Category Archives: Faith

In Tears

Maybe because I had a difficult week dealing with a bad tooth, and now with it fixed, I have succumbed to exhaustion. As such, I’m feeling a bit more emotional than usual (or maybe it’s a hormonal thing).

Regardless, I just finished writing another devotional for my church, and more than once I had to fight back tears. Something about it struck me. It’s about God’s love and mercy, that no matter how egregious our sins, he will always pursue us to get us to accept his convictions, his mercy, and his love.

Perhaps there are a few sins of my own that I need to lay at God’s feet. Perhaps, although my head is well aware of who God is, and how much he loves me, my heart needs a bit more coaxing. I don’t always feel God’s presence even when I know he’s there.

Such as when my husband is sitting next to me. I know he’s there, loving me, however quietly. Yet sometimes I need him to hold my hand, so I can feel his love just as poignantly.

Another Big If

Romans 8:31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

I wrote a devotional for my church called “The Big If.” It’s short, so here it is:

You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Scripture is replete with such passages. God promises us many things, but there’s often a caveat introduced with one little word: If. It is one of the largest words in the Bible, I think. Not the most powerful, but one with deep meaning. A word so small, it could easily be overlooked.

If (see what I did there?) we remove the “ifs” from scripture, we could too easily infer that God requires nothing of us in order to reap the benefits he offers us. That means I can move mountains with a thought and be saved with no other action on my part.

For more times than I can count, I have expected God to do all the work while all I did was show up to receive his blessings. Instead, however, I found myself accepting darker consequences, feeling lost and abandoned, and not at all blessed.

All because I neglected to notice that tiny, yet ever-important little word.

That’s not loving or being faithful to God. It’s taking him for granted, and treating him like Santa Claus instead of the Creator of the universe who makes the rules.

Still, God wastes nothing, not even our mistakes. When I ignored that little “if,” and faced the consequences accordingly, I learned just how important looking for that little “if” is.

I often hear the second part of Romans 8:31 above from other Christians, typically when they’re seeking some kind of social change. While they can be laudable goals, I always cringe at the declaration. The reason is two-fold.

One, it smacks of presumption. Is God really on their side? Or are they being a bit prideful, openly stating that God will not allow their failure. It also implies that those who might disagree with them are God’s enemy. And what happens if they do fail (for whatever reason)? How do they view God, and their relationship with him after that?

Having made that presumption many times myself, I have learned to avoid thinking, or stating that God is on my side. Instead I ask (less often than I should) whether or not I am on his.

Secondly, claiming that verse for the things we do, or intend to do, misses the point of the passage. Paul does not refer to the success of our deeds, but something else entirely:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39)

Does that mean God will not “take our side,” and help us succeed in the tasks he gives us? Of course not. I just think we need to be careful how we proclaim his help, be sure to give him glory above ourselves, and always make sure we don’t miss any more “ifs.”

The Journey of Discovery

We’re studying the book of Isaiah in church, and the instructor of the video study guide relayed a story of one of her classes.

Isaiah describes a person called the Servant in later chapters. She asked the students, which consisted of Jews, Christians, atheists and Buddhists, to name a few, to figure out who that person is, may be, or was.

In the end they determined that person would be both human and a deity.

As a Christian, I know exactly who the Servant is. I learned about him in ways that didn’t include Old Testament prophesy. In reading Isaiah, there’s no question. As Brandon, one of our pastors said, “That’s Jesus. Next!”

I heard a line on the show “Earth: Final Conflict,” where a character –a scientist — complained how scientists were no longer necessary, because the Taelons were giving humanity everything. Humans no longer needed to endeavor scientific advancement. He said, “The journey of discovery is what makes us human.”

What happens, then, when we are deprived of that journey?

I felt a little of that loss during last week’s study. Like getting the answers to a test without even knowing, let alone understanding — or discovering — the questions. Or someone telling me the end of a story before I have a chance to read the first page.

I don’t regret my journey with God, not even close. I mostly wonder what uncovering him through Old Testament prophesy would be like, to have that a-ha moment of discovering Jesus for the first time as I read the Bible instead of discovering Jesus before I read the Bible.

An Attempt at Losing with Grace

Well, I’m a little bummed. I submitted my latest novel to a contest, and just discovered it didn’t even make the semi-finals.

Part of me is thinking, “Wow. It must have sucked. Maybe I should give up on editing the darn thing, because it has no chance of even getting published.” (Don’t worry, I’ll get over it, because it did win a different contest last year. All this means is the competition was especially good, not that mine sucked).

Sure I was hoping to at least make the finals if not win, both for bragging rights, and because after each round, the judges submit a score sheet with comments for improvement. Win or lose, those comments alone are worth the price of submission.

The good news is I no longer have to think about going to the conference this year when they announce the winners.

Call it coincidence, or call it irony (or ironic coincidence), but less than 15 minutes before discovering I had lost, I commented on a Facebook post about one of my favorite verses in the Bible:

“Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked.” Ecclesiastes 7:13

Believe or Else — Until You Leave The House

I overheard a boy say, “I have to believe in God until I turn 18 or when I move out. Then I can believe whatever I want.”

I found that a little concerning. It almost sounded as though faith was being forced on him, and that he looked forward to not believing in God later in life.

Faith should never be forced on anyone.

Some could argue at this point that Christians believe just that. Even Jesus said that those who don’t believe in him will die (John 3:16-20 & John 8:24). History abounds of instances where churches killed or imprisoned those who refused to convert.

I won’t argue church history, except to say they got it wrong. Jesus never told anyone to force others to believe; he merely stated what will happen to those who refuse to believe (see Matthew 13:41-42 & 49-50).

We are all still free to make that choice, as long as we first consider the consequences of that choice.

Nor do I think we can force anyone to believe anything anyway. Sure, we can say we believe in God to appease others, but we are also fabulous liars. We, in fact, more often than not hide what’s true in our heart than what we reveal — both good and bad.

Jesus, however, knows what’s in our heart regardless. Sure, scripture says we must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), but we must accept it as truth in our heart first.

Jesus will always know the difference even when those around us don’t: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” ~ Matthew 15:8 (& Isaiah 29:13)

I also had to ask a question of myself. Am I forcing my own son to believe in Jesus? After all, I take him with me to church twice a week, he goes to a Christian school, I pray with him every night, and I keep my car radio on a Christian station to name a few.

Yet I never once said, “Believe or else.”

Exposing and even immersing my son in my faith is showing him how important Jesus is. At the same time, I try to encourage him to ask questions, even (especially) the hard questions. Still, I know that no matter how much I encourage him to believe, that choice will always be his to make — the whole leading the horse to water stuff.

I think it’s important to encourage, and not threaten when it comes to faith, children most of all. They all rebel in one form or another, and if we present our faith as tyrannical, and unattractive, they will run away from it the first chance they get — perhaps permanently.

I’ll leave you with these:

“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. ‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” ~ Ephesians 6:1-4

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. “ ~ Deuteronomy 11:18-19

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6

Why I Hate The Phrase . . .

“God answered my prayer.”

People only say that when they get the answer they want and/or expect. What about the times when we don’t get the answer we want? Does that mean God didn’t answer it? That he turned a cold shoulder as a way of saying, “What a stupid prayer that was. Don’t waste my time.”

When we ask people for something and they say no, do we run around complaining that they didn’t answer?

No. Instead we say, “He said no.”

Same way with God. He answers all our prayers. Most of the time the answer is no, and that’s a good thing. We don’t always know what’s best for us, but God always does. I can look back at some of my more fervent prayers when God said no, and invariably I find out later he was right.

Instead of telling everyone, “God answered my prayer,” we need to say, “God said yes.” It works the other way as well. Instead of crying to everyone, “God didn’t answer my prayer,” we need to say, “God said no.”

And be thankful for it. God always says no for a reason, even if we won’t know that reason for a while, if ever.

That’s the definition of trust.

Addendum: I actually wrote this four years ago today. The program I use to write my journal/blog entries sends me automatic notices of past entries I’ve written on today’s date. It’s possible this same entry is on my blog, but I think it deserved a re-post.

The Power of Words

I’ve always believed writing is one of the most noble skills out there. Books, both fiction and nonfiction, when done well, will never lose their relevance hundreds, sometimes thousands of years later. They can heal, inform, and inspire. They can bring light to those drowning in darkness.

Here is one such example of how a teacher’s small act of sharing a book with a student literally (see what I did there?) saved his life. Warning. You may need to keep a few tissues on hand.

Never underestimate the power of words — even your own.