Archive for ‘Trials’

March 11, 2011

Stripped

God wants all of us. He wants us to come to him. Sometimes we are the ones that stand in our own way of a deep, authentic relationship with Him. But don’t worry, God can (and will) get our attention. He often does this by tearing down our walls. Removing (often quite painfully) idols in our lives or misperceptions of faith and who we think he is (or who we think we are). He does this for a reason.

Envision a brick wall destroyed. At first look, this might appear to be a tragedy but I assure you this is an opportunity. As you sit in the pile of bricks you have the opportunity to examine them before you put them back together. I’m not sure what your wall is all about but could it be about trust? Do you really trust Him or just kind of? What keeps you from trusting? Is it about faith? Do you believe God is good? Do you believe he has a plan?

Ask the questions you need to ask. God is big. He can take it. He knows already – you might as well tell him.

The Book of Hosea has been a great allegory for me in times of rebirth, rebuilding, and challenge in my own life. When God has torn my life to pieces, he has a purpose. He has my attention. He will heal me – but in a new way. He will heal me so that I might know him more fully and live abundantly because he has removed the rubble and built something even more beautiful. He will show each of us – as sure as the morning dawn.

Take heart when you find yourself stripped and laid bare before God. Cry out to him as he will heal you. He will heal in a beautiful new way if you let him.

Hosea 6:1-3 Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming rains in early spring.

March 9, 2011

Unexpected Lessons

Have you ever noticed that in the times when you’re faced with an unexpected lesson or challenge that you learn the most? We can spend our lives planning away but it’s the things that seemingly take us off course where we learn the most. I’ve recently seen how stepping away from my own plan has allowed me the opportunity to experience God in an authentic way. I believe God calls us to experience his goodness. Psalm 34:8 is evidence of this in my mind.

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

During these unplanned times, we learn what it is to walk in freedom and grace because we realize we are not the ones in control – that job belongs to God and God alone. When we find ourselves stripped of our defenses (even the ones we mask behind the routines of religion) we are face-to-face with our true nature and our level of faith.

Do we choose to trust Him?

Do we choose to let Him cover us in His blood?

Do we let Him take the reins of our lives and lead us beside still waters?

The questions alone can unhinge us but do not stop asking them. Taste and see my friends. Taste and see that He is good. Experience His goodness all around you. In the mundane. In the pain. In the uncertainties of life. He is there. He is good. He wants you to come to him and know Him. See Him for who he is – good. And what’s more, He loves you. This good God loves you.

I hope each of you find yourselves facing an unexpected challenge – not because I wish confusion or distress on you but so that you would have an opportunity to draw closer to an authentic experience with the Lord and to know Him deeply.

 

January 25, 2011

Sneak Attacks

2 Timothy 2:26 “and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

I warned you I’d update you on my Beth Moore study. Here it is, still week one of homework and I feel the attacks of Satan. Do you ever notice how it’s when you are making the most progress that you feel the most attacked?

Sometimes I almost welcome the attack. Because it means I’m dangerous. God has something good in store for me and Satan can’t stand it. I make three steps forward to only make two steps back. It’s frustrating – but that’s still one step ahead of where I was.

Progress my friends. Progress.

I don’t have all the answers and feel like this Bible study journey is going to be a tough one. (I need to guard myself against the enemy’s attacks). But I think it’s going to be worth it. I’m looking forward to breaking some strongholds but this will be a battle my friends.

Psalm 91:11-12 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

 

January 24, 2011

In the Secret, Quiet Places

By now, you know I’ve been re-reading Alicia Britt Chole’s Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years And Yours. I highly recommend it. Chole’s writings were honest and encouraging to those who find themselves in life’s transitions, unexpected times when we’re called back into the shadows, or find ourselves fighting to emerge from the bench and set up to bat.

What I’ve come to realize is sometime it’s in the hidden, quiet years that we grow the most. Our character is refined in the quiet, anonymous places. It is in these times that we are shaped for the future. If we wait to embrace the life’s lessons in the public, applauded times we will miss all God has in store for us – and it is a beautiful, difficult journey – but worth it. If we don’t use these anonymous seasons to grow and be still in the presence of God, we are left unprepared for our time in the lime-light leaving us in the wake of destruction.

The following are a collection of quotes I gathered throughout Chole’s book. I hope you consider reading it. (Also, a disclaimer that I am not being compensated for this review.)

“From God’s perspective, anonymous seasons are sacred spaces. They are quite literally formative; to be rested in, not rushed through – and most definitely never to be regretted. Unapplauded, but not unproductive: hidden years are the surprising birthplace of true spiritual greatness.” P. 13

“In other words, trials tell us less about our future than they do about our past. Why? Because the decisions we make in difficult places today are greatly the product of decisions we made in the unseen places of our yesterdays.” P. 15

“Time is not really spent. Instead, it is invested in a future we cannot see.” P. 59

“By definition, hidden years are uncelebrated years. These are the seasons when we feel underestimated, unappreciated, or even invisible. In other words, no one is clapping. In that silence unsupported by rounds of applause, hidden years provide the opportunity for us to wrestle with what truly makes us significant. In the absence of others volunteering to explain why we are so valuable, we have to answer that question for ourselves. This quest can be especially difficult when it is not anticipated, when we have known applause and perhaps even authority and find ourselves hidden again. Rarely does hiddeness visit us only once in our lifetimes.” P. 114

Finally, I loved how Chloe took readers through key aspects of what we can glean from our hidden years. I know I’ve experienced many of these points in my own life and hope to grow in them even more as I use the time given to me today to invest in the future I cannot see.

What grows in anonymous seasons?

  • The anchor of God’s Word in our souls
  • Self control
  • An accurate portrait of God
  • An unshakable identity
  • Our trust in God’s timing
  • A disciplined imagination
  • An eternal perspective
  • Submission-based authority

How have you seen God work in anonymous seasons? Have you noticed a gentle change in your heart or character through the times when you felt like you were in the shadows?

 

January 17, 2011

A Brand New Day

My new bible study is just starting up. We’re studying Beth Moore’s “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things.” I’m excited. But excitement aside – the opening session provided me with some fresh perspective on how God redeems our past and uses these points of complete brokenness and utter despair to turn us to him (you know if you’ve been there). The awe-inspiring thing is God uses this to bring us to a new day – complete surrender and to allow us the joy of walking in His will. He loves us too much to remain uninvolved in our lives. The all-powerful Creator could have made the world and washed his hands of it – but He didn’t. He chose to love us. Wow. Because He loves us, He can redeem our past, brokenness, and hurts. This continues to amaze me and leave me utterly grateful.

I’m sure over the next few weeks I will periodically be writing about what God is revealing to me. But until then, I felt the need to share that a new day is coming. Someone out there needed to hear that today. Someone needs to know God is capable and WILLING to sweep your situation upside down in order to bring you to a place of healing and joy. And someone out there needs Psalm 30:5.

Psalm 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

I do not profess to have abundant wisdom or incredible insight into the future but I can pretty much guarantee one thing. Change. God wants our attention and often will obtain it by putting change in our lives – good and bad. Some change will be due to choices we make. Some will be because of choices others make and some change will be due to circumstances beyond our control. But know that God will provide a new day as you find strength and solace in Him and Him alone. Your situation may not change. You may not even be able to erase the things you did or done to you – but your heart can be healed. You can forgive and be forgiven. Peace is available to you. It’s a new day.

And because I love music, I’m leaving you with this song by Joshua Radin. (Copyright 2010 Warner Music Group / mom + pop music)

 

December 27, 2010

From the Desert, With Love

Have you ever found yourself in a spiritual desert or in one of life’s many ruts wondering how you got there? Our “do-it-yourself” culture would tell you to get yourself out of the wilderness and do something new, find joy, and make yourself happy. But what happens when your attempts are thwarted? Could it be that there is a greater reason for your time in the wilderness?

Back in 2007, I stumbled upon Alicia Britt Chole’s book, Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours, on a whim during a trip to a local bookstore. I treasured this book on my first read through. Jesus spent nearly 33 years in anonymity before his public ministry officially began. Yet, God the Father had a purpose for those years. I recently re-discovered this book on my bookshelf and decided to refresh my memory and maybe to try to make sense of my own time in the desert (surely there has to be purpose, right?).

Chole referenced Deuteronomy 8:2-5 which reads:

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” Deuteronomy 8:2-5

“In the desert, the Israelites had to completely rely upon God to supply food day by day. Provision would literally fall from heaven, but God did not permit the people to produce food for themselves. They were entirely dependent on him, and that helplessness tested them. Being powerless revealed what was in their hearts: would they, or would they not, obey God? From Father God’s perspective, utter dependence, not self-reliance, is the true friend of our souls.” Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours by Alicia Britt Chole p.71

After reading this, I am more convinced than ever that there is a purpose for those times in the desert. Thwarted attempts to get out of the desert only increase feelings of helplessness which also increases our dependence on God. The question then becomes – will you let him take your heart and refine it? Let Him show you what’s truly in your heart? It may not be pretty – I can almost guarantee you’ll see something you don’t want to, but what will you do with what you find? Will you obey Him even in the desert? Don’t fight Him there; lean into what He has for you. He will teach you, love you, and provide for you regardless of how long your time is there.

November 1, 2010

The Ugliest Four Letter Word

Wait. Yup, that’s four letters and it’s usually met with disdain. No one likes to hear “wait.” We live in a world of speed and expect instant results. This often transposes itself to our spiritual lives. I recently had a discussion with a mother at my church. She explained waiting in this way: “It is better to wait on God for his answer however unclear you feel at the time. As a mother, if one of my children were to ask me for something and I respond that the child needs to wait – if the child continues to push for an answer, it is automatically ‘no.’ Waiting on God’s direction or answer is often like that.” Yikes! How often do you and I push for an answer instead of letting God’s plan unfold in our lives at the right time? At the root of our impatience, I often wonder if the real issue is lack of faith and desire for control.

Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” If we really have the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction or things not seen, would we so impatiently wait for the Lord? Kay Arthur wrote in Lord Where Are You When Bad Things Happen, “In a world like this, a man or woman who lives by faith is a rarity. Living by faith requires patience because the one who lives by faith becomes dependent upon God. You no longer call the shots. You no longer operate on your timetable. You don’t just rush out to get, to do, to have, to satisfy. You pray. You ask. You seek His will, His counsel. Then you wait for God’s leadership – His insight, His wisdom, His provision, His answer.”

Relinquishing the control can be difficult. Knowing God has a plan and will not fail you is something we must truly believe in order for us to let go and have faith. Our faith grows in these times of waiting. We become even more dependent on Him. Our ability to seek His leadership, insight, wisdom, provision and answer becomes stronger when we are required to wait upon Him. After all, what we think is best for us might not be. You may be praying for a shack in the woods but He wants to give yo­­­u­­ a castle by the sea. Whether He’s answered you quickly or allowed you the opportunity of waiting trust Him, grow in faith and relinquish control. He has your best in mind.

October 24, 2010

The Beautiful Fight

Sanctification was never meant to be easy.  Sometimes we forget that we chose the narrow road when we became Christians. Each time there is a “bump” in the road we become flustered, question God, and may even be tempted to do things our own way. Yet each “bump” is a part of the refining process. Author, Gary Thomas describes this process as the beautiful fight. It is the battle that rages within us to submit ourselves under the authority of Christ. We are meant for so much more than what our human wills would lead us toward. The transforming power of Christ can allow us to experience brokenness that ultimately creates a new understanding, passion, and holiness that we would not otherwise be able to achieve.

It is in this brokenness that we often find ourselves surrendering to the transformational power of Christ. Thomas writes the following in his book The Beautiful Fight, “The breaking can be painful, even excruciating. It hurts to die to certain dreams and desires. It sometimes feels as though we’re being ripped apart when we let something go. But the pain is a good pain, and the difficult journey is a good journey, and the Beautiful Fight is still a beautiful fight.” There is something supernatural that occurs when we find ourselves in the position of surrender. We are faced with the reality that Christ alone is the one that can redeem and draw us closer to the people we were meant to be. So no, sanctification is not easy but it is beautiful.

October 20, 2010

It Is Well With My Soul

Learning the story behind this classic hymn has given it new meaning.  Horatio Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul” after enduring numerous trials. His only son died 1871 at the age of four. Spafford and his family then survived the Great Chicago Fire which left them financially ruined. The family then planned to travel to Europe. Spafford was delayed on business related to the Great Chicago Fire and sent his family ahead. Tragically the ship his family was on sank after colliding with a sailing vessel. All four of his daughters died. His wife sent him a telegraph that read, “saved alone.” As Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he wrote this infamous hymn.

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford

September 12, 2010

3 Questions to Ask When Facing a Trial

Certainly there is not a magic number of questions you can ask yourself when facing a trial. Each trial is unique. Charles Stanley challenged me in a sermon I heard to ask myself what God is teaching me when I go through a difficult time. The second question is derived from my personal conviction after reading Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods. The third was formulated after I realized my propensity to want to lie down and quit every time a trial came.

  1. What is God teaching me?
  2. Is there an idol in my life that God is trying to strip me of?
  3. Am I choosing to wallow in self-pity or am I looking to God for strength and wisdom?

Many of us have heard Psalm 34:18 quoted to us when we’re facing difficulty. Psalm 34:18 reads, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Follow Psalm 34:18 with Isaiah 55:6 which states, “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.” This logic would tell us in our brokenness to seek the Lord fervently while He is close. Use this time to glean spiritual lessons that will take you through many spiritual deserts. You may not be able to “consider it pure joy (James 1:2)” just yet (or maybe you won’t ever be able to claim the joy of a trial) but be certain that the Lord is near and willing to be your comfort and teach you if you seek Him.

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