Running (Adventures in Faith series)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Heb 12:1

You are a runner.

Our race started the moment we received Christ, and we will cross the finish line when we reach our heavenly home.

How’s your race going?

Are you . . .

  • getting weary?
  • tired of persevering?
  • slowing down?
  • feeling cast down?
  • wanting to give up and give in?

Take heart and gain courage from remembering the Apostle Peter’s example.

From the time Peter became a disciple of Jesus to the day of His death, he was running and encouraging others in running their own race.

What can we learn from his example:

  • He didn’t go it alone; he partnered with others in both life and ministry.
  • He didn’t run from opposition or run away from conflict.
  • He embraced trials and persecution as realities of this faith journey.

As I read a summary of Peter’s life, I was struck by this last paragraph on BiblePath.com

Of the final days of the apostle Peter in Rome, Italy, Jowett wrote that Peter was cast into a horrible prison called the Mamertine.  For nine months, in absolute darkness, he endured monstrous torture manacled to a post.  In spite of all the suffering Peter was subjected to, however, he converted his jailers, Processus, Martinianus, and forty-seven others.

Peter met his death at the hand of the Romans in Nero’s circus, 67AD.

In utter darkness as he endured unimaginable torture, Peter was a witness to 50+ people who we’ll see in heaven because of Peter’s faithfulness in finishing his race of faith strong.

One of the most eye-opening, faith-focusing publications I receive every month is The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter. It details accounts of our own brothers and sisters around the world who are faithfully running their race in the midst of impossible odds and unimaginable torture and loss. If you don’t already receive this free publication, I encourage you to sign up for it.

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Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. – 1 Cor 9:24

Photo on Flickr by jacsonquerubin

Healing (Adventures in Faith series)

When is the last time you had a broken wing?

Jesus heals;

may we receive all the healing and freedom He has for us.

It’s such a simple and miraculous truth, yet how few of us actually embrace and venture down the path to healing Jesus has for each of us.

Could it be that Jesus’ healing of a vast variety of seen physical ailments during His time on earth was a mirror of all the unseen wounds we carry — emotionally, relationally, and spiritually — that He longs to heal deep within in us?

I love the story of Bartimaeus.  Before telling us his name, the account in Mark tells us the description by which he was known by:

a blind man

Then we are introduced to what he does:

sitting by the roadside begging

Bartimaeus sat outside of Jericho begging — asking travelers leaving the city to help him out with food, money, whatever they were willing to give.

But today, it wasn’t just any traveler passing by; it was Jesus, His disciples, and followers leaving the city.

When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. – Mark 10:47-52

Notice the question that preceded almost every healing Jesus performed during His time on earth:

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Bartimaeus’ physical blindness, and for that matter our emotional, relational, and spiritual wounds, are obvious to Jesus. . .

and yet He waits . . .

for us to acknowledge our brokenness and our need for healing.

Do you have a broken wing?

What pathway to healing has Jesus been directing you towards?

What do you want Jesus to do for you?

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds. – Ps 146:7-8; 147:3

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. – Is 61:1-3

For more on this topic, read Dr. Angela Bisignano’s post Healing is Empowering

Photo on Flickr by amandajane

Existing (Adventures in Faith series)

Have you ever felt like you were just existing in your faith?

Remember Joseph:

  • Betrayed by his brothers & sold to slave traders at the age of 17
  • Spent 11 years in Potiphar’s house and then 2 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit: Potiphar’s wife’s accusation that he had tried to violate her was believed
  • While in prison, he interpreted the Pharoah’s chief cupbearer and chief baker’s dreams.    And although Joseph urged the chief cupbearer to not forget him in prison, Genesis 40 ends:

The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

Joseph could describe his first 30 years of life with:

  • Misunderstood
  • Ridiculed
  • Ganged up against
  • Cruelly betrayed by his brothers
  • Abandoned by his family and friends
  • Recipient of the short end of the stick
  • Receiver of circumstances that led to lost opportunities
  • Mistreated
  • Wrongfully accused
  • Forgotten

Which of those descriptors fit your life?

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You know better than I; You know the way.

I’ve let go the need to know why, for You know better than I

It is both an epiphany and a point of acceptance that Father is ever bringing us to in our valleys of existing.

There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope. – Hosea 2:15

The second son he named Ephraim (twice fruitful) and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” – Gen 41:52

In our valleys of existing, we always have a choice:

  • To exist in bitterness, short-sightedness, despair, fear, and regret

OR

  • To accept our portion and our cup (Ps 16:5), and participate with Father in both the hope and the fruit that He has planned to bring forth from both our valleys of trouble and our lands of suffering

In our love of quoting Romans 8:28, we often forget verse 29:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…

We’ve been called according to His purpose.

And one of His greatest purposes in our lives is to conform us to the likeness of His Son, Jesus.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered – Heb 5:8

Joseph became overseer to Pharaoh at the age of 30.

He saved not only his family but all of Egypt from perishing in a 7 year-long famine.

His reflection to his brothers when they asked his forgiveness for selling him to slave traders as a 17-year-old:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. – Gen 50:20

Your existing . . . but God intended it for good.

Hang in there.  Be a blessing.  Be fruitful in the land of your suffering.

Photo on Flickr by xtnsgo

Waiting (Adventures in Faith series)

What is the longest you’ve waited for Father to carry out a promise He has spoken over your life?

In my post, Doubting His Trustworthiness from my 5 Pitfalls series I reflected on Abraham:

We become convinced that Father needs “our help” to carry out His promises.  Abraham and Sarah fell into this trap and so Sarah told Abraham to sleep with her servant Hagar (Gen 16:1-6) to produce the offspring Father had promised (Gen 15:5).  And yet, Hagar’s son Ishmael was not Father’s provision to Abraham and Sarah . . . Isaac was.  Genesis 21:1 reads:

Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years from the time God spoke the promise of giving them a child to the time Isaac was born.

25 years!  That’s over two decades of waiting!

Waiting is by far one of the most challenging and invigorating adventures in faith that we will encounter.  Through waiting, Father tests both our faith and our trust.

James 1:2-4 is clear on some of the qualities that Father is honing and molding in us through the waiting process:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Perseverance, Maturity, Completeness, Fully Equipped

Father doesn’t waste one moment of the waiting processes He brings us through.

He is accomplishing things in and through us during that time so as to prepare us not only for what He is going to bring about FOR us but also IN and THROUGH us.

In Experiencing God by Blackaby and King write:

God is interested in a love relationship with you.  Your waiting on Him develops your absolute dependence on Him.  Your waiting on Him assures that you will act on His timing not your own.

In the kingdom, I view waiting for a promise to play out in the physical realm as more like waiting for the birth of a child rather than how it is often thought of and portrayed as being like sitting on a park bench.

Watch this TED video on the growth of a fetus (to skip the explanation, go to the 2 minute point).

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Rest assured, waiting is not a stagnant, stationary process. Blackaby and King continue:

While you wait, continue doing the last thing God told you to do.  In waiting, you are shifting responsibility of the outcome to God — where it belongs.

Then when God gives you specific guidance, He will do through you more in days and weeks than you will ever accomplish in years of labor.

Waiting on Him is always worth the wait. His timing and His ways are always right.  You must depend on Him to guide you in His way and in His timing to accomplish His purpose.

As you wait remember the truth of James 1:5-7, and wait in confidence not in doubt.

Blessings on you as you wait. It will be worth it.

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Photo on Flickr by Eustaquio Santimano

Enjoying (Adventures in Faith series)

As we explore Adventures in Faith, we’ll take a look at different people from biblical times and aspects of the adventures in faith Father progressively brings us through in our walks with Him.

In our journeys, we will progressively climb from the flat lands to the peaks.

We start with the principle of enjoying by looking at the life of Ruth.

Enjoyment is one of the building blocks to our walk of faith. Not mastering it often impedes progress in later climbs of faith.

So how do we enjoy our walk of faith?

After her husband died, Ruth journeyed with her mother-in-law Naomi from Moab to Israel.   She left everything that was familiar to her: her family, her friends, her homeland, and her spiritual background.

Naomi, knowing what Ruth was leaving, urged her to turn back.  Instead Ruth made an amazing proclamation in Ruth 1:16-17:

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

Ruth was willing to count the cost of leaving everything behind to go with Naomi.  Likewise, to enjoy our walk of faith, we too must be willing to count the cost of living our entire lives sold out to Christ.

Secondly, we must make a heart commitment to Jesus similar to the heart commitment Ruth made to Naomi:

Jesus, where you lead me, I will go.  Where you guide me to stay, I will stay.  I embrace the people you put into my life and I will accept and let go of the people you take from my life.  Whatever choice I am faced with in life, my answer will always be:  I choose You, Jesus, I choose You.

If we allow anything else to be more important to us than Jesus, we will perpetually be digressing and journeying down other paths that will eventually bring pain, sadness, regret, and anguish.

Thirdly, we must be willing to walk by faith — obeying even when we don’t understand.  Being from Moab, Ruth probably didn’t completely understand Naomi’s directive to her to go to Boaz at the threshing floor, uncover his feet, and lie down.  Yet she did it anyway and in doing so became Boaz’s wife (Ruth 4:9-10)

Father will very rarely explain all the reasons or outcomes of a step of faith He is asking us to take.  He reminds us again and again to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).

Finally, to enjoy our walk of faith we must be willing to trust.

When Ruth first ventured out with Naomi to Israel, there is no way that she knew that she would become the wife of Boaz and the mother of Obed — who is in the lineage of Jesus.

Is anything holding you back from enjoying your walk of faith?

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Photo on Flickr by iujaz

 

Adventures in Faith

I was in the middle of the ocean, sitting in a canoe with many other people.  Out of nowhere, a fighter jet appeared and started shooting at us.  We immediately ducked.  With our backs bent and faces bowed, we started fervently interceding that God would rescue us.

It was then that Father placed something like a spiritual force field around us. Though the fighter jet continued to fire at us, its exploding shoots couldn’t penetrate the force field.

We continued interceding for a period of time.  Then we noticed that the fighter jet was gone.  The force field fell away and we sat safely in the calm ocean waters.

At that point Father awoke me from my dream and said, “That was an illustration of 2 Chronicles 20:12-17.”

During the past six years, I have recounted the encouragement of that dream to many believers in person and through copies of the picture.

In every adventure of faith we embark upon, the Enemy sends out his fighter jets with the menacing message of:

You’ll Never Make It!

And from those fighter jets, he and his demons fire shots at us to try to cause us to slow down, sit down, and give up.  These shots usually carry the themes of:

  • Danger – “Watch out!  Don’t go any further! It’s not safe!”
  • Doubts – “You can’t do this!  God won’t come through for you!”
  • Discord – “They’re against you! They don’t understand you!”
  • Distractions – “You’re too busy…This can wait…Do it later.”
  • Discouragements – “Give up now…it’s too hard…you’re already losing.”

They come at us in a million varieties, specifically aimed at causing us to doubt that Father will truly come through for us.

If we allow these 5 D’s to become louder to us than Father’s voice, we soon despair and start to believe the Enemy’s message of, “You’ll never make it.”

We give into despair and our train of faith is derailed for a time or for good.

Adventures in faith are for the stout-hearted who are willing to take Father at His promise to make our feet like hinds feet:

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]! – Hab 3:19 (AMP)

Join me as we spend the month of December exploring “Adventures in Faith.”

What If I Gave All?

What are you thankful for?

It’s a frequently heard question during the Thanksgiving holiday.

When we reach heaven and look back on our earthly lives, we will be thankful or saddened by the final answer to one question:

Did I give all?

Did I give my all to Jesus as I served my family, co-workers, brothers and sisters in Christ, those less fortunate, and those who did not yet know Jesus?

Did I obey the promptings the Holy Spirit laid on my heart?

Did I listen when Jesus asked me to participate with Him in situations that were:

  • Impossible
  • Risky
  • Challenging
  • Unpopular
  • Requiring great sacrifice

One song that strikes my heart with this question:

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One verse that strikes my heart when I’m tempted to give less than my all:

With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort. – 1 Cor 15:58 (MSG)

One quote that strikes my heart when I begin to think that giving my all is too difficult:

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” D.L. Moody

This Thanksgiving, answer this question:

What if I gave all?

Photo on Flickr by mathewingram

 

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