Walking into the Hall of Faith

swordContinued from here.

I don’t know about you, but I want to walk into the Hall of Faith. When God releases the updated list of people who “by faith” did X, I want my name on the list. I want to hear an angel say, “By faith, Grace …” But that’s not going to happen if I don’t do what those people did. What did those people have in common? They were terrified but did what God told them to do, anyhow.

By faith, Abraham offered his beloved son as a sacrifice. By faith, Moses’ parents defied the king’s edict and hid their baby for three months. By faith, the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. By faith, the Israelites defeated Jericho by marching around it. By faith, David killed Goliath, and by faith, Daniel spent the night in a lion’s den. Is what I am facing any scarier than what they did? My head says no, but as I look my giant in the eye, it looms just as large from my limited perspective as a den filled with hungry lions.

Isn’t it the human condition to want to have strong faith but not have to go through seasons that require it? I want the Jordan River to part before I step into it, not after I do. And yet, it takes no faith to cross the sturdy bridge or dive into peaceful waters. How can I develop faith without being asked to do things that are terrifying without God’s intervention?

And so, I choose to dive in, and not because I’m fearless … My knees are shaking so hard that I can barely walk up to the ledge. I choose to believe God. I trust that He would not tell me to dive into the rushing waters below me unless He was going to ensure that I would be OK. I also trust that He has a purpose and plan for requiring this of me. And so, I walk up to the ledge, say a quick prayer, and dive.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace unsheathing a sword. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Running toward the Giants in your Life

runningContinued from here.

On her television show Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer pointed out that in the story of David and Goliath, David first spoke his victory and then ran quickly toward him. He didn’t do what I do – He didn’t size up the giant, look him up and down, take a few deep breaths, and try to muster up the courage to do what God told him to do. He didn’t give himself time! How much easier might slaying the giants in my life be if I followed David’s example?

While God has taught me assertiveness over the years, assertiveness does not come naturally to me. It is a learned skill that has served me well over the years. However, when I face a giant – particularly like the one God has instructed me to take down – AGAIN – all of that training flies out the window. I take a few deep breaths to build up my courage, and that’s just enough time for the enemy to whisper in my ear all the ways that I don’t measure up. The giant is much bigger … stronger … a more accomplished warrior… Who am I to believe I can take that giant down? And then I lose sight of the fact that this battle is not mine but the Lord’s, and I hesitate.

I need to follow David’s example and speak my victory. I need to remind myself that God is in control and that He would not tell me to go to battle without ensuring my victory. And then I need to step forth in faith, as David did, building courage with each step as I run into battle. And I need to do this quickly or I’ll lose my nerve.

I wonder if David continued to feel fear when he went into battle after taking down Goliath. I wonder if that one victory was enough for him never to doubt or question the outcome in all of his successive battles. Did his knees continue to shake as mine do when I’m called into battle again? Does this spiritual journey ever get easier?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Diving in to Where God is Calling You to Go

Continued from here.

Many years ago, Steve Curtis Chapman had a great song out called Dive that I encourage you to listen to:

 

This song describes how I feel as I look at the chasm in front of me in my area of greatest weakness and vulnerability. I know this brokenness needs to be healed, not only for myself but also for the sake of those who love me. I know this brokenness is what drives me to say and do things that I don’t want to say or do, and yet I continue to say and do them. I so relate to Paul’s conclusion about his own wretchedness.

I’m standing on the ledge looking at the rushing waters of the river below me, and I’m terrified. It’s not that God hasn’t sent me into this river before – He has many times over the years. Each time he sends me, the platform from which I must dive is higher, and the waters are fiercer. Every time, I pray I’ll never have to do this again. And yet, here I am again, standing over the same river, but it’s at flood level this time. How do I muster the courage to dive in?

Steven Curtis Chapman gives me words of encouragement that I know are true.

There is a supernatural power
In this mighty river’s flow
It can bring the dead to life
And it can fill an empty soul
And give a heart the only thing
Worth living and worth dying for, yeah
But we will never know the awesome power
Of the grace of God
Until we let ourselves get swept away
Into this holy flood”

Either I believe that God is in control, or I do not. What I believe will be evidenced by what I DO. I do have a choice – God will not force me to dive into this river at flood level. However, if I want to follow Him, that’s the direction He is walking. Jesus is walking on the water, but I don’t have the option. I have to muster up the courage to dive in and let the waters sweep me away to wherever God wants me to go. And it’s not like I haven’t swam in this river before, so why the fear? You’d think this would get easier with each pass, but it doesn’t. I’m still terrified.

To be continued…

 

 

Trusting the Rickety Bridge will Hold

Continued from here.

In her book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Voskamp shares the analogy of the rickety bridge. She talks about how she lives in an area with a rickety bridge that looks scary to cross, but it’s actually very secure. She knows this because she and numerous other people have safely driven over it many times before. She then points out that our life challenges often look like rickety bridges that might give way at any moment. The way we learn to trust that this bridge will hold is by looking in the rearview mirror at all of the other bridges that have already held.

Isn’t our walk with God that way? No matter how many rickety bridges He has held stable in His loving hands, we still question whether THIS is the rickety bridge that will collapse. We forget how unstable our past bridges appeared and assume there’s something much worse about THIS particular bridge. We compare the instability of the bridge in front of us with our own resources and find ourselves lacking. We fear that without God’s intervention, the bridge will collapse, and we question whether we can trust Him. We lose sight of the many bridges He has already held as we focus on the one in front of us. Our faith is measured not in what we say we believe but, instead, in how confidently we step out onto the rickety bridge, trusting that our God is faithful.

That’s where I find myself in this particular area of my life that God is working on – AGAIN. I was terrified the first time I crossed this bridge … and the second … and the third. And each time I made it across by the skin of my teeth, I prayed I would never have to cross another such bridge again. Yet, here I am, with the most rickety-looking bridge I have ever seen, crossing the widest chasm I have ever encountered in the area of my greatest brokenness and deepest fears. Many people call me fearless, but I know fear very well – particularly whenever I face this particular chasm. It’s not fearlessness that drives me to take that first step. It’s courage.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Courtesy Amazon.]

Going in Circles in My Spiritual Walk

circle_shrugDo you ever feel like you are going in circles in your walk with God? That’s how I have been feeling lately. The same area for growth – the same one that has been the bane of my existence since pretty much birth – is the one that God is choosing to focus on today, and I find myself astonished that there can still be so much more to do in this area after the many years of healing and struggle I have already undergone. And then I find myself despairing that I’ll never be healed in this area, fearing the brokenness in my soul is more than God’s power is capable of healing.

And, yes, I know this mindset is pride. Whenever I believe I have stumped God, I’m being prideful. There is nothing – NOTHING – that is bigger than God. But if that is the case, why is He leading me around the same mountain AGAIN?

At times like this, I find it helpful to reflect upon others areas in my life in which God has circled back that are no longer challenges for me. This helps me gain perspective and see that I’m not going in circles so much as a spiral, revisiting the same areas of brokenness for deeper levels of healing. It’s not that I didn’t learn the lesson last time – instead, it’s time to learn the same lesson at a deeper level.

I went through this process when I finally gave up my stubbornness on the issue of giving and started tithing. At first, things were GREAT as money was flowing in from all sorts of unexpected places. But then, the money dried up, and my coffers ran very low. I was tempted not to tithe because I could no longer afford it. After all, if God wasn’t going to come through, didn’t I need to make sure that I had enough? As challenging as it was, I chose to tithe anyhow, and then the financial blessings started to flow again. Test passed.

And then I found myself in the same position a couple of years later, only this time, more $ was at stake. Didn’t I already pass this test? So, why I am here again? I was able to build on my positive experience in the last test – I tithed in my lack, and then the blessings flowed again. And then, it happened AGAIN a few years later. Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat. In retrospect, the spiral was a blessing because by the time I lost my job last year, I wasn’t shaken because I had experienced enough of God’s faithfulness before to know that He would be faithful again.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging inside a green circle. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Lazy Christianity

wake_upContinued from here.

The reason that so many Christians are living in defeat is that they are spiritually lazy. Priscilla Shirer says that God does not place His blessings directly into our hands. Instead, He puts them in our reach. We must reach – stretch ourselves – to grab hold of them. Thus, numerous Christians are living in day-to-day defeat because they are unwilling to stretch themselves and develop the muscles needed to reach the blessings. How God’s heart must break to see our deliverance hanging overhead but never grasped because we refuse to engage in spiritual disciplines and awaken long enough to see the deliverance that is within our reach.

The enemy is happy to continue playing soft lullabies to lull us into a state of spiritual sleep. As long as we are asleep to the realities of the spiritual world, he need not fear God’s children. A sword left in its sheath does not provide protection.

So, stop being a lazy Christian and WAKE UP! God did not place you where you are to take a long nap. He placed you there to accomplish a Kingdom purpose, and you need to WAKE UP to do it! Wake yourself up by DOING WHAT GOD TELLS YOU TO DO.

In which area of your life are you struggling the most? What does the Bible say to do about it? Then DO IT!! Is your heart broken in two? God says to pray for the person you broke your heart and forgive him or her. As you do this, you’ll receive the healing you seek. Is your bank account empty? God says to tithe, and he will open the floodgates of heaven into your life.

The Bible is a weapon – a sword! – that empowers you to break free from all that ensnares you, but your sword isn’t going to do you any good while it’s sheathed. Pull it out. Meditate on God’s Word. Do what the Bible tells you to do, and WAKE UP!!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace playing a drum and yelling, “Wake up!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Clarity of Spiritual Awakening

exerciseContinued from here.

As long as we are interacting with the world using our physical senses, we are never going to act and react in a Christlike manner. We need to see our circumstances through a spiritual lens, and that is only going to happen if you are developing your spiritual muscles. This happens by engaging in spiritual disciplines, such as the seven fundamental practices. Following God requires discipline. As long as you live your life based upon what you feel, you will never be spiritually victorious because our feelings flow out of our thoughts. When our thoughts are aligned with God through engaging in spiritual disciplines, positive feelings flow out. Otherwise, our feelings are going to reflect the state of a mind that is not in alignment with God, resulting in negative feelings. Reacting to those negative feelings kicks off a downward spiral that can be challenging to stop.

You are not going to develop spiritual muscles by accident. Because we live in a fallen world and inhabit bodies controlled by our sinful nature, we have only two options: (1) engage in spiritual disciplines to align our thinking and behavior with God; or (2) choose not to engage in spiritual disciplines and allow our thinking and behavior to align with our sinful nature.

Think about the body of a disciplined athlete and contrast it with the body of a couch potato. The couch potato may wish and pray for an athlete’s physique, but he’s never going to get it by lounging on a couch. If he wants the toned body of an athlete, then he must discipline himself to do what an athlete does. An athlete also finds the temptation of lounging around on a couch appealing. However, he has decided that pushing through that desire and disciplining himself to build his muscles is worth the sacrifice.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running on a treadmill. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Building Spiritual Muscles

barbellContinued from here.

The way to develop strong muscles is to first break them down. When I do bicep curls, I am breaking down the muscle in my biceps, and this process causes short-term physical discomfort. If I push myself particularly hard, I might feel soreness for a couple of days. As my bicep muscles build themselves back up, they grow back stronger than when they were broken down because they know more strength is needed to withstand the pressure that was previously placed upon them.

The same concept applies spiritually, assuming I chose to view the circumstances in my physical life as a spiritual workout. Using the example of developing patience, each time someone does something annoying, I have a choice – I can react using my physical nature by fighting back, or I can choose a spiritual reaction of meekness: bridling my kneejerk reaction and choosing to extend grace rather than anger.

My teenage son recently did something that annoyed me while driving (he has his learner’s permit), and I was tired, so my initial reaction flowed out of the physical realm. I saw the potential danger, particularly while he was behind the wheel, and did not react in a patient or kind way. He reacted to my physical response, and things could have spiraled out of control quickly. Thankfully, I have been exercising my muscles for patience for a long time, so I was able to rein in my reaction and not do the dance of one-upping each other in our anger. Instead, I was able to de-escalate the situation so that we were soon laughing and no longer angry. I even humbled myself to apologize for my crankiness and got a very rare hug from my son!

I would not have been able to react this way (particularly when tired) had I not been exercising the spiritual muscle of patience. In the moment, I needed to see a bigger picture. The conflict with my son really wasn’t about the words we were using. Spiritual unity is more important than “being right” and is a much more effective tool in redirecting behavior than seeking to dominate someone else using physical words.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lifting a barbell. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritually Asleep

sleepContinued from here.

I spent decades of my life as a sleeping walking Christian. I went through the motions of Christianity – said my nightly prayers, read my Bible, went to church and Bible study, etc. However, I lived my life based on what I could see. I was asleep to the spiritual realities that affected the physical world around me.

For example, if I had a conflict with someone, I only saw the physical aspects of it. I saw my way as “right” and the other person’s way as “wrong.” I had physical tools I could use to attempt to manipulate the person or situation into bending to my will. I was asleep to the reality that personal conflict is a physical manifestation of a deeper spiritual issue.

One possible spiritual cause of conflict in a relationship is spiritual attack. For example, let’s say I prayed for God to help me develop more patience. Suddenly, I find cranky people all around me who seem to believe I am the best receptacle for their emotional discomfort. While a person is speaking words that cause a rise of frustration in me, the actual cause of the person speaking those words is taking place in the spiritual realm. The enemy sees that I am seeking to transform into Christ’s image in this area, so he stirs the pot, pulling strings to get people around me to find me annoying and behave negatively toward me.

Meanwhile, God knows that the only way for His child to develop patience is to be placed into situations requiring it. So, he stands back and permits the enemy to stir the pot, giving the child the opportunity to develop this truth. I firmly believe that the reason God allows spiritual attack into our lives is so we can only find relief through transforming into Christ’s image. He allows the discomfort to help shape us into who we need to be. As we make the transformation, the physical world loses its power, and we are able to walk victoriously in situations that once challenged us.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sleeping on the letters “ZZZZZ.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritual Awakening

Priscilla Shirer has written a 90-day devotional entitled Awaken: 90 Days with the God who Speaks, which includes spiritual reflections that come to her as she goes about her day-to-day life. The title “Awaken” is appropriate for these reflections because each time something in the physical world teaches us something about our spiritual journey, we are gradually awakening to the truth of God.

The Bible uses the term “sleep” for someone who is lulled into believing that the physical world is all there is. By contrast, those who are “awake” view the physical world through the lens of the spiritual:

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
‘Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’ ~ Eph. 5:13-14

So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. ~ 1 Thes. 5:6-10

The theme of being “awake” versus “asleep” is woven into scripture, and it’s not talking about physical sleep. Thus, you and I might be sleepwalking through our lives, lulled into believing that what we can see and touch is all there is. What does it mean to be awake versus asleep spiritually? That’s the focus of the blog this week.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Awaken: 90 Days with the God who Speaks. Courtesy Amazon.]