Tag Archive for 'faithfulness'

Jonah… Not just about a fish.

Jonah. He had a clear calling from God to go and preach against the city of Nineveh… But he ran from God. Jonah headed for Tarshish, which is on the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea.

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Jonah didn’t just hang out where he was in disobedience. He ran the opposite direction. So here Jonah is, asleep in the middle of a storm, willfully walking in disobedience. All of the other sailors are crying out to their gods in fear and desperation. The captain goes down and wakes Jonah up and says “Get up and call on your god!”
I find this situation parallels my life all too often. I turn in disobedience to the Spirit and ignore His leading or His calling. Whether big or small, helping someone, fighting against my flesh, making life changing decisions… all too often I screw it up. Then comes a storm. Something happens and I need or I am asked to call upon the power of the Lord. I have to completely rely on God. Can I do it? I usually fall into the trap of my disobedience. I disobeyed God. I’ve run from God. Who am I to call on Him? How shameful am I? That’s when I must remember the faithfulness of God. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 are my favorite verses:

“If we died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us;
if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

I have to trust the faithfulness of God. He tells me that He has no record of my sins (Heb 8:12). Scripture tells me to approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that I may receive mercy and find grace to help me in my time of need (Heb 4:16). How great is our God! I must stop struggling with myself and my weaknesses and turn to God as my source of grace and power.
Even after Jonah’s disobedience, God still shows up. Before the men threw Jonah overboard, they cried, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life.” They knew that throwing Jonah overboard meant certain death for him. But God still had a plan for Jonah and disobedience didn’t stop that plan. God saved Jonah’s life in the midst of his disobedience and still used him as the one to speak to Nineveh. God didn’t change His mind about Jonah.
How great is it that God’s character never changes? His character and faithfulness are not dependent upon our obedience. So if you’re running from God, stop and turn around. Repent. He loves you and He still wants to boldly move in and through your life.

Jesus… Where are you?

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I’m sitting on the floor of a hotel room, looking out my window. As cars cross the bridge, red lights turn green, and the silhouette of a woman dances on the building in front of me, I feel small. Jesus… Where are you?

I have been blessed with so many opportunities to travel over the last two years. It’s truly a blessing and a true work in my soul considering 1) the first time I stepped on an airplane was in high school and 2) growing up I dreaded leaving the comfort of my home.  I’ve now flown up north, down south, and overseas (each multiple times) in the last two years. Instead of dreading leaving my home, each new trip has become a mission. Every trip I will encounter people that I will never see again. Why not be bold toward starting conversations with strangers?

So, here I am… sitting on a floor and overwhelmed by a city. The things I have seen in  the last day and a half have made life at home seem fake. I know that may be an odd statement, so let me explain. Every city and culture I have been to has a different degree of acceptable sin. Not that one is more sinful than the other (it could be argued that some may be), but each city has a level of sin that is acceptable in the public arena. For example, Miami has this woman dancing on a building. This is perfectly acceptable here. The level of sin (to make sure I’m clear, I’m not referring to the severity of the sin itself, but it’s acceptance in the public arena) is so much higher than the woman dancing on the building that she is just an afterthought as everyone goes about their lives. At home, no one would dare (or even be allowed to) have a dancing woman on their building. So is Miami more sinful than home? I’d argue it’s not. At home, everyone just keeps their sin at home and to themselves. The level of tolerance for sin in the public arena at home is very low. Everyone is a good person and everyone accepts that. We assume everyone is a believer. We have no urgent concern for others’ salvation. When someone is rude or abusive or “sinful” publicly, it’s like the axis of society has tilted and everyone knows it. It takes us acknowledging how horrible that person is and how saintly we are for that axis to return to zero. 

But here… in Miami. Sin is public. Sin is welcomed… accepted… encouraged.

I think about my Christian friends, my Christian church, my Christian home, my Christian life. It’s wonderful, joyful, and truly a blessing. Jesus is there and He can be seen working in and among us.

But right now… I look out my window at a city that is broken. How can it ever be fixed? Jesus… Where are you? I need you to come fix this place. I feel small. How much faith does it take to walk one of these streets alone, and pray for the faces walking by, and believe that something will change? Let me tell you… It takes more faith than I have. I feel small. It’s encouraging and powerful to walk streets in prayer with other believers. But right now, alone, it’s hard. Jesus… Where are you?

The burden that I feel right now over the sin of this city sitting before me is still new to me. I’ve experienced it before in Turkey. And after returning from Turkey, it was like dragging a large block of ice behind me… And the burden of the lostness melted away into my daily routine. I don’t want to ever lose this burden… and I don’t want something as simple as my daily routine to take it away from me.

We’re not aware of our sin at home. C. S. Lewis sums it up in The Problem of Pain:
“When the apostles preached, they could assume even in their Pagan hearers a real consciousness of deserving the Divine anger. The Pagan mysteries existed to allay this consciousness, and the Epicurean philosophy claimed to deliver men from the fear of eternal punishment. It was against this background that the Gospel appeared as good news. It brought news of possible healing to men who knew that they were mortally ill. But all this has changed. Christianity now has to preach the diagnosis–in itself very bad news–before it can win a hearing for the cure.”
The Good News is no good news to those who don’t know the bad news.

Jesus, give me the faith to believe that this burden and weakness I feel have been slain upon the cross. You tore the curtain. And you have left us so that the Spirit may come. Holy Spirit move in this city. Give me the faith to believe. You reign in this place. This is a city of your precious children that you so dearly love. I weep with you over the souls in this place that do not know You, the gracious redeemer and giver of life. Lord, come. Jesus, you are here and you are pleading with souls to turn from their wicked ways and you are drawing hearts to you. Nothing is lost in this place… because you know right where everyone is. Jesus rain down your mercy and salvation on this place!

unanswered prayer.

I’m writing this from a new mindset that is having trouble recalling my old mindset.
Not that I have a completely different mindset or don’t have the same frustrations. I often found myself frustrated with unanswered prayer. I had several heart issues that I begged and pleaded for God to change. It killed me as I journeyed along with no change.
I struggled for almost a decade with habitual sin. I would plead with God completely prone on the floor with shouts and tears begging and pleading for Him to take it away. I knew He had something greater for me. I knew He didn’t want me in my sin. I knew He was the only one strong enough to free me from my sin. There wasn’t anything I didn’t try to free myself from it. I gave up trying to save myself, I acknowledged my sin, I confessed my sin, I avoided my sin, I did everything… and still nothing. I knew God would surely get me through it, but I couldn’t see an end. The freedom only began when I inadvertently confessed my sin to a group of high schoolers who were struggling with the same thing (James 5:16). I immediately began to feel a freedom, a true freedom from a slavery that I could not free myself from. But not only was I no longer a slave, but I was a son… and now I know that I’m an heir (Gal 4:7).

I suffered for years with disbelief. I remember one time at a small group we were going around the room listing our prayer requests. I told them that I was struggling with disbelief (their disbelief in that moment over what I just said was probably stronger than my disbelief). Why would God love me like He says when I wallow in my filth? I wanted to believe these things, these promises of God, this love that not only overlooks my sin, but covers it completely… I did believe these things. My heart struggled with not being able to grasp these things and completely surrender to them.
A man took his possessed son to Jesus. He brought his son to Him. Then he basically said, “He’s been like this forever. If there’s anything you can do, please help us!” Jesus replied, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.” Then the dad said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Jesus healed the boy, but did He do it because of the dad’s belief… or his disbelief… or neither? I don’t know. But I found myself in this man’s shoes. “Look, Jesus. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. I’ve done everything I can. I’m turning to you because I have heard that you heal and I believe that you heal, so if you can do anything, please take pity on me and help me.” That was my disbelief. ‘My heart and my soul, I give you control, Consume me from the inside out, Lord.’ I begged and pleaded for God to work from the inside out. Anything I could do was merely skin deep. It required Him, in His own time. I hated that I was struggling with habitual sin and disbelief, but I should have boasted in my weaknesses… For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I also spent what seemed like an eternity struggling with a hardness in my heart. I felt like I had the head knowledge, acceptance, belief of who Christ was in my life, but there was a severe disconnect between my head and my heart. I knew these things to be true, but I didn’t have a heart that was drawn to the things of which God’s heart is drawn. I wanted to love the least, to seek the lost, and for my heart to break. I begged and pleaded and begged and pleaded… and struggled and struggled. It took God, in His time, to crush my heart. It was years before, one night, I broke down in tears in the Wal-Mart parking lot over the fate of one man’s soul I met in Turkey. I knew his fate, his situation, and the futility of his beliefs. I was pressed by knowing that this man was going to Hell… unless someone took it upon himself to build and develop a relationship with this man… which was very unlikely. God is developing in me a heart that is sensitive to what He wants, sees what He sees, and loves as He loves. He has pulled my heart to love inconveniently… love so much that I displace my immediate wants, plans, my entire self. And do it in such a way that I get myself stuck in a situation where God must act, because I am beyond my ability to love or provide. A heart that makes itself available to dive in, jump off, or drown in the unknown because My. God. Is.

I am filled with joy when I can look back at these things and see my perseverance (Rom 5:3,4). If I boast, I boast in Christ. Take heart in your weakness, your frustration, your suffering. There is no such thing as unanswered prayer, because God our Father hears our prayers and responds… beyond a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ because He is faithful… and I can know, that in His sovereignty, He knows better than I do. Know the Lord’s faithfulness and boast in your weakness, your frustration, your suffering. He knows what He’s doing.

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:9-11

fears of the everyday.

I’ll speak for myself.

Fear is always in me, in some form or fashion.

Where am I going? Who will I meet? What will I do? How will I do it?

And these are not deep fears of a vast, unknown future.

Webster says:

turn – to cause to move around an axis or a center; make rotate or revolve

Fears of the everyday.
I’ve got a meeting…

Oh my gosh I’m so late. I’ve never met this person before. Will they understand what I say. What if I can’t do it.

The fears of the everyday.
These might be the times I turn to God the most.

I turn to God in the fears of the everyday.

Oh please don’t let me be late. Please let them be nice. Please let me speak clearly. Please help me through this.

Webster says:

rely – to be dependent; to have confidence based on experience

Hardly do I rely on God… “post” fears of the everyday.

Thank you for them being late, too. Thanks for getting me there safely. Thank you for their joyful heart and their good mood. Thank you for the conversation. Thank you for helping me get my point across. Thank you for handling it all when I can’t.

Turning isn’t a change in location.
Reliance is a leap.

Hours after this meeting, the part God played was brought to my attention.

I quickly recalled every worry I had before it. I realized everything went perfectly.

I would have passed through my day without any thought to how well the meeting went, but beforehand I was extremely concerned with my fear. If things went sour, I might’ve even prayed about it.

Realizing God’s role and acknowledging Him after the fact is what pushes ‘turning’ to reliance. I acknowledge how He acknowledged me.

I prayed in my fear, out of fear. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious prayer to God. But thankfully,

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

For some reason, God doesn’t base His response to me on my response to Him. God has no reliance on me.

If I face the fears of the everyday relying on God, I have confidence based on experience. There’s no need to fear. His faithfulness to me has nothing to do with me. It’s not about me. At all. He hasn’t let me down… He hasn’t ignored me. I have let Him down… I have ignored Him.
Reliance on Him will take the fears of the everyday and turn them into thanksgiving.

Turning is stationary.
Reliance is a leap.




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