God sees Our Desires and Failures

“In the spring at the time when kings go off to war, …. David remained in Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 11:1

How can God seeing our struggle with our desires help us to seek Him in times of temptation? Not once but for the third time has God drawn my attention to the cover of David’s sin with Bathsheba in the past few weeks. Why draw my attention to David? David was a good guy- a man who loved God and sought to do what it is right and work for the greater good day in and day out.

The Bible describes David as a man after God’s own heart. I think that God wants to show us from this story that the best of us fall. Yes, we fall and we fail: no one is immune from failure. Most sermons on David and Bathsheba do not mention David’s sin until he slept with Bathsheba. Let’s take a step back. Sin begins well before sleeping with her. I do not think that David woke up that morning and thought I am going to sleep with another man’s wife. Sin is more subtle and progressive. 2nd Samuel 11:1 tells us that David remained in Jerusalem when kings go off to war.

Why is this so significant? David was supposed to be at war, not at home. He was probably so exhausted in every way and lonely, so it seemed natural to stay home instead of going out to war. When we are tired, we are more vulnerable to temptation. He never would have dreamed that staying at home would have lead to so much sin and the death of one of his closest friends. Being in the wrong place reveals more the condition of his heart. Had he been talking to God about his loneliness and exhaustion would Bathsheba have been so enticing? We are most vulnerable when we are not open with God about our struggles and desires. If we are not seeking God to fill and fulfill those desires, then we will try to meet them in the way that we want.

Have you been to the wrong place too, and it led to a heap of trouble? Our first reaction is to say that I wish that I had never been there. We shift the blame to going there or another person. We can go back to a place that we had a bad experience another time and have a good experience. Why is that? It is not about the location, but who you seek in that place: Do you seek God to fill your desires, or do seek to fulfill your desires in your way and in your time? We can trust that God sees our desires and failures and will help us to align our desires with His and forgive our failures.

– Mary Carmen

Preparing for the Impossible, Part I

“What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” “Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied. II Kings 4:2

I stared at the flier in my hand where the theme for the upcoming retreat stared back at me, “The Possibility of the Impossible.” Having chosen my word for the year as possible, I thought “THIS is my retreat!”

The retreat was targeted to “mature” singles from my church which basically means older. Lord, how did I get here? As I shared in an earlier post called Moving Possible Mountains the area of singleness and my desire for marriage is one of the mountains I can be tempted to doubt God can move in my life.

My dear friend and I loaded up our stuff – more than enough for two nights (we women need options!) – and headed down 59 North to the retreat center in east Texas. The speaker, Ken Brumley from Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, brought insightful and moving messages about God’s work in the realm of the impossible as he taught based on I Samuel 17, the battle of David and Goliath.

At one point, Mr. Brumley brought up the reality that we do not see the impossible because we fail to prepare. David practicing slinging stones for many years before his time arrived to sling the stone at Goliath and hit the exposed place between Goliath’s eyes, the only place that his armor didn’t cover.

I begin to think about preparing for the impossible and what that looks like. While asking the Lord to teach me more, the story from Scripture which surfaced in my mind is the widow in II Kings 4:1-7.

The chapter begins with the widow’s dire distress of being unable to pay her debts and the nightmare of her sons becoming slaves to pay off a creditor. She calls to Elisha, asking him to remember how her husband was loyal to him and feared the Lord. Elisha asks her what she has in the house and the widow replies “nothing at all” – except a flask of olive oil.

This dear lady feels helpless as she is being threatened by loss. Loss of her sons. Loss of her home. Loss of her dignity. She is facing intimidation from an enemy which tells her she will not see the impossible.

Notice how she and her family have been preparing for the impossible. They seek the Lord and have done so for years. I am confident this is not the first time they need a miracle. I would guess they’ve not only invested time but also contributed to the needs of Elisha when they had resources because his ministry represented the Lord’s purposes in Israel.

It is clear to me that one of the ways to prepare for the impossible is faithful perseverance even in the mundane. Praying for a friend or family member to come to Christ, loving people through words of encouragement, memorizing and praying Scripture, staying open to growing through relationships, stepping out to broach spiritual topics with your friend/neighbor/family member when you feel less than courageous, serving in capacities that are not recognized, giving to God’s purposes when finances are tight. . .

I also see that Elijah’s direction to the widow teaches that preparing for the impossible means recognizing God works through what is already known and available – when it seems far from enough or there is little potential. The widow had nothing left except the olive oil. I imagine she used olive oil on a regular basis and was familiar with how it was bought and sold. God asked her through Elijah to open her eyes to what He had put in front of her. Even when it is only a small amount she willingly offered it.

What seems too familiar to think God can work to bring about the impossible? Perhaps a musical gift that is underdeveloped, a stagnant relationship, a struggling business or ministry, a message that is stirring but there aren’t opportunities to share it, a dream that has yet to materialize, a budget that is too tight, a child or family member who isn’t interested in the things of God. . .like the widow, we look at what God has placed in our lives and offer it to Him in faith instead of just looking at the deficit.

Sister, join me in standing against the intimidation of the enemy who wants us to believe there is only loss and struggle in our future. I am asking God to prepare me for the impossible by giving me the perseverance to be diligent in the daily things of God. I am asking Him to open my eyes to see by faith the familiar things before me that He can work in and through to do the impossible. There is more to learn from this moving story of a widow in need so stay tuned as I will pick back up in May.  Please encourage myself and other sisters by sharing an impossible situation you are looking for God to turn around or one that you’ve already seen become a reality. Read Preparing for the Impossible Part II

~Laura

My Undergarment

“When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.” John 19:23-24 NIV

Every Easter the journey to the cross reveals something new about our Savior. The intensity of the story is loaded with details, each with eternal significance. This year I noticed a detail that came alive in a whole new way. John tells the story of the soldiers dividing Christ’s clothes. I could never see through the shocking humiliation of my Jesus being stripped bare to notice his undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. It remained untorn.

Lord, you are My Undergarment on which layers of life rest.
Seamless, you are the only piece of me that doesn’t require extra stitching.
Woven, heaven and earth intertwined by the love of our Father, piercing my sin over with mercy, under with grace, over again, under again, loop by loop.
Saturated, with blood-filled sweat of your willing sacrifice.
Bought, at a price I can never repay.
Removed, that my sin would be exposed and hung on the back of the Perfect Lamb.
Redeemed, that I may be enrobed in righteousness.

At the end of my days, when all the layers are stripped away, My Undergarment will remain, and you will usher me into eternity.

Thank you for making a way for me and all those who call you Savior.

You are risen, indeed!

In Your Unfailing Love,

brandi

More of Jesus: A Progress Report

“From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”  Ps. 61:2

Two months ago I shared my prayer for the New Year, More of Jesus. Like some of you, I began 2018 feeling overwhelmed. I had lost sight of the fact that the Lord promises to walk with me through the struggle. I forgot that He is the one orchestrating my life events and providing the opportunities to prove how much I truly need Him.

As I prayed about these things, I discovered I was simply not turning to the Lord throughout my day to give me help, perspective and wisdom. I had been slogging through in my own strength. No wonder I felt so defeated. It was such a revelation for me when I clued in that I was such a needy mess and He stood ready to help.

When was the last time you were forced to realize the need for Jesus hour to hour? Perhaps you are facing a physical struggle and you need His presence to remind you of His care for you. Maybe you are dealing with a difficult relationship issue, even in your marriage, where you don’t know how God is going to resolve and bring healing. Some of you may be at the end of your rope financially or facing deep loneliness.

These are such hard experiences to endure but they are all invitations to come to the feet of Jesus, sit in His presence and invite Him into all of the sadness and need. He meets us in our desperation. He is exalted in our weakness. He is glorified in our dependence.

One of the reasons for my discouragement was the realization that I was in way over my head parenting our three year old. I had not understood what a strong-willed child really was until I had one of my own. How I have been humbled! And how I have repented for judging others for the way they have parented their “spirited” children! When I can understand my desperate need for Jesus, I can have a conversation throughout the day and continually ask Him for wisdom. The Lord’s involvement in my day doesn’t mean He takes the hard away but He offers me hope and encouragement as I turn it over to Him repeatedly. And as a byproduct, my peace returns and I’m more able to enjoy the ways the Lord has made my son–full of passion and life.

I need more of Jesus in my daily life. I need to involve Him more in my thinking, my doing, my relationships, my motivations, my words, my attitudes. Once again my heart is drawn to an old hymn that says it all.

“I Need Thee Every Hour”

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
Oh, make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son.

Lyrics by Annie S. Hawkins, 1872

More of Jesus. This is my continued prayer.

~Courtney

 

Faith Forges Ahead

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8

The Lord has a specific plan for each of our lives. When we come into relationship with him and abide in his presence by reading his word, he reveals his dreams and visions for our lives. A passion comes alive in us that requires greater strength than we possess. Thus, his desire to walk with us is satisfied because we need him. That’s where the faith journey begins.

In January my soul was pierced with this one question, “Will I find faith in the earth?” Yes, Lord, find it in me, I quickly responded. And the journey began.

I know the God-sized dreams the Lord has called me to. How does faith act? Resolutely. Now. I learned in February to take specific actions and not hesitate. Faith does not question or look back. Here I am in March staring out into an open field of Promised Land. What I do next will determine if faith will be found in me.

Not knowing the end from the beginning, which is how I would much prefer things, what is the best next step? Have you ever been here? Can you feel the tingling that starts in your toes and works up through your body as you walk farther and farther out onto a limb away from the perceived security the thick trunk has to offer?

“If I perish, I perish,” resolved Queen Esther (Esther 4:16). Knowing that the Lord is sovereign to deliver his people, whether it was through her or someone else, she seized the opportunity to live out the greatest purpose for her life.

Determined to forge ahead, I was wide awake at 2:20am thinking of all the things I could do to help God with this dream. Rest came from His word this morning. “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever – do not abandon the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8

Are you working sufficiently in your own strength? Whose dream are you fulfilling? If you have no need of greater power to accomplish your plans, it might be a good idea to reevaluate.

Esther took many steps of faith to move from orphan to palace but could have entirely missed her greatest purpose. What is your next step of faith?

~brandi

Easter Reminds Us All Things Are Possible

I am pondering on my “possible” theme for 2018 and the pursuit of a Heavenly Father who makes all things possible. I think about how He beckons me to believe Him for the impossible. After all the reality that I even call upon the name of Jesus and desire to involve Him in the chapters of my story is an impossible act. I didn’t seek Him but He sought me when I was striving and struggling to make sense of the pain in life and find purpose. At the very core of the Christian belief is a daily impossibility. God gave me faith when I had none (Philippians 1:29) and new life when I was unable to manufacture it on my own.

Ephesians 2:5 says we “even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.” I fail to remember all the impossible ways God acted by granting me new life. I was dead in sin and incapable of generating spiritual life or desire in my heart. I had nothing in me that attracted God to me. Think about it. A dead person is not capable of persuading anyone or responding to anything. He gave me life and continues to renew my inner person daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). Breathing life into me over 20 years ago as, the Lord sustains me each day. The very fact that you and me believe in Jesus and want to follow Him means that we serve a God who makes all things possible.

With Easter drawing near, we are called to reflect on the torture and suffering of Jesus and then the vindication and validation through His resurrection. He was put to death for sin on the cross and came back to life after being placed in a tomb. Victory over the grave and death hits so close to home when a loved one passes away. I shared with some new friends a couple of days ago about my dear friend from high school who passed away from pancreatic cancer several years ago. How I relish the victory Jesus secured over sin and death which will give us an amazing reunion in His presence. How I praise the God who makes eternal reunions possible!

The God who makes all things possible shows Himself to us every day in our ability to connect to Him through Christ. As you feel prompted, join me in the following prayer.

Lord, renew our childlike wonder at the miracle of new birth in You. The way You show up in the impossibility of bringing those You created who are dead in sin to new life. Give us the ability to see others with Your eyes so that we do not consider any person out of Your reach. Do make “all things possible” in the hearts of those around us so they become new creatures in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). We will give you all the praise and thanksgiving this Easter!

I am confident you will find encouragement by reflecting upon April’s story about finding new life in Christ.

~Laura

God sees you

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” Psalm 139:1-2

A few years after giving birth to a son, my friend and her husband started thinking about having another baby. Recently laid off from her job due to the economy, she thought it might be a good idea to postpone trying to get pregnant. Sadden to delay the hope of another child especially now, quickly approaching thirty-seven years old, she wondered if another child was an option for them. Months passed but the longing for another child did not. She had been praying for a confirmation from God that she would have another baby.

One Sunday morning sitting alone in a  pew at the back of her church where generations have worshiped for over 300 years, she realized that she was not alone. Upon discovering that her ancestor was one of the original members of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, PA, her jaw dropped in awe at how God guides the choices that we make and weaves our past and present together. Though small in statute, St. David’s has welcomed and served as a spiritual home for thousands and thousands-more than the pews could fill.

Opening a prayer book, she gasped out loud as her eyes fell upon the dedication plaque. The plaque in the prayer book read: “this prayer book is dedicated to Anne Elliott.” Not sure if anyone heard her, but that did not matter. What was so significant about those words? If she had a daughter, she wanted to name her Annelliott. She first heard the name through a good friend in college and immediately fell in love with it. Also, the name carried significance for her family. Her middle sister’s middle name is “Anne,” and her younger sister’s middle name is “Elliott.” She knew without a shadow of a doubt this was not a coincidence but was God saying to her: “I hear you.”

Then while leaving the church, she heard a child yell, “Hi, Tucker.” Not uttering a sound in that moment, her heart erupted in joy. Tucker was the name that she had picked out for another son. Hearing the first name was like a hug from God, and the last was like a sweet kiss of the Father on the forehead of his daughter. On a normal Sunday in a small church, her church home for years now, she felt heard and seen by the One who has the power to create life. Sometimes we think that we need to go somewhere out of the ordinary to hear from God, but this story illustrates how God meets us in our daily lives and at places a part of our weekly rhythms. God just might speak to you where you have been a hundred times.

The answer to her prayer did not come immediately. It seemed so clear that God was giving her a confirmation, so over about six months of trying to have a baby, she held onto faith, believing that God would be faithful. God’s delay in answering a prayer does not mean it will not happen. In other cases, people have had experiences where they felt encouraged from God that they would have a baby too, and it never happened. Not sure, why some are able to have a baby, and others are not. What I do know is: God hears and sees our longings and is working out His will in our lives for our good and the good of humanity.

So, how does the story end? Does she have a daughter or son? It was God’s plan for her to have a daughter, and she named her: “Annelliott.”

How have you grown discouraged, not expecting God to show up in your daily life, let alone even speak to you?

What do you need to not give up praying for?

God sees you.

– Mary Carmen

Resolutely Now

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8

My desire is to know the end from the beginning. I begin every project with the end in mind. There is always a goal, always a finish line. But God says, fix your eyes on me, the author and perfecter of your faith. Author and perfecter also translate to founder and completer. I didn’t create faith and I can’t complete it. I can only walk in it. But what does that look like?

I’m still rattled by the question God asked from deep within my soul back in January, “Will I find faith on the earth.” Isn’t it interesting to imagine our Creator’s eyes roaming the earth looking for faith? When He finds it, what does it look like? I’m on a quest this year to make sure faith is found in me. Will you journey with me? How is faith found in you?

If I’ve learned anything about God, I know that when he asks a question, he already knows the answer. His questions are used to shake me out of my way of thinking and lead me to His word for the answer. The journey through the Bible to find the answer is like taking a walk with God. I see things I’ve never seen before and peace prevails over the pursuit for the answer. I suspect this is what He is after all along.

Two words jump off the pages of Luke 9: Resolutely. Now.

When Jesus set out for Jerusalem, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Another version reads, “He resolutely set out for…”

Faith goes resolutely. I must resolutely set out for…not knowing the full picture, but knowing my Shepherd.

When Jesus was calling his disciples, “Follow me”, a few hesitated and made what I think are very reasonable requests. One asked to first go bury his father. Another wanted to tell his family goodbye. Faith responded, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  Ouch.

Faith acts now.  Faith looks forward.  Fear looks back.  Faith goes now.  Fear hesitates. Hesitation is the first steps towards retreat.

Do you want a safe life that makes sense to world, or would you rather grab a hold of faith with both hands and never look back?

Lord, let faith be found in me, resolutely, now.

What is holding you back from the best that could be?

In His Unfailing Love,

brandi

A Person Just Like Us

Meeting Jonathan is where it all began, where my desire and passion to share stories about real life people started. I knew if people from the United States saw Jonathan on the street without hearing his story he could be looked at with suspicion and even presumed to be a terrorist.

But if people could just hear his story, they would know he is a person just like us. A man with dreams and a family, a man that is a son, husband, and father. A man that fled his country to find safety for his remaining family members. Jonathan is a man whose story deserves to be told. For Jonathan’s safety, his name has been changed and only a picture of his back will be shown.

Jonathan is a 22-year-old from Aleppo, Syria. When I met him, he was living on the streets of Greece after being robbed at the border.  You see, he was making his way to Greece with money he had worked for in Hungary in order to save his remaining family members that were still in Syria.

Jonathan’s father and brother have been executed. Although difficult, I believe he was strong enough to endure the pain of their deaths but it was his sister, wife, and two-month-old son dying in a bombing that caused him to make up his mind to leave. Jonathan fled leaving behind his position in the Syrian Rebel Army, meaning it was no longer safe for him to ever return to Syria.

Upon arriving in Hungary, Jonathan was granted asylum and began working to save money to get his mother, 15-year-old special needs brother, and 5-year-old sister out of Syria and into a safe country. He had the $3,200.00 it would take to save them, when he was robbed of everything.

During our communications, the bombings in Aleppo increased and while he kept in touch with his remaining family, they were injured in one of the bombings. Jonathan has dreams and his dreams didn’t include leaving behind his mother and siblings. His dreams didn’t include losing his father, brother, sister, wife, and child in war. He dreams now of being reunited with his family and longs to see them again.

Jonathan accepted Christ during the time we met him and spent time getting to know him. His heart and eyes were opened and he wanted the peace only God can give. Jonathan is the reason More than Numbers exists. He is the reason I dream of telling stories.

He is more than just a percentage of the 6.5 million people who have fled Syria. He doesn’t shed tears of all the tragedy his life has seen, instead he keeps dreaming. He is a man with dreams of a better life and a better future. And he deserves to have his story told.

~Bridgette Melton, More Than Numbers

Please pray for refugees leaving the war torn Middle East to find refuge and hope in Jesus Christ. If you’ve experienced loss in some form take a look at stories from women who have suffered loss in the Sacred Story collection.

Moving “Possible” Mountains

“. . .Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Possible. As I hold this word up for my theme in 2018, I have doubts about “Nothing will be impossible for you.” I do believe, but like the man who came to Jesus to deliver his son experiencing physical torment, I join him in crying out, “. . .help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) Especially in those areas where there’s long standing struggle. I feel vulnerable as I write the things below but here I go.

I struggle to believe God for physical healing. I’ve had a muscle and joint issue that’s seen some results over the years including pursuing input at Mayo Clinic. And yet, in spite years of treatment, there’s been relief but not resolution. God, why do I spend my time pursuing solutions and paying for them when you can move this mountain?

I struggle to believe God for fruition in my desire for marriage and a family. I have been set up, been online, prayed with girlfriends, and attended seminary where people said I’d meet Mr. Godly. Although there were other reasons why I chose to pursue graduate work (I love to study the Scripture!), a place with 70% men at the time still didn’t produce a match made in heaven. And my longing remains to be special to a man who loves the Lord and for the experience of joining together in pushing back the kingdom of darkness because of our union in Christ. God, why the delay in bringing about a dream You have designed for good?

I struggle to believe I can hear the Lord through the Holy Spirit’s power. There are times when I recognize He speaks to me – usually in retrospect – and there are instances when I feel like an outcome occurs that seems like I missed His voice. I mentioned in my previous post wanting to arise ten minutes earlier to give more time to be still. It hasn’t happened yet. I can grow sluggish in carving out time to listen because His voice seems elusive. God, can you make your will and desires clearer?

Now that I feel exposed about where mountains loom in my life to believing “all things are possible” I want to think about how to think about those things which remain a challenge when I know it is “possible” for God to do anything. I know I am preaching to the choir as I remind myself.

You and I are called to live a life of faith. This means not only believing it is possible for God to intervene at any time but also believing that even when He doesn’t act in a certain way, His character remains true. He is good, attentive, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, merciful, purposeful and holy among other attributes. The life of faith includes embracing mystery. Ultimately our faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6) and our story speaks volumes to a watching world when we trust God as we encounter struggles, setbacks, and suffering.

I also remind myself that our God is a God of process. Even though I have received some instant answers to prayer, most of the time God chooses to reveal Himself and to heal through a process. I think about Acts 16 when Paul and his friends tried twice to enter an area to share the Gospel and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from doing so. Soon after Paul received a vision of a man from Macedonia asking for him to travel there to share about Jesus and the door swings wide open for this path.

Remembering Paul’s mission in Acts brings me to a final thought. The chapters of our stories are to be about lifting up the name and life of Jesus Christ through investing in others. I think about the deficits in the “possible” mountains in front of me. For as long as they remain, I am asking God for a deeper longing for heaven and a deeper desire to proclaim the hope for this life and beyond in Jesus. Living in a broken world means things will not be “made right” here and the longings I feel are rightly placed on eternity.

I am not saying I am giving up on God moving the “possible” mountains in front of me in 2018 and I ask for your prayers. I will keep you posted and am ready to leap for joy for the God who is able to do the impossible.

~ Laura