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Mustard-seed

I read these words the other day: Doubt does not discredit faith – disbelief does.

If we’re being truly honest, I hazard it’s impossible to be human and live without doubt. For some, the admission of doubt may seem unholy. I prefer to think that it’s impossible to have faith without it. Indeed there would be no need. But we mustn’t confuse doubt with disbelief. If, on occasion, we are assaulted with uncertainty, it doesn’t equate to a complete lack of faith.

I love this passage where a father brings his son to Jesus to be healed. The father’s honesty is striking:

…the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

~ Mark 9:24

His words seem so contradictory, but we can just as easily echo his sentiment. We believe not because we have all the answers, not because all the things of God make perfect sence, or because we have seen Him with our own eyes. We believe because we came to a point that disbelief was no longer an option. That enough of this love story stretched across the dividing line between reason and experience and penetrated our hearts, that whatever else was left (the doubt) became secondary. Then, we leaped from disbelief to faith.

For some, that leap requires much more effort. The gap to God can seem so vast. It’s often blockaded not only with a plethora of doubt, but others things too. Things like hurt, pain, pride, reason, disillusionment, and distortions of God’s true character. It makes finding – and often keeping – faith an extraordinary act of will. But it took more than that. It took an extraordinary act of love.

Jesus broke through the hurt, the pain, the pride, human reason, disillusionment, distortion and doubt to reach us. Into all the confusion, He injected love. Love so pure, so real, so sweet and unconditional that our hardened hearts and stiff resolve softened. All the things that seemed so dear, so certain, so important, paled in significance. That’s where faith had a fighting chance.

It didn’t mean we had all the answers, but rather that what we did have was enough. Enough to understand the truth of our circumstance and what could be done about it. And so, with our mustard seed faith, we reached out to the open arms that were there long before we were: arms extended on the cross, and then wide and waiting with massive expectation. All at once we were enfolded, engulfed, consumed, and filled.

It didn’t mean that we would never doubt again, that we had all the answers, that our faith was rock solid, or we ourselves were unshakable. It didn’t mean that some circumstances wouldn’t bring us to our knees, or to the brink of a darkness so complete our eyes of faith grew dim. It simply meant that, at one point, we began a journey by placing our trust in the One who can be trusted. It meant that ever since, we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) by putting one foot in front of the other to find firm ground beneath our feet, even when we can’t see one foot ahead.

Some questions will be answered. Others will remain a mystery this side of heaven and preside in the wobbly area of faith. Even now, we may have doubts, questions, and confusion, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have faith. It means we require it. It means if we don’t let it go, our faith will grow.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 

 

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  1. In what ways has your faith been tested? What has made it stronger?
  2. It’s okay to doubt. God is not threatened by our doubts and questions. Bring them to Him knowing some will be answered and others will require faith this side of heaven.

 

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Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. ~ Jesus

roots

A young mom recently asked me, “How can I do some deep work with God?”

What a beautiful question! I picture God smiling ear-to-ear over His kids who are seeking a climb-up-on-His-lap kind of intimacy.

I mentioned some ways to grow closer to God, such as setting time aside each day to read His word, prayer, and keeping a prayer journal, but thought it deserved a more thoughtful answer. Below are some of the specific ways that have helped me enrich my relationship with the Lord. I write them here as an encouragement to you.

  1. Read and study the Bible. Approach God’s word expectantly. What I mean by this is when you sit down to read the Bible, expect to hear from God. If a verse stands out to you, write it in a prayer journal or underline it in your Bible. Memorization also helps to hide His word in your heart for future use and timely encouragement.
  2. Pray.  Both the fall-on-your-knees and cry out to God kind, and the breath-by-breath throughout the day kind. Pray away from the crowds – just you and God, but also with other faithful, believers who expect God hears and answers in miraculous ways.
  3. Keep a prayer journal. I use my prayer journal to write prayers to God. In it I tell Him about what I’m struggling with, significant requests, and verses that stand out to me. It is amazing to look back and see God’s faithfulness documented and dated.
  4. Listen. Be still long enough to hear God’s hallowed in-between reply. The whisper in your spirit from His. The knowingness that God passed by and you didn’t miss the exhale of His Spirit releasing reassurance, peace, or a drop of deeper understanding. Let His voice be the loudest in your life.
  5. Praise.  Tell God how much you love Him. Be mindful of His many attributes. Speak, sing, dance, play, paint, or write your exclamations of praise – your worship to Him. Use your gifting for His glory. Your joyful offering pleases God and fortifies faith.
  6. Go to church. “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) Go to church to hear God’s word, to be encouraged, to meet with His saints and worship together. Meet regularly with other believers outside of the church walls too. Hear their victory stories, pray for them in their struggles, and love them.
  7. Choose/Practice forgiveness. “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15) Jesus did it, so must we. It is a choice; a determined effort. It’s hard, they may not deserve it, but doing so frees us to live in the fullness of love and abundance Jesus died to give us.
  8. Be thankful. Don’t forget to thank God for ALL He has allowed in your life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. All of it is being used to form you into Christ-likeness. Nothing  is wasted. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18) Even in the middle of the largest battle, we can choose thankfulness, and even in the midst of the most mundane moments we can be thankful.
  9. Choose joy. It can be found in the most heartbreaking, painful situations or can be chosen in the monotony of the day-to-day. Joy that isn’t based on circumstances but is rooted in faith that, no matter what, the God of the universe has “got” this and everything else. Choosing joy changes the atmosphere both within and without.
  10. Find a mentor/Be a mentor. Walk alongside a trusted someone who is a little further on in their journey than you. Learn from them, hear their stories, be encouraged by their triumphs and failures. Do the same for another newer or younger believer. We were not meant to walk alone.
  11. Serve and care for those in need. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (James 1:27) Some sacrifice and inconvenience will be required, and you will be reminded that it’s not all about you, but your time and care will be priceless and of eternal value.
  12. Persevere. No matter the hardships, the fiery trials, the repeated mess-ups, the hurt, harm and misunderstandings, do not let anything or anyone come between you and God. Don’t let the truth of how precious and loved by God you are be stolen from you. You will, at times, be a partaker in Christ’s sufferings (see 1 Peter 4:12-14), but stay the course to end and great will be your reward (see Matthew 5:10-12).

I bless you as you do some deep work with God. 

He does great things past finding out. ~ Job 9:10

This past weekend, a home school group I work with put on a production of Robin Hood. Like all plays, there are people who work tirelessly in the background to make the magic of theatre happen. I think especially of the stagehands dressed in black, who move silently between the stage and backstage to make sure everything makes it to where it needs to be. If they are good at what they do, no one ever sees them, they merely see the results of what they’ve done: a chair moved onstage here, a tree shifted there.

 

The above verse reminds me that God is always working behind-the-scenes in our lives, whether we notice it or not. It is amazing to think that God is doing “great things” beyond our wisdom and understanding, and sometimes even beyond our ever knowing. Incredibly, He doesn’t do this because of anything we’ve done, He does it because He loves us – a dear Father ensuring all the pieces of our lives are moved appropriately in and out at just the right moment; a loving Dad performing innumerable kindnesses for us, many of which we will never be aware of this side of heaven.

 

If we do happen to recognize His grace, this verse notes we may not be privy to just how He accomplished it. We may never see how He stirred a heart, calmed a storm, thwarted a calamity, or allowed so many other seemingly coincidental events. But, if we do, we are ever grateful.

 

Yet there are times the “great things” He does don’t appear all that great, and it’s challenging to be thankful for what He allowed. But with a smidgen of faith and a mite of courage, we can believe for what we cannot see and know that God is good, even when the shifting and shuffling around of things in our lives may not feel good.

 

Be encouraged. You are intimately loved and cared for by the God of the universe. He doesn’t miss the smallest detail, He is never surprised, never forgets, and there is nothing beyond His understanding and wisdom. Look for the “great things”, the “grace things” He has positioned in your life – even the challenges are disguised blessings – and thank Him for all He has done.

 

Be blessed to see the great things God has done, and is doing, in your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. ~ Deuteronomy 31:8

When I was in grade school, I recall writing a short story (yes, I was stunningly creative even then). I felt exceedingly proud of the gripping plot I had created, but my teacher didn’t appreciate my genius. She informed me that the ending was unsatisfactory. One of the main characters died.

My husband read my last devotional and, being the most honest critic I have, mentioned that I might not have provided a very hopeful ending to my readers – which would imply I normally do! His comment reminded me of that grade school teacher (if you’re reading this, Honey, no offense) who wanted, like most of us, everything wrapped up in a tidy bow.

We all like happy endings. Revisiting the devotional I wrote last week, I wanted to add some disclaimers, not only because I love my husband and value his opinion, but because I should probably stick to the theme of my byline which says, “Words to encourage faith, hope and love.” I can’t promise a neat, tidy ending, but I can expand on “God, My Help” and tell you the things I didn’t tell you…

I didn’t tell you that while my anger toward God was real, it wasn’t the shake-your-fist-at- the-sky sort, but rather the perplexed wonderings of why, the frown of a child whose parent said no, the quiet resignation and turning away of a daughter whose Father doesn’t seem fair, and the silence of puzzling over the new normal after the trauma of loss, while trying to remain a decent human being to those around her (aka: not bite their heads off).

I didn’t tell you about the surprise element in the furnace story either (I’m sure you’ve read Daniel 3 by now because I hinted you should), as if it’s not surprising enough that the fellows didn’t get burnt to a crisp. The Lord was with them in the fire! And He was with me too, as He is with you in your scorching furnace. Even though I felt abandoned because of the perceived lack of leading, I’m beginning to see I was being led but didn’t know it. Or maybe I didn’t want to see it because I prefer a more reasonable climate (furnaces aren’t really my thing). But scorching places refine and make beautiful, even though I felt uglier than ever. And, like the furnace fellows, I too went through the fire and lived to tell about it.

Finally, I didn’t tell you that “the LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Maybe that’s why, despite that I was disappointed and partially prayerless, I had a sense that God understood and was patiently waiting for me. He understood because He was there with me the whole time, at every turn. And He is with you too. He sees to the depth of our being and is faithful even when we aren’t.

Though the” happy ending” isn’t what I imagined and prayed for – there’s a high probability it’s better. I’m just not wise enough to see it yet. And though I may never figure out this side of heaven why God let it happen, it comes back to trust. Once again, God is asking us to trust Him even when we don’t have all the answers. Even now, “God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.” (Psalm 54:4) And as it turns out, God is not only my help, He is with me, walking ahead of me, never leaving me, and encouraging me to not be afraid.

Be blessed to know that God hasn’t left you. He is with you, even now.

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