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Live What You Believe

Live What You Believe

I have been a Jesus follower for many, many years.  Actually, ever since I can remember.  I have attended church, Bible studies and attended a Christian high school.  I married a Christian man and have been educating my children with a Biblical worldview.  I have taught the Bible for the past four years.  Sounds like I believe in the truth of the Bible, right?

Our lives are evidence of what we believe.  I really did not give this statement much thought.  Of course it is true.  I am a Christian.  I live a “good” moral life.  I don’t swear.  You won’t find me passed out at a bar.  I am faithful to my husband.  I volunteer at church and have made meals for the homeless.  That is outward evidence of my belief in Jesus, right?

On the day I was preparing to stand and teach the statement “our lives are evidence of what we believe,” I was unprepared for what happened.  I was not expecting the knock on the door of our local produce guy.  A man from our church who brings me a box of fruits/veggies from his farm.  He was supposed to come the following day, right?

To my surprise, not only did he bring a beautiful bounty of fall produce, but he brought a question.  “Would you pray” he asked, “about going with our missions team to Nepal for 10 days and lead a 3 day women’s retreat?”  And, with that…he left.

Immediately, my excuses started running wild.  My kids will need daily transportation…meals…my husband works all the time and he can’t fill in for TEN days…I teach a Bible class that I can’t miss…I’m too needed here.  My inadequacies exploded…I have never taught a women’s conference…to a culture for which I have no understanding…I’ve never even been out of the country…I’m ill-equipped.  My fears filled my mind…what if… (fill in the blank to imagine the atrocities for Christians in third world countries).  Rationalizations rapidly surfaced…someone else who is more qualified and experienced will step forward…my mission field is here now, right?

Unbelief.  It is an issue of the heart.  My excuses, fears and doubts exposed a part of me to which I had turned a blind eye.  Partial belief is unbelief in the same way partial obedience is disobedience.  My response was an indicator of my own unbelief in the authority and totality of Jesus’ Word.  I was good at looking like a believer from the outside, but when pushed to expand out of my comfort zone, internal unbelief was first to come out.  Do I trust His plans more than mine? Do I take His Word and authority seriously or do I pick and choose parts of His Word that align with my comforts and discard the rest? Boil it all down…do I have a higher view of myself or of God?

These questions left me crashed in spiritual crisis.  Was my faith so shallow as to only follow Jesus in the comfortable and convenient?  Was I just a fan and not a true follower? Confronted with my sin, the Holy Spirit illuminated my diseased heart.  I desperately sought God’s mercy and forgiveness.   I cried out to Jesus, “Lord, forgive my unbelief…help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)  As God is eternally faithful to His promises, I found Him faithful to answer my cry.   Through the blood of Christ, I stand forgiven and free.

Christ set me free from my unbelief and He fueled my obedience.  I am now planning to go to Nepal for 10 days in the spring of 2017.  God’s Word says that He designed this task for me before the creation of the world (Ephesians 2:10).  Taking His Word as truth, I believe I was created for this purpose, to bring Him glory and to do His work.  Without Christ, I am nothing.  With Him, I find the fullness of purpose and satisfaction.    

I am sure to struggle with unbelief again.  Even for the follower of Jesus Christ, our humanity wrestles against the things of God.  But God, in His great wisdom and compassion, will continue to draw out the dross of unbelief so that I can reflect His truth more perfectly.  Oh, Holy Spirit, bolster my belief so that the next time I hear a knock at my front door, in Your strength, I will be eager to say “Here I am, Lord, send me.”  

What about you?  Do you hear Someone knocking on the door of your heart?

Prone to Wander

Prone to Wander

So, a few months ago, we decided to adopt a Great Pyrenees dog.  We named him Boaz.  Once we got Boaz home, we very quickly learned that he behaved just like a toddler.  He wanted to know exactly what he was and wasn’t allowed to do, and where he was and wasn’t allowed to go.  I have to admit that the first few weeks were tough as I was the primary parent of this curious 70 lb canine.

During those first few weeks, my youngest daughter and I returned home from the store. As my daughter was coming into the house, Boaz forcefully pushed passed her and ran out the door.  He proceeded to run with all of his might down the street.  I pursued…until I quickly saw that he totally out-paced me.  I slowed down and stopped, knowing that a foot pursuit was hopeless.  But, then I foresaw, or rather “foreheard,” my husband and daughters’ questions… “Mom, did you really give your best?  Did you run your hardest?”  I would have to honestly answer “no.”  The reality is that I gave up.

So, I started running again.  By the grace of God, a tree caught Boaz’ attention and he stopped to mark it for himself.  This was my opportunity to catch up with him and march him back to the house.  Winded and a bit unnerved, I returned wondering if this dog was a good choice.

God answered my doubt loud and clear.  He reminded me that I am just like Boaz.  God adopted me and brought me into the family of God solely by His grace.  And, what is my response to His gift?  I test my “spiritual” boundaries.  I leave the safety of Jesus and His Word, and instantly get tangled in self-centered sin.  I may still make good moral decisions, but my motives, thoughts, and affections become “I-centric.”  I stop trusting God. I start relying on other opinions. I start seeking my own solutions. I start looking for means to satisfy myself.   Worry and doubt creeps in.  In essence, I show a woefully low view of God and what He did for me on the cross.  I, like Boaz, run away from the best person and place in my life.

But, the good news is that God relentlessly pursues me.  He never gives up on me.  It boggles my mind to think of how He loves me even though my heart is prone to wander.  Psalm 139 shows us just how far we can run from God… BUT God…He so lovingly puts “trees” in my path (hardship, disappointment, failure, loss) to end my self seeking pursuits and draw me back to Himself.

I have recently begun to pray every morning that God would give me the desire for His will (I Chronicles 29:18-19), that He would give me spiritual wisdom and understanding as to His perfect will (Colossians 1:9), and that I would be filled with God’s grace needed to obey and achieve His will (I Corinthians 15:10). This daily prayer has transformed my life.  By God’s power, my desire for the things of world has been doused.  My passion for the spread of the Gospel around the world has been fiercely ignited. I have a clearer vision and sense of purpose for my future more than ever. I have finally found a true, lasting satisfaction in fulfilling my created purpose…to worship God and obey Him.

This three pronged prayer has unraveled the “prior” me. My wandering heart is being tamed.  My desires being transformed.  My early morning “coffee dates” with Jesus is the favorite part of my day.  And, the rest of the waking hours, “living out” my faith, are the most rewarding.

Do you wrestle with the trappings of this life? Do you long to be truly satisfied? Do you feel tangled in circumstances and uncertainties?  Look no further.  Your Good Shepherd pursues.  Just turn around.  Confess your wandering. Then ask Him for the desire for Him, wisdom from Him, and grace by Him.  He is faithful to provide all that you need according to His glorious riches (Philippians 4:19).  Security, satisfaction, and joy come as the things of this world grow strangely dim.  Oh, what sweet soul-filling delight are found upon return to the safety and solace of our Father’s house.

Flag Over Your Heart

Flag Over Your Heart

So, this week, there was in a cycle of complaint in my family.  Whine, whine, whine.  A grumbling attitude.  During a teachable moment, I responded with “God hates complaining…and when you think about it, complaining does not help you solve your problem.”  My correction did stop the verbal complaint, but my bigger goal is to impact the heart.

As I was meditating on this grumbling spirit in our home and what to do about it, I had to first take a look at myself.  Is there sin in myself that I have caused to trickle down to my family? And, it dawned on me that there are many times when I pray and complain to God.  “Lord, I’m not happy in this area…or this one…just fix it and please give me what I want.”  Whine, whine, whine.

I read somewhere that even if Jesus never did another thing for me outside of what He did for me on the cross…if I truly meditated on His selfless act of love which saved me from the depravity of my sin and eternal damnation, then I would sing His praises all day long, all the days of my life.  With Christ in view, I would never have cause to complain about a single thing.

The truth is that Jesus does abundantly more for me than He did at Calvary.  Psalm 23 is seeped in His care for us.  He is my ever-present Shepherd.  He restores my soul.  When I follow His voice, He leads me to everything I need.  He is my ever-present help.  And, He wants to be with me forever.

I read in my daughter’s devotion last night that joy is the flag of my heart, which indicates therein the King resides.  If I am not being joyful, then, who is residing on the throne of my heart?

May we be ever challenged to confess our selfishness and ask God daily for grace to keep Jesus as High King of our heart.  Then, we will fly high the flag of joy, and reflect the beauty of Jesus to the world around us.

Blessings and hugs,
Marci

“CROSS”-fit

“CROSS”-fit

Feeling flabby?

I lived most of my life with a flabby body. As a young adult, I was strong and athletic…but, as life became more full, exercise was one of the easiest things to drop. And, as such, my body lacked tone and muscle. I lacked physical strength and stamina. I was flabby.

A few years ago, I began to exercise. At first, I did cardio and then added light weights. After just a few weeks, I found that working out paid huge dividends. I began to see changes in my energy level, physical strength and mood. Exercise was no longer something I could just toss away. I just felt so much better. It made the early morning commitment, pain, and sweat so worth it.

The other day, I was considering this progression from flabby to fit…and it dawned on me that there are other areas of my life where I see “flab.” For example, lack of discipline in the stewardship over my home. I can look around me and see an excess of unnecessary “stuff.” I really do desire to sift through it all and purge…yet, I don’t. Flab.

Which leads me to think…how fit are we spiritually? How active are we in working out a strong relationship with God? Do we invest the time in God’s Word, our true source of stamina? Are we exercising and sweating it out in prayer? Are we obeying God, dying to self and living for His purposes? Are we spiritually toned?

Philippians 2:12b-13
…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.

“Work out” literally means to work until it is done. It is clear that this is a call to something I must do. How does a Christian “work out” their salvation? Read His Word daily. Be intentional in prayer. Talk to Jesus constantly. Obey Him. Always. Serve His body, the church. Love God. Love people. Live set apart from this world…all of this to the glory of the Lord.

As tempting as it is to groan at this hard work…we are to work out our salvation with an attitude of sober reverence for God Almighty and complete dependency on Him. Jesus Christ is not someone just for us to admire and take His commands as mere suggestions. Check out Revelation 19:11-16 for a refresher of His stature…and stand in awe.

To be spiritually toned is a long-term strategy. You don’t become toned overnight or only through training in short bursts. And, any lapse in training will quickly lose gains. Being toned is a daily strength-building program, essential to living a full life. Jesus says in John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Jesus did not come to this world for me to have a flabby, weak, less-than life. He came so that I could have life to the max, lacking in nothing…an “at capacity,” fully saturated life rooted in a relationship with Him. Just like exercise, this takes work on our part.

But, a life of faith is not just us “doing more.” If that were the case, we would all just fail miserably and sit around flabby in faith and miserable in life. God knows that about us. And, as such, God says He works in us to complete His “good purpose.” What does that mean? It is everything! Philippians 4:19 says God meets all of our needs…including my spiritual fitness…out of His glorious riches in Christ. We just need to cooperate with His work in us and “work out” what He “works in.”

We build up our faith in partnership with God. Jesus is faithful to complete what He starts in us. As we study His Word, we desire more of Him and less of ourselves, increasing our spiritual fitness. As the things of this earth grow strangely less enticing, our spiritual endurance grows. As we obey Jesus’ instructions, we loose our heavy burdens. As we go to Him first with our problems instead of others, we increase in our spiritual stamina. As we press on each day toward the goal of a Christ-toned life, we will experience life to the fullest…all by His grace and to His glory.

As you consider your own state of spiritual fitness, where do you find that you are spiritually flabby? Will you, right now, ask Jesus to fill you with the grace that you need to tone that area of your faith? And, will you, right now, commit to doing the needed exercises to become “CROSS-fit?” God is for you in this… strengthen your faith and give God all the glory (Romans 4:20)!

Blessings and hugs,
Marci