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Archive for February, 2011

Ripening

Do you know that God has called you to a certain position, yet you are tempted to run ahead of Him into making it happen on your own time and by your own strength? It is good to remember that you can be in the right place, but be the wrong person. Today I was reminded that I am a person in a process, and I can trust Him with the pace. Who He is making me along the way is as important as getting there.

It’s so hard to admit that we simply may not be ready yet for the things God has in store. And when we choose to submit, we trust that He will not forget. He is faithful to finish the good work He has started in us, and when we surrender He is best able to make us fit to answer our calling. Just like a fruit must remain on the vine to be ripe, we must abide in the Vine in order to bear the fruit necessary to minister.

Personally, I believe one calling on my life is ministering to victims of sex trafficking, and I’m learning that answering my calling today might look different from answering my calling tomorrow. Today’s instructions are patience and trust in God’s sovereignty, while tomorrow’s instructions may be to move forward through the door of a women’s shelter. Both days are equally important in my journey. Who I am matters as much as where I am.

I am ripening, and the Gardener knows the right time and season to pick me so I can best nourish others.

‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Ps. 46:10).

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The Waiting Room

I am in a waiting room. Trying to sit still but every tick-tock of the clock on the wall pulls me toward the door, yet I must stay till I am called. The doctor can meet my need, but he must come to me. I know he is a good doctor, but every passing minute tempts me to doubt him. Does he know how deep is my need? Is he running so behind time that I will die? Is he too preoccupied? Maybe the reason he has not come for me is because of me… and I couldn’t blame him. Yet I know the deeper my need for him the more reason he has to see me.

I survey the scene of patients around me. They all seem patient indeed, but there’s a storm in me. And I think I know my own remedy! If only I could take my prescription and leave.. Or find one similar at a pharmacy? Is waiting on the doctor a necessity? Yes, according to my history, so I’ll keep waiting. Pacing. Hoping. Praying.

At the moment, I am actually sitting in my room, writing this analogy to express what I’m going through in waiting for a job call. The doctor is God, and I am tempted to question Him though I know He is good. I also tend to put my hope in timing or in a certain prescription for my need (a certain job) or in only my own efforts. I wonder if I could make things happen without Him? Yet remembering how that worked out in the past keeps me patient for Him.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2).

I lift my eyes up higher than job opportunities and potential employers, to God Himself, who is the Maker of all these things. If a job falls through, my hope does not fail because it is in He who never fails. Of course, as time goes by my eyes tend to fall upon the ground, but each new day I must lift my eyes again to the heavens.

Are you also in a waiting room? It is tempting to feel as if waiting is a waste, yet how it is used to test and increase our faith! To make us into faithful people (because isn’t who we are in life even more important than what we do in life?). And surely God knows a thousand other good reasons worth waiting for. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6).

“I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:17). “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My loving eye on you” (Ps. 32:8). “For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end” (Ps. 48:14).

Lord, “You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long” (Ps. 25:5).

‘All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.’
-Frances J. Crosby

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a prayer

Jesus, how I admire you.. you not only see broken people and are moved with compassion, but you are compelled to action. Whatever you have to give to help us, you do. Despite what it costs you. I need to be more like you. Despite what it costs me.

Help me to cry your tears for the lost and to feel how your heart breaks for the broken and to hear your prayers for your enemies. But more than that Lord, give me your hands to help them. Hands that would be pierced for them. Hands that would wash their feet. Hands that would bind their wounds.

I’m so sorry for being fearful, passive, or inactive at the expense of broken and lost people. Help me be brave for them. Like you were brave for me. Jesus, your love for me made you go to the cross trembling, but for the joy set before you. Help me to go to them even trembling, yet for the joy set before me.

You are my only chance for change. Apart from you I can do nothing good or eternal. I can not work for the Kingdom but by your Spirit. Show me the responsibility and the authority I possess in you. Christ in me, rise in me. You are the only hope in me.

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You know how during the day you will suddenly be reminded of those things you are working toward and believe you need? Almost instantly they turn to burdens. “I need that job” or “I need that relationship” or “I need that position” or “I need that house.” Or maybe they are various anxieties you wish to forget.. “What if this, what if that?” Or even regrets.. “I wish this, I wish that..”

I have been reminded that what I need most in those moments is not for those things to happen, but to pray for what I need. The life of a Christian should be a simple life, because there is One who holds all things together so we don’t have to, “for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8).

In bringing every need before God, we not only have the best chance of our needs being met, but we will come to depend on Him which is the greatest need a human soul will ever experience.

Much of the time, we are truly seeking to experience love, joy, peace, or hope, which the Spirit of God brings sometimes through circumstances, and sometimes despite them. Whatever the case, He is the Giver of every gift, the source of all the goodness of life, and He knows what we need better than we do.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word…
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.’

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Conformation

Do you sense a continual stretching and straining as you are being pushed and pulled by the waves of life? Search your spirit and remember the times you’ve cried out, “Please make me more like You, oh God!”

Sometimes I stop in the midst of a storm and cry out, “Why!?” Sometimes I’m still long enough to hear His voice, “Leah, I’m answering your prayers.”

No matter what I’m going through, I have to admit that it is worth being conformed into the image of Christ. Sometimes it means a walk in the park, and other times I find myself in a prison. Sometimes a desert, and other times a garden. His image can be seen on a cross, and also risen far above.

Yet what matters more than where I am is fellowshipping with Christ everywhere I am, so I can behold Him in that place and become like Him there. His presence will turn any desert into a garden. He is the comfort, the love, the bread I hunger for, yet I am tempted to be refreshed in a thousand other places. I tend to seek so many other faces. Yet there is One who remains at the end of the race. To be like Him, to be with Him, is worth losing everything else I thought I needed along the way.

The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
(Ps. 37:23-24)

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Overcoming

When considering the commands of God and the commission of Christ, it is easy for us to feel defeated and to count an overwhelming amount of shortcomings. We can find more excuses as to why we can’t carry out His commands than reasons for obedience.

‘In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands’ (1 John 5:3). Instantly we doubt our love for God and experience feelings of defeat, so it’s no wonder John continues to write, ‘And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world’ (v. 4) as if to say, Don’t worry! The battle has been won for you! You are not defeated! We who are in Christ are victorious by faith! ‘This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.’ (v. 5)

Reminds me of Paul’s writings in Romans 8, ‘Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ (v. 33-34; 37).

Faith will evidence itself by our desire to follow God’s commands, but our works will never count like faith does in pleasing God! (Heb. 11:6)

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Good Words

The other day, I found myself desperate and terrified to hear God’s voice at the same time. Desperate because ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matt. 4:4). And terrified because what if He would tell me to do something beyond my will or ability?

I had just read the biography of a missionary who flipped open her Bible to a random place and through that God spoke to her, so I decided to try it. Despite my fear, I would listen obediently to whatever He had to say.

To my absolute delight, I had randomly opened the Bible and my eyes fell on Jeremiah 15:16, ‘When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.’ What I felt the Lord say to me was that I should never fear what He might say to me, but actually I should rejoice in His words to me. ‘For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart’ (Matt. 12:34) and what fills the heart of God but love and goodness? And so His words will be loving and good.

What He went on to say to me is another entry, but what good news was that to hear!

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No Fear of Judgment

“The fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor. 3:13b-15).

Lately I’ve been very apprehensive about this verse. And yesterday it was weighing on me like a ton of bricks. Maybe you can relate to my feelings when considering your work for the Kingdom, and the fire that will test it on Judgment Day… I know I will not be eternally condemned, but what if I only barely escape through the flames? What if in the end I have invested nothing in the Kingdom? What if I stored up no treasures in heaven because I was too busy trying to live in heaven on earth?

Yesterday, those questions became too painful to ask myself.. yet God in His great compassion and tender mercy comforted me in quiet time today through 1 John, right when I needed it. (He always has perfect timing.)

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”
(1 John 4:16b-19).

Because of God’s love, we should be confident on Judgment Day! In this world we are identified in Christ (and His righteousness) and not in ourselves (and our shortcomings). To fear being found imperfect is an imperfection itself, to be healed by deeper knowledge and experience of God’s love.

The saint should have no fear of judgment or punishment, only anticipation of the prize at the end of the race. More than that, our motivation to live for Christ (primarily in living life in Love) is not out of fear, but because He first loved us! It’s good news all around 🙂

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Afterall

I have been reading the work and biographies of the missionaries Jim & Elisabeth Elliot, and Hannah Hurnard. Sometimes I shrink to consider sitting at a table in heaven with missionaries and martyrs… I will either be humiliated, or too self-forgetful to be.

All I can say is I am infinitely blessed that God relates to me by grace, and so His saints. Because otherwise I would be ashamed for eternity. I am not exaggerating. If I was a pitiful beggar in heaven forever, it would be a hundred fold better than the place I could earn for myself.

Despite all my dreaming, if I leave any kind of legacy, it will be an utterly miraculous one. If I leave one lasting footprint, it will be left by the weight of Christ in me because all I am capable of is writing my name in sand a moment before the waves wash it away.

I tend to depend so much on my limited logic rather than full faith in the God of impossibilities, that whenever I do choose to take His word more seriously than my own, it is a glorious moment where He has convinced me of the fool I am and reminded me yet again that He is, afterall, God.

I can only light-heartedly consider who I am (and who I am not) in light of who He is. Otherwise I’d be lost in eternal despair. I am still stressed and disappointed when comparing who I am to who I hope to be.. but I’m not depressed or defeated, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).

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Half Awake

Upon waking in the morning, I could have been on top of the world the day before, but I hardly expect my fulfillment from yesterday to spill over into my wellbeing today. That would be like expecting yesterday’s dinner to count for breakfast this morning. Even if it were a Thanksgiving feast, I would still be hungry again this morning.

My body awoke and ate this morning, but have I forgotten to wake my spirit? Should I wonder why I can go through the day feeling half alive when truly I am just half awake? I wake with hunger pains. Physically, my stomach hurts and hungers for food. Spiritually, my soul hurts and hungers for the Bread of Life. “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’.” (Matt. 4:4).

Jeremiah wrote, “When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight…” (Jer. 15:16). Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63). In the morning when we crave breakfast, do we see ourselves as more than our bodies? Do we seek the Word to sustain our souls as earnestly as we search our refrigerators for food?

Spiritual food is the Word, and not only the Bible, but the Son of God. Jesus said, “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world… I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:33; 51).

Some people don’t remember the last time they felt truly alive, or unconditionally loved, or illogically peaceful, or overwhelmingly joyful. Or maybe they do, but it surely wasn’t yesterday. Yet Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). I believe He was speaking of the inner life, the spiritual life – the wellbeing of which no circumstance should determine.

Not coincidentally, the fruits of His Spirit are life, love, joy, and peace (Gal. 5:22). Do we daily eat as much of these fruits as we need? Have we forgotten the Vine on which they grow? Seeking and experiencing God is better than sex, food, friendship, parenthood, financial security, and even achieving our greatest dreams (though those are ways in which we experience His goodness). They are from Him, but they are not Him. When we cherish those gifts and forget the Giver, they lose their purpose and we lose our fulfillment. It is entirely possible to be all alone in a room yet truly alive, unconditionally loved, illogically peaceful, and overwhelmingly joyful with no explanation but God.

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God” (Is. 61:10). “You satisfy me more than the richest feast” (Ps. 63:5).

Jesus says, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are (full of the) Spirit and life.” (John 6:63). No matter how much we do for our body it will die. But to hear and believe His Word at the heart level, that will cause our spirit to rise eternally. It is not a one-time event, or even weekly, but we need a daily experience of His goodness. If our spirit does not rise in the morning, we will feel half alive. And because we are naturally blind to the reality of God, we need to day after day “Taste and see (and remember) that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8).

It is good to also remember that we delight in Him as a response to the revelation that “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).

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