Category Archives: Faith

When It’s Hard to Have Faith

“Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, and yet you people do not accept our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.   (John 3:11)

This is a longer red letter passage than usual.  But the individual verses are connected in totally cool ways, so I’m going to go through it piece by piece.

One thing that is puzzling about this passage is that Jesus speaks in the plural.  So the first thing I want to explore is who is “we?”  There’s no knowing for sure, but I think one possibility could be that Jesus was including himself in the company of all of the prophets who came before him.  They spoke what they received from God, yet got no love from their hearers.  It was as Ezekiel said about the Jews, “They have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious house.” (Ez 12:2b)

Jesus also might have been referring to the disciples who were following him.  From the other gospels, we know that they were going about healing, telling people to repent, and proclaiming the kingdom of God.  They were testifying, yet many did not believe them.

In summary, I think Jesus was saying, “What is it with you folk?  You’ve had direct witnesses to God telling you his will, but you never paid them any mind.”

Then I want to look at is what Jesus said next, “You can’t even believe when I talk about earthly things.  How are you going to believe when I talk about heavenly ones?” (Paraphrased.)

What did Jesus mean by “earthly things?”  It probably refers to what he said and did while he was on earth.

  • So the Jews gathered around Him and demanded, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”   “I already told you,” Jesus replied, “but you did not believe. The works I do in My Father’s name testify on My behalf.”  (John 10:24-25)
  • “But I have testimony more substantial than that of John. For the works that the Father has given Me to accomplish–the very works I am doing–testify about Me that the Father has sent Me.”  (John 5:36)

Like the prophets of old, like the disciples, Jesus gave a sort of testimony, but people didn’t believe.  And Jesus was saying, “If you can’t believe in this testimony which is physical evidence that you can see, how are you going to believe in what you can’t see, which is heaven?”

The third thing I want to discuss is Jesus’s statement about. “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven.”  It’s just my take,  but I think Jesus is playing loose with the time frame here. He includes his coming from heaven, which happened when he was born (John 1:4), and his future return to heaven (Acts 1:9) in the same sentence.  He defines himself as the one who came from heaven and will return to heaven.  He’s trying to get people to see that as the only actual witness to heaven, he’s the only one qualified to give testimony about it.

Lastly, Jesus asserts, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. ‘”

This statement follows perfectly from what preceded it.  Jesus said people didn’t accept the testimony that they’d been given.  And if they couldn’t believe in the testimony of him on earth, they wouldn’t able to believe in heaven.  And he was the one who could authentically testify about heaven.  And he was the perfect one to provide a way for them to get to heaven.

Let me break this last part down a little more.  When Jesus was lifted up, which happened with the events of the cross, that became the catalyst for the Jews to finally be able to believe.   As Jesus stated later in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”   Jesus’s death and resurrection would capture people’s attention like no testimony of the past.  It was the game changer. It was the faith bringer.

And what would people have faith in?  Not only Jesus, but the eternal life he brought.  They would believe in heavenly things.

Our gracious God, through his Son, in one fell swoop, made a way for those who heard the testimony to completely believe.

What does this mean for us?

Can we relate to the Jews of old?  I certainly can.  Lately, my life feels like the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.  Some fundamental parts of my landscape have changed.  And now there are times that I just can’t seem to have faith.  I can’t believe that things will work out.  Even after all of the “testimony” God’s given me in the past, all the ways he’s worked in my life, I keep slipping back into the swamp of thinking, “It’s going to stink.”

I’ve been reading a nonfiction book about people whose faith is the very opposite.  It’s written by a man named Surprise, who tells the story of when he was a teenager in Mozambique and heard God’s voice in the middle of the night, telling him to leave his village.  Surprise obeyed the voice, even though he had never heard about God or Jesus.  After wandering in the jungle for two weeks, he came upon a clearing and saw an aged man who had been told in a dream to wait for him. This man took care of him and shared a very simple version of the gospel with him.  Surprise believed, and over time, began to go into the surrounding villages and tell the people there the good news about Jesus.  At first he didn’t have a Bible.  He only knew that people were sinning and God loved them and had sent his son to die for them.  But he shared what he knew, and everywhere he went, the people believed.  They didn’t have to have lengthy studies or explanations.  They had simple faith.  Surprise started hundreds of churches.

Maybe, in the Western world, we make faith too complicated sometimes.  Maybe there’s something about our cultural mindset that makes it difficult to believe.

Maybe we all just all need the cross.  The simple message of the cross is what impacted the villagers in Africa.  It impacted the people at the time of Christ.  It’s our lifeline when we’re pulled every which way by the world and our troubles.

I recently came across this blog by Julia Martin on “How do You Remain Faithful to God When Life is Terrible?”  She writes,”When we suffer we must run and collapse at the foot of the cross. It is there that we look up to see His hair blowing in the wind, His blood dripping on the rocky ground. It is there that we lift our face to see that this Man, the One in the center, is staring at us, not with eyes that condemn but with eyes of love.”

Isn’t that picture compelling?  Does it work on your heart? Can you see how cherished and valued you are, in spite of your perceived flaws?  Can you see that there’s someone who experienced the depths of despair, and can relate to what you’re going through?  Can you know that there’s hope, because, by the power of God, this man’s story ended in triumph?

I know that the foot of the cross can be the only place where I find healing and peace.

But thinking of heaven also helps.  As I remember that my citizenship is in heaven, my perspective changes.  I’m fortified by the realization that my place is with the almighty and all-loving God, wrapped in his safe, comforting presence, not with all of the worries and dysfunction of the world.  One day I’ll be there in reality.  In the meantime, it helps to remind myself that I don’t belong to all this angst.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect. Heb. 12:22

In conclusion, the passage we’re looking at today was a part of Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was perplexed.  He didn’t get it.

Neither did many of his peers.

And even today, I can struggle to get it.  But if I walk with God through my dark valley, he holds my hand and guides me until the shadows dissipate and I find a glimmer of hope.

If you’re struggling to have faith, reach out for God’s hand and let him walk through that dark valley with you.  Know that Jesus came and was lifted up to make a way for you to believe.  Remember the cross.  Remember heaven.  With a simple faith, knowing these is enough.

I wrote this blog over a period of days, and I’m feeling better now.  God has worked in amazing ways to bring light to my soul.

I know the same will be true for you, if you persevere.

All of this makes us even more certain that what the prophets said is true.  You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.  II Peter 1:19 (CEV, NLT)

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How Do We Keep On Going?

On account of this, the Jews demanded, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do these things?”

Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”

“This temple took forty-six years to build,” the Jews replied, “and You are going to raise it up in three days?”

But Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body.  After He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. Then they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:18-22)

Here’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately:  How do we keep going in tough or totally discouraging circumstances?  Today’s red letter statement gives us insight into an answer.

In the statement, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection.  What impresses me is that Jesus said this at the beginning of his ministry.  In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus doesn’t start talking about his impending death until Luke 9.  But in the Gospel of John,  he speaks about it early on, just after he calls his disciples and performs his first miracle.

It shows us that this was always so much in the forefront of Jesus’s mind.  That’s mind blowing to me.  It’s so different than the way I think.  I love to be productive.  If I were Jesus, I would be working towards creating tangible results.  I would want to see the evidence that I’m impacting people and creating a movement for God.

But Jesus served ceaselessly with the knowledge that his efforts would seem to fail.  All of his followers would leave him.  His movement would be virtually extinguished.  He would be condemned to death by those he sought to help.

Can we serve God like Jesus, knowing that we may not see the fruits of our labor?

We can, if we have the mindset that Jesus had.  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”  I think he answered the Jews with these words, not just because he wanted them to remember later and have faith, but because the words were the very basis of his faith.

Jesus was fueled by his belief that he would be resurrected.  He knew that his life on earth would feel ineffective at times.  It was his life after death that would change the world.

There are two lessons we can get from looking at the perspective of Jesus.

First, let our goal be “death,” not accomplishment.

Jesus said later in his life, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (John 12:24)

Jesus knew that, just as the “death” of a seed results in the growth of a plant, his death would result in the growth of the church.  And then, as a plant continues to regenerate, so would the church.

Today, we die to self and sin, knowing that this results in growth and regeneration.

  • We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.. . . Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. . . So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. (II Cor 4:10, 12)
  • If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. (Luke 9:24)
  • For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live.  (Rom 8:13)

As it was for Jesus, the basis of our faith is the resurrection.  We believe that our labors bear fruit as God works through our death.

Second, look less for gratification on earth, and more for gratification in heaven.  Hebrews says about Jesus, “Because of the joy awaiting him,  he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” (Heb. 12:2)  The real joy, for Jesus, didn’t come until after his death.  That’s not to say that he didn’t have joy on earth.  He most certainly did.  But the true gratification came later.

And the sure belief of this coming happiness gave Jesus the strength he needed to hold up through the daily rigors of his ministry.  It gave him the fortitude to submit himself to a humiliating and tortuous death.

Can I find the same kind of strength?  Because I’m realizing that I need to ask myself,  “What if I knew that all this work I’m putting into serving God would fall flat?  What if I knew that the result of my labor would be my death ?  Would I still go out every day and deny self and give?”

As I said before, I’m so results oriented.  But I need to look further than gratification on earth.  The gratification I’ll have in heaven needs to become my biggest motivator.  I confess, that when I was younger in my faith, it was so hard for heaven to be a motivator.  As I get older, I’m finally seeing this better.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  Matt 6:19-20

Jesus lived by those words.

How do we keep going in discouraging circumstances, when everything seems to be going wrong?

We look at how Jesus kept going.

We picture the surpassing bliss we will feel when we’re safe in the arms of our loving Father in heaven.

We believe in the power of surrender, of repentance, of prayer, of nothingness before God.

We say, “The only hope I have today is in death. I have no answer to Satan, except that I die and put myself and my work in God’s hands.”

And then we let our faith swell until it’s bigger than every failure, saying, “And I believe that God will work the power of life on whatever I put to death in him.”

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.  (Matthew 13:31-32)

I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. (I Cor 3:6)

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Filed under Faith, Humility, John, Perseverance

When We’re “Running Out”

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why does this concern us?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”  (John 2:1-4)

I can relate to this wedding dilemna! For my son’s rehearsal dinner, we put a lot of effort into making it really nice.  We held it at an upscale restaurant.  There were special decorations.  I created a video.  We planned activities.

The price of catering included wine for a certain period of time.  As the event went overtime, the maitre d’ came to my husband and whispered that if anyone wanted another drink, it would incur an extra charge.  It was a moment of counting the cost, because we were already spending a good deal of money.  But my husband was feeling joyful and magnanimous.  He said, “Sure, let them have more if they would like.”  It turned out that everyone had had enough, so it all worked out.

But the point is that we wanted the rehearsal dinner to be super special.  I’m sure the people in charge of the wedding at Cana felt the same.  For them, running out of wine in the middle of the celebration would have been a huge downer.

So it’s no wonder that Jesus’s mom stepped in to try and alleviate the situation.  She knew and cared about the young couple and their families.  She didn’t want them to experience this discouraging failure at the time that should be the biggest celebration of their life.

Mary didn’t think twice about going to Jesus and asking him for help.  And Jesus let her know that this request was uncool.  It was putting him out. It wasn’t his time to do miracles yet.

Yet, if we continue to read the story, we see that Jesus didn’t hold back.  He honored his mother’s request.  He used his powers and saved the day.

This story really helps my heart.   Sometimes I feel like I’m asking Jesus for something that is inappropriate.  I mean, he’s the Son of God.  My request is surely small next to the needs of the world.  It isn’t a salvation issue.  I’m not asking him to alleviate something grave like world hunger.   How can I bother Jesus with my little matter?  He has to have more important things on his agenda.

But this passage reminds me that Jesus cares about the day-to-day things going on in my life.  His heart was moved to help his mother.  I’m loved by him, and his heart can be moved to help me as well.

And in the story, Jesus didn’t just tell them how much he cared, or help in a token way.  He helped in a huge way.  He totally fixed it.

He performed a miracle. I’ve heard it so many times, that I forget how utterly amazing it is that Jesus changed water to wine.    I have a Brita pitcher of water on my kitchen counter right now.  If someone waved their hand over it and then poured me a cup of Burgundy, I would be astounded.  My heart would be racing.

That’s the kind of Savior we go to with our concerns.  We pray to God in his name.  He cares, and he has the power to fix them, no matter how impossible they seem.

So what are you running out of?  Okay, maybe it’s not wine.  But it could be money, or a another resource.  It could be time.   I confess that, lately, I’ve been running out of hope.

Several months ago, I put a situation on my prayer list that had been stuck for years.  For awhile, it got even more stuck.  But then one event occurred that was exactly what was needed to shake things up.  This led to more actions that really got the situation turned around. It has been amazing. The changes are still in progress, but, I’m telling you, it’s a true miracle!

Don’t think twice about taking your depleted situation to Jesus.  He loves you deeply!  You can ask, and his heart will be moved.  You won’t be inconveniencing him.  It’s not too small a request.  And if it’s in the scheme of God’s good will, Jesus won’t hold back. He’ll totally fix it.

Last night at our midweek house church, we ate fresh peach cobbler with ice cream, made from peaches I picked from my tree.  We didn’t study the Bible this time.  We just sat, and were close  and shared our lives with one another.  I felt such an atmosphere of love.

And I knew that this was a thumbnail of the warmth that Jesus has towards us — such a deep, encompassing, nurturing love.

When I think of it like that, I’m like, this is how we’re walking around in life.  We’re cushioned by love.  It’s natural to share our heart and requests with Jesus, and know that they will resonate with him and be honored.

Mary knew that was her reality.  Let’s remember that it’s ours as well.

 

 

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Seeing the Glory

“Rabbi,” Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus said to him, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” Then He declared, “Truly, truly, I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  John 1:49-51

It seems like I’ve been praying like never before this week.  So many of my friends are going through really tough challenges — marriage difficulties, the death of a family member, a crisis regarding a loved one, impossible situations at work.

I have a little prayer box, and I keep putting more things in it.

Today’s passage speaks to this.  It describes how Nathanael reacted when Jesus told him that he was a true Israelite.   Nathanael could see the divine power behind this statement, and he declared that he believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

What’s really encouraging about this is Jesus’s response.  He told Nathanael that he would see heaven open and the angels going up and coming down.

Well, before we go on, we have to look at this mystifying image of the angels.  What did Jesus mean?  We don’t know.  We don’t have any record of Nathanael actually seeing this in the future.

But we do know that it’s probably a reference to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28.

He (Jacob) had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and east and north and south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” (Genesis 28:12)

The outcome of this story of Jacob was that God was going to bless everyone on earth through Jacob’s descendants.  This is a continuation of the promise God gave to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.  I believe that this promise is being fulfilled today as the gospel is being made known throughout the world.  Galatians 3 says, “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Galatians 3:7-8)  

Thus, it very well could be that Jesus was telling Nathanael that he would see the miracle of the gospel being spread to all nations.

It could also be a reference to Nathanael’s entrance to heaven when he died.  When Stephen was stoned in Acts 7 and about to perish, he said, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)  Jesus could be telling Nathanael that, as one of the first to have faith in the Son of God, he would have a similar vision when he passed away.

We don’t know.  But we do know that Jesus said that Nathanael would see something great and wonderful.  And I think the principle here is that because Nathanael was able to have faith in a small situation, he was going to see the glory of Christ.

And that is something that can encourage us.  If we can just have faith in the small things, we will be able to see glorious things.

It may be that we will see this glory as we see the gospel being spread in miraculous ways.  We will certainly see it when we get to heaven.

But maybe we will see the glory because faith allows us to live a glorious life.  Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  (John 14:12) I John 5:4 says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”  And I love this verse, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  (II Cor 2:14)

Just being able to have faith in the small things makes such a difference. It helps us learn to have faith in the big things. And then God works in big ways.  And we see the world in a different way, that we’re not perpetually defeated, but, instead, part of something dynamic and thrilling and hopeful.

Earlier this week, a friend called me to unload about a difficult situation.   After we discussed it, we decided, rather than try and figure out a solution to the problem, to surrender it to God in prayer.  I put it in my “prayer box.”

The next day, she texted me and said that the situation had worked out.  It was a small miracle.

A day later, I heard about something that totally discouraged me.  I got a lump in my throat that was like a huge ugly ball, too big to swallow, too big to fit in my prayer box.

And I had to tell myself, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God.  This belief is my very core.  So I must surrender the unsurrenderable to him.”  And I’m trying to do that.

You know, as I reflect on this now, I realize that God works when we give things to him.  But we expect him to work while we’re still holding onto our concerns!  We have to have the faith to hand it over.

Nathanael took a step of faith. And Jesus said that he would see glory.

We need to take that step of faith, and then the next, and the next, even though they seem huge.  When we do, we will live a glorious life.

As I look over my gratitude journal this week, I see how true this is.  God did some wonderful things this week!  One friend had an amazing breakthrough.  I started studying the Bible with another friend, and it went so well!  God taught me truths that I was able to pass on to others to help them.  I could go on and on.

Jesus is the Son of God.  Our belief in that makes such a difference.

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Filed under Books of the Bible, Faith, John, Red Letter, Uncategorized

God Makes Wine With Our “Fruit!”

I will sing for the one I love

a song about his vineyard:

My loved one had a vineyard

on a fertile hillside.

He dug it up and cleared it of stones

and planted it with the choicest vines.

He built a watchtower in it

and cut out a winepress as well.

Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,

but it yielded only bad fruit. (Is 5:1-2)

Here is what I am getting out of this passage.

First, I love that this is a love song to God.  Songs can express a story in such a moving way.  The fact that the prophet wrote a song means he wanted to convey an emotional connection.  He felt so deeply about the subject that he wanted to sing it, like a mournful ballad.

And that means that these are verses we should listen to with our heart.

Second, knowing that God is the loved one, and the vineyard is his people. we can see from the wording how much God takes deliberate and tender care of his people.

  • He locates the vineyard on a fertile hillside.  There is plenty of nourishment.  This is also true for us today.  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (II Cor 9:8)
  • He clears out the rocks.  This is a theme we see all through the Bible, that God takes away the things that can make us stumble.  “For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Ps 56:13)
  • He builds a watchtower so the field is protected.  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  (Ps 23:4)

Third, we can see that just as the vineyard was planted to yield fruit, God intends for his people to fulfill the purpose for which they were created. Like the vines, we were intended to grow and produce.

  • For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)
  • “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

Lastly, the passage tells us that the husbandman of the vineyard cut out a winepress.  He intended to do something with the fruit so that it would be useful.  Isn’t this how God works with us?  We do our good deeds, and he multiplies them!

  • Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 
  • “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt 17:20
  • “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. . .  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Matt 25:23, 29
  • Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously . . . And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work  II Cor 9

So that brings us to the question of the day.  If we are designed for a purpose, to do good things, and if God can multiply, can we not have even the smallest bit of faith or make the smallest of efforts?  It is exciting to think what God will do if we step out!!

Today I went to a doctor appointment.  I prayed beforehand, knowing that God is amazing and we should expect him to work in amazing ways.  And then I knew I needed to act in order to give God something to work with.  So I was friendly with the nurse and doctor.  In the course of our conversation I got to share with the doctor that I go to church with one of her former interns.  She asked me what church I go to so I got to tell her.  And then I handed scripture cards to the nurse and her co-worker before I left and they really appreciated them.

It doesn’t feel like much.  I was struggling with feeling emotional and gloomy this morning.  But I got centered on the good things, remembering God’s love and joy, and that I am a child of the light.  (I Thes. 5:5)  And when I did that, I could smile at the nurse and reach out of the little ball I wanted to curl myself into.

It reminds me of the parable of the talents.  One person was given ten talents, another five, and another got just one.  God still expected the person with one talent to use what he had.  It would have been easy for that man to think, “I just have one talent.  It’s not going to make much of a difference.  I don’t need to do anything with it.”  Or he might have thought, “What if I try to invest it, and lose it?  I’ll feel like a failure.  The master will be mad.  Let me save myself the emotional pain and just do the safe thing and hide it in the ground.”

So that is our challenge.  Let’s practice faith, even if we only have a tiny bit to practice.  Let’s do something, even if it doesn’t feel like very much.  It’s our job to have faith and do good works.  It’s God’s job to make these into something of consequence.

Last night we had house church.  A family was there as a result of an invitation I gave out when I was voting.  Another woman was there because I had followed up on her after I met her at church.  There are so many times I’ve made efforts and nothing has seemed to happen.  But we keep on trying, because sometimes we can see how God is making wine out of our fruit!!

(The woman on the left is the one who came to house church when I invited her.  She is shown here with the amazing Kenonia!)

 

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Filed under Faith, Isaiah, Mutiplication

He Will Do It Again

See now, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,

is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah everything they depend on:

every bit of bread and every drop of water,

the hero and the warrior, the judge and the prophet,

the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank,

the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter.

“I will make mere youths their officials; children will rule over them.” (Isa 1:1-3)

Sometimes God takes away the things we depend on.  We can lose our job.  We can lose a relationship.  We can lose our health.  We can even lose our church.

God can take away that strong leader whom we relied on, and put someone who feels like a child, a simpleton, in their place.  Some in our nation feel as if that is happening right now.

So much was taken away from the early believers.  Jesus died, and then went up to heaven.  The church was persecuted, and it had to split up.  Disciples were jailed, beaten, and even killed.

But look at what Paul wrote about this:

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.  And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.  II Cor 1:8-10

God allows us to experience loss so we learn to rely on him. This was certainly the case for the Jews in the time of Isaiah.  They needed to learn that all they put faith in was worthless.

And sometimes it’s true for us as well.

What I like about the passage in II Corinthians is that we see how God is faithful.  Even though we feel like we’ve lost everything, we never lose God.   He is always with us.  And he will rescue us in the end.

It reminds me of the song, “Do It Again” by Elevation Worship.  Here are some of the lyrics:

Walking around these walls
I thought by now they’d fall
But You have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle’s won
For You have never failed me yet .  . . 

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

God wants to rescue us.

The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. . . He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. Selections from Ps. 18

How do I explain that I am at peace this week, when I was in so much turmoil before?  I see myriad strands of ways God worked to weave together a change for me.  How do I explain that so much of what I’ve dreaded hasn’t come to pass?  It could only be God. It could only be God who put marriages back together, who moved hearts to repent, who put the right person at the right place at the right time.

I want to keep repeating the words of the song, and keep believing that God has moved the mountains and he will do it again.

He will allow us to go through the loss of everything we depend on.

And out of that, when it seems at the worst, he will rise up to give us relief, and work in amazing ways.

To him be all glory and praise.

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Fear, You Don’t Own Me!

People will flee to caves in the rocks

and to holes in the ground

from the fearful presence of the Lord

and the splendor of his majesty,

when he rises to shake the earth. (Isa 2:19)

This passage talks about a SUPER earthquake, something cataclysmic that happens when the Almighty and Holy Lord comes to earth and the whole planet is shaken.

Let’s look at some other places in the Bible that mention this:

  • The earth is utterly broken apart, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken violently. Isa 24:19
  • But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be dissolved in the fire, and the earth and its works will not be found. II Peter 3:10
  • At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth, but heaven as well.” Heb 12:26 (Quoting Haggai 2:6)

This has got to be the Day of Judgment, when this world will pass away and a new heaven and earth will come.

  • “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”  II Peter 3:13 (Note that this follows the II Peter verse above.)
  • Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. Rev. 21:1

There’s actually a pretty cool contrast here.  On one hand, there will be terrible destruction, but on the other hand, something is created that is indestructible.

It is as Daniel prophesied: “In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will shatter all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself stand forever. ” Daniel 2:44

Wow.  Just wow.  Think about all that for a bit.

And there’s more.  I believe that this eternal kingdom that will never be destroyed isn’t just the new heaven at Judgment Day.  I believe we are experiencing it now with the salvation of our souls. Look at this passage:

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect . . . Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” (Heb. 12:22, 23, 29) ”  

In being saved, we are in such an amazing place.  Our names are written in heaven.  Our spirits have been made perfect.

And it makes perfect sense that God goes on to say at the end of the chapter:

Stop trusting in mere humans,

who have but a breath in their nostrils.

Why hold them in esteem? (Is 2:22)

Exactly!!  Why trust in men, or, for that matter, anything else on the earth, which isn’t secure, but will be destroyed?

We can only trust in God.  He’s the only thing that is truly solid and reliable.

And when we realize that, we worship with gratitude, reverence and awe.

Having a fear of God, rather than a fear of man.

Lately, I’ve been plagued by the wrong kinds of fears, fears that crawl around my insides like ugly creepy insects and resist extermination.  I saw that these fears began to control me, instead of vice versa.  They dragged me down the path of negativity.  Something would go wrong, and I would start to believe that more and more would go wrong.  I felt like I wouldn’t be able to make it right.  People would get upset, and I felt like I wouldn’t be able to mend the relationship or help them feel better.

I  knew I was going down this path of cynicism and defeatism.  I felt the ickiness and the wrongness of it, but I didn’t know how to change directions.

Until I realized that I have to start believing in good again.   That’s what resonates in my deepest self.  I have to believe there is good in people, kind of like there was in Darth Vader.  And I have to believe in the good in God, that he will do what is best at the right time.  I have to have that magical, Pollyanna, makes-no-sense kind of faith, knowing there is hope!

I have to remember, and listen to the voice that will get me back on track, not the voice that has me quaking.

I love the chorus in Francesca Battistelli’s latest hit:

Fear, you don’t own me
There ain’t no room in this story
And I ain’t got time for you
Telling me what I’m not

Tell fear, “You don’t own me!”   Walk away from it, and walk towards the knowledge that you stand with God in a place of goodness that nothing can shake.  There’s always hope.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.  Ps 42:1-2

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