on earth, as James writes, are but a vapor, a mist, that comes and goes. We cannot live as though we have tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come, and sadly this is the reality for many of our brothers and sisters around the world.

COVID-19 has reminded us that we take for granted things and people that we should be consistently grateful for

I recently took a trip to Hawaii to visit my best friend and his wife, and just to enjoy some vacation and rest. It was a much needed trip as I was very burnt out. And when you’re burnt out and tired, it is very easy to find fault and complain about a myriad of things. One of the great and unexpected benefits of the trip though was that I began to appreciate things again, and remember just how truly blessed I was. For me, leaving Hawaii was not difficult; I was ready to be back home. To be back in church, in small group, and other activities that I had seen as a burden beforehand. By the time I returned home though, the Corona virus was in full swing. Our church and small groups could no longer meet in person because of the health risks that it brought. Stores closed. People were laid off. Thankfully, I am still able to work from home and function fairly normal. But as I’ve been processing the changes that have taken place in my daily life, and the lives of those around me, I thought back to all the times that I have skipped small group and/or church, and how if I had known this virus was coming, would have I missed all those times? When church and small group were readily available I took them for granted, but now that they aren’t easily accessible, I realize just how precious and important they truly were, and I miss them a lot.

COVID-19 has reminded us of the depravity and selfishness of man

If you turn on the tv, or walk into any store, you can see the present chaos. For example, I walked into Sam’s at one in the afternoon last Friday to find 300 people there grabbing up all kinds of supplies. So many supplies in fact that entire shelves were empty. I was at the register waiting in line, looking around at the scene before me, and I noticed a middle aged wealthy looking man who had brought up with him two huge things of toilet paper. He rang up one, but then, the self check out would not let him ring up another. You could tell that he was visibly upset as he motioned to the attendant nearest him, who then informed him that he was only able to buy one thing of toilet paper at a time. I watched him as he got more and more angry, and eventually took his toilet paper, and left the line. This is just one of the many examples of what is happening in our country currently. In times of crisis, people begin to fend for themselves and themselves only. This is the depravity of man on full display. Not to say that there aren’t good things, and people helping out in this time of need, but that overall, we as a people are only concerned about ourselves and our assets and well beings, so much so that stores have had to start implementing rules of one of each item per customer, and setting aside certain hours for senior citizens to shop. Aside from the shopping aspect, my generation, since we are not affected as much by the virus, has continued to live our lives as though nothing is going on, congregating together, and going out in groups, even in spite of the health risks to others that we pose.

COVID-19 has revealed how much we are truly afraid of that which we don’t know

What is one word that could describe this pandemic that we all experience? Fear. And it is very pervasive throughout our country and world at the moment. Some cope with this by staying constantly plugged into the news and the sources that are ever changing, wanting to be on top of all the latest chatter. Others cope by disregarding all warnings to self isolate, and continue to go on about their daily lives. Others cope by joking about all that is going on, and thinking to themselves this will not happen to me. Others cope by being super cautious and guarded, not even leaving the house for fear of being infected. Deep down though, below all these coping mechanisms though, there is fear. Fear that we could be next. Fear that we have no clue what is going on. Fear that someone we love may be infected or even pass away. This virus has brought about so much fear in our country and world.

COVID-19 has provided the Church with a very tangible way to share the Gospel of Christ to an unsaved World

I believe that every person comes to a point in their life where they realize that they cannot do life on their own, and at this point, they have two choices. They can surrender, or they can keep on trying to do life on their own. For some, it takes some really difficult circumstances to show them that they are in need of something or someone greater than themselves. While this virus is terribly awful and horrific, it has provided an amazing opportunity for us as the church to share the hope of the Gospel with a scared and reeling world. Many are coming to the place now, maybe for the first time ever, that their future is uncertain, that their control on life is non-existant, and that the things that they have placed their hope in are actually not secure at all. Now is the time for us as the Church of Christ to be the Church. Now is the time to share with those that while the loss of our jobs, the dwindling of food, the uncertainty of the future, and the fear of the loss of our lives is terribly frightening, that we have a God who is in control, who we can put our hope in, even in the midst of the storm. Now is the time to serve those who are hurting, and love on those who are needy. We have such a great opportunity here to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to do so while proclaiming the restorative power of the Gospel of Christ.

COVID-19 has reminded us how much we need others

This time period in history, we are more divided maybe than we have ever been. But now more than ever, we need each other. We may not be able to be face to face in person with each other all the time like we used to, but now, more than ever, we need to be intentionally reaching out to each other in the midst of this difficult time. This is hard. It’s upsetting. Angering. Annoying. Inconvenient. Heartbreaking. And we need to be able to talk about it. So do. Talk about your fears, your hurts, your disappointments. Talk about your sick loved ones, and your jobs that you have been laid off from. Love on each other, serve one another. Self isolate, but don’t completely isolate. We need each other.

COVID-19 has reminded us that God can use anything to transform the hearts of His people

Many times in the midst of pain and confusion we ask the question “why.” Why? Because we want understanding. We want things to make sense. Because if there is no understanding, and there is no sense, then there is frustration. As my pastor put it on Sunday, we would never choose to write pain or suffering into our stories, but many times it is in that pain and suffering that our hearts are transformed. We may not know what the purpose of this virus is, or why all these people are dying, or why now, or why here, but we can be certain of one thing, that in this pain, suffering, and uncertainty that we currently face, that God is doing a work in us to uproot sin in our lives, to challenge the fears and distrust that we have towards Him, and to truly transform our hearts so that we may know Him more.

COVID-19 has provided us with an opportunity to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Our world is usually a very busy place with people rushing here and there and yonder. Restaurants, cities, buildings, and streets are usually teeming with people. Meetings are happening on the hourly, dates, coffee meet ups, etc. Now, everything is pretty quiet. Streets are fairly empty, shops and restaurants are closed except for take out and drive through. Churches are closed. Small groups are cancelled. Most people are working from home, or are no longer working. Schools are out. And it is all very unsettling. But what if we looked at things from a different perspective. What if all this was an opportunity to slow down? What if this time is for quiet? For thinking deeply? For reading? Resting? For spending time with family that we wouldn’t have otherwise? Even though this time is quiet, we can still redeem it. I’m planning on finishing up my M-DIV during this time. Maybe for you it’s about mending a relationship. Or growing deeper in your relationship with Christ. Or realizing for the first time that you need Christ in your life. Or learning a skill, or enjoying a hobby. What would God have you to learn in the quietness of this season of life? Don’t let this time go to waste. Use it purposefully and intentionally.

COVID-19 has reminded us God is still in control even when we cannot see Him

Lastly, I want to remind us that inspite of everything, God is still in control. Mark writes in Mark 4:35-41On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

We many times, like the disciples, at the first sign of trouble, question the power and love of God. I know many of us are asking this question right now. How could God truly love me if he allowed me to lose my job? How could He truly care if he let’s my loved one die from this virus? How could he truly be in control as it seems that this world is in chaos? These are all good questions, and okay questions to ask. It’s okay to wrestle with God in this, but it is also good to know that He is in control, that He loves us, and that He is working all things for our good. It is in this place, if we will surrender our doubts, anger, frustrations, and confusions to Him, that we may find rest.

Conclusion

I hope that this blog post was an encouragement to you as we all try to work through these uncertain times together. I hope that you will be encouraged that even in the midst of our fears, and our uncertainties, that we have a God who loves us, who cares for us, who is in control, and who is working all things for our good. I will leave you with a word of encouragement.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). 

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Blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Day

In life, I alot of times miss the present moments. I miss the present joys, the present blessings, the present conversations because I’m either too focused on what happened in the past, or what is yet to happen in the future. I’m so preocupied on the hurts, the pain, the loss, the frustrations, that I miss out on the joy of the moments. The real and raw joy and peace of just sitting there and smelling the roses so to speak. There are always good blessings in life even when we are in seasons of hurt and disappointment. But I struggle to see them. I struggle to see them because I want to be past this season of life where the struggles knock at my door daily, and where the thoughts haunt my dreams. But even here, there is good, because God is here. I just have to stop and slow down for two seconds to know and be known. To look around on a snowy day and hear nothing but silence and the peace that that brings. To be in a job that can be frustrating at times, but realizing the purpose of this job, and the stability that it brings me. To be thankful that I have time to read and watch tv and sleep and rest. To be thankful that I have a church, a family of believers that love me. To be thankful that I have a family that loves me, and continues to love me. To be thankful that I have people that invest in me, and to be thankful that even in my emptiness that God still allows me to encourage others. To be thankful for the friendships, and the season of singleness. To be thankful for my brother and the apartment that we share together and the friendship that we have formed. To be thankful for the financial situation I’m in, and the ability in a few weeks to be able to go and see my best friend in Hawaii on paid vacation. It’s the little things that get us through the difficult, dry seasons, where faith is difficult, and hope is scarce, but I’m thankful for the little things. I’m thankful that Jesus hasn’t given up on me. I’m thankful for His continual reminder to me of His love and His plan. So for me, the goal is simple: Be thankful, and enjoy the moments, even in the midst of this season. There is so much to be thankful for, and my prayer is that I would enjoy the blessings of the Lord, and not be discontent with what He has given me here in this season and in this moment.

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I see you

Dear child of Mine, 

I see you. I see you at all times and in all places. I see you in your hurts, habits, and hangups. I see you in your wrestlings. In your confusions, and in your stuckness. I see you in the morning time too exhausted to get up. I see you lost for words. I see you in your distractions, your frustrations, your anger. I see you. Even though you may struggle to see me, to see me present, active, living, in control, and all powerful, that does not negate the reality that I AM. You, child of mine, are only able to see what is in front of you. On the contrast, my sight is infinite. I see up ahead and around the corner. I see deep into the valley as well as high as the mountain peaks. I see you, and I have a good plan for you, whether you believe me or not. You cannot even fathom what I will do, but I can, so trust me. Trust me in the exhaustion. Trust me in the hurts, loneliness, frustration. Trust me when you think you’ve got it under control. Trust me. I’ve got you. I see you. In my grace, because I know you are often forgetful, I will remind you over and over again of who I AM. Not only that, but I will remind you of who you are, and who I’ve created you to be. It may come through a timely text or phone call from a brother or sister of yours, from My Word, but just know, that when you need it most, I will provide. And it will be right on time within the right means, so that you may receive it with grace. It will be just that little tap on the shoulder that you need. I see you child. I’ve got this. You are not alone. You are loved, infinitely greater than you could ever imagine. 

Picture taken from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/172192385726571157/

Love, 

Father God

Give me Faith Lord to Wait

Waiting. It’s difficult. It takes faith to truly wait. Humanly, we are impatient. We want what we want when we want it, and sometimes, we will run through a brick wall just to get to our cravings and have our desires met, even if that means that we do so in unhealthy and unholy ways. The Lord offers this promise though, that if we wait, trusting expectantly for Him to move, in His timing He will. He will show up. He will rescue. He will renew. And that is the promise that he offers us if we will wait on Him to show up.

The past three years have been frustrating to say the least. I thought I was this good person, this faithful Christian, that had his life together…until God began peeling back the layers of my soul. Showing me my insecurities and my fears and my doubts and my cravings. It was difficult. To see this image of who I thought was, and instead being exposed for who I truly was, and being laid bare. It was pretty embarrassing, but also humbling.

Humbling to the point to where I truly began to open up. Open up about the deep dark recesses of my soul that had been laid untouched for many years. And me, along with the help of my godly Christian family around me, began to get to the roots of all these hurts, and insecurities.

It hasn’t been a smooth, cookie cutter process. I would make progress and then retreat into isolation, and into the familiar arms of my desires that I felt kept me safe and known, but in reality, they were pulling me away from who I truly was. It was a battle, and I was torn, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks into months. I tried to find anything and everything to fill the loneliness and the hurts that I was feeling but nothing worked. I became empty, empty to despair.

The amazing thing though was that God never gave up on me. He continued to pursue me, in the places I wouldn’t think he would dare enter. He infiltrated my lies, my fantasies, my substitutes, and He continually called me back to Himself. Oh son, you are no longer a prodigal. Come home. 

I wanted to come home but I didn’t know how to. In essence, I wanted my Christian life, and the relationship with Jesus, but I also wanted my sinful, fleshly desires. I just wanted a little bit of it. That little bit was never enough though, and I constantly put my real and true self in harms way. Thankfully the Lord protected me from myself. His hand was on me, and He was not about to let me go, for I was His.

I vacillated between shame, guilt, despair, and condemnation, only to repent and turn back, only to once again be drawn again into the belly of the beast. It was hell on earth. It was a war for my soul, my will, and many days, I just collapsed into exhaustion.

It took me a long, long, long while, but eventually I got to this place, where I could see both sides of me. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I saw how they couldn’t coexist and how they would always fight against each other, leaving me torn, even if I just tried to hold onto a little bit of it.

It came down to a choice. Jesus had chosen me eight years ago now, and now it was my turn, to see both options, to see life and death, flesh driven cravings and God given peace, and I had to make my choice.

I chose Jesus, again. This time with a new confidence. This time with a realization that I had to let go completely of that which I had held onto for so long, even the smallest bits, and I had to surrender once more to Jesus.

After three years of wrestling and torn-ness, I finally made a decision. To surrender to Jesus. Fully. Not holding anything back.

One of my best friends sent me this C.S. Lewis quote a year or so ago, and I’ve been digesting, and understanding it more day by day since then.

“Sooner or later, God withdraws (if not in fact, at least from our conscious experience) all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs-to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods that he is growing us into the sort of creature he wants us to be.”

I didn’t understand or appreciate this quote truly then, but now I do. When the Christian life hits the dry desert seasons, will we live off our emotions, and the highs that we experienced, or the past accomplishments, or even our talents and spiritual gifts, or will we faithfully seek and trust God that even though the pain is real and the hurt is deep that God is truly working in these places, and that he has not in fact left us?

That has been a question I have had to ask and answer and search for over these last several years. Why was the beginning of my salvation radical and easy, but now 5-8 years later, my faith and my identity in Him were crumbling? Why was the struggle back and stronger than ever? Why was I lonely and feeling abandoned? Why did I continually fight back against the amazing grace that had been lavished on me time and time again?

I don’t have full answers to those questions, but I can tell you that in the searching and asking of those questions, that God was faithful. Faithful to provide me with those around me who would stay with me, even as I vacillated from one spectrum to the other almost daily. They were constant in their encouragement. Most importantly though, God showed up when I needed Him the most, and His pursuit of me was unending.

So after years of fighting and torn-ness, I surrendered once more. I came face to face with what endurance would really look like for me. Endurance. Openness. Trust. Faith. And most importantly, waiting. Believing that Jesus was enough for me, and that even when the waves and winds of life were rocking my boat, that Jesus knew exactly what was going on, and He was with me. All the time, and He never left my side.

So now I wait. Instead of escaping, I will endure. Instead of running, I will stay. Instead of doubting, I will trust. Instead of trying to move ahead and forge my own path, I will wait.

Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and future. 

I can safely say for all of us that this sounds wonderful. We can get on board with the prosperity, and the hope and future. But the preceding verse paints a picture of what it would truly look like for Israel to experience this prosperity, hope, and future.

Jeremiah 29:10 says “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.”

Yes, the Israelites would experience prosperity, hope, and a future, but it would not be a linear destination to get there. They would first have to spend 70 years in Babylon, as captives of Assyria. 70 years! Some of these people wouldn’t even be around to experience the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, but this was his promise. You will suffer, you will be in captivity, but I will come get you. Do you trust me? Do you trust me that I will do what I’d say I would do even on those days when you are in captivity and you’re literally exhausted and burnt out mentally, emotionally, physically?

I believe the Lord says the same to you and I today. That suffering proceeds prosperity and hope and future. That for us to truly grow into the people that God desires for us to be that there will be suffering. Suffering that is so immense sometimes that we cannot get out of bed. Suffering so smothering that it feels like we cannot even breathe.

It is in these moments of suffering, and overall waiting, that we have to ask ourselves the question, in our loneliness, in our depression, in our addictions, in our anxieties, do we trust God to show up? Do we trust God to be with us and hold us as we struggle to even live faithful lives? Do we believe ultimately that Jesus is enough for us?

I think that this is what it comes down to for me in the midst of crisis. Do I believe that Jesus is enough? If I do, I will stay. I will wait. I will pray expectantly. I will believe that He is who He says He is. If I don’t, I will look for substitutes. Escapes. Bandages. Feel goods.

I recently came across an old song I used to love listening to, and I just wanted to share the lyrics with you. It’s called While I’m Waiting by John Waller.

I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I’m waiting
I will serve You
While I’m waiting
I will worship
While I’m waiting
I will not faint
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait

I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it’s not easy, no
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait
And I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I’m waiting
I will serve You
While I’m waiting
I will worship
While I’m waiting
I will not faint
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait
I will move ahead, bold and confident
I’ll be taking every step in obedience
While I’m waiting
I will serve You
While I’m waiting
I will worship
While I’m waiting
I will not faint

And I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting
I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting
I will serve you while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting on You, Lord

(lyrics provided by: https://genius.com/John-waller-while-im-waiting-lyrics)

I hope this song and these words I have shared with you today encourage you to wait on the Lord. It’s not easy, but it is worth it, one day at a time. Expect Him to show up. He always does.

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Picture taken from: https://www.originsrecovery.com/breaking-down-the-third-step/

Blessings.

Worth it

We live in a culture where compromise is rampant. Tolerance. Coexistence. Even among those who would call themselves believers. With all that is swirling around us, bombarding us, it is difficult to be faithful to Christ, to His Word, and to His Truth. So many days I ask the question “Is it worth it?” Is all this endurance, and pain, and faith worth it? It absolutely is. It’s worth it because this is not where our story ends. Today’s sermon at church reminded me of that.

I woke up this morning just exhausted. I was tired from a good, but taxing week. A week of crazy dreams, a week of battling my flesh and enduring the cravings, a week of faithfully seeking after Jesus. It has been good, but exhausting.

I really didn’t want to get up to go to church because I was spent. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically. Just utterly spent. It would have been easier to stay in my bed. It would have been easier to just say I can’t do this anymore. It would have been just easier to give in to what my flesh was desiring. But I didn’t. I got up, and wearily went to church.

As I drove to church this morning, I remember my thought and prayers being “Lord help me believe that all of this is worth it. Help me to believe that this suffering and struggle has purpose, and that one day things will get better.” The Lord was already ahead of me this morning as His Word hit me right where I was at.

On Sundays, our church has been doing a Sermon Series entitled More than Conquerors. We’ve been looking at Jesus’s letter to the churches in Revelation. Today we were in Revelation 2:18-29, and looking at Jesus’s letter to the Church of Thyatira.

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:18-23).

In each of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, Jesus not only speaks words of affirmation, but he also calls for them to repent and turn from various things. Here in Thyatira is no different. He recognizes their works, their love and faith, and their patient endurance. But He has this one thing against them. That they have compromised. They have compromised in that they are both trying to please the world and Jesus. There is a woman in their congregation who is leading them astray. Jesus likens her to Jezebel from the Old Testament. She is proclaiming that God has said that it’s okay to take part in the rituals and festivals of the days, sexual immorality, and there are those in the church who have compromised. Jesus is calling the true followers of Jesus to repent of these practices, and to turn back to Him wholeheartedly. The warning is that those who do not repent, and turn back, will be judged through a great tribulation. Jesus though in love calls them to return to Him and to stop compromising.

It is easy within our cultural, multi-faceted, diverse context, to understand the plight of the Church of Thyatira. Within this culture, these festivals affected their livelihood. Their jobs. And by not attending the festivals, they would face persecution, possibly even death. Unlike the Thyatiran’s, we are not subjected to death because of our differences in beliefs with the world, but we are faced with ridicule.

When we take stands on the issues of this day, we will be seen differently. Our reputations may be affected. We may be passed over for promotions. We may be seen as bigots and haters just because we have different beliefs. And that’s tough. It’s tough to be different. To be outcasts. But it won’t always be this way. Here was the main encouragement, I got from today, in my own fight to not compromise and give in.

“But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden.  Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Here Jesus encourages those who have not compromised. He tells them to hold fast to what you have until I come. Hold fast to me He says. He says that the one who does will truly win in the end. That the script will be flipped. That the outcasts, and the hurting, the cast offs, and the broken, will be brought near, that they will be given authority over the nations. There will be no more crying. Or hurting. Or disappointments. Or being looked at funny. We will be at perfect peace. Most importantly, Jesus says that I will give to him who conquers and endures to the end, the morning star. Himself. Jesus is referencing the Old Testament writings that talked about the morning star coming, and then in the Gospels where Jesus is referred to as the morning star.

Wow. What an incredible encouragement. That there is hope for us who hold fast to Jesus. It may not seem like it in this moment, in this time of exhaustion, and fighting off our flesh, and not compromising, but it will be worth it in the end. In the end, we win. In the end, we get peace. In the end, we get comfort. In the end, we get it all. So hold fast.

Hold fast when you can’t hold on any longer. Hold fast when you are exhausted and tired of fighting. Hold fast when the world throws you out, and when you are discouraged and depressed. Hold fast to Jesus, for a time is coming, when our holding fast will pay off. Hold fast.

I don’t know where you’re at today. Maybe you came into the day like me. Discouraged, tired, wondering if it all is worth it. Know that it is. Know that Jesus is with you in the fight, in the doubts, anxieties, hurts, disappointments, and when the world pushes us away. Know that He knows where you’re at, and He’s just saying to you and me, hold on child. Hold on with all you have, to my word, to my truth, to my goodness, my love, for I’ve got you. We will make it to the end. For we are more than conquerors through Him who have saved us and is continually saving us every day.

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Blessings.

Standing Still

We live in a culture that is very transient. Things are constantly moving and changing. Just look at the recent NBA free agency and you’ll see players moving from one team to another very rapidly. We as humans like change when we can be in control of the change. We like the idea of the “greener” pasture. We hate feeling stuck or life growing dull or stale. So whenever we feel stuck, stale, we move. We change our surroundings. We add a hobby, etc. Jesus though calls us at times as Christians to a counter cultural stance. To Stand Still. To stand still where we are and know that we can trust God that He is working and moving us forward even in our stillness and dullness.

I am in this season of standing still, and it’s been tough. It’s been tough because it’s not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. A few years back, I was in vocational ministry, leading a youth group, and even was given an opportunity to take a full time youth ministry position with great pay and benefits. Now three years later, I’m still single, I’m no longer in vocational ministry, and I work in a call center doing college admissions. To put it bluntly, this is not where I thought I would be.

Even though this is not where I thought I would be at in this season, this time has been important. This time has allowed me to rest, to reflect, to grow, and to uncover deep seeded roots to struggles I have had in my life for a long time. In this time, I’ve been able to form a deeper relationship with my brother,  get plugged into good godly places of community and support, form incredible friendships, and begin to let go of many things that have weighed me down for so long. I have been given such clarity in this season.

As I woke up this morning, the Lord brought this phrase to my mind. “Stand Still.” Now, you may view standing still as pretty passive, but it is actually a very active step. Standing still takes faith. It takes faith to stand still in the dullness, in the loneliness, in the mundane, in the routine, and believe that even in the standing still that God is working in and around your life to move you forward.

I’m reminded of the example of Moses, who stood still, seemingly trapped between the quickly approaching Egyptians, and the Red Sea, with the recently released Israelite’s complaining and cowering behind him. He responded in Exodus 14:13-14: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Standing still at this moment defied logic. Death awaited them on either side, but Moses trusted God and stood still believing that God would make a way to save His people. And He did. He parted the Red Sea, as the Israelite’s passed over on dry ground, while the Egyptian Army was swallowed up by the Sea as it closed behind them. God provided.

I’m reminded of the faith of Steven, who while being stoned, lifted his eyes to heaven and endured til the end. Daniel, who was thrust into the lion’s den, for being faithful to his God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were thrown into a blazing hot furnace for refusing to worship false gods. Paul, who after the earthquake that shook his chains free, stayed put and didn’t leave the prison. Esther, who went before the king unwarranted, to petition of behalf of her people. Abraham, who was asked to wait on the birth of his son, and the fulfillment of the promise God had made to him. And Ultimately, Jesus, who hung on a cross, innocent, standing still, was beaten, mocked, spit upon, and died, to pay the price for our sins, that we might be free from our sins and be able to enter into a relationship with the Father.

These are our examples of followers of Christ who stood still even in the midst of trying times. They stood still because they trusted God to show up, and He did. Constantly.

Just like these Bible characters, there will be times as Christians when we will be asked to stand still. We will be asked to stay in a job that greatly under utilizes our talents, to stand still in our singleness, to stand still in our disappointments, our losses, our hurts, and our confusions. It will be in this time that we will be asked by God “Do you trust me enough to just stand still and wait on me to show up?” It is here, in this place, where we are solely dependent on God, where we learn both to endure, to rest, and to trust that God fights for us, even as we have nothing in us that is able to fight.It is in this time of standing still where the Lord shores us up, teaches us who He is, and shows us what is really important. We go deeper with Him.

While standing still may carry with it the connotation of passivity, we still have purpose. We have purpose to be faithful where we are at. In our homes. In our jobs. God has placed us where we are at for a reason in this season. We have purpose to use our gifts, and our talents that God has given us for His good, and to further His Kingdom wherever we are.

We will also need others in this time of standing still. Others that will come alongside us and stand with us, holding our arms up, as we grow tired. Reminding us. Giving us perspective. Encouraging us with the words of God. Reminding us of the example of Christ as our suffering Servant, and the saints who have the run the race faithfully before us. Pushing us forward.

Standing still isn’t forever. It’s a season, and a difficult one at that. We can take advantage of it though while we’re here, learning to trust God fully, to lean on Him, to cry out to Him, and to trust Him that He will fight for us. We can be faithful to serve God where we are, asking Him to grow us in being content. He will teach us to stand still if we will ask Him.

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you’re in a frustrating season of life, where confusion and chaos reign, and you just feel stuck. Be encouraged. Know that God fights for you, if you would only be still. If you would be still, if I would be still, God would show up, and we would be filled.

 

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Picture taken from: https://www.gotquestions.org/be-still-and-know-that-I-am-God.html

Blessings.

The Longing Soul

We all have longings. Longings that are deep in our hearts. Longings that motivate us and push us forward. Longings such as dreams. Dreams of being married, or starting a family, or entering a new career. Longings such as desires. Desires to be loved, accepted, belong. When our longings are there, but are not met, we become disappointed, frustrated, even angry. It can be very painful.  We begin to shake our fists at heaven and cry out to God “Why have you given me these longings, these good desires, yet you have not fulfilled them?” The hope that we have in these frustrating longings is that God knows and sees us here, and He promises to fill us, if not with our specific longings, with Himself. This is our hope and encouragement. That Jesus will fill our longing hearts with Himself. And that is truly what we need Him to do.

I will be 28 years old next month, and I’m still single. This is not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. I have a God given desire that rages within me to share my life with a godly woman, to do ministry together, to raise a family together, and just to be partners with Christ in His work. Up until this point, it has not happened.

It has been a really frustrating thing to have a desire, a good God given desire within me, to be married, to have a family, to partner with someone in the gospel like this, and yet for it still not to happen. Every time a woman I have clicked with has only viewed us as friends it has been like a knife to the heart. It hurts. Every “no” feels like the “no” will be my destiny and that I will be single forever. I have been frustrated with this, and with God in this time. I’m super impatient.

This morning I slept in, and when I got up, I got into the word. Psalm 107 was where I was today.

For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9).

In this verse, God really met me where I was. He encouraged me that the longings in my heart for marriage and a family are good. They are. They are God given.

In this season though, God has withheld these things from me, due to His love and His wisdom. Though He withholds the desires of my heart in this season, He promises to do this: To satisfy my longing soul. How? By giving me Himself. By showing me over and over and over again how much He desires to know me, and desires for me to know Him well. He promises to fill my hungry soul with good things.

He promises to give me everything that I need both in this season of loneliness, frustration, and heartache. If I will just cry out to Him. If I will recognize that my longing is good and right, but that only will I find true satisfaction and fulfillment to my longing through Christ.

I don’t know where you are today. If you’re reading this, maybe you’re in a frustrating season, where it feels that good God given desires are being withheld from you. That is frustrating. It is frustrating when we long so deeply for the good things that God has given us desires for. Be encouraged though. Whether you are waiting on a spouse, a friend, a new job, an easier season, just know that the longings you have, God will fill. Maybe not in this season with the good things, but with Himself. He is all we need.

May we cry out to God in our longings, in our heartaches, in our distress, for He hears us. He promises to fill the longings that we have, the disappointments that we’ve faced, the storms we’ve walked through, with Himself. What an encouraging thing. For when we are filled by Jesus, we are actually filled fully, and not just halfway.

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Picture taken from: https://www.heartlight.org/gallery/3315.html

Blessings.