September 28, 2012

The 5 Phases of Faith

By: Lysa Terkeurst

I believe God gives every person a dream. Not the same dream, of course, but a dream that is especially tailored for their talents and His purposes. Each person receives a dream that only they are destined to fulfill.

But just as the Israelites were promised a land flowing with milk and honey only if they had the faith to move ahead and take the promised land, so too does every person with a dream face obstacles that would keep them from God’s best for them. The Israelites had to overcome giants in the land. Those giants struck fear in the heart of those to who the promise was given. Some drew back as a result. Discouragement set in. Fatigue, impatience, unbelief…all of these were common to those men and women who spent 40 years in the desert because they simply couldn’t walk in faith toward the destiny God had called them to.

I meet many people who know in their hearts that God has great things for them. But with every advancing step, they meet obstacles. Giants are in their promised land. And they experience those same feelings of discouragement, fatigue, and unbelief.
Let me ask you this: What is the dream God has given you? Maybe you can’t quite put it into words except to say that you know that God wants to use you. But how that’s to happen…you’re not quite sure.

There are five phases I’ve identified in the Bible common to people who have stepped out with God in pursuit of their dream. Different biblical characters weathered these same five phases and we would do well to recognize these phases in our own faith walk. As you learn about these phases of faith, you’ll avoid the discouragement and defeat so many of us have gotten bogged down in along the way. I pray that you will be able to press through, walk confidently, and avoid doubting God.

These are the five phases of faith you’ll pass through to achieve your dream:

1. Leaving: In order to go to a new level of faith with God, you’ve got to leave the old behind. God’s truth: He has a plan for me.
2. Famine: In this new place, you’ll realize your comfort zone is gone, and you’ll learn to depend on God like never before. God’s truth: He is with me.
3. Believing: You’ve always wanted to really believe God, but now your experience of Him becomes too real to deny. God’s truth: He will make a way.
4. Death: Coming to the end of your ability to make things happen seems like death to you. But to God, this is the only way to new life with Him. God’s truth: He isn’t surprised by death.
5. Resurrection: In a way only He could, God makes your dream come true. Only then do you understand that real joy isn’t in the dream itself but rather in the richer faith you acquired along the way. God’s truth: He brings dreams to life.
Keeping God’s truth’s in mind will sustain you as you pass through the five phases of faith. As you’ll soon discover, satan will oppose you as you begin to fulfill your dream. The more we focus on the truth, the freer we are to walk with God through the phases of faith and not get sidetracked

September 15, 2012

A Faithful God to the End

I've decided that one of the most tempting aspects of being the creature and not the Creator is that the fact that we are not omniscient. As in, we don't know what is in the hearts and thoughts of others. We don't know the end from the beginning. We don't know how the present trial will work together for the good of those who love God. We just ... don't know. All we can do is look back and, to paraphrase John Piper, contemplate the growing reservoir of past grace that has flowed through our lives, something we can clearly contemplate as we struggle with believing more grace will come in the future.
For those who are in that struggle with the unknown, here's an encouraging word from Charles Spurgeon's devotional, Morning and Evening:
"And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul."—1 Samuel 27:1.
The thought of David's heart at this time was a false thought, because he certainly had no ground for thinking that God's anointing him by Samuel was intended to be left as an empty unmeaning act. On no one occasion had the Lord deserted His servant; he had been placed in perilous positions very often, but not one instance had occurred in which divine interposition had not delivered him. The trials to which he had been exposed had been varied; they had not assumed one form only, but many—yet in every case He who sent the trial had also graciously ordained a way of escape. David could not put his finger upon any entry in his diary, and say of it, "Here is evidence that the Lord will forsake me," for the entire tenor of his past life proved the very reverse. He should have argued from what God had done for him, that God would be his defender still. But is it not just in the same way that we doubt God's help? Is it not mistrust without a cause? Have we ever had the shadow of a reason to doubt our Father's goodness? Have not His lovingkindnesses been marvelous? Has He once failed to justify our trust? Ah, no! our God has not left us at any time. We have had dark nights, but the star of love has shone forth amid the blackness; we have been in stern conflicts, but over our head He has held aloft the shield of our defense. We have gone through many trials, but never to our detriment, always to our advantage; and the conclusion from our past experience is, that He who has been with us in six troubles, will not forsake us in the seventh. What we have known of our faithful God, proves that He will keep us to the end. Let us not, then, reason contrary to evidence.
God's faithfulness is something singer/songwriter Heather Williams commented on regarding her song, "Hallelujah." I've been listening to this song a lot in recent days. The open dialogue that David kept with the Lord is what Heather wanted to emulate in her life, especially after the loss of her son. This is a song for those who want to praise God even as they stumble through life. Which is to say, a song for all of us. Because of the Cross, we do know one thing: we are not forsaken.

(taken from Radical Womanhood)

August 30, 2012

What can't you surrender to God?

taken from her.meneutics

She stood in front of a crowded room of young women eager to hear her speak. Unbeknownst to the crowd, Jennie Allen was gripped with fear. All she could think of was how she was being perceived and the waves of criticism that would supposedly come following her talk.

Upon meeting Allen, 35, you’d never suspect she once grappled with deep-rooted insecurities. Gregarious and warm, Allen is expressively passionate about Jesus Christ and reaching the next generation. But for years her zeal was quenched by fear. That is until she prayed a simple prayer, one she documents in her book Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul.
“I realized that I had loved and craved the approval of people,” says Allen. “I’m tired of living for the invisible thoughts of others. I was free of something that had been consuming me.”
In Anything (Thomas Nelson, April 2012) Allen writes about bondage to self and stuff, and seeking safety, comfort and happiness in those things. She recounts how God challenged her to lose her life and surrender it to him.
Anything is about living right now, surrendered,” says the Austin resident and mother of four. “We (my husband and I) were disillusioned by the things we were chasing. I was reading Katie Davis’s blog, and it floored me. I began to ask, what am I doing and why am I living for all of these people?” (Davis, you’ll recall, is a 22-year-old Christian—and transracial adoptive mother of 14 currently living in Uganda.)

One night Allen and her husband, Zac, began to pray. “God, we will do anything—anything,” slipped out of Zac’s mouth. Left were a tinge of fear and two lives now surrendered.

Surrender and abandonment of self have cropped up as themes in several Christian women’s titles over the past year. Jennifer Hatmaker’s book Seven addressed ridding oneself of greed and materialism. Ann Voskamp wrote of her quest to be thankful in all circumstances—even after the death of her 3-year-old sister—in her New York Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts. And then there’s Katie Davis's radical move to Uganda and adoption of 14 girls, documented in Kisses from Katie.

That young Christian women are hungry for more of the Word was also apparent at the Gospel Coalition’s first women’s conference, featuring popular theologians and Bible teachers such as John Piper, Tim Keller, Paige Brown, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and Kathleen Nielson. Women attending commented on the richness of the messages and the depth of the expository preaching.

It’s this same desire for more of God that led the Allens to adopt Cooper, a toddler boy from Rwanda.
“This radical, abandoned life is new for me, and yet it seems to contain more of God and more freedom and more life than trying to hold on to my sane life and protecting my life and dreams ever did,” she said.

Allen has been leading women and Bible studies since she was 17. A graduate of Carson Newman College, she went on to receive her master’s in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2005. Her passion for discipleship led her to write her own Bible studies for the small group of ladies she led. After receiving a nudge and encouragement from her husband, Allen took her studies to a writer’s festival. In 2011 Thomas Nelson contracted her to do a series of projects.

“When I realized God was calling me to more, namely two books and Bible studies, it was scary because it was becoming a career,” she said.

Within a year Allen had completed two projects, written several articles, traveled to ministry events, and appeared in videos. But in April, the month her book launched, what seemed like a time for rejoicing began a new battle.

Allen began to struggle with she called “worse than depression: spiritual numbness.”

“By the end of everything, I just crashed into my bed. I was struck with fatigue and spiritual numbness—right as the book was coming out. I felt like I was so empty when everything should have been exciting,” she said.

“I knew that everything that was written was real, but in those moments, I had to hold onto the Word of God. I’m weak and I need Jesus,” she said.

“When you are in your bed watching five seasons straight of Mad Men, which I don’t recommend,” she says, “I had to at some point quit justifying sitting on my butt.”

She admits, “That’s where I am. Obedience starts with getting out of bed, falling on your face, and trusting that Jesus is who he says he is.

“My anything is running back to Jesus where nobody sees me,” she said.

June 11, 2012

"Nothing seems more miraculous, more difficult for us who insist on figuring things out, than this matter of grace. Logic has nothing to do with it. It is the incomprehensible and inscrutable High and Mighty One pouring Himself out in love for His helpless, sinning creatures. Through the sacrifice of Himself He offers us, when we ask for it, absolute forgiveness.
Nor does He merely forgive. He sanctifies us, definitively establishing a new quality of life in the cleansed soul, communicating to us His life and love, quite apart from any merit whatsoever on our side.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe;
You that are longing to see His face—
Will you this moment His grace receive?
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, infinite grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin."

Elisabeth Elliot

May 5, 2012

it is well with my soul

Surely you've heard the song. I can't tell you how many times i've been in church and the worship leader starts playing "It Is Well With My Soul" and my eyes well up with tears. Saying "it is well with my soul", no matter what the circumstances are in my life at the present moment, is something that is not easy all the time. When I first found out about the histroy behind this hymn I was in absolute awe. This man's faith is something that we should all look up to and remember in all seasons of life...

This hymn was written by a Chicago lawyer, Horatio G. Spafford. You might think to write a worship song titled,
'It is well with my soul', you would indeed have to be a rich, successful Chicago lawyer. But the words,
"When sorrows like sea billows roll ... It is well with my soul”, were not written during the happiest period of
Spafford's life. On the contrary, they came from a man who had suffered almost unimaginable personal tragedy.

Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not just because
of Horatio's legal career and business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close
friends of D.L. Moody, the famous preacher. In 1870, however, things started to go wrong. The Spaffords' only
son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. Horatio
had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of these holdings was
wiped out by the great Chicago Fire.

Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four
daughters on a holiday to England. And, not only did they need the rest -- DL Moody needed the help. He was
traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in
late 1873. And so, the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to catch the French
steamer 'Ville de Havre' across the Atlantic. Yet just before they set sail, a last-minute business development
forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go as planned.
He would follow on later. With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Spafford
returned West to Chicago. Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read:
"Saved alone."

On November 2nd 1873, the 'Ville de Havre' had collided with 'The Lochearn', an English vessel. It sank in only
12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters
Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being
torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a
plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up. When the survivors of the wreck had
been rescued, Mrs. Spafford's first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her,
"You were spared for a purpose." And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, "It's easy to be grateful
and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God."

Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved
wife. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father's
voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and
I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." Horatio
then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.

The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. They echo the response of the Shunammite
woman to the sudden death of her only child. Though we are told "her soul is vexed within her", she still
maintains that 'It is well." And Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is as unwavering as hers

No matter what circumstances overtake us may we be able to say with Horatio Spafford...
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!

It is well ... with my soul!
It is well, it is well, with my soul

May 1, 2012

What if the water that came out of the shower was treated with a chemical that responded to a combination of things, like your heartbeat, and your body temperature, and your brain waves, so that your skin changed color according to your mood? If you were extremely excited your skin would turn green, and if you were angry you’d turn red, obviously, and if you felt like shiitake you’d turn brown, and if you were blue you’d turn blue. Everyone could know what everyone else felt, and we could be more careful with each other, because you’d never want to tell a person whose skin was purple that you’re angry at her for being late, just like you would want to pat a pink person on the back and tell him, “Congratulations!”
Another reason it would be a good invention is that there are so many times when you know you’re feeling a lot of something, but you don’t know what the something is. /Am I frustrated? Am I actually just panicky?/ And that confusion changes your mood, it becomes your mood, and you become a confused, gray person. But with the special water, you could look at your orange hands and think, /I’m happy! That whole time I was actually happy! What a relief!
--- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

April 30, 2012

the love test

“Love patiently and passionately bears with others for as long as patience is needed; Love doesn’t demand other to be like itself; rather, it is so focused on the needs of others that it bends over backwards to become what others need it to be; Love is not ambitious, self-centered, or so consumed with itself that it never thinks of the needs or desires that others posses; Love doesn’t go around talking about itself all the time, constantly exaggerating and embellishing the facts to make it look more important in the sight of others; Love does not behave in a prideful, arrogant, haughty, superior, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner; Love is not rude and discourteous- it is not careless or thoughtless, nor does it carry on in a fashion that would be considered insensitive to others; Love does not manipulate situations or scheme and devise methods that will twist situations to its own advantage; Love does not deliberately keep records or wrongs or past mistakes; Love does not feel overjoyed when it sees an injustice done to someone else but is elated, thrilled, ecstatic, and overjoyed with the truth; Love protects, shields, guards, covers, conceals, and safeguards people from exposure; Love strains forward with all its might to believe the very best in every situation; Love always expects and anticipates the best in others and for others; Love never quits, never surrenders, never gives up; Love never disappoints, never fails, and never lets anyone down.”

-- An expanded interpretive translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Breathe it in deep!