Thursday, September 30, 2010

Faith Training

Weight lifting develops our strength. We sweat, endure pain, and push towards exhaustion. Each time we exceed our former limit, we build greater endurance and strength. When we achieve our goal, the memory of the pain only becomes a badge that we hurdled our obstacles. We admire our better defined abs in the mirror, glad that our discipline has grown strength and a healthier body.

Developing stronger faith muscles is not too different ... except we don't usually sign up for the stress and pain. Oh, we pray for God to develop our faith, but when the opportunity comes for resistance training, our instinct is to question or complain.

Hebrews 12:11 reminds us that discipline is painful, not pleasant. But the pain we endure as Christ followers  produces endurance, character, and a sure hope in Jesus Christ. Suffering, like weight lifting, eventually produces greater joy! As we search for God's help in those times, we discover His love and the Holy Spirit's help. Our hope becomes more sure precisely because of the weight of life's demands (see Romans 5: 3-5).

We do well to remind ourselves that God is at work in every circumstance (see Romans 8: 18-39).  If we continue training with Christ, the weights won't merely display our impotence, they will be the very opportunities that God uses in our faith training.


Are you in a situation in which you can recognize God using "weights" to develop your faith?

What new angle of trusting God are you learning? Will you focus on a scripture promise or principle that could further strengthen your faith?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We Won't Fear, Then

Fear can grow in us like cancer.

News about Iran, the UN, our own economy, national and local politics, our bank accounts, children, accidents, cancer, business closures, home foreclosures... I could go on... all feed our fear.

Dislodging us from familiar ruts, upheaval can leave us shaken and fearful.

Psalm 46 reminds us that God is bigger than whatever earthquakes we experience.

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea"
(verses 1-2, NIV).

It's only natural to be scared when our stability is shaken. That's why it's good to remember that God is stronger ... and is with us in the earthquake. Even though we walk in the midst of trouble, He revives us.

Despite where we find ourselves, God can bring good out of chaos. But we have to hush ourselves in the holy place (see verses 4-6) and, in the Almighty’s presence, we can quietly listen for the Lord’s voice and look for His works (verse 8).

It takes supernatural power to deal with fear. But we access that through the gift of Jesus Christ who is with us. (See verses 10 -11).

So then, even if the mountains get shaken, we won't fear.

For Your Consideration
(See also Psalm 23; Psalm 138:7-8; Romans 8:28-39.)

What helps you remember that God is with you?

Have you told the Lord of Heaven's Armies about your earthquake?

How do you keep fueling your faith and keep from slipping back into fear?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blessed, Broken, and Multiplied

If you want a fresh jolt, then a careful reading about Jesus feeding crowds of 4000 and 5000 will get you there. Since familiarity is numbing, ask for the influence of the Holy Spirit as you read.

When I recently read and imagined Mark's account (chapter 8), I tried to hear the dialogue and watch expressions on people's faces.

Did their mouths fall open when they watched a few loaves multiply to feed thousands including them? Did they listen more intently after they were satisfied? Or did they scarf up the food, oblivious that the One who quieted their growling stomachs also came to quiet their hearts?

Did Jesus' eyes sparkle as He watched His disciples execute the improbable feat of feeding so many with virtually nothing? Was He thrilled that His Father was pleased to meet the needs of people who were willing to give Him everything? As they trusted Him for the impossible, and they experienced His miraculous intervention, did He applaud the Father with unmasked joy?

When I prayed using the components of the scripture as best I could, God not only fed but nourished me.

Maybe you could try praying that scripture. I suspect the Spirit of God, who can transform your limitations, will bless, break, and multiply what you bring Him.

I pray so.


Thank you, Lord Jesus, for what You have given me. I give................ back for Your blessing, breaking and multiplication.

Like your disciples, I don't understand it all, but please don't give up on me. I want to keep following You carefully and learn all I can from You. Help me obey what you reveal, trusting that You know more than I.

You are kind, strategic, and powerful. Getting to know You fills me with joy, and I worship You!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Save Me!

"Save me, I pray, from ...,
for I am afraid ....
But you have said..."

(Genesis 32:11-12, NIV)

Adrenaline was running through his veins as he progressed toward his disenfranchised brother, Esau, and his four hundred men. While he prepared to make a quick exit if needed, Jacob called out to God.

His fear and distress were palpable. He divided his sheep, servants and family into two groups so at least one could escape if they were attacked.

And he cried out to God to save them.

He admitted that he was afraid Esau would come and attack him, his wives and children. He wasn't hiding that. How could he? So many lives were at stake as he faced eating the fruit of his old deception.

So in the face of possible death, Jacob reminded God of His promise. "But you have said, 'I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted" (Genesis 32:12).

Later that night Jacob wrestled with the Angel of God by the Jabbock River. He had to acknowledge his strength was no match for God's, and after he did, he walked toward Esau with confidence, despite a new limp.

"I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." (Genesis 32:30)

Jacob's fear of losing his life at Esau's hand brought him to a different type of power encounter. There he regained his life.

For Your Consideration:
I invite you to meditate on the components of Jacob's prayer and make them your own.

1. "Save me."
In what arena of your life do you need God's intervention?

2. "For I am afraid."
Can you name an emotion that might be fuelling your desperation? And will you name the source of that emotion, laying it out before God? (Compare 2 Kings 19:14-19).

3. "But you have said."
As you recall scriptures the Spirit of God has impressed upon you, which promise can impact your situation in life changing ways?

Artwork by Ira Thomas,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To Do Hard

"God has asked us to do hard. This is what our family has been called to." Mary Beth Chapman spoke those words to her family after her five year old daughter Maria's death.

I heard her story this September first when Family Life interviewed her and her Grammy award winning singer/songwriter husband Steve. She shared how their family life had been full of wonderful events and transitions just before it was severely jarred by grief.

Despite occasional quivers in her voice and sniffles while the host spoke, she demonstrated a firm trust in God's strength and goodness. The grief had torn her like a killer in pursuit of her own life. She knew the enemy had come to steal, kill and destroy her family, but she held her children close and declared "He will not destroy our family over this."

Though devastated and shaken, she demonstrated her sure footing on the unshakable Rock. She chose, not felt, to keep trusting the God she had come to know over years of walking intimately with Him.

Her book, Choosing to SEE, will be an enlightening read. Especially if God has called you to 'do hard.'

For Your Consideration

Have you, or someone you love, been called to do hard?

What scriptures or other resources can you pull on for comfort? Instruction?

I also recommend Elizabeth A. Mitchell's book, Journey for the Heart written about their faith as they journeyed with her son James who died at thirteen with a worn out transplanted heart.