Category: Faith

Why This Spiritual Attack Is Not Against Your Finances, Your Health, or Your Car

The year I started writing words for the world to read, things started falling to pieces all around us. We encountered three bouts with the stomach bug in four months.  The kids were constantly rundown with various viruses.  There were financial strains, serious health scares, and much more.

We were about ten months into a sequence of unfortunate events when I heard a single statement through a static-blurred radio station while driving to the grocery store. I don’t remember who spoke the words or exactly how he phrased them, but the man’s message was this: “Satan’s not out to break your car, wreck your finances, or steal your good health.  What he really wants to do is cause you to doubt God’s goodness.”

I was three weeks into a very trying month – a month filled with one trial after another. . .

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4 Reasons It’s Ok You’re Not Where You Want to be

 

 

We woke to white flakes on kelly green grass, and the kids squealed like they’d never seen snow. I sat for a while and watched it flutter down like a gentle foreshadowing of what’s to come.  Like most things, the novelty won’t last.

The changing seasons are an ongoing reminder to assess my life, balance my priorities, and try to make certain that my walk with God and my walk with the people I love are where they ought to be. But that’s just the question: How do you really go about assessing the subjective parts of your life?

I used to think a time would come when I’d sense that I’d arrived to some sort of long-awaited destination in my relationship with God. There have been noteworthy moments – moments that impacted eternity – but for the most part, I find myself considering that I’m not yet where I want to be.

My late teens and early twenties were mostly just a scramble to keep myself afloat. My mid to late-twenties were sparked with radical enthusiasm and devotion.  And my thirties find me settling into a pace that mostly looks like faithfully fulfilling whatever is set before me, a scarcity of spiritual mountaintop moments, and long stretches of spiritual steadiness.

Watching the first snow of the season, I decide to extend grace to myself. I decide that it’s ok that I’m not yet where I want to be, and I remind myself that none of us will “arrive” until we stand before the throne of God at the end of our earthly lives.  I consider the reality that there’s not really room to judge anyone else’s journey, and this means I don’t need to judge my own journey either.

My journey has been imperfect, and my life remains imperfect. I blow it almost as often as I get it right.  I miss opportunities to extend kindness to others.  I search for patience, and it’s nowhere to be found.  I question whether or not I’m making the impact I hoped to make when I set out on the journey.  I forget to pray.  I complain about things.  I do the exact things I don’t want to do.

In light of all these things, it’s ok that I’m not where I want to be, and here’s why:

The One Who Made Me Will Bring Me to Completion

I can trust that the Maker who knit me together in my mother’s womb won’t quit on me. He’ll finish what he started.  He’ll bring the work of my life to completion (Philippians 1:6).

Grace and Knowledge Don’t Just Show up – They Grow

2 Peter 3:18 reads, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord . . .” Every person is somewhere on a journey that leads either toward God or away from him.  Until we see him face to face, none of us have arrived to a perfected state or a perfected relationship with him.  What’s most important is that we’re continuing to grow closer and not inching ever so slowly away from him.

Endurance Leads to Maturity

According to James, trials lead to endurance, and endurance leads to a kind of maturity that leaves a person complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4). For this reason, we keep pressing through our imperfect lives and our imperfect relationships, and we trust that all of our trials will lead us to greater maturity.

God Loves Me As I Am

God’s love for imperfect people was proven once and for all at the cross (Romans 5:8). He loves me right now, at this step of my journey, just as much as he loved me in my wayward early twenties and just as much as he’ll love me on the day I enter my eightieth faithful year of walking with him.

He loves each of us where we’re at, and he’s bringing us to completion. We’re simply called to keep pressing toward him.

~~~

We run through the morning snowfall together, and the kids catch flakes on their tongues and spread their arms wide in a display of awe-struck freedom. They’re wild with life and joy, and I suppose I could learn a few things from their childlike enthusiasm.

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When Where You Are Is Not Where You Hoped to be

 

It’s a brisk autumn morning with frost on the lawn and the kids and touching it with tiny fingers and a sense of awe that somehow slips away as years slip past. I’m staring down the face of a question that’s been echoing in my mind for twenty-four hours now: Where are you?

This fall has been marked by big bumps along the usually smooth road of our lives – bumps that make us step back and appreciate the simple things of life, bumps that make us grateful to still be here together laughing and crying and kicking soccer balls across wide spans of green grass. This question – where are you? – doesn’t loom like an accusation.  It simply invites me to step outside the momentum of my days and honestly assess what’s driving my life.

This question presented itself last week when I admitted that I was afraid – afraid of what the future might hold, afraid to take the next step toward a goal, and afraid that more than one of my dreams might be on the verge of collapse. It presented itself again yesterday morning, when a friend sent a text with this very question staring at me through the screen on my phone, and it arose two more times as I watched Christine Caine share a message online.

It’s the question God asked Adam in the Garden of Eden after the apple was eaten: “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

God knows everything, and God knew where Adam was hiding. Is it possible that he asked this question so that Adam might step back and take a long, hard look at his situation, honestly assess it and give words to it?

Adam answers, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). Adam answers honestly: Afraid, naked, and hiding.

The Lord responds by first cursing the serpent who deceived Adam and Eve. He then speaks difficult words for the two people who once walked in unbroken fellowship with him: He tells the woman that he will multiply her pain in bringing forth children and make her desire for a husband who will rule over her; he tells the man that the ground is now cursed because of his sin, and in sweat and toil he will eat from the ground, and it will be filled with thorns and thistles.

I read these words while Christine Caine preaches about following the Lord, and I give thanks for the price Jesus paid on the cross. The curse of Adam is that all die, but in Christ, all shall be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22).  Jesus literally paid the price for sin by becoming the curse for us (Galatians 3:13).  He reversed the ugly scene in the garden through the sacrifice of his life.

Because of Jesus, I have confidence that when the Lord asks, “Where are you?” I can answer without a fear of condemnation. There is no condemnation in Christ.

And so on this morning, frosted window panes soaking in the dawn’s first rays of golden sun, I admit to the Lord exactly where I am. I let the sun warm my face.  I receive the truth that he loves me exactly where I am, and he promises to shine light on each step of the path in front of me (Psalm 119:105).

Some of us are afraid today. Some of us are naked and ashamed.  Some of us are filled with regret, sorrow, grief, pain, and dismay.  There is grace for all of these things.  We are simply asked to come.  We are called to draw near – just as we are – and trust that the one who began the work within our hearts will complete what he started (Philippians 1:6).

I close with a question today: Where are you?

It’s not a question about where you’re pretending to be. It’s a question for the silent moments of the day when you’re alone with your thoughts and you let yourself be honest about the circumstances of your life.  Are you too tired to keep going at this pace?  Are you hurting?  Are you indifferent?  Have you grown cold and hard?

Will you trust the Lord to meet you in that place? He already sees.  He is present.  It’s for your sake that he poses the question.  Will you let him step in and work within?

~~~

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When the Next Step Feels Scary

 

It’s late August, and the ironweed boasts deep purple blossoms among fields of green and gold. We stand at the end of the driveway with anxious hearts.  I honestly believed I’d be more nervous than our extroverted five-year-old, but it seems she’s the one with the jitters.  We review the directions to her classroom for the third time, and I remind her to focus on eating her sandwich at lunchtime and review the importance of washing her hands in the restroom.

As the engine of the school bus groans its visceral call and carries my precious firstborn to the care of people I hardly know, I’m surprised I don’t cry. Instead, I walk quietly back to the house with thoughts of her little brother asleep in his crib.  It seems this transition to kindergarten is simply a necessary part of the progression of her life, and I’m at peace about letting it unfold.

The evening is a different story. Exhausted from her first long day in the classroom, the child I’ve enjoyed for the past five years is nowhere to be seen.  Instead, an exhausted shell of a little girl crashes onto the couch with demands about juice and absolutely no desire to comply with any of my motherly requests.  She wakes up an hour later with frantic tears about the moment she couldn’t find the classroom and how scary it was and how she doesn’t want to go back.  My heart breaks just a little.

A year later, we’re staring down the face of first grade, and little Bekah is excited and only slightly nervous. She can’t wait to see the familiar faces, deliver a gift to last year’s teacher, and dive into all the fun that awaits.  I find myself remembering how scary the step into kindergarten often felt for her and how sometimes, there’s just no way around the next frightening step.

I wonder if this is how God’s people felt after wandering in the desert for four decades. They finally reach the gateway to the land he has promised for them, and the formidable Jordan River lies between the people and the land they will call home.  Joshua, their fearless leader, proceeds to command the Levites to step into the water.

These are the holy men who have been carrying the ark of God toward the Promised Land. They are set apart for special service.  They literally carry the presence of the Living God.  And they are called to step into the flowing waters of the river.

I wonder if this step was scary. I wonder if they questioned the command and if they hesitated.  They were well aware that God had the power to move the water, as evidenced forty years earlier when Moses raised his staff and the waters of the Red Sea parted.  But the waters of the Jordan showed no signs of parting, and yet they were asked to step into the river.

Sometimes we’re called to step into the next assignment before we see a comforting amount of evidence that God is working in our midst. Sometimes we’re called to step into the water when there’s no sign God’s going to part it.  Sometimes we’re called to step into a new place of ministry or a new season of life before we have confidence that God really will make a way.

While we’re not to make unwise decisions without consulting God, there are times when we must take the first step without knowing the final outcome or even seeing the immediate provision.

Feet in the swirling water, the Levites held the ark. They watched, as after the first step of faith, God performed yet another miracle with the water.  He drew the river back and provided a way across the Jordan on dry ground.  They simply had to step out in obedience for the miracle to take place.

Starting kindergarten is a large life event, but for those of us who have conquered the challenge, it now seems quite small. But we all face challenges on the horizons of our lives.  Often, the best thing we can do is pray it through, ask God for direction, seek wise counsel, line it up with the Word of God, and when all of these steps confirm the decision, step out in faith.

And so we lay out the clothes for the first day of school this year. We pack the backpack and stock the cupboards with small containers of applesauce and granola bars.  We pray for Bekah’s teacher and her classmates and the children who will be her close friends.  And we step into the water.

 

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