Sunday, May 20, 2018

What Determines if Faith Fails or Thrives?

In church today God reminded me of a dream I had last night.  Friends of ours recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the adoption of their daughter from Colombia.  When they adopted her, she was less than a year old, and very small for her age; however, now she is healthy and strong!  In my dream, my friends posted "before" and "after" photos on social media and said their daughter had gone, "from the 3rd percentile to the 97th percentile!"  

In case you don't know, when a young child has a check up, the doctor will measure them (height, weight, head circumference) and let you know how your child compares to other children of the same age.  50th percentile is average.  If your child was in the 3rd percentile, that would mean 97% of other children their age are bigger than them (this would be a serious situation and could mean failure to thrive.)  "Failure to thrive is defined as decelerated or arrested physical growth (height and weight measurements fall below the third or fifth percentile, or a downward change in growth across two major growth percentiles) and is associated with abnormal growth and development."*  Conversely, if your child was in the 97th percentile they would be bigger than all but 3% of the kids their age. 

Now these were not actual, real life numbers for our friend's child, and I asked God, what does this dream mean?  I thought about our friend's child: what has made all the difference in her life?  It is about position, relationship, and love.  She has come into a family where she is a daughter.  While she was well cared for until she was placed, there is nothing that will replace the importance of being in a family.  Of being someone's daughter.  Of having someone(s) look at you everyday and tell you how special you are.  This change of position, being placed in a family, put her in a place of relationship.  Being in a place of relationship made her a recipient of love.  For the last year, her growth has been both physical and emotional.  While she has been consuming food and nourishment, she has also grown because she has been a consumer of love.  She has had love poured out on her, and like a little sponge she has just soaked it up.  This is why she is so healthy now.

I felt like God was saying that there are many people who, in their faith, would be like that "before" picture of the child in my dream.  If the physician were to examine their faith, he would have to put this label on them: "Failure to Thrive".  They feel like living the life of faith is such a struggle.  Why do they feel so sick and weak and unable to grow?  It comes down to three things: position, relationship, and love.  These are children of God, but they do not realize the position they have.  They are living as orphans, trying to make it in life on their own, but all the while papa is right there.  Their position (your position) as a believer, is that you have been adopted into God's family.  Your position has changed from where you were, or would be, in the world.  You have been brought into a place of relationship.  You have a papa who loves you.  He adores you.  He looks at you everyday with love in his eyes and admiration for the work of art that you are.  (After all, he made you, right?)

If faith has been a struggle for you, God wants you to move from the 3rd percentile to the 97th percentile!  It is time to move from feeling weak and frail to being healthy and strong in the faith.  How do you get there?  It's time to live from a position of relationship and soak up the love the father has for you.  Come to him like a little child and soak up all the love he has for you.  Be like a sponge, spend as much time as you can with him and just keep soaking and soaking up that love, and then soak some more.

"15 Listen to the truth I speak: Whoever does not open their arms to receive God’s kingdom like a teachable child will never enter it.” 16 Then he embraced each child, and laying his hands on them, he lovingly blessed each one." (Mark 10, Passion translation)

"You’re like children still needing milk and not yet ready to digest solid food. 13 For every spiritual infant who lives on milk is not yet pierced by the revelation of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, whose spiritual senses perceive heavenly matters. And they have been adequately trained by what they’ve experienced to emerge with understanding of the difference between what is truly excellent and what is evil and harmful." (Hebrews 5)

God Bless You,

*source: Stanford Children's Health

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Prodigal Path

The story of the "Prodigal Son" is familiar to many.  A young man asks his father for his inheritance now, goes out and wastes it all by diving head first into bad choices.  Destitute, desperate,  and ashamed, he returns to his father's house, only to be welcomed with open arms.  I think there are some overlooked insights to be found in this story that would be important for anyone who may have a prodigal in their life. 

Whether it is your child or someone else you care about, watching someone on the prodigal path is heart breaking.  It can make you feel helpless and frustrated.  There may be times when you think, "Maybe this prodigal is never coming back."  Like the father in the story, you watch at the road, and you strain your eyes from seeking for the return.  You constantly are scanning, hoping, wishing to see something that will tell you the prodigal is coming down the road that leads back home.

I notice that the story doesn't mention the father ever sent delegations to find his son.  He didn't send out messengers telling his son he needed to come back home.  Maybe it happened and is not mentioned here, but I get the feeling that the father released his son to his own free will.  He had communicated his love to him while he was at home, and now that the son decided he wanted something or someplace else, the father let him go. 

This doesn't mean he gave up on him.  No, I believe this father held fiercely onto hope.  It was this hope that prompted him to actively scan the horizon every day.  I believe he had already rehearsed over and over in his mind what he would do and say when (not if) his son came back home. Like this father, instead of clinging to people and trying to change them, we should cling to hope, God's goodness, and his promises.  Release people to make their own choices.

I imagine what it would have been like if the father had pursued the son, pressuring him to return.  I believe it would have only pushed the son farther away.  I'm not trying to say we sit idly by while people walk off a cliff.  We warn people about the gravity of their decisions and where their choices are leading them.  However, once warned, we must let them own their own choices and live out the consequences of those choices.

I heard it said once, "Too many people wish for the end of the story when they are in the middle of the story."  This thought has many applications.  In the case of the prodigal, often we wish for the end of the journey, when the prodigal is still in the middle of the journey.  If we attempt to create a shortcut in the process, the end results could be disastrous.  Everyone's path or journey is unique to them and we must allow them to experience it fully.  We must allow time and space for God to work on the inside- the heart- and not just wish for change on the outside.

God, give us the strength to relinquish to you all that we have or desire, and to trust you with the outcome.  Help our desires to be set on you, and not on what we want to see you do.  Give us the power to hold on to hope and to focus on your goodness in our lives.  Silence the lies of the enemy: whispers of fear and worry and discouragement.  Let us hold fast to your promises and your character and let us walk by faith, and not by sight.  We will be sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see, because we trust in your goodness.  We believe that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, and we release all of our desires to you and ask for your kingdom to come and your will to be done.  We are on our own journey with you Lord, and we are not responsible for anyone else's journey besides our own.  Help us to lean closer to you and to grow deeper roots, deeper faith.  We know who you are God, and we will not be shaken.

God Bless You,

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Sacredness of Waiting

There are moments when truth just hits you.  Sometimes, I will be listening to a sermon, and the Holy Spirit will take something that wasn't a main point at all, and make it a main point for me.  This morning my pastor was beginning his sermon about "A King is Born" and he mentioned how between the Old Testament and the New Testament there was a gap of 400 years.  The people of God had the prophesies and promises of the messiah to come, and then there was silence.  At that moment the thought came into my mind, "Then they had nothing except the promises of God to hold on to."  I felt a solemn sacredness about this.  Even now as I type it I can sense the powerful, holy truth that is there.  What a blessed thing it is to be in a place where you have nothing except the promises of God to hold on to.  This is waiting on the Lord.  This is faith.  It is trust.  It is hope.  And I sense even right now that being in that place is a holy, holy place to be.

However, it does not always "feel" holy or sacred.  Sometimes it feels scary.  I am sure that the people of God felt fear at times during those 400 years.  They went through terrible things, and I imagine they wondered, "God where are you?"  The waiting place can feel like betrayal.  As in, "God I thought you would be here by now, or do this by now, and you haven't.  I put my trust in you and it hasn't worked out like I thought it would.  You let me down."  That's just being honest right there. 

There are many temptations in the place of waiting.  Temptation to doubt God, to doubt his goodness, to doubt his power, to doubt his love, to doubt that he's listening or cares.  Temptation to feel discouragement, self pity, or anger.  Temptation to blame others, or ourselves.  Or how about the temptation to get out of the waiting place and try to come up with what we think we need on our own?

Yet, God calls us to the waiting place.  He doesn't place us in a dark room by ourselves.  We are NOT being punished.  No, in the waiting place is where, if we will still ourselves and focus on him, we can see that he is still there.  He holds our hand.  He sits with us.  He doesn't offer answers or explanations, but he whispers, "I am here."  The waiting place may be dark, but so is the womb.  It can be a place of growth and development, if we allow it to be.  And, just the like the womb, the waiting will not last forever.  In due time, God will bring about what he has promised. 

The 400 years the people of God waited was all so that at just the right time the messiah would be born.  It was not because God was callous to their cries.  It was not because they hadn't mustered enough faith yet or made themselves worthy enough yet.  It was because of the purposes of God.

There may be an area of your life right now where you feel like God is silent.  You may feel like there is a circumstance in which God has left you in the waiting place.  I cannot gaurantee for you what the outcome of that situation will be, but I can guarantee that if you will allow the waiting place to be where you draw nearer to God and more dependent on him, you will be in the exact right place to receive the answer you are looking for.

Believe for your miracle.  Trust in God and his promises.  Lean into hope and faith.  Press into prayer.  Serve others.  Most of all, make sure your heart is set on pursuing God- not just on getting the answers you want.  His highest goal for you is to make you more like Jesus, because in so doing you become a light to draw more people back to the Father.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.

He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.

Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:27-31

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end  and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come
and will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:3

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. 
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27: 13-14

Commit your way to the Lord; 
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him
Psalm 37: 6-7

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33: 20-22

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me.

Micah 7:7

God Bless You,

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Who is Hearing My Prayers?

This morning I woke up early- for some unknown reason my body decided that I was done sleeping.  I am in the middle of a few days where I have purposed to set aside some things in order to focus on prayer for our nation.  (You can find out more about this national call to  prayer and fasting by clicking over to TheCall.)  So I said in my mind, "Ok God, if you want me to pray right now, I will pray."  I proceeded to pray silently, inside my mind as I lay there in bed. (I was tired, remember...)  It wasn't too long into my prayer time that I started to think about what I was doing- this silent praying.  I thought about Jesus, and how he prayed.  I know he prayed silently sometimes, but whenever he was confronting something, whether it be disease, demons, or death, he prayed out loud.  Paul, Peter, the rest of the apostles?  I can only think of examples where they prayed out loud.  I then thought about confrontation.  When we need to confront someone, how effective is it if we only confront them silently in our head?  It's not.  In order for effective confrontation to happen there has to be verbalization.

Much of our prayer life is spent in confrontation.  We may be confronting lack, fear, stress, hopelessness, sickness, relationship issues, despair, etc.  All of those requests on your prayer list, all of those things you are interceding for, it's confrontation.  We are confronting the devil and his plans and declaring God's truth and God's kingdom over the situation.  Yes, God hears your prayers when you pray silently, but its time for the devil to hear your prayers too!  Beyond this though, there is supernatural power attached to our words.  

God made mankind in his image, we are created in his likeness.  When God speaks, the world is created.  The spoken word has power.  As his image bearers we too carry power in the words we speak.  When Ezekiel was confronted with a valley of dry bones, this is what God said to him:

Then he told me to speak (prophesy) to the bones and say: “O dry bones, listen to the words of God, for the Lord God says, ‘See! I am going to make you live and breathe again! I will replace the flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you shall live and know I am the Lord.’”
So I spoke these words from God, just as he told me to; and suddenly there was a rattling noise from all across the valley, and the bones of each body came together and attached to each other as they used to be. Then, as I watched, the muscles and flesh formed over the bones, and skin covered them, but the bodies had no breath. Then he told me to call to the wind and say: “The Lord God says: Come from the four winds, O Spirit, and breathe upon these slain bodies, that they may live again.” 10 So I spoke to the winds as he commanded me, and the bodies began breathing; they lived and stood up—a very great army.  (Ezekiel 37:4-10, TLB)

In the same way Jesus spoke to the wind and the waves and told them to, "Be still!" (See my previous blog post for more about storms!) We are to speak to life's situations and command them to line up with the word of God.  What does God's word say about your situation?  Speak it over that situation and believe for God to do what his word says.  

There is also something supernaturally faith-building and encouraging that happens when we hear ourselves speak faith over a situation.  The fact is, how we speak about something affects how we think about it.  And how we think about it affects how we feel about it.  Your whole perspective can change when you align your words with God's.

If praying out loud is not already your habit, I want to encourage you to start praying out loud as much as possible
Proverbs 18:21 "The tongue has the power of life and death"
Psalms 71:8 "My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long."
Matthew 21:21 "Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”

God Bless You,

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sometimes He Calls Us into the Storm

I was listening to this song today, and it made me think about the story where Jesus sent his disciples ahead of him, to cross a windy lake. 

Matthew 14:22-33 Living Bible (TLB)
22 Immediately after this, Jesus told his disciples to get into their boat and cross to the other side of the lake while he stayed to get the people started home.
23-24 Then afterwards he went up into the hills to pray. Night fell, and out on the lake the disciples were in trouble. For the wind had risen and they were fighting heavy seas.
25 About four o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water! 26 They screamed in terror, for they thought he was a ghost.
27 But Jesus immediately spoke to them, reassuring them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said.
28 Then Peter called to him: “Sir, if it is really you, tell me to come over to you, walking on the water.”
29 “All right,” the Lord said, “come along!”
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
31 Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and rescued him. “O man of little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 And when they had climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.
33 The others sat there, awestruck. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

I was thinking to myself, Jesus may have known that a storm was going to come and he sent his disciples into it anyways.  There was another time the disciples were faced with a storm, with Jesus sleeping in the boat this time.

Mark 4:35-41 Living Bible (TLB)
35 As evening fell, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took him just as he was and started out, leaving the crowds behind (though other boats followed). 37 But soon a terrible storm arose. High waves began to break into the boat until it was nearly full of water and about to sink. 38 Jesus was asleep at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. Frantically they wakened him, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to drown?”
39 Then he rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet down!” And the wind fell, and there was a great calm!
40 And he asked them, “Why were you so fearful? Don’t you even yet have confidence in me?”
41 And they were filled with awe and said among themselves, “Who is this man, that even the winds and seas obey him?”

Sometimes God may call us into a storm.  Sending us into the storm does not make him unkind or uncaring.  We may not know all the reasons for why we are in the storm, but the ultimate reason would be for His glory to be shown.  If you feel like you are in a storm I wanted to encourage you: its OK.  God sees you.  He knows.  He knows it's hard and how you are struggling to keep your boat upright in the midst of the wind and the waves.  He knows you're bailing hard and it really does feel some times like this boat is going under and everything will be lost.  In spite of how you feel, it is possible to keep trusting in God.  It is possible to praise Him.  It is possible to believe for light in the midst of darkness.  Remind yourself of who God is, not how big your storm is.  Remind yourself of the love and care that he has for you. The best way to do this is spending time in His word and in worship and prayer. 

Sometimes we really do feel like those disciples, we're about to sink and we wonder, "God, don't you even care?"  And God's patient reply is once again (after all you've seen, after all you've learned), "Don't you even yet have confidence in me?"  What has God brought you through already?  Remember where you have been.  And remember where you are going. 

The lyrics to the song "Captain" can be seen in this video, please watch it:

Hold on friend.  Every storm will eventually pass.  It won't last forever.  Peace will come.

God Bless You,

P.S.  If you want to read more thoughts about being in a storm, you can read my previous blog posts here (Part 1) and here (Part 2). 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Easy, Inexpensive Solution for Storing Christmas Tree Lights

This is outside of what I normally post about, but I came up with an idea that I think is very helpful!  A simple, cheap, effective way to store your Christmas tree lights- just what I needed!  Maybe I had seen this somewhere else previously, because Google tells me that I am not the only person to have this idea, but none the less, I want to share it with you.  Did you save your empty paper tubes from all the rolls of wrapping paper you used at Christmas time?  If you did, they are going to come in handy for you right now.

Trim your paper tube down to about 18 inches (you don't have to, but it makes it easier to handle).

One one end cut a slit, about 1 inch (mine's closer to 2 inches, but 1 inch is all you need).

Now you start taking the lights off the tree.  Begin by placing the plug end inside the tube through the slit.

Next, you just start wrapping the string of lights around the tube, doesn't matter how it's spaced out, but should be taught against the tube.  I'm starting at the bottom and wrapping up towards the top of the tube as I go along.

Once it reaches the top of the tube you just use your hand to push it down, so the strings are now all close together.

Repeat until you have gotten to the end of the string of lights.  The nice thing about this method is that if you are taking down the tree by yourself (like I was) and your tree is up against a wall, it is easy to just place the tube on a branch on the back of the tree and walk around to the other side and pick it up (passing yourself the baton, so to speak).

When you get to the end of the string of lights, put another slit in the top end of the tube (just like you did for the bottom of the tube) and tuck the plug in.
Voila!  I did this for three strings of lights from our tree.  This was very easy, very fast, and these lights are going to be neat and ready to put up on my tree when I take them out of storage next year!

Monday, January 18, 2016


On my recent airline flight home from Rwanda, I re-watched a not-so-new movie called Tuck Everlasting.  In this movie, the Tuck family finds a large tree in the forest.  At the base of this tree is a pool of water.  The whole family is thirsty and drinks fully of the water.  Slowly they discover this water held a secret: immortality.  They no longer age, and they are unable to die or be mortally wounded.

Recently I have felt as though the enemy of my soul has taken aim at my heart and shot me through.  He is a wise adversary.  He takes note of where it will hurt us most, and that's right where he hits.  He wants to take us out- completely.

However, I am reminded of a scene in the movie Tuck Everlasting, where the young men are shot, and should be dead.  They are knocked down, but because they are immortal they cannot be killed, so they get back up again & they keep going.

It is the same for us.  For those of us who have eaten of the Tree of Life, we have accepted God's everlasting gift.  We drank fully of the Living Water found there, and we have been changed.  We no longer can be taken out by the enemy.  We are now immortal.  The enemy will still take aim, in fact even more so because he hates the family we belong to now.  We will be hit.  We will fall down, and we will bleed.  But we will get back up again, and we will keep going.  We will reach our destination and receive our reward. 

No weapon formed against us will prosper!  Nothing can take us out.  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!

If you have felt under attack, take heart!

Isaiah 54 (The Message translation)
You’ll be built solid, grounded in righteousness,
    far from any trouble—nothing to fear!
    far from terror—it won’t even come close!
If anyone attacks you,
    don’t for a moment suppose that I sent them,
And if any should attack,
    nothing will come of it.
I create the blacksmith
    who fires up his forge
    and makes a weapon designed to kill.
I also create the destroyer—
    but no weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged.
Any accuser who takes you to court
    will be dismissed as a liar.
This is what God’s servants can expect.
    I’ll see to it that everything works out for the best.”
        God’s Decree.

Romans 8 (The Message) 
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

Yes, take heart and be brave!  Take courage and do not be afraid!