Walk by Faith

Faith is believing that God will work. It is much more than simply believing that God has the ability to work. That is how we are to read our Bibles, pray, and live this life. Promise after promise will be brought to fruition in our lives when we apply the Truth in faith!

God is God and that means that He has the resources to work in any way He wishes. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). Part of believing in God is knowing that He is powerful and in control. “The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty… The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness” (Psalm 29:4, 7-8 ESV). God has many characteristics that determine how His power will be used, though. He is just and righteous, merciful and kind. He is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). We can count on this because He never changes (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)!

Walking by faith is done out of love for God. Knowing God leads to loving God, which leads to trusting God, which finally leads to obeying God (‘Righteousness and Rewards’ by Matt Chandler). “This is love for God: to keep his commands” (1 John 5:3 NIV).

The kings of Israel, written about in the Old Testament, provide many examples of how following God leads to victory and success and flourishing and rebelling leads to downfall and destruction. For example, one time the Israelites broke the commandments. “Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgement on Joash” (2 Chronicles 24:24 ESV). There were not many kings who managed to follow God all the days of their lives, but Jotham was one! After noting all the his accomplishments in rebuilding and securing the kingdom, it says, “So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God” (2 Chron. 27:6 ESV). This Old Testament principle still applies to us, even though we are now under the blood of Jesus. The difference is that we now have the Holy Spirit to help us live the Law from our heart.

Suffering is a major theme in the New Testament because it is something Christ followers will deal with. Life is not happy all the time. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). James focuses on suffering a lot and he was specifying that the suffering does not come from God. God is the giver of good gifts! Paul also wrote about suffering and then said, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). This is one of the most glorious promises given to Christ followers! Everything that happens, either good or bad, to someone who loves God and is called by Him will be used for their ultimate good!

David says, “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing (Psalm 23:1). Jesus claimed to be “The good shepherd” (John 10:11). “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Sheep look to their shepherd for guidance, food, shelter, and protection. Jesus is our leader, protector, and provider.

One of the sweetest promises to cling to says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV). “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). To have faith, it is necessary to believe that God is capable, but it must go further. Walking in faith requires a strong assurance that God will work: our salvation will be worked and brought to completion. We can get to know our good God, live life according to His commandments written on our hearts, live out of security and provision, and claim the verses in the Bible as true for us!

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2017: A Review

“Hindsight is 20/20.” That is the main reason why I like to take some time at the end of each year to look back and see what I learned. This year, I am amazed at how many dreams came true. 2017 was good. Of course there were struggles, but I was usually able to look past them in the moment.

A big thing that made this year so good was that God was proving His goodness to me all year. He gave me the grace to see the good in the hard stuff and placed me in community with gracious, caring people over and over and over again.

  • I took Music Appreciation with fantastic people and we had the best teacher. They, along with other friends, made school a joy.
  • I got my first “real” job: as a biology tutor. And then got another fairly consistent part-time job.
  • I finally got my driver’s license. It was a huge step toward adulthood for me.
  • I bought a piano: a gift straight from God. (Ask me about the story behind this one.)
  • I visited family friends in South Carolina for a week and a half in the summer. While there, I learned more about what God-centered family and community looks like. (And I learned to cook better, which was the whole goal of the trip.)
  • I was able to make friend- and adventure- time a priority over the summer.
  • I took a day trip to Virginia Beach with my brother and some friends. It was a blast, until it was time to drive home. (Would never do this again.. lessons learned.)
  • I got to take Chemistry with my brother and completed my associated degree.
  • I learned how to let my friends and family be there for me through the hard stuff, and got more involved in my Bible study group.
  • I changed churches.

So to say a lot of big things happened might be an understatement.

Sometime near the beginning of the year, I felt drawn to a verse and I wrote it in the beginning of my journal:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

If that doesn’t describe 2017, I’m not sure what does. The Lord really has proven His heart to me this year. He has shown me that He is the Good Shepherd by providing, protecting, and leading. He has been gracious and gentle in the way he led. He has been gift-giver in ways that I could not provide for myself. He has been a guard over my heart and mind so many times when I needed protection.

So this year, I’m thankful for much. Most of all for the friends I’ve made and the way that God drew near.

The Dream of Marriage: Waiting, Trusting, and Letting Go

In looking back through my journal entries from the summer, I found this:

“Help me remember Your goodness and be patient-  WAIT.  How strange that I’m learning to wait during a season when You’re giving me so many long-desired gifts…”

I could see God’s merciful and gracious hand in so much this past summer. I was truly blown away at how many good provisions were made for me to walk in- many were ones I had dreamed about for years. Yet, there were places that I wrestled with God. Anxieties threatened to overtake my body on many occasions so that I was left to cry out to the Lord seemingly constantly. At the time, it was very frustrating, though I could see how it was drawing me closer to God. This was one verse (of many) that was given to me during that time:

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 11:12)

The big thing that was being broken up in me was my strong desire for a serious relationship/ marriage. I was reading through ‘Passion and Purity’ by Elisabeth Elliot. It is the hardest book I’ve ever digested. Strong emotions were brought up by each tiny chapter. The main point that stuck out to me was that God may not have marriage in our individual plan.. if so, will we say, “Yes, Lord”? Elliot included this quote in her book and its truth struck me:

“The fair new petals may fall, and for no visible reason. No one seems enriched by the stripping.

“And the first step into the realm of giving is a like surrender–not manward a Godward: an utter yielding of our best. So long as our idea of surrender is limited to the renouncing of unlawful things, we have never grasped it’s true meaning: that is not worthy of the name of “no poluted thing” can be offered.

“The life lost on the Cross was not a sinful one–the treasure poured forth there was God-given, God-blessed treasure, lawful and right to be kept: that there was the life of the world at stake.”

It was a hard truth to hear, and like I said, it produced a struggle. It made me examine how much I trust the Lord’s heart toward me. Honestly, I found that I didn’t trust Him as much I as thought.

God was so gracious to send people into my life to speak words of comfort and truth to this area when it seemed unbarable. Someone told me, “Most people will meet someone special at some point in their life and get married.” On one level this was a comfort, even though it did not address the possibility of God asking forever singleness of me. Still, the person who said it made a good point that the gift of singleness is usually only for a season of life.

Another encouragement was the current testimony of a godly woman at my church. She shared about how she was being pursued my a kind, incredible man of God and God was/ is very clearly orchestrating the relationship. It is much better than anything she had ever dared to dream of! Hearing her tell of what God was doing renewed my trust that God does love to give the good, great gift of serious relationships/ marriage (in the perfect timing). Also, seeing how God is the center of their relationship renewed my hope that it is possible to stay focused on God and bring Him glory through a dating relationship.

So God is good. Believing that to the core is the key to trusting God with any of our deepest hopes and dreams. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (All things within His will, of course.) And yet, God asks hard things of us and does not contradict His own character. I love this quote by Ruth Stull that Elisabeth Elliot included in her book, “If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a lad.” When we give up the good in our lives, God can use it in the best way possible to serve others and bring Himself glory. That often will look different than we have envisioned.

The dream of marriage is only one (fairly big) area where I must release my hopes and dreams to the will of God. God has been so gracious in the journey thus far, though! So yes, when God led me to write “WAIT” in my journal, there was a reason. I still have need for patience in the good times. I have need for patience as I wait for the Lord’s will. I also have need for trust in the Lord’s unfailing love and His good, great plan so I can focus on pouring out my life. He is providing day by day what I need for this journey called faith, though, and that is possibly more encouraging than anything else!

A Life of Crazy Love

In my experience, debate/ argument is valued by many Christians. Honestly, I used to be included in that group. I loved a good debate, where I made my point (and of course won 😉 ). My desire to be right has diminished in recent years, which I’m sure I can only attribute to God. I still enjoy having challenging conversations about things that are important, but I think I have a stronger value for how the other person feels during the discourse.

A couple weeks ago, I turned on my Bible app’s audible reading option. Because I was busy coloring, I listened to Romans 8 all the way into the next book, 1 Corinthians! It was eye opening to listen to all those passages strung together. (I highly recommend listening to big passages of Scripture read out loud. You get so much out of it!) Anyway, a theme came to my attention. Our actions as believers should be chosen because of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

Paul specifically addressed how to live with those who had different convictions on what was okay to eat. Today, this can be applied to diet restrictions or any other kind of restriction a person places on them self because they feel led to. It is made clear that each person will give an account to God and that it’s not the place of any other believer to judge their choices.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1)

“Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:13)

What a humbling way to live: for others. To make every decision based on how it  would effect the people around us seems a little crazy! We have been given the perfect example of this kind of living in Jesus, though. He showed love, sought after others, did not seek to quarrel, and ultimately died for people who didn’t deserve to be loved. We are called to be like Jesus. It takes a whole lot of vulnerability and humility, but it flows from our receiving this very mind-blowing gift ourselves. We’re just passing along a little bit of what we have been given.

So how can you put your brothers and sisters in Christ first this week? And beyond the family of God, how can you show this crazy love to those who don’t know Jesus?

Waiting for Good Things

Life is full of good things this summer. In many ways it is what I dreamed the summer would be. And yet, with each dreamed of activity on the horizon, I find a struggle waging within. There’s a little voice in the back of my head saying, “You’re getting too excited. Remember all the other times it didn’t work out? That’s going to happen once more and you’re going to be left devastated. Again.” So what if I am let down again? What if the thing I hope for doesn’t happen in my timing, or at all? This can be a big thing or a little thing and I think we all deal with this tension to some degree or another at least once in our lives.

I am reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot right now. (Such an amazing book! If you want to dig deeper into this tension of not getting what you want when you want it or just have questions about what it looks like to have a God-honoring relationship, read this book!) Despite it being specifically about a love relationship, I think this philosophical concept still applies to desiring something good in the future:

“We may imagine what it would be like to share a given event and feel loss at having to experience it alone. But let us not forget– that loss is imagined, not real… What is, is actual– what might be simply is not, and I must not therefore query God as though He robbed me– of things that are not. ” (Words of Jim Elliot written to Elisabeth during their long before-engaged season)

In that light, becoming bitter toward God for not giving a supposedly-good gift is ludicrous. On the one hand, was it really a good gift for us if God didn’t see fit to provide it for us? On the other hand, would we forfeit a right relationship with God because He wouldn’t be Santa Clause for us?

So can we eagerly anticipate a desired event or outcome, while still being fulfilled and happy in Christ? Can we have a desire in the back of our heart and wait for the right time to come for it to bloom? What if _______ doesn’t happen when we think it should? Can we be patient? Can we trust God to be good the the tension of the waiting?

I love this quote on waiting! It is,

“Steadfastness, that is holding on;

Patience that is holding back;

Expectancy, that is holding the face up;

Obedience, that is holding one’s self in readiness to go or do;

Listening, that is holding quiet and still as to hear.” (S.D. Gordon)

When we allow God to work in the waiting, we are drawn closer to Him in love; we are brought to a place of trusting Him more.

So wait bravely, friend.

Take Heart

Trials will come. We live in a world broken with sin, have an enemy who wants to destroy us, and are also in the process of sanctification. Knowing the reasons why we go through hard things, doesn’t usually make them any easier. The great news is that we are not left alone in our troubles. Jesus has gone before us and we can cry out to our Father God. The Holy Spirit also leads us as we seek Him.

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8 NASB).

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB).

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10 NASB).

So take heart.

Cast your cares.

He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

“The disposition… to leave the dearest objects of our hearts in the sublime keeping of the general and unspecific belief that God is now answering our prayers in His own time and way, and in the best manner, involves a present process of inward crucifixion which is obviously unfavorable to the growth and even the existence of the life of self.” (T.C. Upham)

We are kept even as we struggle. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 ESV).

So keep on keeping on. Keep following. Take heart because you are held, loved, and cared for.

 

Glory

A poignant question posed

A beautiful message sent

Amid a tender world

Ringing, ringing ethereal

Delicate light not of this world

Gaseous, invisible, barely detectable

Shining, shining iridescent

Its quiet eloquence rides the wind

Its brilliance paints the sky before twilight

Look about and find sprinkled glory

Find a lingering question hauntingly beautiful

Forever, forever answer unabashedly.