Saturday, September 19, 2009

God Stop – Faith…Expecting the Unexpected

This fall started out the same as usual…but quickly took a detour from the route I expected and planned. I started out in one Bible study and due to changing circumstances made the move to a different study.

Thursday was my first week with the new group. This is the first women’s Bible study I’ve been involved with through my church. We are going through Beth Moore’s study, “Jesus the One and Only”.

I think that God prepared the way for this move as I worked on Beth Moore’s “Psalms of Ascent” study this summer. It was so different from the Bible study I’ve been in for over ten years that it took me a little while to get used it. But before long I was enjoying the new study. One thing I liked in particular were the “ah ha” moments I experienced as I started to think of my life, beliefs and thinking in light of God’s Word.

Because I started the study a week late…I did not have my first week’s questions completed. So mostly I listened while the other women shared their answers.

One of the segments spoke about the different responses that Zechariah and Mary had when the angel Gabriel visited them with good news about God’s miraculous intervention in their lives.

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had wanted to have a child for years. They prayed for many years, but now their bodies were well past the child bearing years. But the angel came to tell that their prayer had been answered and that Elizabeth would give birth to a boy. He was to be called John. He was to be no ordinary child, but instead he was the forerunner of the Messiah and would prepare the way of the Lord.

Zechariah responded with doubt and unbelief and asked, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."

As a result of his unbelief…the angel struck Zechariah mute until after John was born.

Now Mary on the other hand had a much bigger miracle in store. She hadn’t prayed to have a child. In fact she was betrothed to Joseph and still a virgin when the angel Gabriel informed her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that she would give birth to a Son. She was to call Him Jesus and He was the Holy One and would be called the Son of God.

Mary also asked angel a question, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

But Mary’s question wasn’t motivated by doubt and unbelief. The angel did not rebuke her. Perhaps Mary’s question was motivated by wonder and amazement how God would accomplish this impossible event.

After reading the events from Luke 1, I started to think about at what point did Mary conceive Jesus? Was it at the moment she believed the angel’s words? Or was it when she was in route to see her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant in her old age.

Was it similar to the ten lepers in Luke 17, who cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”? Jesus heard their cries and told them to go show themselves to the priests. As they went and obeyed Jesus command they were healed.

Did the Holy Spirit come upon Mary as she went forth in faith?

The study also provoked me to challenge myself…when I pray, do I pray in such a manner that I’m ready for God to knock my socks off? Do I believe God for the impossible? When I’m praying do I look at my circumstances or is my focus on God? Am I prepared to trust and wait upon God and His timing in answering my prayers?

Well…I look forward to the study as I seek to know Jesus more...and have Him be my All in all.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Sunday, September 13, 2009

God Stop - The Root of the Problem

Ever since Chris and I moved into our new home we’ve been battling spider plants. They take up a large part of the planter in the front of our home. We would like to get rid of them and plant something more beautiful or appealing.

But it’s so hard to get the plants out. First we tried to whack them…thinking that they would die. They just came back hardier than ever and thrived. We’d pull the plants out…but much of the root remained behind and soon plants were shooting up and looking better than ever.

Today Chris did battle again. This time…we’ve tried a different tactic. We stopped the sprinklers from watering the plants. That’s allowed the dirt to dry out.

So today…Chris was able to actually make some progress in getting the roots out. When we looked at the mess of tangled roots it reminded me of sin and its effects in our lives.

The root ball that Chris was able to get out of the ground was a tangled mess. The small little plants had large embedded, entangled roots that went very deep. Just as the roots send out tendrils that go all throughout the planter…so too sin does in our lives. In his efforts to get the roots out, one of the trowels was bent. When we work to get sin out of our lives, it can be a very painful process.

In the end…just like the plants…it’s better that we never let the sin get started in our life. Otherwise something that looks pretty and harmless can take over.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

God Stop – Defeat vs. Victory

Satan wants us to come to the come to the battlefield equipped in our own strength and armor because he knows that's how he can defeat us.

But it’s in Christ Jesus…that we have the victory.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Isn’t That Just Like Him?

As I was shutting the door this morning…I whispered, “God, Your word tells me that You are near to the brokenhearted. Oh God…You must be so very close to me right now. I just wish I could feel it.” With that plea uttered to my Savior…I locked the door and walked to my car.

As I put my things in the back seat I looked down to find a paper that looked old and tattered with a piece of dirty tape adhered to the back of the paper. I was going to close the door…but something prompted me to stop. I opened the door wide and picked up the paper. I didn’t recognize it…until I turned it over.

There…low and behold…was God reaching down to me in the form of my Believing God statement of faith.

I couldn’t tell you how many years ago I typed up that card. Was it two or three years ago…maybe more? I hadn’t seen that card since I first read Beth Moore’s book Believing God. That was my introduction to her. I liked her…but would later find that God would use Beth’s Bible teaching to touch me deeply.

I held the card in my hand…not quite comprehending how it got there. I didn’t need to read to the card to know what it said…because I know it well. But I read it out loud anyway…just to remind myself.

God is who He says He is.
God can do what He says He can do.
I am who God says I am.
I can do all things through Christ
God’s word is alive and active in me.

I’m Believing God

On a very low, low day…when I wondered…how can I go on…Jesus was the lifter of my head. He showed me that He sees and that He cares. He not only wipes every tear from my eyes…but He holds each tear in a bottle…as if it’s most precious to Him. Why He cares for me…I don’t know…but He does.

I don’t know if that paper was in my Bible and slipped out…or if it was dislodged from a recent trip to the car wash. But I know it was God, in His perfecting timing, taking the time to remind me in personal and powerful way…that I need to Believe God…and keep believing Him.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lazy Faith

On today’s faith venture in Believing God…I’m seeing a clear picture that I have lazy faith.
I thank God that He trusts me enough to reveal these things…that means He trusts me to want to change them. Now I fully admit I can’t change it on my own. But even knowing that is good…because before I thought it was a goal achieved through my own effort and self will. Now I know that I am weak and unable to do anything on my own…must less exercise faith.

I can see in the past that God, in His mercy, answered prayers of mine when I had little or no faith. He didn’t do it because I exercised great faith and trusted in Him. He did it out of mercy and because He knew I was a new Christian or young in my faith.

But I grew lazy…not wanting to strive or to pray without ceasing…but still get God to answer my prayers. I could have my proverbial cake and eat it too. When I do that…I’m acting worse then an unbeliever.

But God is not satisfied in leaving me young and immature in my faith. He wants me to grow…in faith and in my knowledge of Him. He wants me to participate. To believe Him…to keep believing…even when my circumstances would say otherwise.

I think I have been more satisfied with justifying my unbelief and lack of faith then in believing God. I’ve been more content with complaining about what I don’t have then to thank God for what I do have. Perturbed that I have to keep praying to God instead of falling down on my knees in humble adoration and gratitude that I can even come before the throne. More likely to doubt God then to know with confidence that He is more than able to accomplish what concerns me today.

God tells us in His word that we are to ask, seek and knock.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 6:7-8

This is an ongoing and continuous command…I am to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. I can keep doing that because I know with confidence that my God is able to answer my prayers and He is a good God who cares for me. When I ask, seek and knock…I must be willing to submit to His will.

Where ever did I get the notion that faith should be easy? For Pete’s sakes I’m in a spiritual battle. What enemy has ever made their opponent’s victory easy? Anything good is worth fighting for.

Shouldn’t I remember most importantly that God is prize? Yes…I can come to Him in prayer…present my requests in faith, with thanksgiving and know that He is able to handle my every need or concern with ease. But the real prize…the thing that is most important…is not that He will answer my prayers…but that He desires to have a relationship with me. God Almighty…Creator of heaven and earth…Father, Son and Holy Spirit…wants to know me.

Dear Father…I have so failed in my faith. I have missed the mark and did not comprehend that You are the prize. Jesus…help me to grow strong in my faith…by exercising my faith muscles with daily and continuous workouts. May I be mindful I am in a spiritual battle…and strive for victory no matter what the cost. I come to You in Christ alone. Amen!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Old Woman Sight Walking Faith is Dead

Not sure how much of an inkling I had at some of the ugly stuff that would be revealed as I delve into my faith…in my study of Believing God.

I never wanted to do therapy…because I figure I’ve already lived the bad stuff…I don’t want to waste even one more moment of my life dwelling on it. But I’m starting to see the importance of examining the outworking of my faith compared to what God says it should be…and what pleases Him.

Boy oh boy…am I coming up short! And folks…it ain’t pretty. As the days and weeks go by in this study…I hope to better understand why my faith is so weak. But right now all I’m seeing is my failure of faith.

God makes it very clear in His word…that He desires for us to have faith and to believe Him. He even rewards our faith. Reading Hebrews 11….the Hall of Faith…I am in awe of what these people endured and how they maintained their focus on God and His promises. They didn’t waver with doubt and unbelief…nor were they concerned on how God would accomplish what He had promised. Instead they stood steadfast and resolute in believing their God.

Faith, trust and believing God is a way to glorify and honor Him…it pleases Him. Can you imagine a child who is fearful and concerned about how their parent will provide and take care of her? That surely wouldn’t speak too well of that parent now would it? But in this instance…my lack of faith and trust…doesn’t speak well of me.

I find it kind of amazing that God delights and rewards those who believe and trust Him in faith. But when I look at a parent…don’t they delight in doing good things for their child? Don’t they take great pleasure in bringing happiness and joy to their child? How much more so God?

When I look at Abraham…I marvel at his great faith. I ask myself…if God called me to sacrifice my only child….would I obey? If I obeyed…would I be quick to do so and not question God?

Am I going to believe God…and who He says He is? Trust what He says He will do? Or am I going to believe my circumstances…and only what I can see? I’m quite adept at sight walking faith. But God wants me to walk by faith…and I’ve failed that test miserably.

It’s easy to believe what’s in front of me and what I can see. It requires effort, faith and work to know God’s word…and His character as revealed in the Bible. In a different context the Bible tells me that I am to deny myself, pick up my cross and follow Jesus. Since doubt and unbelief is so ingrained in me…wouldn’t I be denying myself and following Jesus when I choose to believe Him by faith? So often…I think of denying myself in terms of denying certain pleasures…but perhaps that command encompasses even more than that.

As I look at my faith…and my poor track record…I realize that I’m not able to achieve this on my own…that God will have to give me the faith to believe Him. The Holy Spirit is going to be doing double duty…bringing to mind the scriptures I’ve studied…to help keep me walking by faith.

Sight walking faith has bigger consequences than just loosing out on blessings in this world. It also affects my prayer life. When I doubt my God…do I bring everything to Him by prayer and petition…and present my request to Him? Am I faithful to bring unbelieving friends and family before the throne of God and beseech Him for mercy and for their salvation? How many people are praying for them…for their hurts and needs? How many cry out to God for their salvation? Shouldn’t my voice be lifted up to God in heaven…that He would save their souls? What will I be feeling in heaven when the books are closed and people that I could have prayed for aren’t there?

Am I willing to deny myself…my doubt and unbelief…and trust God in faith? Am I willing to turn away from sight walking faith…and walk by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit within me?

Oh Lord…please help me. You know how I have failed, time and time again. You are going to have to give me the faith…because I am frail and weak in my faith…and unable to believe on my own. Help me to believe You and trust You. Help me to walk by faith. Thank you Jesus…that I am a new creation in You.

To quote Clarence Thomas’ grandfather Meyer Anderson, “Old Man Can’t is dead, I know, I buried him myself.”

Old Woman Sight Walking Faith is dead…I know because she was crucified with Christ. She was born again…and is now called Walking by Faith.

God…would you consider adding a verse Hebrews 11? Something like this, “By faith Susan…”

Believing God Is Hard Work

As I start again the Beth Moore study Believing God…I’m finding that I’m going to be challenging some strong holds of doubt and unbelief in my life. Some of the ugly places…the things that I don’t think that I should have as a Christian.

There are times I wonder if I’m an aberration in the body of Christ? Am I the only one who struggles with doubt and unbelief?

Thinks like struggling with prayer. Do my prayers make a difference…or am I just wasting God’s time? After all…His will is going to happen anyway…shouldn’t I just submit instead?

No I shouldn’t surrender to the enemy’s lies that my prayers don’t matter. That’s what the person who most hates me in the whole entire world wants me to believe. He doesn’t want me to see and know that God loves me, cares about me and wants me to come to Him in faith, believing that He is good and entrusting Him with my concerns…and even the desires of my heart.

Satan wants me to doubt God. Doubt His goodness and doubt His character. He wants me to remain ignorant of God’s word. Or if I know what He says…to at least not believe it. Not believe that it applies to me personally. That what God promises in His word to His people…applies to me Susan.

When I don’t believe in a good God…one who loves me…it makes it harder to take my requests to Him in prayer. Why would I trust something that is most precious to me…to Someone who doesn’t loves me?

Satan likes to remind me daily…hourly…of how God has failed me…delayed…just plain not answered the prayer that is most important to me. He takes me on a tour of my life…to see how God has failed me. How He has turned His back on me…and just doesn’t care. He doesn’t love me…and I’m not worth it. That is the path of doubt and unbelief that the enemy likes to take me down.

While doing my first day’s homework…God reminded me that believing Him is work…it takes effort. It’s a choice I need to make daily…hourly…minute by minute. It takes no effort to believe the lies I’m being fed by Satan. But it takes effort to know God’s and His Word…to raise my shield of faith. It’s is work and takes faith to believe God…even when the evidence around me would say otherwise.

Now if I’m believing God…I will instead say that God’s delay in answering my prayer in giving me the desires of my heart…is because He is in the process of growing and preparing me…and working on the man whom I will marry. That God has a perfect timing and plan for me that He put in place from before the foundations of the world. That He is able to make a marriage which seems late in coming…perfect in His time. That it will be rich and full…and well worth the wait. That I will one day say…now I understand why You waited God.

Believing God is work…and I have an enemy who wants me to doubt God. He can not steal away my salvation…but he can make my life so miserable that I don’t even want to live anymore. Why would I allow him that victory?

But I can see most clearly that I don’t have the power and ability to have the faith I need on my own. If I’m going to get through this study…if I’m going to believe God, trust Him, take my requests to Him…and in confidence know that He will answer according to His perfect plan and timing…then He will have to give me the faith to believe.

So God…that is my first prayer…please give me the faith to believe You. I can’t do it on my own. So if You want me to believe…have faith…a powerful faith that brings down strongholds and exposes the lies of the enemy…then You will have to give it to me…fill me with faith. As Your word says…I can come confidently before Your throne with my requests…because I come to You in Christ Jesus my Lord.

Faith please…please give me the faith to believe God.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

God Stop…By Golly, I Think I’ve Got It

So lately…between being way too busy...and having a “dry spell”…my writing has been few and far between. Before I get gun shy…I thought I’d better jump right in.

This last week I had an “ah ha” moment. Previously I’d written about how challenging it can be to be around folks who are negative or complaining a great deal of the time. It can be draining…and makes it hard for me to keep my focus on the positive side of life.

But when I had a recent encounter…I came away with two lessons for me to take away.

When someone is constantly complaining about their life…they must be very unhappy. Unhappy with their lives, their circumstances and even themselves. Now I can listen and try to be an encourager when someone is downcast. But when it’s more than a season of difficulty in a person’s life…that is more challenging to be around or listen to. It may be their personality or the way they view life…rather than a difficult season.

This time I had ears to listen…and what God impressed up me is that I truly need to be in prayer for them. Prayer about the difficulties and challenges that they are facing…and also that God would move in their heart and that peace and joy would prevail in their life. Of prime importance is prayer for their salvation if they don’t yet know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

So when all I hear are complaints….and it’s difficult to hear it another moment longer that’s my reminder that I need to pray for them. It can be a quick moment of prayer right then and there…or daily prayers for them.

Secondly…hearing a person with a negative critical spirit serves as a reminder to me that I need to be thankful and express my gratitude to God for the many gifts He has given me in my life. Things as ordinary as a job or an apartment…often get overlooked because they are so ordinary and everyday. It’s easy to give thanks for the big things in my life. But it’s the little things that make up my everyday life that are so easy to take for granted. When they are absent…then by golly I quickly become aware how important the ordinary, everyday, practical gifts of life are.

So thank You God…thank You for giving me ears to hear. Please give me an obedient heart so that I might act upon that which You have revealed. And God…please help me to take time each day…to look, reflect and record those insights that You have given me. If for no other reason…so that I will remember and grow.

Monday, January 1, 2007

To Resolve or not to Resolve…

Now I’m not normally one to make a New Years resolution. In fact…I’d say I’m an anti resolution person. Why? Because…I don’t like setting myself up for failure. Think about it how many New Years resolutions have you actually kept? How many resolutions have you made that transformed your life…or made a great impact?

Some folks are very disciplined. They make a resolution…and by golly they keep it…no matter what. Then there are a lot of folks that desire to make change or self improvements. They start out with good intentions…but if by the end of January…they are still maintaining that commitment…it’s an unusual year. There are few folks out there that seemingly make no effort at self improvement whatsoever…and overwhelmingly succeed by staying the same year after year.

But this year…God laid it on my heart the desire
to read through the Bible in a year.
Even for one who attends church weekly and is involved in Bible study…I find this commitment a little intimidating. It means that for the next year…I will need to plan and carve out time each day to fulfill this resolution. My days, like so many, are already filled to the brim and overflowing. Getting five hours sleep a night feels like a luxury. But mostly…I hate to fail.

Even with all the possibility of failure…or knowing that I may not live up to this commitment…I believe that reading through the Bible is important. So many people that I greatly admire are rooted and grounded in the Word of God. It’s central in their life. It’s transformed their lives and defined their character. God has been able to use them in a mighty way to make a difference for the kingdom of God.

What am I hoping to gain from this adventure?

  • Keep God first and foremost and central in my life.
  • Daily washing of the Word…washing my mind, heart and soul in the Word of God.
  • Know God better…His character, attributes, mind and heart.
  • It’s harder to sin when I know clearly what God defines as sin…what He hates and what He loves.
  • When I do sin…I’ll be quicker to repent, ask for forgiveness and get back on the right track.
  • Grow in wisdom and knowledge.
  • Make better choices.
  • See clearly God’s hand in the lives of His people…and His ability and desire to care for His people, transform them, change circumstances and even perform the miracles.
  • See God’s hand in my everyday life…and comprehend that He cares for me.

So with some reservations that I might fail…I’ve decided to read through the Bible in 2007.

As if to confirm in my own mind that this is what God would have me do…one of the first callers on Dennis Prager’s radio show on New Years day…was a caller named Susan. This will be her eighth year in reading through the Bible. Dennis was encouraging callers by saying that it is important to make a resolution. Ideally in the areas of Health, Happiness and Character. He maintains that it is better to start and fail that to not try at all. Just firm up my commitment…I called the Dennis Prager radio show while I was on my morning walk. I was able to get on the show and share my resolution. I was inspired by the earlier caller named Susan and comforted by Dennis’ assurance that it’s better to at least make an attempt then do nothing at all.

I’m also hoping that God will use the daily feeding of His Word in my newest venture “Susan’s God Stops”. What I’m hoping is that this will be a daily blog. With short entries recording God’s work and those times where I can plainly see God’s hand in my life. Perhaps as I record it daily…I will be more sensitive to, see and hear God in a more personal way in my life.

Today’s God Stop…was God making it clear that He desires for me to read through the Bible this year.