Determining to Believe God is at Work – Part 2

Determining to Believe God is at Work in our Circumstances Brings Hope

Determining to Believe God is at Work in our Circumstances Brings Hope

No matter what our circumstances are, our God is bigger.  No matter how bad things look, God can turn around any situation.  When we pray for people who don’t seem like they will change, we need to remember that God is actively at work as a result of our prayers.  They still have the freedom to respond to God’s nudges or not.  He invites the person every day to do the right thing.  Sometimes our prayers are making them miserable, even as they keep clinging to their destructive patterns.

After we pray, we wait.  While waiting, we have an important choice to make.  Are we going to wait expectantly, or are we going to wait suspiciously wondering if God will do anything or not.  Do we believe God has heard our prayers and is actively working on the situation?  Do we believe God is who He says He is and can be depended on? Depending on our answer, we either walk in confidence with God or fretful and uncertain of everything around us.

The Patriarchs in the Bible waited patiently for the Lord.  David had to wait for God to make David king, while being hunted by King Saul.  David got anointed years before the promise was fulfilled.  Abraham had to wait as he and his wife aged past child bearing years for the  promised baby to arrive.

If we can wait expecting to see God’s goodness at the best possible time, by God’s standards, then we develop hope.  Faith believes it will happen one day in the distant future.  If it feels like God doesn’t care, and we won’t see something in our lifetime, then it can lead to discouragement and bitterness.

If we believe that God is at work on our issues even if we can’t see the changes, we walk with a different hope.  I’ve wondered if this is how David directed his thoughts when he “strengthened himself up the Lord.”  The whole verse is found in 1 Samuel 30:6  “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

To see Part 1, go to Determining to Believe God is at Work – Part 1

To see Part 3, go to Determining to Believe God is at Work – Part 3


Determining to Believe God is at Work – Part 1

Determining to Believe God is at Work in our Circumstances Brings Hope

Determining to Believe God is at Work in our Circumstances Brings Hope

When we determine to believe God hears our prayers and is at work on them…NOW…that is living in faith.  Hebrews 11:1 reads “Now, faith IS the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

If faith is our substance, then we have a certain expectation that goes along with us.  If someone who always promises us things and disappoints us tells us that they are going to do something, our expectation is low.  If someone who always comes through on their word, promises us something, they we hold out some level of hope that it might get done, even if we haven’t observed any preparations for reaching that goal.

If God promises something, then it WILL happen.  Our hope can wane or we can remain confident while we wait.  Some people are waiting to see if it will happen.  Those in faith choose to believe it will happen if God said so.  Our choice to believe determines our level of hope.

Meanwhile the enemy gets out the discouragement tapes and tries to get us to believe them.  They sound like, “Things will never change.  It could even get worse.  It’s the same old, same old.  It’s been like this for years and it’s not going to change now.”  Listening to people who talk like this impacts our spirit.  We start to believe this and it changes our expectations.  We look down the paths of defeat and discouragement.  Just allowing our minds to go down these paths a little ways can give us a bad attitude for a day or week or longer.

To continue, go to Determining to Believe God is at Work – Part 2


After Easter, Hope Comes Alive Part 2

The Empty Tomb Gives Hope

The Empty Tomb Gives Hope

The rumors of Jesus being alive quickly spread throughout all of Judea.  Suddenly hope sparked again.  Questions flooded the discussions.  How was this possible?  Time would tell.  Counter rumors ran rampant as well.  The High Priest’s envoys claimed the disciples stole the body.  They said it wasn’t true.  But why would perfectly logical men invent such a story?  What about the contrasting testimonies of normal people.  And what was the buzz about dead people walking again throughout the land.  Time to check it out.

Even before the truth could be determined, hope flowed in the people’s veins.  Ideas flowed.  The possibilities for God to be personal and close came back into focus.  Maybe the last would be the first.  Maybe it wasn’t all about money after all.  What was that part about the meek inheriting the earth?  Maybe God hears my prayers.  Maybe God does notice my heart and unseen actions, even if the priests are oblivious.

Two thousand years later, we have centuries of studied and educated men writing volumes of theological insights.  We have recorded testimonies that continue to this day of lives turned toward God, Slave drivers who became priests, drug addicts who come clean and live a life for God.  Hope comes as we hear lives rising from the ashes.

Hope allows people to dream big dreams.  2014 is the year to bring out our old dreams, dust them off and set them on the desk to put plans of actions alongside.  This is the year to ask God for new dreams, implementation plan, resources.  It is time to hope.  As God answers big prayers, we will wonder if we prayed bold enough prayers to go along with the dreams He gave us.  It is time to dream again.  He is bigger than the obstacles.  He is bigger than the challenge.  He is bigger than the death of our dreams.  Alive.  Rise.  Hope.  Believe. Dream. Plan.  It is time to God and Fulfill all that God has put in your heart.

See After Easter, Hope Comes Alive Part 1


After Easter, Hope Comes Alive Part 1

The Empty Tomb Gives Hope

The Empty Tomb Gives Hope

The day we call “Good Friday”  commemorates the day Jesus was crucified.  Hopes of every Jesus follower sunk to a new nadir.  What happened to Jesus’ talk about the Kingdom of God?  How could people have hope for healing and redemption?  Did his followers have to go back to the restrictive legalistic Jewish law and hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  Were politics going to win over justice again?  Was no one going to stop them from killing this innocent man die?  Could no one ever stop the liars from offering testimony for money?  Was no one ever going to be able to stop the Romans from ruling over Judea?  Talk about feeling discouraged.  Now what?

Passover must have felt like a blanket was laid over Jerusalem with the news of Jesus’ death.  Even those who hadn’t rendered an official position had to know that death wasn’t deserved.

No one was prepared for the news of Jesus being alive that Sunday morning.  Even if the people had heard that the temple would rise again after three days and thought it odd, had never considered the “temple” to be Jesus’ body.  Yet the rumors ran rampant.

Jesus is alive?  Really?  The brain cranks over into possibility.  Then maybe everything he said needs to be reconsidered.  Now what was he saying about the Kingdom of God coming near?  What was that part about Jesus being the way to God, His Father?  What is it’s all true?  What did He say about the Father’s love?  Where were those disciples?  I must ask them about my question?

Suddenly hope sparked again.  Ideas flowed.  The possibilities for God to be personal and close came back into focus

See After  Easter, Hope Comes Alive Part 2


Palm Sunday Captures our Human Dreams Part 1

People Offered Jesus their Dreams Along with the Palm Branches

People Offered Jesus their Dreams Along with the Palm Branches

Palm Sunday captures the height of human dreams.  All the desires of the people’s human frustrations to be free of Roman rule cried Hosanna to this new King as he entered Jerusalem with dried tears on his checks.  The media would have loved the drama of the path of palms.  Photojournalists would have captured close ups of Jesus on the donkey and the larger scene of the path bordered with people of all walks of life.

People wanted a Savior.  They wanted freedom from Roman rule.  They wanted freedom from the forced interpretation of the Law—religious law. God was ready to give freedom from spiritual bondage.  Did they know they had it?

Little could the people know, that they were still a generation or two away from the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Justice and righteousness.  This is what we need.  It comes from first the priest (intimacy and worship) and then the kingship.

Justice and righteousness.   This is the cry of every government.  How well they handle this is how long it will last  Never a fixed recipe, but the ingredients of destruction must be discarded along the way.

We teeter between a “prove-it-to-me” demand before we believe and say, “Ah, that’s what you mean,” and a “I trust what God says” faith, which then allows us to sidestep destruction and/or despair.  We can dance right up to the middle line and test the balance.  We delude ourselves because we think we understand the basic physics of teeter-totters.  We stand near the middle with one foot on each side of the center fulcrum point.  We can’t see the invisible bullies ready to tip the balance with the push of a new fear that makes one side unweight. No one notices that the invisible forces also undermine the plank that should be tilting toward one side as a warning to reshift the weight.  The warning goes unnoticed and unheeded.

Read Part 2 of Palm Sunday Captures our Human Dreams


Revisiting Our Landmarks of God’s Grace to Gain the Courage to Go Forward

Rock Piles Demand to Be Noticed and Cause People to Recall the History

Rock Piles Demand to Be Noticed and Cause People to Recall the History

When we have to face challenges and the unknowns in moving forward, it helps to revisit the Landmarks of God’s great grace moments scattered across the history of our lives.

That’s what Elisha saw Elijah do as he prepared for the end of his life.  He followed Elijah on a tour of four places.  They visited Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho and the Jordan.

Gilgal is where stones were taken out of the river to build a monument.  This was to remind the Israelites that God had opened up the Jordan so they could cross over from the wilderness to the Promised land.

Next, they visited Bethel.  This was the place of Jacob’s ladder to heaven.  It was the place where Jacob had pressed in to get a blessing after wrestling with an angel all night.  Elisha saw this as another place where God kept His promises.  Jacob gained favor with his brother again and went on to become a very wealthy land owner.

The mighty walls of Jericho fell down in Israel’s first battle after entering the Promised Land.  At first glance the walls seemed impenetrable.  Yet, it because a place where the Israelites did what they could do, and God did what He could do.  The Israelites obeyed God and marched around it seven times, and then shouted.  God caused the walls to come down, all by themselves.  God did the impossible.  The Israelites never forgot it.  He can tear down walls and win battles as we obey His commands and His timing.

The Jordan is the river the Israelites first crossed over.  Before approaching the river, Elijah asked Elisha what He wanted.  Somehow, Elisha had moved past not wanting to discuss it.  He was now at the point of learning to ask for what He needed God to do.  He had moved from negative anticipation to positive planning.  Elisha asked for a double portion.  Elijah considered this and replied, “You have asked a very difficult thing. Yet, if you see me when I am taken fro you, it will be yours—otherwise not.”  2 Kings 2:10.

Elisha looked for this.  Elisha saw Elijah taken up.  He received the double portion.  He picked up the cloak and used the same cloak that represented what he didn’t really want (Elijah’s death) to be the tool that touched the river and allowed him to walk back over on dry land.  At that point, his ministry began .


The Invitation in “It is Finished”

Jesus declared, "It is Finished" on the cross

Jesus declared, “It is Finished” on the cross

It is Finished

One of the seven sentences Jesus spoke on the cross was the phrase “It is finished!”  John 19:30.  It wasn’t just the end of his life.  It was the end of the mankind’s death sentences.  The sacrifice was sufficiently satisfied: His innocent death for all of mankind’s sin.  This choice defined the highest level of love for a mostly undeserving group of people.  Love won. Jesus obeyed the Father’s heart of love to finish His mission on earth.  We don’t hear Jesus sharing any regrets for his choice.  None.  It’s over—forever.

And it goes deeper.  Beyond the debt of sin being paid, Jesus also conquered man’s most difficult challenge: death.  Jesus rose from the dead and offers life to all His followers.  While living, we have Jesus’ power in us to overcome every difficulty and challenge life brings.  We can act as Jesus did by seeing, believing, knowing, and expecting, “It is finished.”  Acting in faith and obedience will remove our mountains of evil and mountains of difficulty.  In other words, because of His complete work on the cross, we live with the hope that all of our mountains can be removed. The same power at work in Jesus is available to us through prayer and partnership with God.

Jack Hayford takes this theme one step further in his book How to Live Through a Bad Day. He writes, “’It is finished’ was the son of God’s invitation to join Jesus in the conviction that now—because of the Cross—there is nothing we struggle with that is without either a purpose or an end.  No struggle need ever be pointless.  No suffering need ever be unending.”

 


Who is Your 12th Man?

Seattle's Seahawk's 12th Man Factor

Seattle’s Seahawk’s 12th Man Factor

Sunday’s sermon at Open Door Church in Mountain View, California included a segment on how God launches us, often before we feel ready.  Our pastor used the context of Jesus launching the disciples to go out into all the world and, “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” See Matthew 28: 19.

Two verses earlier it said that, “some disciples doubted,” even after seeing Jesus—post resurrection.  This doesn’t seem like a “ready” group.  With the loss of Judas, their group constituted of 11 disciples.  12 was the chosen number they started with, and were used to.  12 allowed for them to go out in groups of two.  12 is a number of wholeness.  11 seems like it’s not quite ready.  Theologian Dale Bruner says that “the number eleven limps.”

What Jesus tells the disciples, is “Go, and I will be with you.”  Jesus promises to accompany us as the invisible divine companion.

Using a football comparison, Jesus is “the 12th man.”  The term “12th man” comes from Seattle Seahawks’ stadium where the sound of fans’ cheering is considered as an much an advantage as having an additional player to the 11 member team.  Jesus is our additional team member everywhere we go.

Jesus’ promise remains true for all believers throughout time.  Not just a comfort, this promise propels to go forward whenever He prompts, ready or not.  Moving forward doesn’t depend on our ability ahead of time.  Our obedience brings His presence which includes His supernatural power and direction to accomplish all He has for us.  The angels in heaven cheer for God’s purposes fulfilled with obedient saints.

Prayer:  “Jesus please come and be my 12th man.  I listen for your nudges to go forward and choose to obey.”


Take Courage in the Strain Right Before the Goal

Running Hard for the Long Haul

Running Hard for the Long Haul

One of my favorite ways to hear from God is from devotionals.  I have read through A.J. Russell’s God Calling for over 10 years.  Written in the first person of Jesus’ voice, it feels like a fresh word in due season on many days.  I read the following entry about how things get intense right before we near the goal.  It takes challenging circumstances and turns the situation into a perspective of active expectancy.  Fresh from the morning, it blessed me and three friends I talked to during the day who called for prayer in the battle zone.  It blessed each of them.  I hope it blesses you.
Near the Goal
In a race, it is not the start that hurts, not the even pace of the long stretch.  It is when the goal is in sight that heart and nerve and courage and muscles are strained almost beyond human endurance, almost to the breaking point.
So with you now the goal is in sight, you need your final cry to Me.  Can you not see by the nerve and heart rack of the past few days that your race is nearly run?  Courage, Courage.  Heed My voice of encouragement.  Remember that I am by your side, spurring you on to victory.  In the annals of heaven, the saddest records are those that tell of the many who ran well, with brave stout hearts, until in sight the goal, of victory, and then their courage failed.  The whole host of heaven longed to cry out how near the end was, to implore the last spurt, but they fell out, never to know until the last day of revealing, how near they were to victory.

Would that they had listened to Me in the silence as you two meet with Me.  (You have to know the book at this point)
They would have known, There must be the listening ear, as well as the still small voice.

 

From God Calling Feb 13.

 

 


Changing How We See Ourselves – How Does God See Us?

What God Says About Who We Are is Amazing

What God Says About Who We Are is Amazing

When we change our thoughts, we change our vision of how we see ourselves.  Have you ever thought of how God sees us?  God has amazing things to say about us.  It is our choice to believe what He says in the Bible.  It is worth considering some of these statements.

 

 

How God Sees Us…Through His Word

 

 

I am His own.  1 Samuel 12:22                                             He sets me free.  John 8:36

He sees my heart.  1 Samuel 16:7                                         I am chosen.  John 15:19

He heals me.  2 Kings 20:5                                                  I am accepted in the Beloved.  Romans 15:7

I will pass on an inheritance.  1 Chronicles 28:8                     I reap holiness and eternal life.  Romans 6:22

He knows the way I take.  Job 23:10                                    He quiets me with His love.   Zephaniah 3:17

He gives me eternal pleasures at His right hand. Ps. 16:11     He makes me the fragrance of life.  2 Cor. 2:14

He makes me glad with the joy of His presence.  Ps. 21:6      He sees me as I am.  2 Corinthians 3:16

I will gaze upon the beauty of the Lord forever.  Ps. 27:4       He turns my hardships to glory.  2 Corinthians 4:17

He will never forsake me.  Psalm 27:10                                He clothes me with Himself.  Galatians 3:2

He is near me.  Psalm 34:18                                                 He delivers me.  Galatians 5;1

He is enthralled by my beauty.  Psalm 45:11                          He gives me power to forgive.  Ephesians 1:19

He rescues me.  Psalm 91:4                                                 He blesses me with every spiritual blessing. Eph. 1:3

He crowns me with love and compassion.  Psalm 103:4         He gives me riches of His inheritance.  Eph 1:18

He satisfies my hunger with good things.  Psalm 107:9           He redeems my past. Philippians 3:13

I am wonderfully made.  Psalm 139:14                                  He fills me wit thanksgiving.  Colossians 2:7

He cheers me and lifts me up.  Proverbs 12:25                      He gives me hope.  2 Thessalonians 2:16

I speak words of life to others.  Proverbs 15:4                       He encourages my heart.  2 Thessalonians 2:17

I belong to Him.  Song of Songs 7:10                                    He sympathizes with my weaknesses.  Hebrews 4;15

He delights in me.  Zephaniah 3:17                                       He gives me everything I need. 2 Peter 1:3

He makes my wilderness like Eden.  Isaiah 41:18                  I am alive with Christ.   Ephesians 2:5

He is doing a new thing in me.  Isaiah 43:19                          I am holy and blameless in his sight.  Ephesians 1:4

He bears my pain.  Isaiah 53:4                                             I have the mind of Christ.  1 Corinthians 2:16

He gives me a crown of beauty instead of ashes.  Is. 61:3      I cannot be separated from God’s love. Romans 8:39

He wraps me in a robe of righteousness.  Isaiah 61:10           I am being transformed.  Romans 12:2

He calls me by a new name.  Isaiah 62:2                              I am a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17

He crowns me with splendor.  Isaiah 62:3                             He is rich in mercy toward me. Ephesians 2:4

I am His workmanship.  Isaiah 64:8                                      I am forgiven. Colossians 1:14

He knows me.  Jeremiah 1:5                                                He loves me with an everlasting love. Jer.31:3

I bear His name.  Jeremiah 14:9                                           He receives my spirit.  Isaiah 57:15

He loves me with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3              He rejoices over me with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

He speaks tenderly to me. Hosea 2:14                                  I have peace that passes understanding. Phil. 4:7

He dresses me in rich garments.  Zechariah 3:4                     He is for me.  Romans 8:31

He takes me to a quiet lace and gives me rest.  Mark 6:31     I am strong in His Power.  Ephesians 6:10

He gives me treasure in heaven.  Luke 12:33                        I can do all things through Christ.  Phil. 4:13

He does not judge me by appearances.  John 7:24                 He will never leave me. Deuteronomy 31:6