Thursday, June 28, 2012

God is my boxing champ

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 
Exodus 14:14 (NIV) 

He is my savior. He is my friend. He is even my psychologist at times...if only God could write prescriptions. 

But lately...lately, God is my boxing champ. 

Sometimes waiting on God in faith is like waiting for Christmas to come every year. It always comes, but it feels like it will never get here. This is where my faith is at lately. I have faith that He has great things in store...but, I feel like I am always impatiently waiting on Him. You know how there is this unspoken rule in America that you can't put up your tree until after Thanksgiving? Yeah, I've had mine up for weeks by the time we are carving that turkey. 

The longer I wait on God to answer a prayer, the more anxious I become. I constantly find myself saying "I put all my hope in you Lord...but, I don't for how much longer." I am in a constant war within myself...God against my flesh. I want to abide in Him, but I struggle with His timing.

Sometimes I feel like the Israelites crying out saying "you are leaving me here to die in the desert!!!" 

It is hard when you feel like you are fighting alone. The world always questioning you and your decisions. People who are supposed to love you break your heart and leave you with battle wounds. Sometimes I really just want to wave my white flag of surrender in the air at the world because it just seems easier to follow the crowd.

But my Heavenly Father doesn't allow me to stay pushed down for long. I wrestle with scripture and I wrestle with Him...forgetting He is on my side. I wrestle with the world. I wrestle with the really hard questions about faith and God. This week I have thrown my fists at the sky and said "God, why would you create people who you know are going to go to Hell? You love, why even create non believers?"

I get frustrated reading about Calvinism vs. Arminianism. I get frustrated watching denominations fight over theology. I get frustrated hearing the debate over gay marriage within the church itself.

But, I can feel Him fighting for me. Fighting against the world and reminding me that He is my only hope and He is the only good here. I feel like God lets me take a time out now and then, but He draws me back in and just says "let ME do this, Sarah!" Reminding I am not alone on this faith walk.

Reminding me that like the Israelites, He is the boxer. I am simply commanded to let Him take out the enemy. 

And there is so much peace in knowing that. So, even though I feel like I have been waiting on answers to prayers and questions...even though the world beats me down...I find comfort in knowing He is the greatest boxer in the world. And He has already won my heart.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesdays with Tabitha: The Sacrifice of Praise

"By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name."
Hebrews 13:15 (KJV)

Do you ever find yourself having one of "those days"? Days packed full of disapointment when things just don't go your way, and you are completely exhausted from the weight of the world?

I've had one of those weeks.

Even though I know its wrong, sometimes satan keeps my mind from recollecting that God's promises are true, His ways are best, and His timing is always perfect. And when I don't get what I want, I feel like I've been let down. Because I deserved this, because I needed this, because this was perfect for me and right now is the right time for me to have it.

But as I was feeling sorry for my self earlier this week, a still, small voice gently interupted my pity party, pressing on my aching heart the words of Hebrews 13:15.

And that's when I realized there is a reason what we are told to do its called as a SACRIFICE of praise.

Because it isn't easy for me to do, and God gets that. And He loves me anyway.

Even on weeks like this, I have so much to be thankful for. But disapointments can wound us, leaving us in a weak and fragile state, vulnerable to the enemy. And if we let him, he'll seize any opportunity to slip in doubt, anger, jealousy and self pity, and before we realize it, were drowning.

But God's Word tells us that even when it doesn't feel right-even when it hurts-we are to offer God the sacrifice of praise continually, giving thanks to His name. And in Ephesians 5:20 it says that we are to give thanks ALWAYS for ALL things. No matter what trials come our way, whatever tribulations plague us, it is our duty to "in everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Wait, what?

So, if my car breaks down, my husband loses his job, we have no money in the bank and my baby gets sick, God's solution is to give Him thanks?!


When everything turns upside down, we can show God-and prove to ourselves-that we trust Him when we come to Him continually with a sacrafise of praise. When every bone in our body, every breath in our lungs cries out in praise to Him even during the darkest times in our life, we are giving Him complete control. And even though it may feel unatural, painful, and sometimes rediculous, training our minds to give thanks to God continually strengthens our faith and brings rememberance who we really are.

We are redeemed, forgiven, and loved, despite our circumstances.

We can look back in our past and see times where God was faithful and just to carry us through, just as He promised. and then the choice is ours to make; we can drown in fear and sorrow, or we can thank Him for whatever work He is doing in our lives through this trial, trusting in faith that He will keep His promises even now and never leave our side.

And we can praise Him, even in the midst of a tornado. Because let's face it; we were once lost, dying, and without hope. But God saw through our sin, and loved us enough to send His only son-and a rediculous amount of grace-to take our place. And for those of us who believe on Jesus Christ as our personal saviour and have excepted His free gift of salvation, this world is not our home. We have been pardoned, freed from the bondage of sin, cleansed, and made righteous.

Our chains are gone, we've been set free!

So we ALWAYS have that to be thankful for, even when our world turns upside down. We will never be without reason to praise God for what He's done for us.

I know its not easy, especialy since I'm in the middle of trying my best to practice what I preach, but I also know its not impossible. Because if it were, God wouldn't tell us to do it.

So I'm going to do my best to steady my grip on God's hand and push forward. Instead of dragging Him backwards and begging Him to change His mind and the outcome, I'll choose to thank Him for this weeks disapointments, and trust that even though it feels wrong, He knows its right. And I'll keep asking Him to remind my heart again and again that His promises are true, and His ways are perfect.

And I'll offer Him my sacrifice of praise.

What things have hapened lately in your life that make it hard to give thanks continualy?

Can you look back at any specific times on your life that God has turned a disapointment into something good?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Scripture: Be Courageous

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. "
1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV) 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturdays with Shawn: Faith

"These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
1 Peter 1:7

Saturdays with Shawn is brought to you by:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturdays with Shawn: Providence



It comes from the Latin, providentia. Pro means "before" or "ahead of time"; videntia is from videre, meaning "to see."
Put them together and you have "seeing ahead of time," which is what our beautiful God does. 

The Father always knows best.
Let's trust in Him!

"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand."
Psalm 37: 23-24

Friday, June 8, 2012

Faith: It's like learning to swim

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

We attended my daughter's first swim meet yesterday. Mind you, she is barely 4 years old and does not like to get water in her ears, but the girl will win your heart with her effort. I was not really sure what to expect. Although she has performed ballet in front of an audience, I was not sure how she would react to performing in front of a huge audience in a sport she isn't exactly in love with. She loves the water but does not understand why she can't just stay in the baby pool for forever.

The horn blows and off they jump into the water...ok, technically, one of the coaches had to help her slowly get into the deep end because there was no way she was jumping in that water full speed ahead. Her coach was in front of her calling her in, but she needed that encouragement from other coaches to get in. Once in the water, she smiled and grabbed onto her coaches neck with a death grip.

"Kick your legs Ella. Kick. Kick. Kick. I won't let go of you, but you have to kick!" she coached her.

Ella started kicking, but you could see the intensity in her face. About half way down the lane she was smiling again, but she was working hard kicking those legs...still refusing to let go of her coaches neck. And then Ella got kind of tired and the coach helped carry her. And Ella smiled and held on tight.

When she reached the finish line, she was all smiles. She was giving everyone high fives. We were so proud of her. Some kids swam the entire length of the pool. Others jumped right in and did great until about half way down the pool and needed a little help.

And then there was Ella. And she was so brave. So courageous...not letting fear keep her from experiencing the joy she saw others had. You could tell how desperately she wanted it, but she needed a lot of encouragement. But she kept going while hearing the coach say "I won't let you go. I won't let you go. Just keep kicking."

I wonder if faith is like learning to swim. Some people dive right in and make it seem effort less. Others take the plunge, but feel discouraged along the way and need a helping hand. Others, fall into His arms and hold on with a death grip. They find moments of happiness, followed by moments of fear when they are going through a trial. They kick and struggle through their faith, but they hold onto that voice that is always whispering "I will never let you go. Just keep going....and I promise you the prize at end will be worth it."

And then they reach the end and everyone is giving them high fives in Heaven because they know it has not been easy for them. And they look back across the length of that pool and smile seeing how far God carried them and how He never left them even when they were scared. And their Father, He is the first one to give them that high five and swing them around in His loving embrace.

Watching that brave little girl showed me the kind of faith I want. I want to need Him every step of the way. I want to hear Him whisper in my ear "just keep kicking...Sarah, just keep believing"...I want to hear it over and over again even when my goggles are foggy and I cannot see the finish line. I want to feel His arms carry me. I want to finish the race and win the prize and look at my Savior in total amazement. I want high fives at the end...not because I was a good swimmer, but because I held on tight.

Some days I may tread water. Others I might kick hard with smiles on my face. Some days I might have doubts...but, I keep on kicking. Because that is faith. Faith is holding on with a death grip to the Savior's embrace knowing He is enough to get you to the finish line. And you don't have to be a great swimmer. All you have to do is get in the water and wrap your arms around His neck.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Finding my Resting Place in Christ

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken."
Psalm 62:1-2

My soul does not feel very restful. And I do feel quite shaken. I feel like the more I try to pull it together, the more I see how broken I am. I try to be a better mother...yet, not even half way through the day I am yelling at my children, something I said I'd never do. I'm yelling at them because they are yelling and fighting and being disobedient. I try hard to stop and pray. I even try the good old "count to ten" before speaking and I still lose my cool. And I love them and wish I could love them the way Christ loves me. And I want to be Jesus to them...but, the thing is, I am not Him.

I once heard someone say that unconfessed sin can cause great anxiety. That it can put up a wall between you and God. So, I throw my hands in the air daily looking to the sky and shouting (in my head) "God, I have no idea what else to confess to you!! I know I am a terrible sinner and do rotten things all day long that I don't even realize, but can we just move past this and move on to know, so I can feel that rest you talk about??"

I have a history of thinking God shakes His head in disappointment at me and that He witholds His blessings because I am a loser sinner. This type of thinking will have you in a constant state of despair as you will never be able to recall all your sin...thinking surely God has a lesson in all this for me.

We are to wait patiently on the Lord, yet my heart is growing impatient. I've waited and...well frankly, I'm tired of waiting. I question whether I am praying there a right and wrong way to pray? I do not know. Every time I learn something new through a trial, I expect God to immediately remove my know, because I've learned my lesson. Certainly that is the point, right?

So I dwell on this verse today. Mostly I dwell on that word "rest". We have had our house on the market for 15 months and I have 3 young children.  I am mad about the economy. I am mad that we can't start building our new home until we sell this one and lock in on low interest rates. I am mad at the unknown of so many things. I am mad that a little girl we have been praying for is going to die of cancer. I am mad that God did not cure her. Basically I am mad that I have no control and God has all the control.

I'm ridiculous. I know. He knows. He knows I'm good at temporarily surrendering control, but I lose my cool when things take too long. I have patience...until, well, I run out. And I get restless waiting on God. I am sure it has been a nano second to Him, but to me, He takes forever!!

I am learning that the only way I will find rest is when I learn to find joy and contentment while I wait. But how? How does one find happiness in the midst of chaos or sadness or great anxiety?

Finding rest in Christ really means having faith in Him. It means that even though you feel restless, you rest in knowing that God's plan is always better than our own. And I'll admit I don't always believe that. Sometimes I try to tell God what to do because I am a control freak.

Deep down I know I would never want anything that God did not want for me. It's hard to always believe that as we are all self centered by nature. By being self centered, we are basically saying God is not sufficient and/or He doesn't know what He is doing. I often find myself telling God His ways suck...always later to regret those thoughts.  But I still wonder why He makes us wait? If it's not to teach us a lesson, then why?

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us"
Ephesians 3:20 (NAS)

He is okay with being misunderstood because He sees how it all ends. He sees how it brings Him glory. He wants us to bring our desires to Him, but we must trust that He can always do something better beyond our comprehension. This is faith.  This is how you have joy...when you remind yourself His plan is GREATER THAN OURS!

It is all about remembering who God is. That He is good. He is good even when we don't understand and don't like what He is dong. But in Him, we will find rest.

Rest in knowing He is God and He is our only hope. Rest in knowing that if we had our own ways, we would screw it all up. Rest in knowing He can do way more than we can imagine for ourselves. And when all that still feels hopeless, rest in knowing that it will all make sense in Eternity.

You were forgiven a long time ago. God is not with holding from you. Let Him be the rock while you wait on Him. Don't give up on Him.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesdays with Tabitha: Overcomers

Tuesdays with Tabitha

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me Ye might have peace. In the world Ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 (KJV)

This life is full of problems that everyone has to face, there's no denying that. But is it really ever possible to rejoice in our tribulations? To stand in the midst of our biggest problems and thank God for them, because we get that they are an opportunity to grow closer to Him?

In the devotion book "Jesus Calling", Sarah Young writes:

Do not long for the absence of problems in your life. That is an unrealistic goal, since in this world you will have trouble. You have an eternity of problem-free living reserved for you in heaven. Rejoice in that inheritance, which no one can take away from you, but do not seek your heaven on earth.

Begin each day anticipating problems, asking me to equip you for whatever difficulties you will encounter. The best equipping is My living Presence, My hand that never let's go of yours. Discuss everything with me. Take a lighthearted view of trouble, seeing it as a challenge that you and I together can handle. Remember that I am on your side, and I have overcome the world.


It can be difficult at times to give our problems to Jesus, trusting Him to accomplish His will, no matter the outcome. But He has a plan for each of us, Ames He tells us in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us. He has our best interest in mind and will always take care of us.

If we can learn to completely trust Him with whatever comes our way, we WILL be able to face anything. Because we know that though we are incapable of solving difficulties that come our way, with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

We can't handle it, but He can.

When we get that-when we believe that-then we are able to look lightheartedly at tribulation and offer thanksgiving for the good that we know God can bring out of it. And we can do far more than just survive the problem.

With Christ, we can overcome the world.

Do you find it difficult to hand your problems over to the Lord?
Are you able to focus on His Living Presence when things get dark, remembering that He never let's go of your hand?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Not Guilty

"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief."
1 Timothy 1:12-13

Guilt. It haunts me. It plagues me. I dwell on past mistakes. I dwell on the fact that I don't believe I will ever be a "good and faithful servant." 

I hear filth leave my lips. I watch myself fall in to the trap of gossip. I hate it. I hate me...I hate my flesh. I hate that I feel like I will never reach enough holiness. Will I ever be a truly great example for Christ? It is my greatest desire...yet, sin often overcomes me...sometimes unknowingly, sometimes with premeditation. Sin grieves my soul...why do I fight my flesh so much when I want so desperately to be like the Christian women I admire?

I proclaim the Bible to be truth, yet I wrestle with scripture. Sometimes I read and it just doesn't taste good and I feel like God is demanding too much...expectations that no one can truly live up to.

I hate my flesh.

I love when I find rest in Christ. Why can I not feel that way all the time? 

Because I still believe I am guilty. Because I still believe I need to polish off my filth to even approach Him in prayer. Because I feel like I must be blameless before Him.

Because I completely forget that I am no longer guilty. And that He has made me righteous. I forget that I cannot right myself. I forget that God does not make garbage. He doesn't wish He never made me. He knew my sin before I was ever created. I forget that "I'm HIS girl" and He cherishes me. I forget that He is refining me and He is in charge of bringing about holiness. 

That even though I am plagued with sin and guilt, that I am no longer guilty because I have been saved. And all He wants from me is to allow Him to continue molding and shaping me. He WANTS me. He wants me to experience all of Him. He wants me to stop feeling guilty...because He does not see me that way anymore.  I am forgiven.

It is the joy of salvation, that you are still full of sin, yet you are forgiven. His mercy has left me no longer guilty.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Falling in love with the Presence of God

 "What has happened to all your joy?..."
Galations 4:15 (NIV)

It is a special day in our home. Ten years ago, my husband and I vowed to love each other for forever. A decade.  We have had many trials and tribulations. We have hurt each other deeply through the years, but also loved each other even deeper. What no one tells you about marriage is that it is through working through all those trials that you fall deeply in love with one another. Every year...deeper and deeper. It is a beautiful thing!

We have plucked each others first grey hairs and we have laughed at old photos of us when we first met in 1998...our faces much more wrinkled and our eyes much more tired. It is somewhere in the midst of these trials and tribulations that you truly become "one" just as scripture describes. It comes in that moment when you realize you would not want to live your life without them in it. When they are around, you feel a sense of completeness. It happens when you realize that you married an imperfect person and that you too, are imperfect. It happens when you truly see the beauty in this imperfect person God has made. Imperfect...but, perfect for you. You rid your marriage of ridiculous expectations and learn to love with grace.  It takes work and time, but you finally find the JOY in marriage.

It is in this moment where you start to become one with your spouse that is much like the moment when you discover God's gift of grace. We know about it. We've studied it. But, sometimes it takes a long time to truly embrace it.

You become aware of the loving presence of God. It happens the moment you realize you are no longer bound by law, but living under grace. There is this moment where you realize that He truly is all that you need.

And you begin to fall in love with Christ.

And it is strange because you may have known Him for a very long time, but you never experienced His love. You never fully experienced the JOY that comes in living under grace.

It happens when you realize that God created you knowing you were going to be imperfect. It happens when you stop trying to earn His love and realize He already loved you before you were created. Isn't that awesome?!

You see, legalism in Christianity is much like the dating/courtship period prior to marriage. You love this person, so you put on your best face. You work really hard to show them how great you are and how much you could love them. You are trying to win over their affections.

But then you get married, and you have them, and you still really want to show them you love them, but it is hard to keep up that initial act you had that swept them off their feet.

And you start to see each others imperfections and sometimes joy is lost. You wonder what happened to that "perfect" person.

And many lose their joy for God because really they never fully experienced His grace. They have not yet really fallen in love with Him because they are still trying so hard to please Him.

He is pleased with you. You are His beloved. He doesn't create junk. He doesn't want a refund for what He created. He wants you to fall in love with Him. Let Him do the work and polishing and the refining. Enjoy Him. Enjoy Him making you more like Him.