Faith Builds Faith

It seems that I’ve had a running theme in my blogs lately about how much things “suck”. Pain, brokenness, being wrong. All of it sucks. But there is a lesson in it, right? And the lesson is faith.  The pain we endure brings a harvest of faith. Faith is born from things that suck. I have to chuckle at that even as I write it.  

God builds our faith as we endure trials.  

2 And the word of the Lord came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 1 Kings 17:2-6

I have been contemplating Elijah again.  After he prophesied the drought, God sent him to a specific creek where he would have water to drink and crows would bring him food.  Elijah obeys. Wow. God told him birds would bring him food and Elijah didn’t laugh, he said, “okay.” That’s serious faith.

7 And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
1 Kings 17:7

The creek dries up.  Because there’s a drought.  And droughts mean no water. How easy it would have been for Elijah to raise up his hands in frustration and not faith and question why God would bring him to such a bitter end.  But that’s not what happens. Elijah has faith that God will continue His faithfulness to His servant, and the word of the Lord does indeed speak to him.

8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”
1 Kings 17:8-12

So Elijah ends up in a town asking for an impoverished widow to take care of him.  Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Aren’t God’s people supposed to take care of widows and orphans, and not have them take care of us?  But Elijah obeys. Elijah doesn’t question it, he just obeys the word of the Lord.

Sure enough, the widow obeys Elijah and by proxy obeys the Lord, she brings Elijah water and makes one last cake with the handful of flour and oil she had left.  Bread and water. I can’t help but see Jesus here. Jesus is the bread of life and the living water. This obedience to the Lord’s request brings Elijah and the widow both a picture of Jesus as salvation.  The bread and water would keep them alive. God would bring them salvation, and keep the flour and oil from running out. God brings salvation to the widow and Elijah.

13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” 15 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. 17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”
1 Kings 17:13-18

The widow’s son dies.  Ya. And the widow’s son, by her cultural perspective of the time, was her only chance at life with someone to take care of her.  Without her husband, all she had was the hope in her son to provide for her. And he dies.

This would have been a really good time to give up.  And the widow does! She’s devastated. But Elijah decides not to give up.  

19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. 20 And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22 And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.
1 Kings 17:19-22

He takes the boy upstairs, out of view of the widow, to have a private pleading moment with God.  He begs the Lord to bring life back to the boy. And God listens! The boy’s life is restored.

This miraculous moment of resurrection further reveals the promise of Jesus.  The son, the widow’s only means of salvation and life, is resurrected by God to show her that He will provide for her salvation.  


23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
1 Kings 17:23-24

The widow’s faith is built up.  She sees the power of God revealed in a tangible way, not just in the life returned to her son, but in the life that God provided for her, first with bread and oil, and then with the life of her son.

Elijah’s faith brought faith to the widow.  Faith brings faith.

As we suffer and overcome, our faith expands and through that expansion, the people we are in contact with have their own faith built up.  It may be the faith to finally trust in God, or perhaps it’s just the faith to endure, but as our faith is strengthened it has the power to multiply the faith in others.

Lord, help me trust You that my faith may be built up by the trials I endure in this life.  Let my faith be a testimony. Build up my faith so others may be built up in faith. Let my faith produce more faith, that Your Glory may be revealed.

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Is There More, God?

Is there more, God?  My heart echoes those words over and over.  Is there more? More suffering. More fear. More pain. More joy. More healing.  More learning. Lord, I am hungry, but I’m scared of the buffet table. In this world there is so much more, but not all of it is good.  Nor is it all bad. You are here to some degree, Jesus. You are here through Your children. But the world is so broken, and wrapped in seduction, each offering can be more suffering or healing.  And I struggle to know which one until I taste it.

I want more healing, Lord Jesus.  It’s not even about the physical anymore.  It’s so much deeper than that now. I want more knowledge of my sin, and more refining of my heart.  I want more renewing of my mind. I want more, God. Give me more.

But more is so scary, Lord.  I don’t trust myself anymore.  I don’t trust my hearing. I don’t trust my discernment.  Is it You or is it me? Is it light or is it darkness? I want more, God.  But I’m afraid. You haven’t given me a spirit of fear but of a sound mind.  You have given me self control and clear thinking.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7

You give me power, God.  But is there more? Give me more, God.  I need more power, love, and self-control.  Why do I fight it? What am I afraid of? Why do I long for more and run from it all at once?  Will I fail You, God? Is that what I’m afraid of? I know that more from You means less of me. Why don’t I want to give You all of me?  Give me more me? Is that what I want?

Wretched (wo)man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Romans 7:24

Deliver me, Jesus!  Give me more of You.  Break me of these horrible desires that causes my flesh to battle against me for death and darkness instead of life and light.  I want more light. I want more life?! Why do I fight it? What am I so afraid of? Is there more darkness, Lord? Is that my fear?  Will I have to face more of my own ugliness to find Your light? I don’t want to see it anymore, Jesus! I hate it! Does that mean I hate myself?  Does that mean I don’t know Your love?

Jesus, I want more.  Will You give me more of You?  I’m so scared, Lord. I’m terrified.  What will more of You reveal in me? I want to approach the Throne of Grace with confidence.  I need more grace, Jesus! I need more confidence in You. I want more!

You have given me so much already.  And I want more! There is so much more.  I want it, Jesus. I want more. Let me feast on the joy of Your salvation!  Let me taste and see that You are good! Give me more, Jesus. Break down my fear.  Break down my lust. Break down my doubt and my cowardice and my stubborn pride. Humble me, though I’m so afraid to ask for it!  Humble me and make me more like You.

I want more.  So much more! Give me more!

 

A Legacy of Prayer

Give ear to my prayer, O God,
   and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
2 Attend to me, and answer me;
   I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
3 because of the noise of the enemy,
   because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
   and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
Psalm 55:1-3

I listened to a sermon tonight about prayer and it got me thinking about the legacy of prayer that has followed me since my childhood.  From the time I was a little girl I can remember falling asleep every night talking to Jesus. I wasn’t necessarily taught to do that, but from the time of my salvation at 5 years old, I knew that I could call upon the Lord and He would answer me.  I wasn’t raised regularly attending church, and by my adolescence I had revolted defiantly against organized religion and church attendance, but I still had this intimate ritual of conversations with the Lord before I fell asleep. It was my only safe place at times.  When the angst of teenage life overcame me, I could feel the Lord beckoning me into His lap and opening His ears to my every cry and complaint. I never doubted it.

I realize now what a gift from God that was.  That’s not how things should have gone for me.  But God didn’t care what “should” have been my story, but instead cared about me and the plans He had for me from the very beginning.  He knew that prayer would be my only life line at times. He knew it would shape me into the woman I have become. And He knew that without that prayer life, my husband never would have found Jesus.

If you know me, or you regularly read my blog, you know that I got married during a time in my life where I wasn’t walking with God at all.  The man I married did not know Jesus, and instead was a devout Muslim from Saudi Arabia. I think that may be as opposite of Christian as it gets.  

But I call to God,
   and the Lord will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon
   I utter my complaint and moan,
   and he hears my voice.
18 He redeems my soul in safety
   from the battle that I wage,
   for many are arrayed against me.
Psalm 55:16-18

And that’s what I did.  I cried desperately out to God for help.  I knew that without God I had nothing.  My trust in Jesus grew as my relationship with the Lord was rekindled out of desperation for my husband’s salvation, and with my growing faith I grew bolder and bolder in my requests to God. I became desperate for my husband to know Jesus, and no amount of arguing would sway him. I had no recourse except to admit to God that I had been foolish and brought myself into that anguished place of falling in love with and marrying someone who didn’t know Him.  What else could I do but pray?

In those days, my husband was not a good person.  At times he was cruel. His words tore at my heart.  His arguments waged a war on me that tore me down to the very bones.  He was relentless in his attempts to convert me. His barbs of persuasion drew spiritual blood on a daily basis.  I don’t know how I survived it, except that the Lord had given me this gift of prayer intimacy that drew me into His arms when my world seemed darkest.

My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
   he violated his covenant.
21 His speech was smooth as butter,
   yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
   yet they were drawn swords.
22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
   and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
   the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 55:20-22

My husband had become a cruel tool of the enemy, but the Lord heard my pleas for help and answered me.  When the war raged around me, I sought comfort in the arms of the Lord. It didn’t take long for me to be stirred to invite others into my mission to pray for my husband’s salvation.  I was desperate and prayer was all I knew. Prayer and John 3:16. That was my entire Christian resume. And it was more than enough. After enlisting thousands (really!) to pray for my husband, the Lord granted my request and spoke boldly into my husband’s life and he found salvation.  

God hears our prayers.  He never needed me to be a grand apologist or theologian.  I didn’t need arguments or clever words. All I needed to do was cast my burdens upon the Lord and have faith in His love for me.  I knew one thing for certain: Jesus loved me, he loved my husband, and together, through prayer, we could bring my husband into the Presence of God.  It truly was a miracle the day my husband came to Christ. Only God can bring revelation to a proud and stubborn Arab Muslim from Saudi Arabia who grew up with the nickname “the little Imam”.  

Prayer has power, not because it is some sort of magical spell to invoke the Spirit of God, but because our God is a God of partnership and promise.  He promised Abraham that the world would be blessed through him, and God has kept that promise. He kept it with me, and He’ll keep it with any who would trust in Him.  So, don’t give up on prayer. And don’t give up on those you love who need Jesus. Partner with the Lord in prayer as I have done, and see what partnership with the Creator of the Universe can look like.  

Lord, I pray for faith to trust You more.  I pray for all who are struggling with prayer and the fear that their prayers never get past the ceiling.  Renew hope in those who are suffering and doubting. Give them Your peace and call them to prayer. Show us how faithful You are, Lord Jesus!  Show us Your salvation through prayer and petition. Teach us to pray more. And teach us to trust and obey You in all things. Thank You for saving my sweet husband.  And thank You for the powerful anointing in ministry You have given him, all because I asked for him to know You. You invited him in and he accepted You. But You didn’t stop there.  You gave more than I could ask or imagine. You give good gifts to Your children when they ask You. And You gave me a beautiful gift that day that You showed my husband Your face and invited him into Your family.  Thank You, Jesus. You are Salvation for all who believe. Thank You for the faith to believe You over and over again. I love You, Jesus. Thank you for teaching me to pray.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

Here is the sermon I mentioned: Sermon on Prayer

Beneath the Throne of God

I had this vision a few months ago.  It was very powerful for me, and I’ve decided to share it.  May it bless any who read it.

I saw the throne of Christ, and seated on the throne was the Lord.  Like in Revelation, He was a lamb, His neck broken and bloodied from being slaughtered, but He was (of course) alive and majestically sitting on His Throne.  Hovering above Him floated the Presence of the Lord as an ethereal Light that filled the room but specifically spot-lighted Jesus. Beneath the throne, a small, frail child hid, his tiny arms circled around scrawny legs drawn up to his chest.  He was frightened and hiding in the shelter of the Most High God (beneath His throne) but he was afraid to come fully into the Lord’s Presence as if the Light of the Lord would burn him up.

Jesus poked His broken head over the edge of the Mercy Seat and looked lovingly at the child, a gentle smile on His face.  Still, the child was too frightened to come out. At this point the Holy Spirit came in the form of what I could only describe as also a little child, though His Presence was like the wind, completely imperceptible with the eyes, but somehow utterly relatable, available, approachable, and safe.  The Lord allowed me to perceive the Spirit on His hands and knees crawling under the throne of God to meet the little child exactly where he was and lead him out from under the throne into the full Presence of the Lord.

I felt the Lord say, “Don’t be afraid.  Your fear has you thinking that even though you have found your protection in the shelter of the Most High God, you think that you will be burned up by His Presence if I see You.  But look, I see you! And my Spirit will meet you where you are and draw you out. Your sin has already been burned up by My Presence. You have nothing to fear. Come and experience the fullness of My Presence and be comforted.”

Lord Jesus, draw us out from under Your throne and into Your Presence.  We want to trust You and be with You.  Help us to overcome our fear and shame to be closer to You, Jesus.

Idolatrous, Murderous, Adulterous Me

So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped.13 Michal took an image and laid it on the bed and put a pillow of goats’ hair at its head and covered it with the clothes. 14 And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” 15 Then Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” 16 And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats’ hair at its head.
1 Samuel 19:12-16

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve hated myself for all the idol worship in my life.  I’ve made so many things idols: my smart phone, chocolate, decadent food, a tv show, a computer game. The list goes on and on and on.  How I’ve hated myself for these terrible sins against my Lord. And then this morning, before I began to read the Word, I asked God to give me new insight into David’s life while he was deeply oppressed and victimized by King Saul.  Jesus did not disappoint! (He never does! I don’t know why I think He will sometimes.)

I came to the passage that I opened my blog with today.  Basically, Saul is trying to kill David (again) and so his wife helps sneak him out of the house by cover of night and then takes a household idol and uses it to make it look like David was just sick in bed.  Ya. A household idol. In the house of the guy who took out entire armies, and killed giants with a sling, and ripped lions and bears limb from limb because of his great faith and trust in God.  He had, at the very least, one pagan idol in his home big enough to simulate a grown man in bed.

Honestly, I don’t think David actually worshipped the household idol, but rather he worshipped the beautiful Michal that loved him.  David was always a sucker for a beautiful woman. His idol was his bride and the attention he received from her. Any time I look at David I’m reminded that the “man after God’s own heart” still struggled with sin.  All the time.

Boy am I thankful for David.  The Lord has used him to remind me of just how much He loves me, despite my idolatrous ways.  The Lord delights in my repentance and loving disciplines and teaches me. He never abandons me, but instead lifts me up and helps me try again.  Just like He did with murderous, adulterous, idolatrous David.

I guess I’m in pretty good company.

 

When I am Faithless…

I seem to start a lot of my conversations with, “I’m sorry, God.”  Lord, I know full well that repentance is a fine and necessary thing.  But Lord, I’ve neglected to accept Your punishment for my crimes against You as already PAID IN FULL.  I’ve walked around, suffering and moaning with the failures that surround my day. I am sad and I hear myself say, “I know I’m just suffering the consequences of my own actions.”  So sad. And I know that I often do have to suffer the consequences on occasion. But I have neglected to fully receive from You that the consequences for my sin were paid on the cross of Christ.

I have victory.  I am forgiven. I have let the enemy convince me that I have neither!  I have walked in grieving and loss. I have walked in guilt and shame. I have walked in all the things You conquered for me in Your payment for my sins on the cross.  You rose from the dead! You PROVED your victory. You proved it and proclaimed it and then sealed it as a promise in our hearts by giving us–giving me–Your Holy Spirit.

But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”
Ruth 1:11-13

Why do I ever think You’ve left me to my fate?  Why do I act the way Naomi did when everything she depended on in the physical world had been taken from her.  Distraught, she cried out in her misery, but not to You, God. She cried out in shame and worry and hopelessness.  How many times have I felt that same way? I’ve walked in the sorrow of my circumstances instead of the peace of Your Gospel.  

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Ruth 1:16-18

Ruth, on the other hand, who had nothing, and by worldly standards was fated to a worse fate than Naomi, chose to trust in You.  As a foreigner she had no hope without You, and so she chose by faith to walk to the very end trusting You regardless of how things looked.

I’ve always thought I knew the story of Ruth and Naomi.  I’ve always thought of Naomi as so faithless. And today I saw that I have been walking like Naomi, in faithlessness.  But You are faithful even when we are faithless. Thanks for that, God. Please give me more faith. Teach me to trust You more and hope in Your salvation.

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:11-13

 

The Power in Death

After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.”
Judges 16:4-5

Dear God, I can’t help but think about all the times I’ve been seduced by worldly desires Like Samson, at times I’ve let confidence in myself be the backbone of my battles instead of You.  I’ve pushed aside Your Spirit’s wisdom speaking warning into my mind, and chose willingly to arrogantly rely on my own tactics to win the battle. You are the giver of all good gifts. Any strategies I might consider come from the intellect You have given me.  My passion, my boldness, my strength, just like Samson, came from Your design. I was made to worship You and be a tool of Your kingdom, yet I have pursued victory with arrogance and trust in my own power.

I know that the lesson here can be that You will still use me, sloppy and self-serving as I am, for Your greater good, because that’s what You do.  You chose to partner with me, knowing my flaws. But Lord, I think the deeper lesson for me is that the enemy is tricky and will beguile me into falling for schemes that cause me harm.  If I would take the time to be vigilant and watch for the attack of the enemy, my defense will be stronger. I would rely on You for my salvation, instead of myself.

You want me to use the gifts You have given me, but under Your leadership and authority.  When You give me power, it must be for Your Kingdom and not my own. I can’t serve myself and also serve You.  That’s Christianity 101. I know that.

So why do I fall short?

I’m so broken, Lord.  

Create in me a clean heart, O God
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Then maybe we can get some stuff done!  I love you, Jesus. Thanks for taking me broken and gluing me back together with Your Spirit.  I will walk in Your restoration. Only when I die to myself and my own strength, can we truly win the battle for life that is Your Victory.

 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.
Judges 16:30

Samson did so much for You God.  He judged Israel for twenty years.  But He didn’t truly have victory until He’d experienced the truth of his power: that all his power was from God and not from himself.  He had to die to himself and live for Your Victory, knowing that only His death could bring victory.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
2 Corinthians 4:7

Jesus said it best:

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Matthew 16:24-26