Tag Archives: faith

Colossians: Pray and Keep on Praying

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Colossians 1:3-14

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,[a] who is a faithful minister of Christ on our[b] behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[c] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[d] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

I did not write the lesson on this section in Colossians, but I would love to share some thoughts concerning this passage. I would encourage you to read through the passage above and record your own observations (noting key words, admonitions, tone of voice, connectives, and so on).

The first thing I noticed this time around is Paul’s very friendly and encouraging tone toward the Colossians. It reads quite differently from his letter to the Galatians for example. He also introduces us to a new name, Epaphras. New names immediately pique my interest and result in me following a rabbit trail that takes me hours to get back to my original path. In order not to take you on too many rabbit trails, I’ll simply choose a few ideas from the passage I found interesting (trust me when I say this is very hard to do for me. I’d like to pick apart every. single. verse.).

If we look at this section of the letter very broadly, we would note his common habit of giving thanks and praying for the recipients. It is a beautiful way to start a letter. I find that Paul teaches me about being thankful and how to pray for others simply by the way he writes his letters.

As I mentioned he’s very encouraging toward the Colossian believers, noting their faith and their love (v. 4, 7) which is a result of the hope (v. 5) they have in Christ {hmm…where have I seen those three qualities together before??}. He also comments on the gospel bearing fruit and increasing among them since the day they heard it and understood it (v. 5-6). I find the idea of an inanimate object being able to bear fruit very fascinating. The good news (gospel) which Epaphras spoke to the Colossians continues to produce good things among them.

I would like to look closely at the idea of faith. Webster’s 1828 defines it as “a full and affectionate confidence in the certainty of those things which God has declared and because He has declared them.” Another way to put it is an “affectionate, practical confidence in the testimony of God” or a “firm, cordial belief in the veracity of God, in all the declarations of His word.”

Perhaps it is best to point out that the power of faith depends not on the person who has the faith but on the One in whom the faith is placed. Christ is the object of our faith. Our faith has power because it is on Him, and He does not fail. C.F.D. Moule wrote this:

Regardless, the issue is not just the presence of faith, but a faith that resides in Christ. It gives the thought of reliance going forth to Christ, and reposing on Christ, so as to sink as it were into Him, and find fixture in Him; as the anchor sinks to the floor of the sea, and then into it, that it may be held in it.

To recap, Paul gave thanks for their faith and love because of hope (and this hope does not disappoint because it is also in the person of Christ who has secured glory/heaven for us). One of the ladies I teach with said this, “The validity of faith is not the fervency with which you believe, but the degree to which the object of your faith is true.”

It is in verse 9 when he switches to praying for these people he’s never even met. He asked that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. I couldn’t tell you how this happens, I only know that if he asks for it, it must be something that can happen to any believer. We can know God’s will for our lives. Isn’t that such a comforting thought? I also happen to love that he prays this for them as a father would pray for his own children to know God fully.

Hopefully you had a chance to read my post detailing the background of Colossians. You see, there was a threat of false teaching in Colossae, and those opponents were promising spiritual fullness with things that were not Christ. Paul tells the believers that true spiritual fullness can only be found in Christ alone. Just look at these verses in the letter about fullness or being filled:

1:19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell

1:25 …to make the word of God fully known

2:2 …all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

2:9 For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

2:10 and you have been filled in Him…

4:12 …stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

Christ is sufficient. (more on this later!)

Now on to verses 10-11. Paul had spoken of the gospel which was bearing fruit in the lives of the Colossians and now in verse 10 he tells them to walk in a worthy manner, being pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work…. One of my favorite teachings of Jesus (and which Paul continues) is this idea of the Vine and branches. We abide in the Vine (which is Christ), and He produces fruit in us (fruit of the Spirit for example). I realize this can be a touchy subject since too many people believe they must work really hard to be “good” and accepted by God (or whoever it is they believe they need to work for). I would clarify that it’s not so much that we work for God but that God works in us. {I feel a blog post bubbling to the surface so I had better stop at that.}

In verse 11 Paul tells them their strength comes from God. The words for strengthened and power come from the same word in our English language for dynamiteDunamei means “to make strong, strengthen” and carries the idea of making something strong that is inherently weak. Paul says this power helps us to endure and have patience with joy. Again, this is his prayer for the Colossians and gives me such encouragement knowing this can happen for me as well.

Paul wraps up this section in verses 12-14: we give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in His inheritance, He has delivered us from darkness and transferred us to His Son’s kingdom, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Now those verses are truly packed with some dynamite!

What I learned from this passage is that the words used for delivered and transferred give the idea of military conquest. In Biblical times it was common to take a people who had been defeated, uproot them from their culture and environment, and re-root them somewhere else. That is exactly what God did for us! He broke the bonds of our past life (out of darkness) to assimilate us into a new life with Him (His kingdom of light – see also 1 Pet 2:9). It’s His grace to us, because we don’t deserve a single thing He did in those verses. We have been qualified, delivered, transferred, and redeemed.

Titus: Physical vs. Spiritual

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Titus 3:3-8 – For (F)we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.But when (G)the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, (H)not because of works done by us in righteousness, but (I)according to his own mercy, by (J)the washing of regeneration and (K)renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he (L)poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that (M)being justified by his grace we might become (N)heirs (O)according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is (P)trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful (Q)to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

Paul offers a nice contrast again, following on the heels of the last section of Scripture. In the last lesson, we learned that he wanted the believers to be submissive to authorities and to be ready for good works, displaying their faith in the crooked Cretan world. In this passage he reminds them that they (including himself) too were once depraved and enslaved to their passions. Perhaps this was his way of encouraging them so that they could see their new identity and not despair or be discouraged about their former life or habits. 2 Cor 5:17 tells us that we are a new creation. We were slaves to sin, now we belong to Christ. In Eph 2:1-3 Paul also writes about the believer’s former life. We used to be “children of wrath,” and we were dead in our sins. We lived out the passions of our flesh and carried out the desires of our body. It’s just not a pretty sight, folks. But there’s always good news right around the corner.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…” There’s that appeared word again (epiphaneo). God’s goodness and love broke through as the light of dawn. And when our Savior appeared, He saved us. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

To be certain that no one forgets what their role in salvation is, Paul writes that God saved us not because of works that we do, but He saved us in His mercy. This echoes his teaching in Eph 2:8-9 – it is by grace we have been saved through faith (not of ourselves). As if this weren’t great news already, God also uses the Holy Spirit to regenerate and renew us. Regeneration is basically new birth (after all, we were dead in sins and we needed to be made alive again). This Spirit has been poured out on us richly through Christ. I don’t know about you, but the image of the Spirit being poured out sounds abundant, and then he adds the word richly, which just accentuates the lavish abundance even further! The good news just got even better.

As we keep reading, it might feel like we’ve just won the lottery (actually it’s even better than that). First Paul speaks of being justified by His grace. To be justified meant to be pardoned or cleared from guilt; to absolve or acquit from guilt and merited punishment, and to accept as righteous on account of the merits of the Savior or by the application of Christ’s atonement to the offender (Webster’s 1828). What it boils down to is that we get something we didn’t deserve. We get Christ’s righteousness in exchange for our dead, sinful lives. It’s extravagant grace. And it makes no sense.

So God declares us righteous and then raises us as His heirs. Again, this makes no sense! We become children of the King. This is the hope we have, that He has promised us an inheritance of eternal life (See also 1 John 2:25, Heb 6:17-18, 1 Cor 1:22, Eph 4:30, Eph 1:11-14).

He closes with the call to good works again. He presents quite the case for why we should be devoted to good works. It only makes sense given the gravity of all Christ has done for us! They will know we belong to Him by our fruit (good works). The works are simply the evidence of our faith. It reveals our devotion to Him. And these things are excellent (because they bring glory to God) and profitable (because they bring others to God). May we be careful to devote ourselves to good works.

Titus: Adorning the Doctrine of God

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Titus 2:2, 6, 9-10 – Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, (B)sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Likewise, urge (J)the younger men to be self-controlled. (P)Bondservants[b] are to be submissive to their own masters (Q)in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, (R)but showing all good faith, (S)so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

I was actually relieved that I didn’t have to teach this lesson due to the fact that I didn’t feel at all qualified to speak on this subject. In all reality, I didn’t feel qualified to teach any of this. But true to His nature, the Spirit speaks and reveals, teaching me as I teach others. Here’s what I learned about adorning the doctrine of God.

Older Men

I have decided long ago that I would never label who was an “older” man or “older” woman. From what I gather, men over 60 were considered “older men” on the island of Crete. I’m not sure how they determined this, but at least I didn’t come up with this number!

Paul exhorts the older men with six commands –

  • be sober-minded (calm, even, level-headed, reserved, temperate in the use of alcohol, free of selfish excess, mental alertness, vigilance)
  • be dignified (proper, reverent, respectful and respectable, honorable, above reproach, worthy of respect, noble, faithful)
  • be self-controlled (able to curb desire/impulses, disciplined, composed, sober-minded, prudent, sensible; emphasis on the application of the mind)
  • be sound in faith (steadfast in truth/Word, free from error, unwavering trust in God, pertaining to your relationship with God, under the influence of the Spirit, guided by truth)
  • be sound in love (firm love/affection, gentle, pertaining to love for God and others)
  • be sound in steadfastness (perseverance, endurance, hold firm in trials, dedicated/faithful, connected with trials/persecutions)

Sometimes it’s just as helpful to think about what these qualities do NOT look like –

  • sober-minded is NOT anxious/worried, high-stress, easily subverted by adversity, turbulent, lacking self-control, in bondage to sin
  • dignified is NOT unrefined, undignified/unbecoming, an embarrassment socially or in character
  • self-controlled is NOT out of control in mind/body, never able to say “no”, living only for pleasure, a “train wreck”
  • sound in faith is NOT unsure, doubting, questioning truth, walking in error, “tossed about”
  • sound in love is NOT harsh, unloving, hateful
  • sound in steadfastness is NOT giving up easily, buckling under affliction or pressure

I’m always curious about why Paul chooses certain qualities over others when giving a command to certain people. In this case, he chose these qualities just for older men. Why? As far as I can tell, these men are the role models in the society and must be an example of good character. Perhaps he lists these qualities to challenge the men who have trouble in these areas (being tempted to lose control or to be harsh rather than loving). Maybe their culture was one that had those kinds of temptations more so than other places. We cannot know for certain, but what we can know is that he wanted them to exhibit these qualities.

Younger Men

As for the younger men, Paul only gives Titus one command for them: urge them to be self-controlled. There it is again! Self-control. The image I was taught about the discipline of self-control is that of a race horse. The race horse has great strength, but it is bridled strength. It has the ability in its strength to run fast, but it remains submissive to its Master. Self-control, then, is not to be thought of weak but rather as bridled strength.

The believers at Crete were to look and act differently than their culture. I cannot help but think of the contrast between what the male believers should act like and what the false teachers acted like. Paul calls out the false teachers over and over again for their inability to curb their sinful appetites (problem of self-control). The people of Crete in general had a problem with self-control (liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons). Paul reminded them they all needed the Spirit’s work in their lives.

Bondservants

Most translations use the word bondservant in this passage, but this word is not one we use or have a concept of today. Other translations use the word slave. We definitely have a strong, negative connotation for that word in our culture. So what do we make of this section and this word in Scripture? It was helpful for me to see that Paul (Romans 1:1), James (James 1:1), Jude (Jude 1), Timothy (Phil 1:1), Peter (2 Pet 1:1), and John (Rev 1:1) all referred to themselves as a bondservant or slave of Christ. Other sources talk of the bondservant as being one who makes the choice to willingly submit to and stay with their master. Still others believe that the term slave is more appropriate, because it carries the idea of one who is not his own, one who belongs to someone else.

There are mixed views on slavery during the Roman times because slaves were treated differently depending on the master. Some masters were good and treated their slaves well, but just as there were horrendous slave masters in our country, many masters in Rome were harsh and unjust. Some sources said that roughly half of the people in the Roman Empire were slaves. Paul makes no commentary on the issue of slavery – whether it is right or wrong. Rather, he addresses the attitude and actions of those who found themselves in the situation of slavery (he expounds on this in 1 Cor 7:20-24 and 1 Pet 2:18). He also speaks to the slave master, Philemon, to be gracious to his runaway slave, Onesimus, when he returns to him. The issue was how these slaves would represent Christ who had made them slaves to God, freeing them from their enslavement to sin. It was about submission and obedience – both in action and in attitude. 

Paul writes that he wants the slaves to adorn the doctrine of God by being submissive and not being argumentative and so on. The word adorn is the Greek word kosmeo, where we get our word cosmetics. It meant to arrange jewels to best display their beauty. It was to make something attractive or to give credit to the object in view. The fact that Paul even mentions slaves in this letter showed everyone they had value and that their lives mattered. What is more, the way they lived their lives mattered greatly. They were to be “well-pleasing”, they should not argue or steal, they should submit. Above all, they should do these things even when their master was out of sight because as believers they had a Master who saw everything they did. Their good behavior was an adornment to display the beauty of the doctrines of God. Perhaps their good behavior would attract others to Christ.

Bridging Contexts

Whether you are an older man, younger man, or slave, your behavior should reflect the Master. This is true for the women as well. Right living matters. It matters for every person! Am I making Christ look attractive by the way I live? Would others be drawn to Christ by how I live? Does my life give credit or glory to my Master? 

A Great Light

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Why is it that darkness can seem so dark sometimes? I’m not talking about night darkness. I mean a darkness in the soul. The darkness of evil. The darkness that you can feel and yet can’t seem to escape. It’s the kind of darkness that makes you feel like it will never pass. That you’ll be stuck in the dark forever.

The darkness is so thick, that you can’t see past it. You just can’t see period.

The thing I love about God is that He is completely unaffected by the dark.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you. Psalm 139:11-12

What is more, He is unaffected by your darkness. And at any moment in time, He can shine into your darkness, removing the feeling that it will last forever, and He brings hope. A deep, abiding hope.

Have you ever wondered why in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes,

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

???

These three things are spiritual gifts. Just like someone receives the gift of teaching, so can you receive the gift of faith or hope. This is why I can pray for someone walking in soul darkness to experience God’s deep, abiding hope and know that it will happen. He’s given me the gift of faith which helps me to trust that He will bring hope where it is most needed.

Let me explain it this way. Have you ever been in a situation in which everything seemed completely hopeless or impossible to change for the better? And then suddenly or over time, your feeling changed to one of hope, despite the evidence of your “hopeless” circumstances? Your situation did not change. Your heart did. It was a gift from your Father who knows your needs and desires. He reaches down and helps you come out of your darkness.

This is easier said than done, I realize that. I too have walked in darkness at different points in my life and will likely encounter more. Thank God we don’t go through the hard times at the same exact moment. Some of us are in a pleasant season and can bring hope to those who are in a troublesome season. He gives us words to encourage one another. He gives us His truth to brighten up the dark places. Maybe He gives some of us faith and hope so that we can spread it to others who don’t feel an ounce of faith or hope.

Remember this with all your heart if you remember nothing else. He is the God who fights for His children and will not leave any of them alone in their darkness.

This may look like a sweet smile from your 3 year old. Or a call from a friend. Or a letter full of His truth. Or a memory of His faithfulness. Or any number of jewels that direct your heart to Him and away from the clutching darkness. Be on the look-out. He is there, and He is not silent.

Isaiah 9-2

Isaiah 9:2

john 1-4-5

In Him was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

Drink Him Up!

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God bless my son.

It happens in the most unsuspecting of times. A conversation that winds its way to some deep, meaningful truth.

My oldest had been telling me about how afraid he was when he woke up one morning. He said he had “the shivers” and didn’t even feel up to getting himself some breakfast. Sweet little tender heart! I had to get to the bottom of this for sure!

He explained to me that since his grandma left (she had come to stay a few weeks with us this summer), he had woken up with this intense fear of falling. And this fear made him shake all over. He just couldn’t “shake off” that feeling.

At first I started to tell him that he had nothing to fear because his bed had rails and now that he was downstairs, he most certainly would not fall from any great height. But then I remembered how I feel every time I have a weird dream that is so terrifying it wakes me. I can never think rationally in those moments. Whatever it is that I fear is so real to me that not even Paul could set a convincing argument against it. In my wild-eyed terror, I cannot shake the fear for what seems like an eternity. I have to wake up completely and let my brain’s rational functioning kick in before I realize that snakes are not indeed all over my bed.

So, as I sit across from my son who is still shaken up in his fear, I grab his hand and we sit on the floor together. I place him on my lap and wrap my arms around him, and I begin to pray. Lord wrap Your strong arms around him so that He will know You are here. Take away his fears and replace them with Your presence. Help him to look to you when he is afraid. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I proceeded to get his bowl and cereal, and as we sat together, he began to eat and to drink. I’m now watching him like a stalker, furtively glancing his way to see if anything is happening, and as he takes a drink of his ice water, I see him shiver. uh oh. I suck in my breath and wait to see what he’ll say next.

Mommy, you know what’s weird? When I took a drink of this water, the shivers went away! It’s like this cup of water is God!

Bless his heart! I had to hold in a giggle and decided to just go with it! Yes, I guess so! We want to drink Him up! We want more of God. He takes away our fears. Thank you God!

I love his simple faith. When I have my fears released, it simply must be that God did it. Amen, brother!

I thought our little talk was over, but then my son says, What is it that they call Jesus? The Living…? Living Water! He is our Living Water!

Yes, He is son. You know, there’s a story about Jesus and a woman at a well. He tells her that He has living water and that when we receive it, we thirst no more! And the crazy thing about God is even though we can drink this Living Water and not thirst, we still want to go back and get more of God. It’s like we can’t get enough of Him. Almost like we thirst for Him. So drink Him up! 

Of course I had to explain the difference between physical water and spiritual water, and a list of other terms, but I believe the message stood strong. He is the Living Water that we must drink up! Whether I’m experiencing deep-seated fears or belly-laughing joy, He is the One that I need to draw from. And His well is endless which is why I can continually go back to Him for drink after drink after drink.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Taste with the spirit. See with the spiritual eyes. He is good.

The Pursuit and the Treasure

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that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3

Why am I ever surprised at how good God is? Don’t get me wrong, I rather like being surprised in my joy for Him. He is a treasure that will never be fully known or discovered. This in itself is a very good thing because it means He is vast (Psalm 145:3) and beyond me (and I can put my trust in this One who is greater than me.). This also means He is eager for us to know Him, and He reveals Himself constantly (Jeremiah 24:7; 1 Corinthians 2:9-12; Romans 1:20; 2 Timothy 3:16), giving us the opportunity to be stricken with sheer joy and wonder as we enhance our picture of God. He shows us hues of blues and purples contrasted with the brilliant oranges and yellows. May you have moments where you find yourself utterly broken and at a loss as to how to express your love and gratitude for Him because of your realization about some new treasure hidden in Christ. It brings me to tears just thinking about it. I could tarry here forever…

This is exactly where I found myself today. I love it when God brings to memory an area in my life that was so difficult in the past, that I prayed earnestly for, not knowing how it would pan out, and shows me how He brought me through it and into a more beautiful place than I could ever imagine for myself (and what blows my mind even further is the thought that this beautiful place in which I find myself now is nothing compared to what’s to come!). It’s just so hard when you’re in that difficult season to see past the trial and to trust the One who stands with you in it. I’ve been there and no doubt will be there again. I hate those times yet am grateful for them after they pass. I love the closeness I feel to Him in those seasons, even though it is often mingled with frustration and fear and doubt. I am quick to despair that the season will never end, giving up hope that my situation can even be helped. I find myself being a Little Faith One. It’s in those times that He swoops in with the gift of faith, helping me to trust in Him though everything says it doesn’t make sense to believe He will make it right.

But not today.

Let me fill you in on my treasure discovery. I am an introvert who masquerades as an extrovert but is supremely awkward at times because of my shyness (or else I’m self conscious that I’m awkward which makes me even more awkward? It’s a vicious cycle folks.). I have always felt like it was hard for me to make friends because of this. This is one reason why it was so hard for me to leave our home in Oklahoma to follow God in a new journey. You mean I have to make new friends? Start all over again? This fear nearly matches my crippling fear of having to sing in public, I kid you not. So I had to mentally prepare myself for the long haul. I knew that it would take me about 8-10 years to make friends again, and that meant I would just have to be patient. May I first say that my family members are definitely my closest friends and my Oklahoma friends were just a phone call away, so I have never been truly alone. But there’s something about having girlfriends that I can meet with, and their kids can play with my kids. It just brings joy on a whole different level. Fast forward to today. I’m sitting in my living room, surrounded by five amazing women and about 400 kids (okay so I exaggerate, but there were a lot of kids!), and it occurs to me that I have friends. Good friends. And this was His gift to me just because He’s good.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.  Psalm 84:11

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

Please hear me when I say that it is NOT true that I only find Him good when He gives me things that feel good to my little heart. He could have left me with no friends at all. But He didn’t. I found Him good even in those times when I felt like I’d never make any friends because I knew that He was near to me, well acquainted with my grief and need for friendship. I knew that He could satisfy any needs I had. He just happened to do that with friends this time. He doesn’t withhold good from us, and the “good” can come in many forms.

You wonder what exactly the treasure is that I found? It’s His goodness and His love that pursues me with such determination, making me aware that I am His treasured daughter. I wonder if He does it for His own joy? Does He not find joy in seeing His children relish in His love? Seeing them enjoy Him? How could you not love Him? You see, the treasure isn’t the gifts He gives, although I would argue that these friends are treasures! The treasure is always Him.

What treasures have you found in Christ? Are you even looking? He’s worth the pursuit! I love how Tozer so articulately writes about the depths of God:

To have found Him and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love. A.W. Tozer.

Watch as He outpursues you while you are in hot pursuit of Him! He just won’t be outdone.

Evangelism 101: Out of the Mouth of Babes

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{Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3}

Humbled is the only word to describe it.

I have shared before that I’m a very private person. I get into the store on my mission to get out as quickly as I can, and this usually involves the duck and run method (if I don’t make eye contact with people, I won’t have to talk to them and waste precious time). But then you throw 3 boys into the mix, and well, things just don’t go as planned…ever. My oldest in particular is very sociable. He will introduce himself to anyone! He has no problems striking up a conversation with anyone of any age. It’s one of the things I like most about him because I’m just not like that. At. All.

So you’ll understand my rising anxiety when we pull up to the park, and I see a van parked there already. Sure enough, there’s a lady with 3 boys and a baby plopped down at one of the picnic tables. I quickly correct my thought process of “oh no, I might have to talk to them” to “oh good, the boys will have some friends to play with.” Because, let’s face it, that first thought is ALWAYS what comes to my mind. Don’t get me wrong, once I’m in the inevitable situation, I can manage just fine and usually end up having a great time! I have come to realize that my boys can bring such joy to people in ways that I never knew was possible. I’m learning to seek out ways to serve and be a blessing to complete strangers because I’m so often the recipient of these kinds of blessings. It’s just that it means I have to raise my head up and see people, even look them in the eyes. It means I have to get out of my selfishness and intentionally speak truth over people. And let me tell you, that’s challenging!

Back in my car, I’ve given the older boys their food to go off and find a table for us while I get the baby and the rest of our things gathered. I watch as my oldest walks straight up to the lady at the table and introduces himself (not surprised) and proceeds to ask, “do you know Jesus Christ?” My eyes grow wide.

Excuse me. What just happened here?

Did my 6 year old just start sharing the gospel before I could even unbuckle my 1 year old?

Just like that?

I am in disbelief and yet a smile comes to my face, and I lean in to try to hear her answer and his response to it. But no, I couldn’t hear anything but her response which was, “I know who He is.” That kind of struck me funny. If she really knew Jesus, I would think the answer would be much different than that. My stomach does a flip. Does this mean I’m going to end up sharing about Jesus with this woman? My oldest son made it look so easy. And this is why I’m so humbled.

I didn’t teach him this. I swear it. I never once told him, when you’re at a park and you see someone, you should ask her if she knows Jesus. It was God using a 6 year old to speak truth into a complete stranger. And bless his heart, he simply did it! No questioning if it’s the right thing or wondering if it would be awkward or worrying that he might say the wrong things. It was as natural as him asking what they were having for lunch.

Later in the car he told me that he asked her if she knew Jesus Christ because if she didn’t it would mean she wasn’t going to heaven, “and we don’t want that, because if she died, she wouldn’t go to heaven.” Uh. yeah. That’s exactly right my dear one. And why do we lose sight of that?

I wrote a post on spiritual gifts, and I know that there are people who are gifted in evangelism. I for one am not gifted in this, but I am still called to tell the story. My oldest may just have this gift, and I’m going to find every way I can to cultivate it! Just because you’ve been given a gift doesn’t mean you should throw aside the other gifts as useless in your spiritual closet. Let them challenge you as you grow more well-rounded in your faith.

I realize that it’s not completely true that we have never taught our son to share Jesus with other people. We talk to our kids about Jesus and our need for Him because we are sinners and that Jesus is the Savior. We tell them that no one can go to heaven unless they know Jesus as their Savior. We’ve given them the gospel, and God has already allowed that seed to land in fertile soil and go forth to others. Humbled.

So I guess it is that simple sometimes. Who knew that those conversations in the car could turn out to be so fruitful? Momma, keep giving them the truth. Dad, keep giving them the gospel. It doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, it can be as simple as finding out what someone is having for lunch.

I’ve Got This Sinking Feeling

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BOAT ON THE SEA

But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ Matthew 14:30

I know I am weak. Weak-hearted. Weak-minded. Weak-bodied. Oh, I’m sure I have my moments of strength just like everyone else, but I’m mostly just weak. Sometimes I’m okay with this. Other times, I get super frustrated (this is what I say to my kids so they’ll understand that I’m REALLY frustrated and not mad).

I get easily discouraged at times. This usually happens when things aren’t going my way, and though these times aren’t frequent, it’s enough to make me wilt. For example, when I play tennis, I don’t try as hard and my resolve to win weakens when I’m not hitting my shots well (and this happens to be quite frequent). Any great tennis player has learned that you not only need to be physically fit, but you also have to be mentally fit. You’ve got to learn to deal with the ups and downs. And though you have a perfect game as far as shots are concerned, you could still lose the whole match because you crumble under pressure. Weak-minded.

Then there are those times when I start my day with a cup of spilled coffee all over my workbook and with a child that is bent on doing anything opposite from what I say. Every moment after that seems to be one wrong turn after another. My spirit weakens. My lip quivers. I’m already throwing in the towel for the day. Weak-hearted.

I’ve got my eyes on the waves instead of on the One who called me out onto the waters (something which, like Peter, I requested of Him).

I wish I could be more consistently focused on Him in these fragile moments. I don’t want to be of little faith (Matthew 14:31), “incredulous, lacking confidence — in Christ” (from Strong’s). Trusting in the “Son of God” (v. 33) is truly a moment by moment choice. Jesus asks Peter why he doubted, and because I know my Jesus is not one who shames us, I think He asked it because He wanted to encourage Peter to trust Him. Jesus encourages us to have faith in Him because He is faithful. He is completely capable. It’s implicit in His question that He can be trusted. And why? Because His heart is good.

I would like to say that my struggle is not in trusting Him because I know with all my heart that He can be trusted. I like to think that my struggle is a problem of letting go and surrendering to Him. I always want to try to do it myself. But this is exactly a problem of faith. The problem is, I think that I can handle the situation better than Him. Well, that’s still an issue of questioning whether He can be trusted with the things of this life. He is more than able.

In those moments of panic and anxiety, I want to fix my eyes on the Author and Perfecter of my FAITH who can always and will always strengthen my faith in Him when I call out to Him (Hebrews 12:2). May I throw off every hindrance, and run the race set before me (Hebrews 12:1), intent on trusting Him during the moments of weakness. I think I’ll find that the weak moments get fewer because in my weakness, His power is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9). I can face the day knowing that I’m an overcomer and not defeated by the things of the world.

I’ll be able to stare hard at the waves and watch them shrink as I step into the boat with my Savior. All glory to Him.

Bragging Rights

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Family Pics '14 0150 (edit)

Have you ever taken one of those life events stress inventories? I’m pretty sure we win the biggest score this year (I’m all about winning, so don’t rain on my parade if your score is bigger!). Moving to a new state, starting a new job, starting seminary, building a new home, and having a baby are all BIG life events, and we get to check each one of them in one year’s time. It’s enough to make me want to lock myself in a closet for a week and just cry. I can’t tell you that it’s all been bad. Some of it is very exciting while other parts are frustrating and cause anxiety. But then you add to all of those BIG life events the “adventure” of learning a new location (my goodness, you people don’t know BIG until you’ve been to Houston…I’m saying….), finding a new church, and making new friends (did I mention I’m an introvert??). Someone get me a paper bag so I don’t hyperventilate.

For some reason, I’m doing fine! (well today…ask me tomorrow, I may not be so fine.) The insanity doesn’t seem so insane. That Reason is my God. Oh how I love Him.

I wrote about the blessing of the thorn as something that keeps us humble. I’d like to boast in my God for this post. He is the One who gives us good things. One of those things is faith or trust. I have seen Him turn my anxious heart into one of bold trust in Him. Here’s a simple, very real example. I am due to give birth to our third boy April 17 (can you imagine three little Farmer boys? seriously…I’m going to be one fit momma). We close on our house April 9. Now unless the medical world has come up with some medicine that miraculously allows you to have your baby whenever you want, I’m pretty sure I can’t depend on this little one to show up on his due date. I can’t even depend on him to hold off until after we get moved in. For all I know, he could come tonight. This REALLY bothered me for, oh, the last 8 months. I just want to have it my way. I would tell people at church, “Please pray that the baby comes on or after his due date!” But then I went to the doctor for my 36 week visit, and she tells me I’m already dilated and thinning out some. *GASP* Let the panic attack begin. I freaked out for a few days (packed my bags since I was so sure he’d come at any moment), but then I got wise and started to ask my friends to pray for me. Keep in mind every cell in my body and thought in my mind was set to anxiety overload. There was nothing I could do to change this, or the events that will soon take place. I was so pathetic, and yet God breathed peace into my heart and mind, allowing me to stop and rest in Him. He spoke truth over me, and I can have full assurance that whatever happens is going to be the best (and though the best may be hard, it’s still the best).

I can boast that my God is able. There’s nothing too big for Him to handle. There’s nothing too small for Him to care deeply about concerning me. He is able. (Mark 10:27; 1 Peter 5:7)

I can boast that my God is strong. In my weak moments when I lose perspective and begin to worry over the things in this life, He gives me sufficient grace so that when I’m weak, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9; Deuteronomy 11:2; Psalm 68:35)

I can boast that my God is in control. Though everything seems absolutely chaotic, and nothing feels at peace or settled, He is unshaken. His plans are perfect and nothing can disrupt them. (Psalm 33:10-11; Job 42:2; Psalm 93:1)

When I’ve “got it together”, it’s only because He’s holding me together. It has nothing to do with how spiritual I am or how good I am at handling stress. I’m a wreck without Him (just ask my children when I’ve started out in a bad mood for the morning…oh Jesus, help me…).

I just love how my God handles me when I’m a wreck. He’s no drill sergeant. He’s not interested in giving a guilt trip. He doesn’t even act disappointed that I can’t get myself together.

He’s so kind. And truthful. And compassionate.

So when I’m in negative mode, I don’t have to be down on myself and feel guilty that I’m just not trusting Him. What I should do is recognize my weakness (admission), go to Him (confession, utter dependence), ask others to pray for me (humility, intercession), and let Him do His work in my heart (sanctification).

He delights to give His children good things and to see us walk in truth (Luke 11:13; Psalm 145:9, 15-16). When we give thanks for what we receive from Him and when we know the truth of who we are, we bring glory to His name. When we have been overwhelmed by His goodness, may we be quick to turn to Him with hearts full of gratitude  and shout with joy about what He’s done.

 

Feeling Like a Foreigner

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hebrews11_13

I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to this. This place still does not feel like home. After only four months, I suppose this may be normal, but there’s something that keeps me very much unsettled.

Maybe it’s that I’m not in my own home yet. (Could the end of March take any longer??)

Maybe it’s that we’re still not completely settled into a church yet.

Maybe it’s that we haven’t gotten the chance to make friends yet.

Or maybe I’m just getting a glimpse of what we should feel like as God’s children living in a place that’s really not meant to be our home.

There’s definitely something about moving that can give you a perspective for eternity. In the deepest parts of my heart, I really don’t want to ever be comfortable in this place as long as I live. If I start feeling too comfortable, perhaps something is wrong. Maybe not wrong…but not completely right.

I’m thinking that my desire to be with Christ in heaven should make this earthly home pale in comparison. {Lord, may I never be too easily satisfied with what this world offers…} We just read from Philippians this Sunday about Paul being conflicted in himself about being with Christ or remaining on the earth with those whom he’s been able to teach (1:12-30). He said in v. 21,

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

It’s so short yet so profound. Now there’s a man who knows where his citizenship lies. Later in Philippians 3:20 Paul talks about our citizenship being in heaven and “from it we await our Savior…”.

I’m telling you, there’s nothing like being in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unfamiliar people that makes you really long to be with what’s familiar – Jesus.

Even the writer of Hebrews addresses this in the famous “hall of faith” chapter (11:13-16):

13 These [Old Testament believers] all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.”

Sigh.

I’m so beyond grateful that He is my home.

When I’m with Him, I’m home. No more feeling like a foreigner. No more feeling unsettled in the unfamiliar. His Word gives me hope as I look forward to that home He’s preparing for me. In the meantime, I can look to Him and sink into those familiar arms, trusting that anything from Him is better than anything here.