Not a Fan of Jesus

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“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’” (Matthew 16:16).

My husband was watching a program on television, a famous singer was belting out their latest hit song and the crowd was almost louder than the amplified music.  They were applauding and shouting and whistling their adoration.  I walked through the room just as the camera zoomed in on one girl with a t-shirt that had the singer’s face above the words “I’m your #1 fan.”  The singer saw her too and took an elaborate bow and blew kisses aimed directly at her.  She was ecstatic and the people near-by looked at her like she was royalty.

Popularity is a fickle thing.  One day you’re everyone’s favorite celebrity, the next day you’re old news.  Last year you were on the cover of People magazine, this year your name is buried on the back page of the local newspaper. Celebrities live and die by their fan count.

Jesus had fans.  The gospels tell us of people who flocked to Him, who hung on His every word, who wanted a front-row seat to watch Him perform miracles.  They lined the streets when He came through town and jostled one another to walk nearest to Him.  But I am not a fan of Jesus.

I am a follower of Jesus.  It’s true that I want to be near Jesus, but not for some thrill. I want to be in His presence because His presence is peace.  His presence is hope.  His presence is wisdom and power.  Like Mary of Bethany, I want to be near Him to soak up His words and take in every inflection of His voice.

I am a servant of Jesus.  Paul identifies himself and Timothy in his opening statement in Philippians: “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:1).  I love how Mary responds to the angel: “Behold, [I am] the handmaiden of the Lord” (Luke 1:38).  The purpose of my life is to do the will of Jesus.  To serve Him by serving others.

I am a disciple of Jesus.  By His example, He can teach me how to walk in righteousness.  He can teach me about the Kingdom of God and how to go to heaven.  And He alone can teach me who God is because He is God.

I am a friend of Jesus.  Fans are not often friends.  Fans are there for the show.  Friends sit around after the show is over and talk about real life.  I love to talk to Jesus about what’s happening in my everyday life.  I love to listen to Him talk through His Word about heaven. My friendship with Jesus is as real as my friendship with my best friend.

I am a witness of Jesus.   I want to tell others what He has done for me.  He has saved me, redeemed my life, and given me a place with Him in heaven.  He took all my sin and all my shame and the punishment that I deserved and gave me freedom and eternal life.  He died so that I would live.  I want to tell the world about my Jesus.

Most of all, I am a worshipper of Jesus.  I’ve seen old pictures of fans of Elvis Presley and the Beatles and their “worship” of their favorite stars.  Their adoration is misplaced.  There is only one who is worthy of worship – He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  The Bible says that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).  One day Jesus will return to earth and every person that ever was will bow before Him and declare that He is Lord.  No one will be exempt because it will be an uncontrolled response to seeing Him in His splendor.  Those who refused to acknowledge Him in this life will, by the sheer force of His glory, give Him the exaltation they withheld.  I want to worship Him now.  I want to give Him the praise and honor that He is due today so that when that glorious day comes, I am well-practiced and my response is as natural to me as breathing.

Jesus is worthy of so much more than fawning fans.  He is worthy of our focus, our time, our efforts, our service, our friendship, our witness and our worship.  He is worthy of our love.  He is worthy of our lives.  To be a fan of Jesus falls far short what He deserves.  And it falls far short of what He desires for you.  Don’t just be a fan.  Be all-in.

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I Promise (part 2)

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“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

I love Hebrews 11 – the great Hall of Faith.  There we see portraits of men and women whose lives were marked by extraordinary faith.  Abel, who gave a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord, and suffered his brother’s wrath.   Enoch, who so pleased God he was spared death and directly taken into heaven. Noah, the ark-builder, who was foolish in the eyes of his neighbors, but wise and obedient in the eyes of God.  There is Abraham who, despite a few stumbles, was called righteous because He believed God for the impossible.  There is Isaac, and Jacob and Joseph – all stalwart in their commitment to faith in God.  The list goes on and on – Moses, Gideon, Samuel and David and even a prostitute – Rahab. The list includes many who were persecuted and martyred, all because they believed God was greater than even their own lives.  These people inspire me and challenge me to endure and live a life of faith.

But there are a couple of verses in this passage that have always given me pause: “All of these people were still living by faith when they died.  The did not receive the things promised; they only saw them from a distance . . .” (v. 13). Go forward a few verses and there it is again: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised (v. 39).

Wait. What?

They believed God, obeyed God, gave their lives for their faith in God and still they “did not receive the things promised.”  How does that make sense?

In the modern world, we equate success with outcome.  When we look at these heroes of the faith, we expect to see results, like Moses, who led the Israelites out of bondage and Noah, who obediently built the ark and saved humankind, and David, the slayer of giants who became the King of Israel.  In the world of faith, a successful saint is not always the one who wins.  Hebrews tells us that some of these heroes endured torture, oppression, persecution, prison, poverty, and death – yet they are listed along with these mighty men and women of faith.   They too were “commended for their faith” (Hebrews 11:39).  Why?  Because they believed God.  They believed He is good and righteous and faithful.  And they believed that the outcome of their situation did not change who God is.  As the three Jewish youth in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace said, “The God we serve is able . . . and He will . . . but even if He does not” He would still and always be their God.

Abraham is one who pleased God with his faith.  The Lord told him, “The whole land of Canaan where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:8).   Yet we learn in Acts 7:5 that “[God] gave him no inheritance [in the land], not even a foot of ground” (Acts 7:5).  Still Abraham is commended as a righteous man “because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise” (Hebrews 11:11).   Abraham’s faith was grounded in God, not in the ground on which he was standing.

By contrast consider Abraham’s wife Sarah.  She knew about the promise that Abraham would have a son through whom God would build a family and a nation.  She believed the promise, but she didn’t believe God to fulfill it. She turned to the traditions of culture to make the promise a reality and the world is still reeling from it. Her hope was in the outcome not in the Lord.

My friend, the call to faith is not a call to believe God for something; it is a call to believe God. Period.  To believe that He is who He says He is and He able to fulfill his promises.  Genuine faith is in the Promise Maker, not in the promise.  When God says, “I promise . . .” our eyes should always stay fixed on Him, not darting back and forth in search of the thing.  It will come, but in the interim, we must keep our focus on the One who made the promise.  He is the Promise Maker and the Promise Keeper, but the greatest promise He made to Abraham is the same promise He makes to you and me: “I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8). That is a promise you can trust.

I Promise

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The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does” (Psalm 145:13).

The mothers of the nation of Israel, Sarah and Rebekah, both have stories marked by the power of God. They both saw God move in wonderful and amazing ways, in impossible situations. Wouldn’t you think they, of all people, would trust God completely?

Yet both women’s stories show them taking God’s promises into their own hands. Sarah heard God’s promise to give Abraham a son through whom He would build a great nation. When the promise was delayed Sarah devised a plan for Hagar to serve as a surrogate so that “through her I can build a family” (Genesis 16:2). The world is still suffering the consequences. The Lord told Rebekah that her younger son would rule over his older twin brother, yet when the time came for Isaac to give the blessing, Rebekah schemed to make sure her favorite younger son was in place under his father’s hand. Because of her actions Jacob was forced to flee from the wrath of his brother and she never saw him again.

I understand that tension. God has made promises to me and circumstances made those promises seem impossible. The truth is, I am as guilty as my ancient sisters of trying to manipulate God’s promise into fruition. And just as it did for them, my actions always led to frustration, heartache, and emptiness.  Sarah and Rebekah doubted God would keep His promise. So have I. They determined it was up to them to see God’s plan fulfilled. So have I.  Ultimately God did fulfill His promises to them and to me. He was and is faithful after all.

The Bible assures us that “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Unlike you and I, God does not make promises He cannot or will not keep.  Charles Spurgeon says, “God keeps His promises before He makes them.”  Think about that.  When God makes a promise, it is as good as done no matter how the situation looks. God can be trusted to fulfill what He has promised.

Now think about what God has promised to you.  Can you see the thing coming into reality right now?  Probably not.  Does that mean that God will fail to keep His promise?  Absolutely not.  It means you need to keep your eyes on Him and not on the circumstances.  It means God is going to do something amazing before your eyes.  In fact, the more impossible the situation looks, the bigger the miracle to bring it to fulfillment.  And you don’t want to miss that do you?

Beloved, you and I do not have to doubt that God will keep His promises.  We also don’t have to scheme and plot and manipulate to bring God’s promises to fruition.  It is completely His job and He doesn’t need any help from us.  Anything you and I may accomplish by our feeble actions will be empty and vain.  Everything God does to accomplish His promises will be extraordinary and beyond our wildest expectation.  I know this from His Word and from my own experience.  When I stand aside in faith and let God be God, He blows my mind!

Our only response to God’s promises should be “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38) as we wait – not in frustration and doubt – but in eager anticipation.  God is faithful.  He will not fail you.  He always keeps His Word.

Always.

Holy Father, You are the great Promise Maker and the faithful Promise Keeper.  Sometimes You make such amazing promises we wonder if they can really be fulfilled.  Give us faith to watch and wait, knowing that when You do what only You can do, it will be more than worth the wait.  Amen

Guest Blogging Today

I am guest blogging today on the website “All Mom Does.”  Check out my Thanksgiving devotional, “Giving Thanks in the Desert.”

https://www.allmomdoes.com/2018/11/21/giving-thanks-in-the-desert/

 

Guard Your Heart

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“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

I grew up a military kid, and I remember well the guards posted at the base entrance.  Their sole job was to keep the base secure from people and things entering that posed a threat.  We had a sticker on our car that allowed us to pass right on through – we though it was so cool that the guard would salute my mom and a car full of kids when he saw that sticker.  But if a car approached without that authorization the guard stopped them to determine who they were and why they wanted to enter the base.  If the guard had any inclination that the person was up to no good, access was denied, and on occasion an arrest was made.  That is the same idea we see in this verse.  We have to post a guard and deny access to anything that poses a threat to our heart – to our spiritual and emotional wellspring.  But here’s what sticks out in my mind: the bases we lived on had multiple entrances, and every entrance had a guard.  Every possible route onto the base was secured.  Now let’s go back to our Proverbs passage.  Read a little further (vs. 24-27) and you will see that Solomon gives us four posts we need to secure: Guard your mouth, guard your eyes, guard your steps, and guard your direction.

Guard your mouth:Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips” – Jesus warned, “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ (Matthew 15:11).  Our words – and our actions – spring from our heart. When our words are perverse and corrupt, it means our hearts are perverse and corrupt.  But our words also feed our heart.  It’s a cyclical effect – what comes out of my mouth comes from my heart and goes back into my heart again.   David said it this way, “He wore cursing as his garment; it entered his body like water, into his bones like oil” (Psalm 109:18).

Guard your eyes: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you” – watch what you’re looking at, listening to and absorbing into your heart.   And I don’t just mean avoid looking at inappropriate stuff like pornography – which should go without saying.  I’m also talking about looking at things that just dull our spirits.  Here’s my confession:  some days I come home physically and mentally wiped out.  All I want to do is veg out in front of the TV or scroll the internet on my phone for funny memes.  Now I’m not looking at anything bad, but I’m also not looking at anything godly.  I’m not feeding my heart – I’m dulling it. Computer programmers call it GIGO: Garbage In – Garbage Out.  I call it The Sponge Principle.

Guard your steps: “Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm” – watch your step.  One of the worst ankle injuries I ever incurred happened when I wasn’t watching where I was planting my foot and I stepped awkwardly off a curb and nearly broke my ankle.  The world is full of curbs and potholes and ditches that can easily trip us up and Satan is always planting landmines in our path.  We need to pay careful attention to where we set our feet – make sure the way is firm and free of danger.

Guard your direction: “Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” – keep going in the right direction.  How do we know for sure what is the right way?  God has given us a road map – the Bible and a personal Guide – the Holy Spirit.   By storing up God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11), meditating on the Scriptures (Psalm 19:14), continually, intentionally seeking God with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13), keeping in step with the Spirit (Romans 8:5), and staying in community with fellow believers (Hebrews 10:25), we can stay on the good way.

Base security is a vital part of our military operations and the well-being of our nation.  Heart security is no less important to our lives; our faith, witness and ministry are at stake.  You and I need to post our guards and secure every access to our hearts and protect the “wellspring of our lives.”  Guard your heart well Beloved.

Facing Trials With Joy

 

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“Consider it pure joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).

“God – I don’t understand this trial. Why are you making me go through this?” Ever said that before? So have I, and so have believers through the ages. And we will again and again because life on this rock is hard sometimes.  James says that as believers we are to greet every trial as a cause for joy.  Excuse me?   I don’t like trials and I’ll bet you don’t either.  But we can have joy because our trials are not without purpose.  God has a plan for every trial we face.

James follows up our key verse and gives us one reason for rejoicing in the face of trials: “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4).  We become physically stronger when we work our muscles, and any trainer will tell you that resistance training is the best strengthening exercises.  Our faith becomes stronger when we have opportunities to exercise it as we strain against some resistant force – like a trial.  How will you know that God is faithful if you never have opportunity to trust Him?  Trials strengthen our faith and lead us into spiritual maturity. 

Trials also accomplish God’s wider purposes.  Joseph was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape and unjustly imprisoned.  But all of those very hard things occurred to position him to be in the right place at the right time – God’s place and God’s time.  Joseph was used in Egypt to save thousands of lives, most importantly the life of his own people – the Jews, through whom our Savior, Jesus, would come.   Through recent trials in our life, God moved us back home positioning us for many good blessings including placing me in a great job.  Trials often become the catalyst for a God-ordained redirection into His good plan.

Our trials prepare us to minister to others.  Paul said, “The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I have benefited greatly from the wise counsel and comfort of others who have “been there, done that” and survived.  Their testimony brought me hope and confidence in God and they gave good advice drawn from their own experience.  Perhaps your trial today will give you wisdom to come along side someone in a similar situation one day and offer them hope. 

Sometimes trials are a means of discipline in our lives.  The psalmist declared, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word” (Psalm 119:67).  Hebrews adds, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).  Trials that come as a consequence of our sinful and foolish behavior are meant to teach us valuable life lessons.  Or as my mother used to say, “Bought lessons stay with you longer than taught lessons.”  If you can connect your trial to your actions, take that as a means of discipline and training.  God is being a good Father to you (Hebrews 12:5-10)

Most importantly, trials reveal God to the world.  When Jesus and His disciples encountered a man who had been blind from birth, He declared that “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). When the Lord healed this man everyone knew it, and he became a living testimony to the power of God.  You and I are the canvas on which God paints His own portrait for the world to see.  Just as silver and gold show up most brilliantly against a dark backdrop, the power and glory of God is on vivid display in our trials.  Our difficulties become the means by which God shows up and shows off.

Beloved, I don’t know what trial you are facing today, but I know that God has brought you to it for a good purpose.  He is at work in your life, stretching your faith, moving you into His will, preparing you to minister to someone else, teaching you discipline, and making your life a display of His glory.  Every trial is an opportunity for you and I to draw closer to God, to walk in faith, and to point others to Him.  Yes, we can count it all joy when trials come, because we know God has a purpose and a plan – and we will be the richer for it.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

Christians and Depression

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“Elijah was a man just like us” (James 5:17).

I’ve been studying Elijah lately for one reason: I wanted to understand why, after all God has done for me in recent months, I could tumble into depression. Elijah was a prophet of God – a very outspoken prophet – and most of his outspokenness was directed at King Ahab and His queen, Jezebel who were evil personified.  Elijah predicted a season of drought because of the evil and idolatry in Israel. During that drought, God miraculously provided for the prophet – he never lacked for his daily needs.  Elijah defeated and put to death the 450 prophets of Baal, Jezebel’s god, and showed the Israelites the power of Jehovah. Because of him the people’s hearts were turned back to the Lord. What a victory! Yet when Jezebel got wind of it all, she threatened Elijah. And the prophet ran. Depressed and overwhelmed he begged God to take his life.  Despite all that God had done for him and through him, Elijah wound up in the pit – or cave as it were – of despair.

I can identify with old Elijah.  God has been so good to us through a very difficult year of health problems, unemployment, family strain, and financial hardship.  So why this downward spiral into depression?  It isn’t the first time I’ve battled this – I am prone to the grip of depression, and it often comes on the heels of blessings and fruitfulness.  I suspect, based on conversations and comments, that I’m not the only one.

I see some similarities between Elijah and me.  The old prophet was physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  The long-standing conflict with Ahab, three years of drought in the land, coupled with the intensity of the showdown with prophets of Baal drained Elijah.  Likewise, we struggled for over a year with my husband’s work-related injury, surgery, rehab and battles with worker’s comp and his company.  I had made a disastrous job change and was miserable. We were caught up in a great deal of relational tension with a family member.   Then the heat intensified.  My husband could not go back to work, so now we faced settlements, disability, and the loss of his income.  When my employer found out I was looking for another job, they hired my replacement before I had a job to go to.  Faced with double unemployment and a minimal settlement, we realized all we could do was move back home near family.  Two days before we loaded the truck I was hit with a severe leg infection and excruciating pain. That meant medical bills with no insurance and no income and nearly a month of being flat of my back.  God had graciously led us to a great house to rent, but before we could move in, the house flooded from an open tap and we juggled furniture around while the floors were replaced and I tried to recuperate with the daily noise of saws and hammers.  There was the added anxiety of being separated from our adult son for the first time in his life as he decided not to move with us.  As soon as I was back on my feet I began searching for a job with disappointing results. 

But God had been good to Elijah by miraculously providing for His prophet, and He did the same for us.  Despite all our struggles, God poured out blessings on us and provided generously and unexpectedly.  And He eventually opened the door to a wonderful job for me at a small Christian college nearby.  You would think, with all this, I would be on the highest of highs.  But I soon found myself crashing physically, emotionally and spiritually. Like Elijah, the long drawn out struggles and intensity of the recent months had drained me.  Elijah fled to the desert, a fitting place for a dry and weary soul.  There he begged God to let him die, “I have had enough, Lord” (1 Kings 19:4).  And the overwhelmed and exhausted prophet lay down and slept the sleep of the depressed.  While I haven’t physically run anywhere, I have retreated into an emotional desert of discouragement and weariness.  That is why, you may have noticed, I have been silent on my blog and social media the past month or so.  I just haven’t had the energy or the heart.

So how did Elijah come out of the darkness of despair?  The same way I will.  Through God’s tender care and hearing the voice of the Lord.  As Elijah slept in the desert, God sent an angel with food and strengthened him so that he had just enough energy to get to the mountains where he hid in a cave.  But it was there, in a dark and lonely cave, that the God of mercy and grace spoke to him in a gentle whisper.  I am seeking the help of a physician to deal with the physiological aspects of depression, and I am digging into the Word to glean the whispers of God for my soul and spirit.

Why am I sharing this less-than-encouraging message with you?  Because I don’t want you to think I am some super-Christian through the words I write.  I am just as prone to the struggles and hardships of life as anyone.  The have the same discouraging effect on me as they do on you.  In all honesty, I write to encourage myself as much as to encourage you.  And I am just as prone to failure in my walk as anyone – but that’s a post for another day.  I’m also sharing this because someone else is struggling with depression – someone who loves Jesus and is doing their best to be a good, faithful Christian.  You’re questioning your faith because of this season of darkness.  You may even be questioning God’s love for you.  And the enemy is using that to his advantage.  I hear the accusations too: “If you were really a Christian you wouldn’t be depressed.  God is so disappointed in you.  Why don’t you quit pretending to be something you’re not?”  I hear the reminders that Christians are supposed to be full of joy, joy, joy!  So why aren’t you?  There may be many reasons; everyone’s situation is unique.  And there is no shame in reaching out for help.  Doctors, counselors and others have the God-given wisdom and expertise to treat depression.  Please get the help you need. Today.  I am writing this so that you, my weary and hurting friend, will know that there is no shame in depression – even for Christians.  The Bible shows that we are in very good company in this cave – Moses, Elijah, David, Jeremiah, and Paul all expressed similar emotions and seasons.  Many of the great men and women throughout Christian history struggled with depression.

I am also writing this to let you know that God really does love you – even in the pit or desert or cave of depression.  He is not angry or disappointed in you.  He has not written you off.  In fact, He has drawn near to you, like a loving parent does when their child is hurting.  He speaks gentle whispers of love and encouragement, and He tenderly wipes away the tears on your face.  Let Him love you.  Let Him minister grace to you.  Beloved, there is hope for you and for me in the face of depression.  I’m going to get better and so will you.  God is too good to leave His child in pain. He will turn the darkness into light.  We have His Word on it.

The Pearls

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“Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (Mark 10:21).

She loved the string of pearls that her Daddy had given her when she was twelve.  Oh sure, they were fake, but even four years later they were still beautiful to her and she felt so elegant when she wore them.  Grown up. Sophisticated. Why her Daddy wanted to take them away from her she could not understand.  For months now, he would come to her and say, “Sweetheart, will you give me your pearls?”  “But Daddy, I love my pearls.  I don’t want to give them to you.”  “Okay sweet girl,” was all he would say as he kissed her forehead.  But she loved her Daddy too.  On the eve of her sixteenth birthday she came into the kitchen where he stood, tears in her eyes, her hand outstretched, pearls draped over her fingers.  “I don’t know why you want my pearls Daddy, I love them so much, but I love you more.  If you want them, you can have them.”  And he kissed her on the forehead and said, “Thank you Sweetheart.”

The next morning dawned bright and happy and the sun lit up her room as she stretched awake.  It was Sunday and it was her birthday – the best combination ever!  She showered and dressed and reached into her jewelry box as usual before she remembered the scene from the night before.  A twinge of regret crossed her mind, but she pushed it back and walked to the kitchen where she knew Mama was preparing her birthday breakfast.  Daddy was leaning against the counter and she ran to him as he sang “Happy birthday to you . . .” to the top of his lungs.  Her mother and brother joined the song.  She loved her family so much.  Daddy hugged her tight then reached behind his back and brought out a long, slender black velvet box with a bow on top.  “For my beautiful girl on her sixteenth birthday!”  He said.  She opened the box to see a beautiful strand of cultured pearls nestled in the pink satin lining.  She drew in a sharp breath and exclaimed, “Oh Daddy! This is why you wanted my pearls!”  She turned around as he fastened them around her neck.  “Yes Sweetheart, this is why I wanted your pearls.  As much as you loved that childish necklace, I knew you would love these real pearls even more.  I wanted you to have the very best.”

Jesus encountered a rich young man who wanted to know “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). After affirming that he knew all the right answers, Jesus then told him to “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come follow Me” (Mark 10:21).  But the man was unwilling to give up his possessions; he walked away wealthy, but spiritually and eternally impoverished.

You and I are so prone to hang on to what we think are the most wonderful and the most important things, clutching them to our chest.  We can’t imagine life without them. But the Father says, “I want you to give this to Me.” And you say “I can’t give it up.  Please don’t take this away from me.”  The cost of surrender is higher than you are willing to pay.  Oh, but He has so much more in mind for you – “more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).  If He asks you to place something in His hands it is because He wants to give you something even better.  You can trust the heart of your Father.  Beloved, will you give up your pearls?

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.

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!