Your Shield of Faith

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“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

I’m studying the Armor of God, and in particular the Shield of Faith this week.  I think every person who claims to be a Christian should do a deep study of this important passage in Ephesians 6:10-19.  Each piece is vital for different reasons because the enemy has so many different ways to attack us.  The Belt of Truth strengthens us from the inside out, giving us the ability to deflect lies and half-truths that look right, but miss the mark.  The Breastplate of Righteousness protects our heart from the enemy’s onslaught of lies about who we are. The Shoes of Peace enable us to stand firm in the harsh terrain of this world.  The Helmet of Salvation protects our mind, the devil’s favorite target.  The Sword of the Spirit is our only offensive weapon – but the Word of God is all we need to send Satan scurrying.  And then there is the Shield of Faith – a vital protective piece.

“Faith” gets used a lot in churches and Christian circles – so much so that I fear it has lost it’s meaning.  In the modern Christian culture, we say we have faith because we think about God and talk about Bible verses.  But biblical faith is not just sitting around with our ethereal thoughts.  By definition, faith is a belief that leads to a corresponding action – even when the reasons for that action are unclear and the results are uncertain.  Mind you, faith isn’t “blind” either.  It sees the improbability of what God is asking.  Faith does it anyway. “Because You said so” (Luke 5:5).  Faith allows us to step out into the empty space, confident that the solid ground God promised will be in place when our foot sets down.

What has God asked of you that requires great faith?  Obedience to His call is your shield.  Do the thing whether you understand the reasons or not.  Do it when it doesn’t make a bit of sense. Do it even though you can’t see the outcome.  If your knees are knocking – do it afraid, but do it.  Then when God slides His hand in place just as your foot reaches the open space, you will stand on the most solid ground you’ve ever known.  Have faith Beloved.  Just do it.

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How’s Your Vision?

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“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  Hebrews 12:2

I’ve worn glasses since I was in the fifth grade.  I remember vividly the difference in my vision from the day before to the day after I got them.  The teacher’s handwriting on the board improved overnight! The power of vision – the ability to see clearly – was driven home to me recently when I got new glasses after 8 years.  The difference in my old prescription and the new one was so great I had a headache for a week trying to adjust.  It’s hard to see clearly when you’re looking through a weak lens.

Likewise our spiritual vision – how we see God – affects the way we see ourselves, our challenges, and our successes or failures.  Consider the Israelite spies in Numbers 13.  Upon returning from their mission, ten of the twelve spies advised against attempting to take the land the Lord had promised them.  They compared themselves to the Canaanites and saw themselves as “grasshoppers in our own eyes” (vv. 32-33).  They talked themselves out of the Promised Land because they were convinced that they were outmatched and too small.  Only Caleb and Joshua had a different vision, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. Do not be afraid of the people of the land . . . the Lord is with us” (Numbers 14:7-9).  They saw the same giants and the same challenges, but they saw them with faith.  They focused on the power and the promise of the Lord and knew that the giants were no match for their mighty God.

In contrast to the ten Israelite spies, consider how little David defeated the giant Goliath.  You know this story well – David heard Goliath’s disgraceful taunting of the Israelite army, and armed with a sling and a few stones he confronted the giant.  But his confidence wasn’t in his sling or the stones or his own ability—his confidence was in God.  He stood before Goliath and declared, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty . . . it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves:  for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give all of you into our hands” (1Samuel 17:45, 47).  He knew God was mighty and He knew God was for Israel.  How could he lose?

We see the same confident thinking in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “If God is for us, who can be against us? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31, 38-39, emphasis added).  Where did Paul’s confidence come from?  The great vision he had of God through Jesus Christ.  He was so certain of God’s love because he had seen that love displayed on the cross.  Though his physical eyes were weak and failing, he had perfect 20-20 spiritual vision.

You and I need good vision to navigate life.  We need to view everything through the spiritual lens of truth.  Instead of focusing on the size of our challenges we need to “fix our eyes on Jesus.”  Rather than seeing ourselves as grasshoppers among giants, we need to see the bigness of our God, towering over everything that threatens us.  Beloved, how long have you struggled with weak spiritual eyes?  Is it time for some new lenses?  Maybe it’s time to have your eyes examined by the Holy Spirit so He can prescribe some divine glasses.  Oh Father, give us holy vision to see you like we’ve never seen you before!

Steadfast Peace

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“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3)

I blew it last night.  I lost my debit card at a gas station last night and I didn’t even realize it until I got a Facebook private message asking me, “Did you lose your debit card at such-and-such gas station?”  I dug into my purse and, sure enough, no debit card.  I quickly messaged the person back: “Yes, I did!  Is it still there?”  The answer: “No, I have it, I didn’t want to leave it at the gas station.  We are eating supper now after church.”  I messaged back: “Thank you! Tell me where and I’ll come to you to get it” And I waited, keys in hand, for the response.  Nothing.  More waiting.  No response.  Thirty minutes went by and nothing.  I tried to call.  No answer.  I messaged again.  No response.  I checked my messenger every 3 minutes, no response. No response. No response. An hour later and I sent another message: “Please let me know how I can connect with you and get my debit card back.”  Crickets chirping. By this point my anxiety level was through the roof.  I checked my account on-line to see if the card was being used.  Thankfully not.  I agonized over whether to have the card cancelled.  But she said they had been at church, so there was a little hope.  We went to bed and my mind was a whirlwind of anxiety.  I lay down, eyes squeezed shut and tried to sleep.  I sensed a brief flash of light from the bedside table.  She messaged me back: “Sorry, my phone went dead.”  Relief flooded my mind and heart as I messaged her back and arranged to pick it up. I finally drifted off to sleep.

This morning Isaiah 26:3 floated through my mind.  I realized I had blown it.  I lost my peace.  I worried and fretted, imagining all sorts of scenarios of my card being used and my account being drained.  I was the antithesis of the person in this verse.  My mind was everywhere but on the Lord.  Surely the same God who had just taken us from the pit of joblessness, homelessness and despair and blessed us so richly, could be trusted to safeguard my debit card.  The truth is, I had not even thought to ask Him to.  My mind was nowhere near Him.  I had no peace in the situation.  And to make matters worse, I had just come from a Bible study where the lesson was on peace!

Our lives are constantly in flux – ups and downs with sudden curves and more than a few potholes.  But our hearts don’t have to be.  If we keep God as the center of our thoughts we can peacefully endure all the uncertainties and sudden changes that come at us.  What if I had immediately prayed, “Thank you for securing my lost debit card.  I know it is safe in Your hands, no matter whose human hands are holding it.  Help me to trust You to get it back to me.”  If only I had remembered that God is trustworthy in all things that surround me, that He cares about my life and the things that concern me, I would have saved myself so much anxiety and sleep.

Maybe your concern is something bigger than a lost debit card.  Maybe it is a lost relationship, or a hard diagnosis, or a financial pothole that keeps you up at night.  I’ve been in those too.  And God has been faithful. You and I are not people in despair with no hope.  We are the people of God and He cares about everything that touches our lives.  Everything.  And with that assurance we can – we must – take hold of our thoughts and redirect them to Him.  Only then can we weather these hard things with peace.  Beloved, has He ever let you down?  I didn’t think so – and He won’t now.  Peace is a byproduct of trust and trust comes when we consider the faithful record of God and His righteous, loving character.  The saying goes: “No God, no peace.  Know God, know peace.”  We need to know Him, trust Him, and stand steadfast in faith.  Beloved, you and I can have a perfect peace because we have a perfect God who cares for us perfectly.  Steadfast peace is a soft pillow on which to lay your head; trust God – and get some sleep tonight.

Less is More

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The saying goes, “less is more,” meaning the less clutter you have in your home, life, etc. the more home, life, etc. you have.  It’s a lesson I’ve yet to learn as I look around my study, cluttered with books, studies, commentaries, resources, Bibles, files, sewing stuff, and tons of notebooks.  But, because of Jesus, there are some areas of my life where I am truly grateful that less really is more.

Because of Jesus, I am shameless – Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  I did not always live for God, and my sin caused me tremendous shame.  Even after I became a Christian I still stumbled in many ways, and the enemy heaped shame on me.   But Jesus took all my shame to the cross and the grave.  When He rose to life again, my shame stayed buried forever. Whatever you may have done, no matter how shameful it may be, Jesus can set you free.

Because of Jesus, I am guiltless – Hebrews 10:22 says, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”  We’ve all had feelings of guilt—because we are all sinners.  Jesus’ blood fell from His head and hands and feet, and continues to sprinkle all who will come and kneel at the foot of the cross.  His blood washes away all our sin, and with it our guilt.  You can set down that heavy burden and run into your Father’s presence knowing that His arms are open wide to receive you.

Because of Jesus, I am fearless – 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”  God loves you and me perfectly with an everlasting love that will never fail, no matter what we may do.  Because of His perfect love, we no longer have to tip toe into God’s presence, fearing His anger and wrath.

Jesus took all our sin and with it all the consequences and the burdens that sin brings. Because of Him you and I can be shameless, guiltless and fearless.  Beloved, don’t let your life get clutter with all this stuff.  Grab hold of the “less is more” principle and walk in the freedom Christ won for you.

Yes, I am a Daughter of the King

 

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“Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34).

(Grab your Bible and read Mark 5:25-34) 

I have long loved this story of the woman in Mark 5 – I think of her as a woman of great faith. She knew she was unclean, she knew she was an outcast, and she knew that she could be shamed, and possibly even worse, for being in a public place, bumping against “clean” people, and daring to touch a rabbi. But she also knew, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Not “Maybe” or “I might,” but “I will.” She was willing to risk public humiliation because her desperation caused her to have extraordinary faith. Are you desperate today?

I also love this story because I carried an “issue” of shame for a long time. One day I was reading Revelation 2, where the Lord declared to the church in Pergamum – “I will give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” The Sprit then sent me to this story in Mark 5 and He affirmed in my heart that He does not see me as a wounded, shame-filled woman. He calls me “Daughter.” That is my name. That is what is written on my stone.  I don’t claim that name as a “princess, daughter of the king,” as is so popular in Christian women’s circles these days. I receive it as one who was shamed and rejected, but is now – amazingly – adopted and loved by the King of the universe.  I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, some not so kind or loving.  To know that God – the perfect and holy One – not only saved me, but claimed me as His Daughter – well the thought absolutely stuns me.

Beloved, if you will come to Jesus – just as you are, with all your sin and shame and guilt and dirt – He will cleanse you and make you whole – forgiven, spotless, free.  He will take you to the Father who will claim you as His own – His beloved Daughter.  Maybe you, like me, didn’t have the best father-daughter relationship – or you didn’t have a father in your life much at all.  You can now.  

May you and I always be as bold as this woman to come to Jesus in all our uncleanness and reach for the hem of His garment in faith.  May we rise up and take our place as Daughters who are dearly loved and welcomed in the Father’s house.  And may we be always on the lookout for others who are longing for Father-love.  Let’s bring many daughters – and sons – into the family.

Home

4A76AECC-7D6E-48FA-91C3-6CB4150294A0.jpeg“I am going to prepare a place for you” John 14:3

Right now I’m sitting on my back porch swing, coffee by my side, Bible in my lap, listening to the falling rain. My hibiscus has a bright pink bloom and blue daze spills out over the sides of their pots. A pair of squirrels are chasing one another around a nearby tree, one loudly scolding the other. My cat Celina sits by my feet watching the show. Birds twitter their praises to the Creator. I am so blessed.
Just a few months ago I did not feel blessed at all. We were facing hard times – no jobs, no funds, no place to live, health struggles and battles with insurance companies. We were forced to pack up our lives, leaving dear loved ones behind. I was heart-broken. Actually I was broken. Period.
But God was at work. He was speaking to others on our behalf. He reminded a friend of a family member about a house for rent. Maybe it was available. And it was. Would the rent be reasonable? Yes it was. Could we move in right away? Yes we could. Would God provide the funds when we had no jobs? Yes He did. And it’s a great house, out in the country where it’s quiet. It’s a beautiful house. And it has this great back porch. I love this place and thank God for it every day.
But there is an even better place coming. A place that Jesus Himself is building for me. Did you ever wonder why He apprenticed on earth as a carpenter’s son? He is building a place for all His children – for me and for you. This house is rent-free and will be stunning and beautiful. It will be perfectly suited for each one of us. I’ll bet it will even have a great back porch – with a swing and lots of flowers. As much as I love the house God provided for me here, I cannot wait to move into my place in heaven.
Beloved, I’m sitting here on my back porch writing this to tell you that God knows your need. He knows your struggle. And He is working even now on your behalf. He is a good Father who cares for and about His children. He provided for your greatest need when He sent His Son to die for your sins. Will he do any less for these temporal needs you have now?
He is preparing good things for you today and He is building something wonderful for you for eternity. From my back porch and my heart: your Father loves you. You can trust Him.

Lord, Save Me!

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“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!”” (Matthew 14:30)

Brave, confident Peter stood up and stepped out of the safety of the boat and onto the liquid surface of the lake – and the water held him up! Like any curious person would do, Peter looked around to see if what he thought was happening really was. And that’s when the laws of nature took over and Peter began to sink.

Peter knew Jesus – he had heard His authoritative teaching and had witnessed and participated in His miracles.  In fact, this incident comes “immediately” on the heels of Jesus feeding more than five thousand people (Matthew 14:22).  But in a moment, all he knew about Jesus sank into the waves with him.  He was overcome with fear.  Can you relate? Sometimes we seem to be doing good – walking along in our faith with our heads held high.  Then something happens – a crisis hits, the bottom falls out, and suddenly we are sinking and crying out for help.

I have walked with Jesus for some 40+ years and there have been many ups and downs, some pretty awesome highs and some very deep lows.  I wish I could say that I’ve always been a model of unwavering faith – but that would be a lie.  What I can say is that every trial has built my faith by degrees.  You may be familiar with the hard season we’ve experienced these past several months.  We were rocked harder than we’d ever been.  It all looked very dire, and we were sinking fast.  All I could do was cry out, “Lord save us!”  And He did.

Here’s what I know – and what I want you to know.  God’s hand was behind that stormy sea.  He stirred up the wind and the waves that rocked our boat and tossed us into the water. Why would He do that?  Because His was the hand that would reach out to save us.  Because I needed to know the power of His saving grace and the depth of His everlasting love.  And so do you.  You need to know that when all seems lost, God will rescue you.  When you think you’re about to drown, God will pull you up.  Your storm is real – but so is God.  Start looking for His hand over the waves.

Ordinary People

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“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said, ‘Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?’” (2 Samuel 7:18).

Think you have nothing to offer to God and His kingdom?  Do you believe that you’re too young or too old or have no gifts or talents?  Sure you want to do great things for God, but you’re just a mom wiping dirty noses or a regular guy at a regular job or a college student trying to get through finals.  You’re in very good company my friend!

A young woman had nothing to offer God but a loyal heart.  She followed her mother-in-law home and did the most normal thing – she went out to gather grain to feed them both.  But God interceded and Ruth became the great grandmother of God’s anointed King of Israel and part of the lineage of Jesus.

Esther had no influence in the politics of Persia – but she had courage.  Because she stepped up and stepped into the King’s court, the Jewish people throughout the Persian empire were saved.

A young captive in a foreign land, Daniel had nothing of value.  But he did have integrity.  God used him to show His sovereignty and power to two of the greatest rulers in history: Nebuchadnezzar and Darius.

Jesus called twelve men from fishing boats and tax booths and used them to turn the entire world upside down.

Two women did what women throughout the ages have done – raised children and grandchildren.  God used Lois and Eunice to shape young Timothy into the Apostle Paul’s right-hand man and true son in the faith.

You may not be in a position of importance, but you are important to the Kingdom of God.  You may see yourself as small and insignificant or past your prime, and that’s just fine with Him.   He likes to use the least likely people to accomplish the most amazing things. That way He gets all the glory.

If you think you have nothing of value to offer God, you’re wrong.  You have yourself.  That’s all He needs.  He will take you and use you in the most ordinary – and yet extraordinary – ways. He’s got an important task, and you’re just the person He’s been looking for.  Just be available and watch Him work.

Stop and Think About It

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In the Psalms we frequently see a word, Selah, tucked in among the verses.  That little word packs a lot of wisdom.  The Amplified version of the Bible renders that word, “stop and think about that.”  The Psalmists use it as a word of warning, encouragement, and comfort.  It’s a two-step process to victory in our Christian walk.
“But you are a shield around me, O Lord, you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah” (Psalm 3:3-4).
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with sons of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 3:7)
  When difficulties come, stop and think about God as your shield and your hiding place.  Think about Him placing His great hand under your chin and lifting your sorrowful head.  Thank Him for His protection and deliverance.
“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!  He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet.  He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. Selah” (Psalm 47:2-4).
Stop and think about how worthy God is to be praised – He is the Lord Most High, the great King, the Sovereign over every nation.  Now stop and think about how He has chosen you as His own.
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Selah (Psalm 68:19)
When you are weighted down with burdens, stop and think about God calling you to cast them all on Him so your heart can be at rest. Then do it.
If there is a “secret” to surviving life on this side of heaven it is this:  Stop and Think.  Stop worrying, stop agonizing, stop fretting, stop comparing.  Stop letting your thoughts control you and take control of your thoughts. Think about who He is, think about who you are because of Him, think about His faithfulness in the past, think about His promises, and think about what is true and right and pure and worthy.  Beloved, it’s time stop the negativity in your head, to stop the voice of the enemy speaking  doubt and fear and temptation.  It’s time to fill your heart and mind with  the Words of your Creator and Father and Savior – words of truth and hope and strength. 
Stop and Think – and step up in victory!

Careless Sheep and the Good Shepherd

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“His eyes never slumber, and His hands never rest; His heart never ceases to beat with love, and His shoulders are never weary of carrying His people’s burdens.”
Charles Spurgeon on Christ Jesus our Shepherd
My favorite “I Am” statement of Jesus is “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11).  It always reminds me of a painting depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd, that hung in the vestibule of a church I worked at years ago. He is reaching from the side of a cliff to rescue one of His little lambs.  Sheep are notoriously clueless and helpless.  They start grazing and fail to notice when they wander too far from the fold or too close to the edge of a cliff.  They love to graze at the edge of the water because the grass is abundant and lush.  But they step on the slippery rocks and tumble into the water. Their wool becomes so heavy they cannot right themselves or climb out.  If the shepherd doesn’t hear their bleating, they will soon drown.
Sound familiar?  It sure does to me.  I have often wandered from the safety of my shepherd’s side following the lush and tempting grass.  But Jesus never fails to rescue me when I cry out.
I love how, in this painting, Jesus has put Himself in a precarious position to bring His wandering one to safety.  What struck me the most about the painting though was the look on the little lamb’s face – absolute confidence in the Shepherd.  There is no worry or doubt that the Shepherd will rescue her.  She isn’t trying to pull herself up the rocky wall of the cliff, but waits for Him to reach her and bring her to safety.   There is no fear of anger from the Shepherd.  Just trust.   This little lamb knows the Shepherd, knows that He is able to rescue her ,and knows that He loves her.
I don’t know what danger you may have wandered into.  You may be trying to get yourself to safety, too ashamed to cry out for rescue. You wonder if Jesus will come and if He will be angry with you.  Beloved, stop trying to rescue yourself.  Cry out to Jesus – there’s no need to be ashamed. He will come and He is not angry.
The Lord is your Shepherd – whether you are safe in the fold or hanging on the side of a cliff. You are His beloved lamb.