Tag Archives: faith

A Call to God From the Pit

There are times in our life when we feel like we are going down for the third time; when we feel like we are in a slippery bog, or sinking in a muddy pit. There are times we feel despaired and don’t even know what to think. We don’t feel inspired, motivated or particularly spiritual. We feel overwhelmed with our life circumstances or disappointed in ourselves.  We may be in direct conscious rebellion against God, or we may have been subtly drawn into a pit of self, of discouragement, or of worldliness.

You may think this can’t be me! I have a relationship with God. I am not supposed to feel this way. You are not alone. Prophets of God, kings and even His Son have felt this way!

Voices from the Pit
Jonah was outright rebellious to God. He refused to obey God’s command to call the Ninevites to repentance. He found himself in the pit of a big fish’s belly. He says in Jonah 2:1: “From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”

Elijah, a prophet of God fell into despair and depression. This took place after he was a part of witnessing God bring fire from the sky to light a sacrifice in a spiritual contest with the worshipers of Baal. After this event Elijah collapsed in fear and depression. He literally asked God to take his life.

We read of his despair in 1 Kings 19:3-5, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”

King David felt this way numerous times in his life. Many of the psalms attest to David’s times of deep discouragement.

In Psalm 13, David was so discouraged he charged God with forgetting him. He cried out: “How long O Lord, will you forget about me…”.

In Psalm 42, David recognizes and admits that his soul is troubled and downcast within him. He feels forgotten by God, and as if he is mourning all the time. He is depressed, discouraged and overwhelmed by life.

“I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? … Why are you cast down O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. “Psalm 42:9-10

Again in Psalm 55, we see David feeling full of anguish, fear and feeling like he just wants to run away from it all.

“My heart is in anguish within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.  I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest… Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice.  He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me…” Psalm 55: 4-6, 17-18

Even Jesus!
In the Garden of Gethsemane we see a very touching picture of Jesus wrestling with facing the burden of carrying the sins of the world and dying for them. The scriptures describe what he was feeling as anguish, distress, feeling like he was dying, and even so stressed he sweat drops of blood.  Jesus cried out to God in His time in the garden and on the cross as he bled out and died.

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.”  Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:36-39 HCSB

“Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:44

And in the final moments of Jesus’ life we hear the depth of the pain He felt from being separated from God.
“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni? that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Matthew 27:45-46

A Common Thread
We are all in the depths, the pit or the “slough of despond” at one time or numerous times in our lives. During those times it is important to be aware of two things: where you are and that God is near.  Self – awareness is important in our life. We may not figure it all out but to be in touch with what we are feeling is good. We, like the people in these passages of scripture, need to realize when we are in trouble, regardless of the cause, and speak out to God.

The common thread in these accounts is the believer’s innate movement toward God. Whether out of anguish, frustration, despair, or hope they cried out to God. And – He responded to them with power, mercy and love.

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But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:5-6

Playing Ball With God

According to statistics listed by ESPN, Johnny Bench was the all-time best catcher in the history of MLB, and according to Bleacher Report, Roy Karkovice was the best all time defensive catcher in the history of MLB. I am sure there are those who would debate this. However, I want to go on record as saying I have found the best “catcher” of all, both defensive and offensive, His name is Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth.

Play Ball!
This morning I played ball with God. Yes, I did. I was the pitcher, He the catcher. This may sound crazy, but God invites us to do this.

1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” The word “cast” in New Testament Greek means throw.  So basically it is saying, “Throw your anxieties on God because He cares for you.”

Where did Peter get that idea? Most probably he heard it as he sat in the synagogue listening to the Hebrew scriptures.

David used this expression and set up this concept of throwing things to God in  Psalm 55:22. He writes: Cast your burdens on the Lord, He will sustain you…”

The lexicon provides a detailed description of this Hebrew word, “cast’” defining it with several synonyms: hurl, fling, and throw. Each word draws out a different nuance of meaning.

Hurl implies a forceful throw, something with strength and determination behind it. Fling implies a quick, “I have to get help with this” toss. A “throw” may be done with more deliberation and focus.

Whatever way you throw your concerns, fears and troubles onto God, He is there to catch them. In fact He welcomes us to “cast,” and He is waiting to catch.

Trust the Catcher
Knowing that God invites me, even urges me to throw my cares on Him reassures me and gives me peace amid the questions, and troubles of my life. I know I can rely on God for help.

I need to know that there is someone more powerful and faithful than myself, or even than my best confidante.  Some of the times I need to remember this truth are when I am struggling in a relationship; dealing with things I see as unfair; overcoming a weakness; trying to grow in my faith; or, when I am challenged by situations or people that seem impossible.

I have found that when I look in God’s word for truths about the character of God, I am building  a foundation for my faith.  I more readily see God as the faithful Catcher. He can field any hard ball we throw at Him or unto Him.

There are truths about God in His Word that help me to trust that He will not only catch what I hurl unto Him, but that He will work with it. Here are a few truths about our Perfect Catcher that make me feel safe and stir my heart to trust Him.

God is Faithful in His Love
One of these truths is found in James 1:17.
“That every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. Who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17

This verse states that God is good and as a result good things come to us from Him. It also states that God does not change. In other words He has had, and always has, good intentions towards me and He will not change His intent.

Ephesians 1: 4-5 makes this truth in James 1 very clear: “For He chose us in Him (Jesus) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—.”

Before the foundation of the world, God looked down through time and He saw that I was not always going to trust Him, obey Him, or choose to do what was right. He saw times when I would be blind, ignorant, arrogant, and forge ahead in my own way and dishonor Him. Yet, even before all this came to be He planned to bring me close to Him, into His family, through His Son Jesus. To top it all off, it was His good pleasure to do this.

The cross was not an instrument of pleasure, yet it was God’s pleasure to give up His Son to the cross so I could be in “God’s good graces,” so to speak.

God Is Trust Worthy
I think of these truths and I know that God is faithful in His love and good intent towards me. When I feel overwhelmed by troubles in my life, it is not always my first response to cast my troubles on Him and trust that He will sustain me.

Sometimes my mind and heart are slow to do this. I have to push through my feelings and make a deliberate effort to recall truths like the one stated in Ephesians 1:4-5,  and then choose to believe it. Then, I can hurl my cares on Him with confident expectation of His care.

Studying the meaning of a small word like “cast;” seeing its history in the Old Testament through to the New Testament enriches my understanding of God and increases my faith. God relishes a relationship with us.

There are many other passages in God’s Word that show Him reaching out to us. I urge you to search out these passages and be encouraged by God’s good intent towards you.

Sweet Spot Truths

I believe there is a sweet spot in our relationship with God that is a refuge and a guide to us in the many and diverse difficulties in our lives from the heavy duty issues like grappling with a terminal illness, a debilitating accident, a broken marriage, depression, or to the prickly thorns of our insecurities and the stresses of everyday relationships and activities.

Huh-What is a Spiritual Sweet Spot?
A “sweet spot” is primarily a sporting term. It refers to the area or point of contact on a bat, racket or other instrument with the ball that yields the most effective result.  To me a “spiritual sweet spot” is that place and time in my relationship with God in which I am hiding in Him, covered by Him, protected within the confines of His love for me and my trust in the truths of His character.

I believe we come into our “spiritual sweet spot” through knowing God and growing closer to Him. We do this by looking closely at truths in God’s Word and seeing the nature and character of God and making a choice to trust and rely on Him.

Here is a passage that paints a picture of a spiritual sweet spot; it is based on the character and actions of God.

  • “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men! You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.” Ps. 31:19-20

The sweet spot in this passage is being hidden in the secret place of God’s presence, and being kept secretly by God in a shelter. Yes, that is what God does. That is His heart towards us.

My “spiritual sweet spot” is a place of peace, a place of refuge, a place of belonging, a place of learning, and a place of strengthening.

“Spiritual Sweet Spots” in the Bible
There are some “spiritual sweet spots” described in the Bible. I believe some of the following events recorded in scriptures reveal people who are in “spiritual sweet spots.” Among these are: angels tending to Jesus after fasting 40 days and nights; Jesus sleeping in the boat in the midst of the storm; Jesus feeling power leave Him in the midst of the crowd; Moses covered by the hand of God in the cleft of the rock; Elijah under the juniper tree in the wilderness being fed by the angel of Lord; two disciples on the road to Emmaus come into a sweet spot with Jesus. I encourage you to look for more of these spiritual sweet spots in the Bible. They are there, and they will encourage you.

Sweet Spot Truths
Listed below are some truths about the character of God that can lead you into the “sweet spots” of your relationship with Him.

Truth: God is personally involved in your life. There are times when I forget this, when things seem on fast forward in my life or when I am facing a painful challenge or wrestling with a character sin. In the midst of the struggle or pain, I have sometimes asked, “Where are you God? Do you know about this? Do you care?” Here are a few passages that remind me of this truth.

  • Psalm 56:8 – “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (God knows about our hurts and He cares intimately).
  • John 10:3 –“The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep listen to His voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.” (Jesus is the Good Shepherd always watching over His sheep. He is so personal that He knows us by name and leads us. He is a faithful shepherd, even when I don’t see His leading or feel it. He is there).

Truth: God is faithful. He is faithful to love us and to extend His grace to us. In the midst of difficulty I can forget this truth. When I have seriously sinned, I can feel hopeless, like I am a lost cause, but God is faithful to extend His love and grace to me when I turn to Him.

  • Lamentations 3:22-24– The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

There are times when I fear having to stand strong on truth, and times when I feel weak in the battle against worldliness and darkness, but the truth is God is faithful to help me.

  • 2 Thess. 3:3 – “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

There are times when I feel like I won’t make it to the end and that I can’t move forward. Then I grab onto the truth of God’s faithful commitment to me as evidenced in this verse.

  • Philippians 1:6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

These are a few of the truths about God that pull me into a “spiritual sweet spot” with Him. When I see beyond myself to the truth about our great God, and when I make a choice to believe that truth in my own relationship with God, I am strengthened even in the midst of difficulty and pain. The Word of God is full of these truths about God. I urge you to search for truths about God that will encourage your faith and magnify God to you.

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.”  Psalm 25:5

Looking for God in All the Right Places

In my quest to worship and praise God, I came across some scriptures that revealed another way we can praise Him. This involves remembering and proclaiming the deeds of God.The scriptures below reveal the connection between praising God and remembering and proclaiming His great deeds:

  • Ps. 145:10-12 – “All of your works will thank you, Lord,and your faithful followers will praise you. They will speak of the glory of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power. They will tell about your mighty deeds and about the majesty and glory of your reign.” (NLT)
  • Ps. 9:11 – “Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion; declare among the peoples His deeds.”
  • Ps. 105:1 – “Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.”

As a result of these and other passages, I began looking for God’s deeds in the Bible and in my life so that I could praise Him.

Recall God’s Deeds of Old
Many of the mighty deeds of God have been recorded and preserved in the word of God, the Bible. When we take time to recall the many great acts of God, we begin to know Him more and to trust Him more deeply. When I meditate on God’s great deeds, I cannot help but marvel and praise Him.

Some of my favorite deeds of God to recall are how:
– God created all things with his powerful word – Genesis 1
– God opened a path in the Red Sea for Israel to walk through on dry ground – Exodus 14:22
– God shut the mouths of lions and delivering Daniel – Dan. 6:22
– Jesus walked on water – Mt. 14:22-33
– Jesus fed 5,000 from 5 loaves and 2 fishes – Mt.14:13-21
– Jesus healed a servant from a distance – Mt. 8:5-13
– Jesus resurrected from the dead seated at the right hand of God – Phil 2:5-11.

As I meditate on these mighty deeds of God, I try to picture them in my mind. I see God is magnified before me. I am immediately struck with awe for God, for His power and His love to work on behalf of man. Reflecting on these acts causes me to praise God, and encourages me to trust in Him because the God who has done these mighty deeds is the same God with whom I have a relationship.

Recalling God’s Deeds in My Life
As a result of this, I became vigilant, looking for God’s working in my life, both past and present. As I reviewed my life I saw God’s mighty deeds in my life. Some of these deeds were obvious displays of God’s working, while others involved an unfolding of His working in my life and character over time. Some of the mighty deeds of God in my life have to do with God restoring my husband, Dan, to health.

A little after our first year of marriage, my husband, Dan, age 28, was having a hard time breathing. Dan went to a doctor, had the usual examination, x-rays and so on and was diagnosed with asthma. Despite treatments, the condition persisted and worsened. We prayed for God to help us and lead us to a doctor who could help.

We looked up asthma specialists in the phone book! We selected one, went to him and received the diagnosis of a malignant tumor inside the trachea. The cancer was a lymphoma which had also affected other areas of Dan’s body.

 Use God’s Mighty Deeds to Build Faith
God was there to help immediately.  As we received the dark news, my mind almost instantly was lead to the story of King Hezekiah. In 2 Kings 20, Hezekiah was given a terminal diagnosis from the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah cried out to God for a longer life. God had compassion and added 15 years to his life. That flash of remembering of this compassionate and powerful deed of God towards Hezekiah became the fuel for the faith we would need on this journey.

At the time of the diagnosis the tumor was growing at such a rapid rate that in two weeks it would have closed off his ability to breathe altogether. Here we see the hand of God in His timing.

The tumor was inside the trachea which at that time was a very difficult procedure and required significant expertise. We were told there were 5 doctors in the nation who could perform that specific procedure. The doctor, who diagnosed Dan, knew one of those skilled surgeons who happened to be located 50 miles away from where we lived.

The surgery happened within two days of the diagnosis. The doctors warned of a 50-50 chance of surviving the surgery, and a 50% chance of surviving a year afterwards. Tumors were found in three other places along the spine. During recovery from surgery many new dilemmas presented such as the lung collapsing three times, and an emergency tracheotomy, but God brought appropriate personnel and procedures in place at the right time to help with these difficulties.

After seven months of intense chemotherapy, my husband was declared to be in remission. Dan had to re-learn how to swallow and was fed through a tube in his stomach for a year and a half. Immediately after surgery, he was unable to speak and swallow, but over the years his ability to speak was restored, even though his voice remains somewhat quiet and raspy.

God worked mighty things behind the scenes using doctors, treatments and time to give Dan life and to restore him to full function.

“Remember” onto Faith and Praise
When I am feeling forgotten by God, or frustrated about waiting on Him to work in my life, when my faith is hitting on empty, I recall not only the mighty deeds God has done of old, but also the great deeds God has done in my life, from restoring life and health to my husband to helping me change things I thought would never change in my character.

This “remembrance of God’s mighty deeds” grows my faith and my awe for God. When I share the ways God is working in my life, or when I remind others of God’s mighty deeds, I am praising God.

I never read the Bible as a child but I do remember paging through a big family Bible that sat on a coffee table. Perhaps it was the pictures of God’s mighty deeds that I saw in that Bible that captured my heart for God.

I encourage you to page through a Bible and find more mighty deeds of God. Let these truths lead you to faith and to praise God.

Miracle Lessons

I found hope and power in the story of Jesus at a wedding feast (John 2:1-11). Jesus is at a wedding feast for a friend of the family. In the middle of the feast, the host runs out of wine. Jesus’ mother asks Him to do something about this. We then read that Jesus took plain ordinary water and changed it into the best quality wine. Reading this story sent a surge of hope through me.

The text states that Jesus did this miracle to reveal His glory to the disciples. (John 2:11-“What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed

His glory; and his disciples believed in him.”)  In other words He was being open and vulnerable and He was revealing to them who He really was, that is, God in the flesh. He was building into their faith.

Miracles Reveal Jesus
So every time I read about a miracle of Jesus, He is revealing Himself to me. Not only is He revealing His divine nature and His power, but He is revealing His heart for me and how He will help me. He reveals His nature and how He interacts in our relationship with Him.

Think about it. At the wedding in Cana those years ago, Jesus did not have to do anything concerning the supply of wine for the wedding guests, yet He did. The inspired word of God tells me He did it to begin revealing His true identity as the Son of God to the disciples. This is a truth. But, I also believe it shows His understanding of us as human beings. The supply of wine was important to the host of the wedding. It was an embarrassment that he ran out of wine to serve his guests.

His Power and Heart Are Involved
So when I read this story, I feel extremely hopeful to know that Jesus has the power to help me change, and He has the tender compassion to want to help me. I have character weaknesses that I think are impossible for me to change. Sometimes I think that is just me. I have been that way for years, but this miracle shows me that my situation is not hopeless. Jesus can change me, and help me change.

Recently, I struggled with losing weight. I tried various diets and exercise routines, but I continued to have difficulty. I began seriously praying about it. God led me to read some research that helped me to understand my problem, and that helped me find the right eating plan for me. I lost weight, and I thank God. But after 3 years, I still find myself struggling with food, craving different foods, and eating when I am not hungry.

From the Inside Out
My problem was not just one on the surface to be solved by diet and exercise. I realized that I was eating because food is comforting to me. I was eating as a way to be fulfilled. At a deep inner level, I was seeking comfort in food instead of in God. I was finding fulfillment in food instead of in God, not totally or all the time, but often. I need a change in the way I think about God and the way I value food.

Jesus changed the nature of the water. The chemical formula for water is H2O. The basic formula for wine is CH3CH2OH.  The truth in this miracle for us is that Jesus can change us from the inside out. He changes our very heart and nature as we walk along with Him.

I believe the whole struggle with my weight was to help me see this deeper faith and heart issue. Jesus helped me to change at the water to wine level.

This story of Jesus helps me embrace change instead of dreading or fearing it. To read about what Jesus did, and what it revealed about Himself at a simple wedding feast years ago gives me faith and hope about the changes I need to make.  It encourages me to read more miracles to see what I can learn about Jesus.

What about you? What do you need to change? What will you bring to Jesus to change?

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18

Would Jesus Trust You? Questions for the Heart

Searing Insight
At the end of John 2 there are two very cutting statements. Verses 24-25 say this about Jesus: “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.  He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.” Jesus knew what was in the heart/mind of each person, and based on that knowledge He would not entrust Himself to any human being.  He made this statement within a highly “religious” context. It immediately follows the account of Jesus cleansing the temple, the ‘house of God,” the place where people went to worship God.

It is true that God knows what is in our heart. There are many references to this in scripture, such as  Psalm. 44:20-22, “If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For He knows the secrets of the heart.” (ESV)

Again, we see this truth about God in the book of Acts1:24 when the apostles are praying for a replacement for Judas, “Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen.” (See other references: Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chronicles 28:9).

Jesus knows what is in the heart of every man and woman. For, it was He who said that the heart is the source of sin,  “ …For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,” Mt. 15:19.  Jesus knows that sin abides within the heart of mankind, and yes He knows what sins and sin tendencies abide in my heart and yours.

Dare to Look Inside! Dare to Ask!
As I read John 2:24-25, questions leap into my mind, “What does Jesus see in my heart, and would Jesus entrust Himself to me?”

According to our calendar, we are beginning a new year.  During this first month we will look back on the previous year at the many events in the world and the happenings in our own life. It is traditional for people to make resolutions and goals for themselves for the coming year. These may include things we want to do, achieve, overcome, or obtain.

Let’s take a real look today, sort of an internal examination. I encourage us to look not only at the physical, financial, or personal goals we may set, but look deeper into your heart, the realm or center that rules your life.  Dare you look deeply? Do you have a clean heart, a pure heart, a heart devoted only to the will of God?

Do I even know what is inside my heart? When was the last time I looked into my heart? When was the last time I asked God to show me what is in my heart?  What is at the core of my Heart? As a disciple of Christ, I may take for granted that I have a new heart and it is all well and good? Really? Does the spirit of this world or darkness have any hold on my heart? Where am I in the process of being made holy by God? Do I make it easy for Him to “clean out my temple?”

How often do I ask God to reveal my heart, to go down deep and unearth my motives and or my sin? How often do I ask God to shine His light in my heart, or am I content to live in the surface of religious practice and routine of “church” going? What are on the altars of my heart? What idols are in my temple? Could it be that I am the biggest idol in my life?  Who am I really worshiping? Whose will am I really pursuing?  Does my life worship God, or even in my “religious” lifestyle am I really worshiping myself?

These are heavy questions that require time to consider and time to pray about. I am challenging myself with these questions and ask you to prayerfully consider them today and this week as you begin this New Year. Consider then not as legalistic, fearful judgements, but consider them from your personal faith relationship with God through His son Jesus.

Would Jesus, after looking into my heart, entrust Himself to me?