When Faith Fails

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 7.19.28 PMThe fall of my sophomore year in college was one of the hardest times in my life. I couldn’t feel or see God anywhere.

Have you been there?

Instead of finding yourself in prayer, you find yourself wondering where God is in the pain. You can become calloused, or bitter and angry. You may wonder if there is a God at all.

Hebrews 11:1 says, Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.

You can give up on God. You can walk away and live a life of moderate meaning dictated by relative truths and comparisons to others on what is “good” or “right”.

No longer having the Bible as the basis of truth, you’re left with candy-coated emptiness. Your value is found outside of why you were created.

Your conscience at first may be clearer because you have set your moral compass to point any direction the wind blows. Absolutes are dictated by feelings, or by what society approves of for the moment.

The detriment is, the world’s view of right or wrong changes from day to day.
God is truth, and His ways are always best and do not change.

When you operate outside the reality of God as ultimate truth and meaning, life becomes based on ideas of personal control. This leads to bitterness, or insecurity, or a need to manipulate, control, and find meaning in others.

The working out of your faith finds you struggling to see God in your life. You think God might be there, but you don’t know if you believe the hype anymore. Hours, days, or months are spent questioning.

Questioning is fine, if you are actively seeking for answers.

I was at the point I felt like I couldn’t even pray. I remember sobbing asking God to just help me talk to Him. I wasn’t doubting the existence of God as much as I was wondering where He was in the circumstances.

I had quiet times. I went to church. But life happened and my heart was being squeezed dry. My mind was having a hard time making sense of all the pressure. God hadn’t moved. I hadn’t moved. Yet my faithfulness was an empty void.

Instead of focusing on our faithfulness, or lack thereof, let’s look at God’s faithfulness towards us.

2 Timothy 2:13 says, …If we are faithless,he remains faithful,for he cannot disown himself.

God can handle it when our faith is empty. Just because you have lost your way doesn’t mean God has lost His way to you.

God is and will always be faithful in his love, mercy, and calling out to us to come to Him. His desire is for us to walk through life with Him.

God won’t beg you to be with him. If you don’t want him in your life, he will stay out. Part of true love is that it is not forced on you. However, the God of love is always waiting with open arms for you to run to him if you begin to see who He is. Dig deep into God’s word, and seek counsel from those who have been there before you.

His word is light, and when you search for him and his ways in his word, you will see clearly. Don’t give up. Ask others to pray for you. Have an open spirit, and take this to heart…

When you seek me, you will find me, provided you seek for me wholeheartedly.Jeremiah 29:13

This verse rang true for me. Looking back, although it was one of the hardest times in my life, it also was one of the sweetest times spiritually. God’s faithfulness became clear. I gained a deeper understanding of His character. And if you seek, you will find Him too.

3 Lies About Worship

worshipLast week, a teenage boy sat in front of me in worship. I couldn’t help but notice him because he was being so… real.

He wasn’t worried about singing on pitch. He wasn’t aware of the people beside him, or of his volume, or if his hands should be up or down. He wasn’t trying to impress.

He was completely into who God was at that moment. He was raw, and real.

In Hebrew the word for worship is Shachah, and it means to bow ones self down, to prostrate ones self out of honor for another.

Those who used this form of worship in Bible times would bow down and touch their foreheads to the ground in humility. It was a symbol of yielding ones self to the person or thing being worshipped.

It was all about the worshipped, not the worshipper.

Unfortunately, “worship” can become a gauge to younger Christians proving ones Godliness. People get self-conscious about it, and think there is a “right” or “wrong” way to do it.

Here are three common lies about worship. Let’s get the focus off ourselves, and back onto the Creator, who is the object of our worship in the first place.

1. Worship is only the music.

There are worship bands, worship playlists, and Worship Pastors. I actually like all of these things, but they can cause a problem.

To limit our understanding of worship to the confines of musical expression is short-sighted.

Worship should span throughout our Christian lives. When you read and meditate on scripture, or pray, or tithe, you are worshipping God. When you serve others in the name of Christ you are worshipping God.

Why? Because bowing in reverence doesn’t have to have a tune behind it.

Music is a part of worship. But if you only give praise to God through song, you are missing out on a deeper relationship with your Creator.

2. Worship is a feeling.

How many people have left a church because they “just don’t feel God in the worship”.

WHAT?!?!

The last time I checked worship was about God and not us.

I get the fact that you…
might be called to another church,
or that you don’t agree with them theologically,
or that you don’t like the music because it is too slow,
or too loud,
or too old.

But to say you don’t feel God in worship is your issue. Quit blaming the church.

Sometimes you’re not going to have a peaceful easy feeling in worship. Jesus was worshipping in the garden when he asked God to “take this cup from me”. Paul worshipped in jail, and Stephen worshipped as he was being stoned.

None of them were singing by the way.

Worship can bring an amazing feeling, but don’t confuse that feeling with closeness to God.

Sometimes, when you are crying out to God because your heart is breaking,
or in repentance of sin,
or when you are confused,
or hurt,
you are laying your life before God.

THAT is worship.

Many times there is a feeling in worship. And who doesn’t love that?! But when you don’t emotionally connect with God, don’t think you’re worship isn’t getting through to Him.

3. Worship is between God and me, so one else should matter.

Nope, not even close.

John 4:24 says, God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. 

Worship is having a heart of surrender to God in every area of your life.

How are your relationships with others? Are you holding onto a sin that involves your behavior with others and it is keeping you from true, pure, lay-it-all-out-there-worship?

Are you a gossip?
Do you have a jealous heart?
Are you holding on so tight to the spirit of resentment that you can’t see past your own soul?

We are told to worship in spirit and in truth. You can’t worship in truth if you are living in the lie of habitual sin. Don’t get me wrong, we all sin. A LOT.

But habitual sins are the things you do you that you know are wrong, yet you like the sin better than God so you choose to keep it in your life. When you realize a part of loving God is loving others, your point of view changes

To worship on a deeper, more intimate level, you have to realize what you do with your fellow man matters. How you treat people, see people, and talk to or about people matters. It matters to God, and it matters when you worship.

When Your Father Isn’t Godly

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 11.33.25 AMFathers Day is hard for a lot of people. You might not have a Father in your life, or if he is around, you may wish he wasn’t. This makes it especially hard when you hear God referred to as Father.

It’s a stretch, because why would you want another male influence in your life when you don’t like the one you have now?

But God is our Father. He created us. He loves us.

In the Bible when Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane he said “Abba!”. He’s not calling to some Father who didn’t really have time for him, or left him on the cross to hang alone. (To see what I’m talking about, see my blog here… PLEASE! It’s the most known-by-every-biblical-scholar-but-not-taught-in-churches thing out there. Read it, and shout it from the rooftops!).

Abba is the term for “daddy”. He was crying out to a close Father of love to help him walk through the cross. We are going to look at three ways we see God in that one simple cry of Abba.

1. God will not hurt you.

Psalm 10:14 says, But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

Some men are stuck in a pattern of abuse, be it verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual. They have passed on their dysfunction to your family. You have been hurt.

THIS IS NOT WHO GOD IS.

God grieves with you in your pain. Free Will is great, but it allows people to not only make bad choices, but other people who have nothing to do with those choices can become affected by someone else’s baggage or bad judgment.

Don’t blame God for what others have done to you. Don’t blame God for your dad leaving you. God did not cause those things.

Sin did.

God is a God of love, and he desires for us to live a life as free from sin as possible. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does desire for us to be obedient. Part of that obedience is realizing God is not at fault when others hurt you.

2. God will not leave you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

God did not leave Jesus on the cross (again… see this blog!!!) and He won’t leave you. No matter how bad things are, He is there. He weeps with you, mourns for you, and loves you through every circumstance.

If your father left you, God is the ultimate example of what an earthly father should be. God is caring. He is available. He is love. God is proud when you do the right thing, and will allow consequences for your sin when you choose wrongly, hoping those consequences will bring you back to Him.

Knowing that God will never leave me or forsake me has helped me through many times of anger or doubt. I actually have an incredibly Godly Father who helped model to me who what God as Father means, but many do not, and this topic causes great confusion for them.

3. God is Present.

Zephaniah 3:17 says, 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.”

Our God is FOR you. He is WITH you. And if you have asked Jesus into your heart, His Holy Spirit lives inside of you.

Some fathers are in the home, but not present. They don’t go to games. They don’t say I love you. They miss birthdays. They may not even acknowledge your presence.

But God is always over you, watching.
Watching, and rooting for you.

God wants a personal relationship with you. After all, we can pray directly to the God of the universe!

Stop for a second and let that sink in… YOU can have an intimate relationship with the
God
of
the
Universe.

So, if you are having a tough time this Fathers Day, look to God the Father to celebrate. He wants to protect you from sin. His desire is to be around you, and to be intimately involved in your life. He loves you, and sent His son to die for your sins so you can be with Him forever. And THAT is a Father to celebrate.

Why Captain America is the Best Superhero Ever

Super heroesCaptain America came to my son’s 5 year old birthday party. Okay, it really was one of my college students dressed like him, but he was perfect. He made quite the entrance by driving into our backyard

ON

HIS

MOTORCYCLE.

The entire party screeched to a halt. It was like in the matrix when everything STOPS, then does that crazy 3-D slo-mo.

There was no sound.
There was no movement.

Kids jaws actually dropped open.

And then, as the fact sunk in that a REAL superhero was in our midst, the kids got more and more and more excited.

He was there to conduct superhero training, and each child had to complete an obstacle course. At the end of the course, Captain America was cheering, and waiting to give each kid a high five.

They all received their own mask and a cape, and graduated from the first stage of superhero training.

I never saw what happened next coming…

Every kid felt like a million bucks. The quiet ones had confidence. The behavior-challenged kids actually… behaved. Five year olds took turns without having to be reminded, and kindness and dignity for all was the rule of the hour. Everyone was reflecting the goodness of Captain America.

After all, for a five year old, Captain America is the pinnacle of honor, valor, truth, and kindness.

These kids had MET Captain America.
He cheered for them by name.
He helped them become more like him.

Yep… that’s a hero, and he is the best.

Proverbs 27:19 says, As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Just like the party kids reflected characteristics set by their hero, we should reflect Christ. The more we can reflect who He is, the deeper our understanding will be of Him and His Will for our lives.

So what are we are to reflect?

One way we are to reflect Christ is in His holiness.
The Bible tells us we are to be holy as God is holy.

The biblical concept of holiness is that God is bigger and beyond us, yet He chooses to reach down and interact with us. Just like Captain America did with those kids.

God is not human. He is “other than”. He is a greater being who could treat or ignore us however He so chose.

But our God, the God of the universe, chooses to be involved with us. He wants to be involved with you in your life, as deeply as you will let Him.

Our lives reflect our relationship with God. It shows how we think God sees us, and how we see ourselves through His eyes. Our relationship with God impacts how we treat others.

Or at least it should.

Today as you go about your regular day, remember we don’t serve a regular god. Our Holy God is THE God. The Creator, Sustainer, Forgiver, and Savior of the world. He is Love, Mercy, Truth, and the God of second chances.

And, you could say, he is Super.

Our God is cheering for you. He is interacting with you. He loves people, and He wants you to act like Him.

Broken and Waiting

brokenTennis is supposed to be a “safe” sport. It’s non-contact, doesn’t have any sharp, metal objects, and typically the worse thing that happens is sunburn or shin splints.

Unless you are my daughter…

Today at her tennis lesson she was lobbing some zingers over the net. This is huge, since hitting anything over the net consistently is new to us.

Baby Girl was tired, and was walking back to her spot.

It was hot,
she was weary,
and she tripped.

And not just any old trip. This was a backwards, out of nowhere, trip-over-her-own-feet-that-no-one-saw-coming fall. The next thing we know, there were loud cries of serious pain.

I hate that sound.
It is horrid.

My husband ran over to her to check on her.
She was holding her arm, and I could see him checking her out.

We immediately went to see “Pop”, who is a retired eye doctor. Don’t judge me – eyes and arms are not that different. It was after five, and I wanted to know if she needed to be seen and “fixed” tonight.

McGuyver has NOTHING on my dad. He looked at Baby Girls arm, and knew it was at least sprained. We were going to have to wait for an X-ray in the morning to see if it was broken. Some newspaper and duct tape (I kid you not) and we had a mighty-fine homemade splint.

But then we had to wait.
I HATE waiting.

Have you ever had something in your life you KNEW was broken, but for whatever reason you had to wait to fix it?

Maybe it is a broken relationship, and you are waiting for the “right time” to mend it.
It could be a strained friendship, or a co-worker partnership that is hanging by a thread.

God knows all about broken relationships. Think about Cain and Abel, David and Saul, Joseph and his brothers, Jesus and Judas.

James 5:16 says, Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Here, James is talking about emotional healing. This specific Greek word for “healing” is used one other time in scripture, seen here:

1 Peter 2:24 says, He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

In the place of pain, we are offered healing.
In the place of brokenness, we are given wholeness.

Sometimes we are broken because of what others have done to us.
Or it could be because of how we have treated others.
Or how we have treated ourselves.

Forgiveness binds the wounds of the broken hearted. Especially the heart of the forgiver!

We need to offer God’s grace to whomever broke us down. Remember, the Hebrew picture of grace is God bending down to help his creation. It is an attitude of love from a greater, perfect being to a lesser, imperfect one.

A person may have done something horrible to you. You are better off without that relationship, and it should not be restored. Forgiveness may seem impossible, but anger and bitterness can keep the original pain fresh in your life for years, and even decades.

Holding on to the brokenness that person caused you is only hurting yourself. God wants you to have peace. He wants you to trust Him with your fear.

Allow God to heal you through releasing the bitterness, anger, and pain. Let the Divine Healer take the broken pieces and make you whole again.

Don’t wait to mend a broken relationship if it can be made healthy again. That friendship? It’s important to you. That co-worker? He may need Jesus, or simply a friend. And take heart, those relationships may be easier to mend than you think! My daughter’s arm wasn’t broken – it was only a sprain. The fix? A simple wrist brace for a few days.

It just takes a gentle and open spirit, and God’s grace and forgiveness in your life. Act on your willingness to love others the way God loves us, and fix what is broken today.

I Need Patience RIGHT NOW!!!

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 2.41.19 PMAll I wanted to do was cook dinner.

My husband was working late. My daughter, craft queen, was “sewing” an American Girl doll dress on the kitchen table.
This would be great…

If
she
knew
HOW
TO
SEW.

While Craft Queen was rapidly reaching Attitude Stage Three, my son, like any good 13 year old brother, was singing a very aggravating song.

Imagine the scene. (Take note, I am up to my elbows in raw meat).

Craft Queen: “Moommm, I need your help. I need to know how to tie the thread into a knot.”
13 Year old brother (singing): Puuut SOOOOME bacon OONNN ITTT, puut SOOOOME bacon OOON ITTT…
Craft Queen: “Quit singing. It’s annoying”.
Brother: (louder) “Puuttt SOOMMME bacon OONNNN ITTT, Puuttt SOOOMME bacon ONNN ITTT”
Craft Queen: Mooommm…!!!! He’s ANNOYING me! I can’t do this knot!!!!
Brother: “I’m not annoying, this is annoying” (imagine an incredibly loud mutant honking-buzz sound followed by “Puuttt SOOOMME bacon OONNN ITTT, Puuttt SOOOME bacon OONNN ITTT)

I was very aware I was about to lose it.
My patience was thin at best.

I had been looking for a blog topic, and it hit me – THIS IS IT!!! I need to write on PATIENCE!!!!!

After a very deliberate attempt at patience (the win was a 3 on a 10 scale), I have found myself here at the safety of my computer.

Aahhhhh – Silence.

“Patience” in Hebrew is savlanut. It also means tolerance.

Savlanut shares the same root as words that mean “suffer” and “burdens” in Hebrew. So, right off the bat, we see Patience isn’t going to be something that is… fun.

Have you noticed we usually realize the need for patience when we are already in an agitated state?  When I am aware of my need for patience before a situation arises, I seem to handle it better.

I bet you’re that way, too.

Patience is having a plan of action. It is being on top of things. Impatience is reacting to the things around us. It rears its head when we feel somewhat out of control.

How can we patient when we can’t anticipate what is to come?
Let’s use the Bible as our guide.

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

First, we grow in wisdom. The Bible gives ultimate wisdom, and teaches patience, and also love, acceptance, and guidance for situations. The closer we are to God, the ultimate Patience giver, the easier it is for us to live out that patience in our lives.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8

Sometimes we lose patience because we know how to do something better than the person doing it.  Or we think we know better, when really the outcome is the same and he or she is just doing the task differently than you.

But your way is the “right” way… right? (Pride check.)

Or, we need to have patience to teach a person how to do something new. Our angle might be “they just aren’t getting it!” when in actuality, we aren’t explaining it so they can understand. In our minds, patience should not only be offered to the other person (our tendency is to blame them for their lack of knowledge when they don’t catch on quickly) but have patience with ourselves as our knowledge is tested.

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Ultimately, we should strive for patience because as God’s people we are told to do so. When we “clothe ourselves” with compassion, humility, and gentleness, patience will come more naturally as a result.