Thursday, August 17, 2017

"SEEING" Faith

Sometimes people speak of having "blind faith", meaning that they step out into the  unknown, putting their trust in God.  Abraham may be one that is said to have had blind faith, leaving all that he and his family knew to go to a land that God would show him in time.  It is always difficult to move under any circumstances, but can you imagine just being told "OK, pack up, hitch up the donkeys and camels and start walking.  I'll tell you when you get there."  Yeah....me neither.

But there is another kind of faith, a faith I like to call "Seeing faith".  This kind of faith "sees" with eyes of faith, eyes that may see nothing visibly, yet they see past what is visible and trust God for what they cannot YET see.

George Mueller had that kind of faith.  He is definitely one of my heroes of the faith.

I read this in my STREAMS IN THE DESERT today about George:

"I went to America some years ago with the captain of a steamer, who was a very devoted Christian.  When off the coast of Newfoundland he said to me, "The last time I crossed here, five weeks ago, something happened which revolutionized the whole of my Christian life.  We had George Mueller of Bristol on board. I had been on the bridge twenty four hours and never left it.  George came to me and said "Captain, I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec Saturday afternoon."  "It is impossible," I said.  "Very well, if your ship cannot take me, God will find some other way.  I have never broken an engagement for 57 years.  Let us go down into the chart room and pray."  I looked at that man of God and thought to myself, 'what lunatic asylum can that man have come from?  I never heard of such a thing as this.'  "Mr. Mueller," I said, "do you know how dense this fog is?"  "No", he replied, "my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God who controls every circumstance of my life."  He knelt down and prayed one of the most simple prayers and when he had finished I was going to pray; but he put his hand on my shoulder and told me not to pray.  "First, you do not believe He will answer; and second I BELIEVE HE HAS, and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it."  I looked at him and he said "Captain I have known the Lord for 57 years and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get audience with the King.  Get up, Captain and open the door and you will find the fog gone."  I got up and the fog was indeed gone.  On Saturday afternoon, George Mueller was in Quebec for his engagement."

That, my Friends, is SEEING FAITH!!  Although Mueller had yet to see the fog lifted, he believed it so.

Now Mueller did not start out as a giant of the faith.  In fact, he actually had a rough start in life.   "As a young boy growing up in Germany in the early 1800s, he often stole money from his dad. As a teenager, he sneaked out of a hotel twice without paying for the room. One time he was caught by police and put in jail. As a Bible college student, George loved going to bars, drinking, gambling, and being the life of the party. He also loved making fun of people, especially Christians.

One day, a friend invited George to go to an off-campus Bible study. He went only because he wanted to make fun of the Christians later. But to his surprise, he liked the Bible study. For the first time, he saw people who really knew and loved God. He attended each evening. Before the end of the week, he knelt at his bed and asked God to forgive his sins.

George's friends saw a change in him immediately. He no longer went to bars or made fun of people. He spent more time reading his Bible, talking about God, and going to church. Soon he found that his friends did not want to be around him anymore.

When George told his father that he had decided to become a missionary, his father became very upset. He wanted George to have a high-paying job and not be a poor missionary. He told George that he would not give him any more money for school. George knew he had to do what God was calling him to do, even if his dad didn't support him.

George went back to college without knowing how he was going to pay his tuition. He did something he thought was a bit silly for a grown man to do. He got on his knees and asked God to provide. To his surprise, an hour later a professor knocked on his door. He offered George a paid tutoring job! George was amazed! This was the beginning of George Mueller's dependence on God.

George went on to become the pastor of a church in England.  Each day as George walked the streets, he saw children everywhere who had no mom or dad. They lived on the streets or in state-run poorhouses, where they were treated badly. George felt God calling him to open an orphanage to take care of the children.

George prayed, asking God to provide a building, people to oversee it, furniture, and money for food and clothing. God answered his prayers. The needs of the orphanage were met each day. Sometimes a wealthy person would send a large amount of money, or a child would give a small amount received as a gift or for doing chores. Many times food, supplies or money came at the last minute, but God always provided without George telling anyone about his needs. He just prayed and waited on God.
More than 10,000 children lived in the orphanage over the years. When each child became old enough to live on his own, George would pray with him and put a Bible in his right hand and a coin in his left. He explained to the young person that if he held onto what was in his right hand, God would always make sure there was something in his left hand as well."---Christianity.com

On one occasion, George was greeted by the caretaker of the orphanage and told that the children were dressed and ready for school, but there was no food for them.  George had her seat the 300 children at the table, bowed his head, and thanked God for the food.  Shortly after, there was a knock at the door.  A local baker told him that God had woke him up in the night and told him to bake bread for the orphanage.  He obeyed and he was there delivering bread to the orphans.  Not long after he left, there was another knock at the door.  It was a milkman whose wagon had broken down out front.  He knew the milk he was carrying would spoil before he could get the wagon fixed so asked if the orphanage could use the milk.  Just enough for the 300 children!  

James warned us about being doubters, "But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind."  James 1: 6.  


Now I don't want to think of myself as a doubter. I don't doubt that God CAN, I just sometimes am not sure if God wants to or not.  What is His plan?  Had I been George on that ship, I'd have probably thought "Maybe God doesn't want me to get to Quebec.  Maybe He has another plan."  Maybe I overthink things too much.  Maybe I need to just learn to pray BELIEVING and wait to see what God does.  Isn't that what childlike faith is?  George didn't overthink the situation.  He needed to get to Quebec.  He prayed a simple prayer, trusted God to answer and expected to open the door and the fog would be gone.
 

Maybe it's time for us to have a little more SEEING faith, instead of WONDERING faith
!!






Sunday, August 6, 2017

IT BLOOMED!!

One June 24 I posted on this blog a story about a rose bush I transplanted from my Mother's house.  It had appeared that it was never going to make it, then one day, miraculously, leaves began to sprout and soon it was a healthy, plant with multiple leaves, green and growing.

Today I am happy to share with you IT BLOOMED!!!



I had been watching it almost daily to see if it would put out a bud.  And then I saw it, a tiny white bud nestled beneath the top leaves.  What a joy it was to watch it as each day it opened a little more.  That which I had prayed for was finally becoming a reality.

I think too often we give up on God coming through for us.  We live in a day of "instant everything"....instant messaging, instant coffee, express pay, express check out, etc.  We want answers from God in the same way...instantly.  But God does not work that way, at least not most of the time.

Isaiah 30:18 says "Therefore will the Lord wait that He may be gracious to you and therefore will HE be exalted, that He will have mercy upon you....blessed are they who wait on Him."

Notice that He desires to be gracious to us.  I confess, when I am waiting on His answers, it doesn't feel very gracious.  But notice too, that it is not about us.  It is about HIM being exalted.  Just like waiting on the rose to sprout and bloom.  In the waiting, it forced me to keep calling on Him again and again, drawing me back to Him.  My efforts of watering and fertilizing were OK, but I knew that if this rose was going to survive and bloom again it would be strictly up to Him.  In the end, He brought this tender rose to life and blessed me just as the verse above says.

David prayed diligently to the Lord and sometimes he got weary of God's delays or slow responses to his pleas.  Psalm 83:1 says "God, do not keep silent.  Do not be deaf, God.  Do not be idle."  I  sometimes feel that way, too, don't you?  Psalm 109:1 "God of my praise, do not be silent."

But Jeremiah 29:12 reminds us that God DOES listen to our prayers, "You will call to Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you."

In Luke Chapter 1 we learn that Zechariah and Elizabeth were up in years and yet still had no children.  But when the angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah to tell him he is about to become a father, he says "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard."  Now it doesn't tell us how long he had been praying, but one can surmise that it had been YEARS since they were old and still had no children.  But evidently Zechariah had continued to pray, not giving up hope.  And, God heard his prayer, and in HIS TIME....he answered it and John was born.

There are many instances in the Bible where individuals had to wait a long time for God to act or to answer a specific prayer.  But the emphasis should not be on the length of time, but on the fact that God DOES answer prayer!  He IS working even when we cannot SEE Him working.  He is orchestrating details, moving in people's lives through circumstances, through people, through many different things until everything falls into place that sets the stage for God to bring it all to fruition and for HIS ULTIMATE GLORY!

So when I begin to get discouraged that God is taking too long answering my requests, I hope I will look no further than the beautiful white rose blooming in my garden to remember His faithfulness and His goodness to answer when I call.




Sunday, July 23, 2017

NOT YET........

It is heartbreaking to see someone that you love going down the wrong path, a path that you know is NOT God-ordained!  Maybe they are in bondage to drugs or alcohol or living an immoral life or maybe they are just spiritually estranged from God.  But you KNOW that God has so much more for them, yet they seem to be totally blind to it.  Maybe you have prayed and prayed and yet it appears that nothing is happening, that God is just not listening.

Appearances can be deceiving!  Just because we see no evidence of it from our perspective, it does not mean that God is not working.  God works in mysterious ways.  His ways are not our ways.  And, He is not on our time frame.  God has a way of weaving seemingly insignificant circumstances into a miraculous outcome.  We just have to trust Him to do it in His time and in His way.  That is the hard part.

A dear friend gave me a devotional for CHRISTmas called 31 Days of Praise by Ruth Myers.  It provides a devotional of things to praise God for each day of the month.  I love it!  One of my favorite days says:

"Thank you that You plan to use for good the struggles my loved ones face---including their disappointing choices, their unwise or even harmful ways of thinking and living, and their sidetracks from going Your way....I praise You in advance for the part these difficult things are going to play in Your good plan for us---in eventual deliverance and growth and fruitfulness.  I'm grateful that in all these things, the battle is not mine but Yours...and that the final chapter has not yet been written."

Those are encouraging words to me.  God IS working.  Even if I do not see it, He IS working!  What's more we can rest in the fact that God does all things well.  (Mark 7: 37) We must not lose hope.  Rather we must remember God's promises to us and trust Him even when we cannot SEE what He is doing.  Isn't that the very essence of faith?

An entry in Streams in the Desert puts it this way:

"There are degrees to faith.  At one stage of Christian experience we cannot believe unless we have some sign or some great manifestation of feeling.  We feel our fleece, like Gideon, and if it is wet we are willing to trust God.....It marks quite an advance in faith when we trust God without feelings.  It is blessed to believe without having any emotion.  There is the third stage of faith which even transcends that of Gideon and his fleece....this third form of faith believes God and His Word when circumstances, emotions, appearances, people and human reason all urge to the contrary. "

Yes, we must learn to trust God to do what only He can do in the lives of those we love even when we see no evidence that He IS working.  We must trust that the final chapter is NOT YET written.  As our former pastor, Rick Gering, once said "There are some chapters in our life over which God writes WILL EXPLAIN LATER," but in the mean time we wait and we trust and we believe that God IS working, God WILL break through and God WILL use it all of His glory!!  

Friday, July 21, 2017

SOAK UP THE SON

When I was a child, my parents bought land from my aunt and uncle and built a house next door to them.  They shared a common driveway.  After 30+ years, my aunt and uncle passed away and their property was sold and then sold again.  My mother was given an easement to use the common driveway as it was on the adjacent property.  At one point the owner decided that he needed to fence the entire place for his horses.  This created a need for 2 gates...one at the end of the driveway and another at the entrance to my mother's property.

The gate at the end of the driveway was operated by solar power.  Now this was a good thing as long as the sun was shining.  However, let it be cloudy for several days in a row and you could find yourself behind a gate that would not budge.  Why? There was no power to operate it.  As long as the sensor for the gate was pointed towards the sun and was absorbing its light, it was energized and functional.  But when the clouds rolled in, coming between the sun and the sensor, the energy began to dissipate until soon it was depleted and rendered the gate inoperable.

Have you ever felt like the darkness was overtaking you ?  Sadness, depression, anxiety so heavy that it was difficult to function?  When the clouds roll in, they can block your view of the Son.  We have an enemy who desires to take our eyes off the Son and focus them on our problems, our circumstances, ourselves...anything but  Jesus!

So when we feel our light growing dim, when the clouds seem to be rolling in, we. Need to refocus our attention and fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  When we focus on Him, His light fills our heart and mind just like the sun is absorbed by the solar light .  Soon we will find ourselves shining with hope and joy, and we will also feel hope rising up within us.  

Sarah Young writes in her devotional book JESUS ALWAYS "I am the Sun that shines on continually , even when your circumstances are difficult and the way ahead looks dark.  Because you know Me as Savior , you have a source of  Light that overcomes the darkness.  I designed you to reflect my Glory, and you do so by looking to Me, turning your face towards the Light.  Take time to be still in My presence, with your face upturned to absorb my radiance.  The longer you stay in this Light drenched atmosphere, the more I can bless and strengthen you."

Today, position yourself to absorb God's ever present light from the Son, allowing him to chase away the darkness.  Feed on His Word, spend time in His Presence and soon you will find your darkness giving way to His glorious Light.  

"Soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
  • Refrain:
    Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
    Look full in His wonderful face,
    And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
    In the light of His glory and grace".----Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Helen Lemmel 1922





Monday, July 3, 2017

FREEDOM IS NEVER FREE!!

As we approach this Independence Day, let us not forget that never has our freedom been free!  Since the beginning of this great nation, there have been those who laid down their lives for our freedom.

I don't know about you, but I never hear our National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, that I do not get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. When I hear of those who refuse to stand when it is played it makes my blood boil!   So when I heard this amazing story of its origin, I was again moved to tears and reminded of the immense price that has been paid for our freedom.  I hope you will take a few moments to watch and listen to this video and as you do, that you will thank God for America and for every one that has laid down his life for us.



Friday, June 30, 2017

WHEN GOD IS SILENT, PART 3

Joseph's story did not end when he was called out of that  prison cell and made 2nd in command over all of Egypt, 2nd only to Pharaoh.  His God-given wisdom and plan of storing up grain for 7 years while the crops were good saved not only the nation of Egypt, but would reunite him with his brothers and his father. It also brought his entire family to Egypt where they multiplied greatly.  Exodus 1: 5-6 "The total number of Jacob's descendants was 70.  Joseph was already in Egypt.  Then Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died.  But the Israelites were fruitful, increased rapidly, multiplied, and became extremely numerous so that the land was filled with them."

Yes, God did great things in Joseph's life.  From our perspective, we can look at his story and SEE all the ways God was working to bring the desired end.  But as Joseph was living it those 13 years, he endured many hardships, defeats and it was NOT a walk in the park.  Still, he trusted God and God blessed him and his entire family.

However, that is still not the end of the story.  God was again silent....this time for 400 years!!!  The Israelites had become slaves in the nation they had fled to and were greatly oppressed.  Yet God had been silent for 400 years.  God had promised their ancestor Abraham that He would multiply them and He had.  But they hadn't heard from him in 400 years, then Exodus 2:23 says "After a long time, the king of Egypt died.  The Israelites groaned because of their difficult labor and they cried out; and their cry for help ascended to God because of the difficult labor.  So God heard their groaning and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God saw the Israelites and He took notice."  Does that mean that God had forgotten them?  Does it mean He was asleep for 400 years and suddenly woke up and saw them struggling?  No.  He knew right where they were.  It just wasn't time yet.

You see God's time clock is not like ours.  II Peter 3:8 "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."  We must remember that!  God has a plan, a Kingdom plan that spans all of eternity.  So what seems like eternity to us is just a blip on the radar of all eternity.

Joseph's story was part of this Kingdom plan to move the Israelites to the Promised Land and eventually to establish the nation of Israel, to set apart His people.  And one day, from this bloodline our Savior would come, Jesus Christ.

God is still working.  He is working out His Kingdom plan and we are part of that plan.   We may not see it with our physical eyes.  It may seem that He is not doing anything although we are continually crying out to Him for ourselves or on behalf of someone we love.  But my dear Friend, I assure you that HE IS WORKING!!  Do not mistake His silence for inactivity.

We must trust in WHO HE IS and trust in His goodness!  We must remember that His promises never fail.  So no matter what you are going through, no matter how long you have prayed and seemingly not gotten a response, God does hear, God does notice, God IS working.

"In times of crisis we are prone to question His care; in times of calm we tend to forget our need of His care.  It is fatal to look at circumstances, especially in crisis, for it will be impossible to be still and wait for God's time of deliverance.  DWELL IN STILLNESS AND WAIT FOR CLEARNESS! The unbelieving heart looks at circumstances and leaves God out.  Faith, on the contrary, looks only at God and leaves circumstances out."  Miles Stanford

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

WHEN GOD IS SILENT, PART 2

As a young teenage boy, Joseph seemed to have it all....the affection of his father, the fancy multi-colored coat that stoked the jealousy in each of his older brothers, and even what seemed to be the favor of God as God began to reveal Joseph's future through dreams or visions.  And Joseph was not shy about sharing these visions with his older brothers and therefore, it drove them nuts, so much so that one day they decided to get rid of him.  They threw him in a cistern to die and would have left him there except a band of gypsies came along and they saw an opportunity to both get rid of him and make a few dollars.  So they sold him, their own flesh and blood, and then carried his coat back to his father with a tale that the boy must have been attacked by a wild animal as evidenced by the blood that they had soaked it in.  It broke Jacob's heart and he would grieve for years and years over this lost boy.

Now if we left the story there, it would seem that all was lost.  Aaahhh, but with God things are not always as they seem.  No, Joseph found himself in the courts of Potiphar, in Egypt.  He rose to a place of leadership and was given great responsibility in Potiphar's house.   He had grown into a man, a very handsome man at that.  And Mrs. Potiphar had her eye on him.  She tried her best to seduce him, but when Joseph fled, leaving his cloak behind, she cried "foul" and Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison.  Knocked down again for no fault of his own.  In fact, he was trying to do what was right when this happened to him.  Time stood still for Joseph.  Til one day he interpreted the dreams of a baker and a butler.  The butler was released and Joseph made him promise that he would put in a good word for him with Pharaoh.  But....I guess he forgot.  Because day after went by and no one came for Joseph.

Now you would think after all that had happened to Joseph over approximately 12 or 13 years, he would have possibly decided that God had forgotten him, that God didn't care, that God could not be trusted, that Heaven was closed and God was silent.  But....that was not the case.

Chapter 41 of Genesis, "Two years passed and Pharaoh had a dream".  Two years after the butler had been released and made Joseph the promise.  And suddenly they were coming for Joseph.  They cleaned him up and brought him before Pharaoh because Pharaoh had very disturbing dreams that no one had been able to interpret.  Then the butler remembered Joseph.  "Oh!  Hey!  I know a guy...."
When before Pharaoh what do you think Joseph said?  Did he brag on his unusual abilities?  Did he deny that he had helped the butler?  No.  He said "Not I, but God.  God will set Pharaoh's mind at ease." (Gen. 41:16 Msg) As Max Lucado described it "Joseph emerged from his prison cell bragging on God, Jail time didn't devastate his faith; it deepened it."  (You'll Get Thru This by Max Lucado)

Max goes on "Joseph's story appeared to stall out in Chapter 40.  Our hero was in shackles.  The train was off the tracks.  History was in a holding pattern.  But while Joseph was waiting, God was working.   He assembled the characters.  God placed the butler in Joseph's care. He stirred the sleep of the king with odd dreams. He confused Pharaoh's counselors.  And at just the right time, God called Joseph to duty.

To wait, biblically speaking, is not to assume the worst, worry, fret, make demands or take control.  Nor is waiting inactivity.  Waiting is a sustained effort to stay focused on God through prayer and belief.  To wait is to 'rest in the Lord and wait patiently upon Him...not fret'" Psalm 37:7

Yes, it appeared that Joseph had been forgotten by not only his brothers but God as well.  It seemed that God was silent for all those years, leaving Joseph to fend for himself.  According to Max, "In the chaos called 'Joseph's life', I count one broken promise, at least two betrayals, several bursts of hatred, two abductions, more than one attempted seduction, ten jealous brothers, and one case of poor parenting.  Abuse. Unjust imprisonment. Twenty four months of prison food. Mix it all together and let it set for 13 years and what do you get?  The grandest bounce back in the Bible! Jacob's forgotten boy became the second most powerful man in the world's most powerful country.  The path to the palace wasn't quick and it wasn't painless, but wouldn't you say God took this mess and m de it into something good?"

Joseph's story gives us all hope!  It reminds us that while we wait, God works.  We may not see it.  We may not see ANY evidence that God is at work.  But, that does not mean He isn't!  In those 13 years of slavery, hardship, loneliness, abandonment, imprisonment and being wrongly accused, God never left him.  Quite the contrary.  God was preparing him for one of the greatest roles of his life!  He was going to save God's people from starvation.  He was going to bring them all down to Egypt, also part of God's BIG picture.  The proud, arrogant boy in the rainbow jacket was not ready for that role. It took 13 years to make him into the man he needed to be to handle that responsibility.  But make no mistake!  Though God may have seemed silent, He never left Joseph.  And, what's more, Joseph knew it.  How do we know?  Listen to what he says to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 "You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result--the survival of many people."

Remember this.  God may be silent, but God is never inactive!  He is always working, always with you and always faithful to His plans and promises.  So trust in Him as Joseph did.  Pray and wait for  God to act.  

"Trust in the Lord with all you heart, lean not on your own understanding; in all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path." Proverbs 3:5,6