Category Archives: Faith

The Wounded Healer

Sometimes when we are in the midst of a personal struggle, on top of all of the emotional turmoil that comes with it we can also feel worthless.  Its as if we are so far down in the dumps that we could not possibly have anything to offer anyone else.  I know I tend to get this way sometimes.  I am in the midst of such a struggle and it seems that God keeps reminding me that I can still be an encouragement to others who are struggling.  We are in the midst of a series at church called “On A Mission”.  A consistent theme in our pastor’s teaching is RESTORATION.  “God’s original intent is his final intent” you will often hear him say.  When God created the world and mankind and said “It is GOOD“, he meant it.  We made it ugly by trying to be like God and allowing our selfish ambitions to control us, thus inviting sin and destruction into His beautiful creation.  But God didn’t decide to give it all up and just let it go.  Since the minute Eve tasted the fruit God put into action a plan of redemption and restoration for his precious creation and he wants us to be part of that plan.  That can be a daunting thought for some of us.  I think about being the hands and feet of God, meeting the needs of the “poor and needy” or the broken spirited people around me and sometimes all I can think is, “I’m the poor and needy one.  I’m the one who is broken.  I’m the one in need of someone to minister to me.”  I am just being transparent.  But I realized that just because I am broken, I can’t ignore the others I come in contact with who have the same needs for healing and restoration that I do.  In fact, God can use me in someone else’s life just as I am…brokenness and all.  IN FACT…I think much more healing occurs when we allow ourselves to be used in the midst of our brokenness.  I can see a few ways this happens.

First, we can really meet people where they are if we know what they’re going through because we’re going through it ourselves.  Its not a pity party…its an empathy that builds bridges.  “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses…” (Heb 4:15)  Jesus modeled this himself.  We forget sometimes that Jesus was fully human and experienced the same trials we do.  Knowing that makes it so much easier for me to enter into this trust relationship with Him where I know he cares for me and wants to heal me.

Second, you will always experience healing in your own life when you open yourself up to be part of someone else’s healing and restoration.  So many times I have realized that when I am sharing encouraging words to a friend who is struggling, those same words minister to me and what I am going through.  The strength and encouragement they offer to someone else become real to me also.  What a beautiful picture of redemption!

Third, it stands to reason that when we take our eyes off of our own struggles long enough to meet the needs of another person, it sheds a whole new light on what we are going through.  Often  times we get a new perspective that can help us work something out that we have been struggling with.  If nothing else, it takes our eyes off of ourselves and focuses on being a light to someone else.  This can be a refreshing change of scenery.  I think you will also find that its in the times when our focus is on someone else’s needs that God dives into the depths of our brokenness, working and moving and providing healing that we may not even be aware of at the time.

So if you are feeling worthless because you are going through a struggle that seems to have consumed you, remember that you can still be used in God’s plan of restoration.  You can still be a light to someone else in the darkness.  You can still offer love and encouragement to someone else going through a trial.  You can be a wounded healer.


Little Obediences (further thoughts on worship)

I realize that “obediences” is not a word because my spell check won’t let me forget it.  But its the best word to describe what I want to say about worshiping God when we least feel like doing so.  I believe it takes obedience to worship God sometimes.  Sometimes it is easy, like when things are going great.  Its when things aren’t going so great that we forget that we are told numerous times in scripture to live with thankfulness towards God, no matter our situation.  (Eph 5:4, Col 2:7, Col 3:15-16, Col 4:2, 1Thes 5:18, Heb 12:28)

If we can learn to worship God in the difficult times when we don’t feel like it, we will be given a greater gift of faith to make it through those tough times.  Our fear is turned into trust, our doubt into faith, our sorrow into joy that can only come from the Lord.  But maybe you’re wondering what it looks like to cultivate a heart of worship.  I have a few thoughts on that I would like to share.  

First, worship is so much more than singing songs in church on Sunday.  Worship is also an attitude.  I have heard it called, “An attitude of gratitude.”  As I said before, even if it doesn’t seem like we have anything to be thankful for (and I’m sure that is not the case for the majority of us) we can still be thankful for who God is.  We can praise him with our mouth, singing songs or praying prayers of thanksgiving throughout the day.  And let me tell you, the best times to do that are when its the hardest.  Trust me in this!  Did you just lose your job?  Praise God for his faithfulness and provision.  Did you just find out you have an illness?  Praise God for his peace that passes all understanding.  Having trouble paying bills this month?  Praise God for all that you have and he has given you thus far.  Carrying anger and bitterness towards someone?  Praise God for his unconditional love and forgiveness and (dare I say it) pray a blessing over that person.  It is when we act in the opposite spirit that the enemy loses his grip on us.  If we refuse to praise God in difficult times and instead choose to blame him, we are joining with the enemy on the wrong side of the war.

There are many other things that we can do that you might be surprised to realize are worship to God.  Even our suffering can be a sacrifice of praise to God.  Are you lamenting like we see in the Psalms?  Cry out to God.  Confess your doubt and even your anger towards him.  He can handle it.  It is worship to him.  As Amy Grant says in her recent song “Better Than A Hallelujah”:

We pour out our miseries, 
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

I have found this to be true.  I have also found that in my times of utter brokenness or even deepest doubt, a cry to God ushers in his peace like roaring waves on the sea.  

Something else we can do is serve others.  Do you find yourself in a desperate situation that seems hopeless?  Is it consuming your thoughts and your life?  Why not focus on someone else’s pain for a while?  Pray for someone else who is going through a difficult time.  You will be amazed at how God changes your perspective on your own situation.  Serve someone else.  Take a meal to a sick friend, visit a prisoner, read a book to a lonely elderly person in a nursing home, mow your neighbors lawn, pay for the food of the guy behind you in the drive thru.  Do something for someone else to show God you can be faithful in hard times.  It gives substance to the term, “sacrifice of praise” when we choose to forget about ourselves and focus on someone else.

You see, it is in these little “obediences” that we are changed.  It is through these little ways of worship and focusing on God that a heart of worship is cultivated.  And these “little” things are not so little in the grand scheme of things because these little things are what give you roots of deep faith in Christ.  You will find that the next time you go through a valley, praise and worship will be your natural response.  That is cultivating a life of worship.  The added bonus?  You will also find greater joy in your corporate times of worship on Sunday mornings.  It will be so much easier for you to enter the Throne Room because your heart will already be there.  You will sense the Holy Spirit so much easier and quicker because He is always there, moving and breathing on us, ready to touch our hearts  and connect us to the Father.  This will also prove to enrich your body life.  Your corporate times of worship will be sweeter, deeper, more intimate and they will bring you closer to your brothers and sisters in Christ who are worshiping alongside you.  

I know that worshiping God when you don’t feel like it is hard.  Let me say it again, I know.  But trust me on this.  I’m speaking from experience.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain if you give it a try.  I would love to hear stories of how this became truth to you!  

I will end with these powerful scriptures from the New Living Translation:

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.  Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:6-7

“Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.”  Hebrews 12:28  


And you give yourself away….

Today, as I sat silent with God, I remembered all the times I’ve given my heart away to someone or something.  It is so easy to do, especially for women, emotional creatures that we are.  I thought about times I loved without limits only for that love to be used and tossed aside, or maybe never even recognized in the first place.  I thought about all the times I’ve been used.  Used by so called friends who were really only “friends” with me for what they could get out of it.  Used by men for my body.  Dare I say, even used by the Church for my talents?  I can think of so many people and things I gave my heart to in these different scenarios.  Then the question came to mind.  Why did I allow these people to use me?  Why did I give my heart away so easily?  The answer is simple…life.  I was trying to get life from these people by giving them my heart.  Instead of getting life from my Creator, (the only One who can give true life) I squandered my heart trying to get it anywhere I could.  I ransomed what God put in me for what only He could give me but not to HE who could give it.  

Of  course I realize that now.  But before I had this revelation all I had was the hurt that came from my heart being broken.  I stood at a point in my life where I had to make a decision not to let anyone have my heart. I locked it away and guarded it with my bitterness and cynicism.  Nobody was allowed in…not even God.  Its easy to go through life that way, even as a Christian, and not even realize it.  But its like being a zombie.  You just go through the motions of the “Christian” life but have no real life that sustains you…God given life.  

Thank God, literally, that He got a hold of my heart again.  When I slowly started realizing that I had given myself away trying to get life that only God could give, I started to unlock the chains around my heart.  Slowly I began to give my heart back to God. When I did that, healing started happening.  God began (and continues to this day) to restore to me all that I had wasted.  Not only is he healing my heart but he is giving me HIS heart.  Now I am able to give my heart away in love and service to others because its not my  heart I am giving away, its God’s.  I think that is what it means to have our identity in Christ.  Its not us that does the work of love, it is Christ through us.  He loves and moves through us.  We are his hands and feet.  And if we allow him, he gives us his heart to love others the way he does.  Now when I give my heart away a seed is planted.  Nothing is wasted.  I am redeemed, God is glorified and I get to be part of his Kingdom here on earth.  What a beautiful way to live.  That is true life.  Who has your heart?  

Praise Wins (my thoughts on doubt)

We have been talking about honest doubt at church and house church the past few weeks. Maybe you’re more familiar with the term “crisis of faith”.  We have been trekking through the Gospel of Luke and just reached the part where John the Baptist sends his messengers to Jesus (because he’s in prison) to ask if he is the promised Messiah.  Any of us who have been walking this faith journey long enough could probably tell a story or two about times of doubt in our lives.  Sometimes it seems so much easier to doubt than to have faith, especially when it seems we have to wait an eternity on God, or when he doesn’t appear to be moving and acting the way we expected him to.  (John must have felt the same.  He had this image of a Liberating King who sets captives free, yet here he is locked up in prison!)  When we place so much faith in God, our eyes and our hearts fixed on him, our stake of trust grounded in his faithfulness, we feel we have wagered everything on him coming through.  It only makes sense then that we expect him to come through!  So what happens when we face those times where God asks us to wait?  He may not answer right away or respond the way we expected by doing what we know he can do.  He may answer and respond but not the way we hoped.  We can face real disappointment when this happens and with disappointment comes doubt.  What should we do?  I have a suggestion…

You have to make a choice to trust in God’s sovereignty even during times of uncertainty. And its in those times you must choose to worship God for who he is.  Don’t worship him for what he’s done or because you want something from him…worship him for WHO HE IS.  If you need a reminder of who God is just turn to the scripture.  And don’t forget that GOD IS LOVE.  He doesn’t just love us…he IS love.  He can’t be anything but love in everything he does.  He can’t do anything but love you in everything he does, including making you wait for his response or doing the opposite of what you asked him to do.  If you can start to worship God for who he is then you can worship him in any circumstance because he never changes.  If that doesn’t give you something to praise him for then I don’t know what does!  Let me also say that worship isn’t just singing praises to God on a Sunday morning at church.  Let me tell you from personal experience, if you fix your heart on God and submit everything you are, everything you have and everything you do to him (even your doubt), that doubt will turn to faith and that faith will grow.  You will find the next time you face doubt it will be easier to trust God through that doubt.  Then your faith will continue to grow even more!  Some of you may need a fresh revelation of who God is.  All you have to do is ask and when he reveals himself to you, your response must be worship!

I was reminded this week of King Jehosephat. You can read the story in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 but I will try to sum it up for you here.  Jehosephat was the King of Judah.  He was a God fearing man who loved his people.  In this part of the Story he finds his people surrounded by enemies much greater in number.  He became fearful of the opposition, seeing no way to defeat them.  His first response was to seek God and declare a national fast to gain God’s favor.  God assured him that they would not even have to raise their weapons and still they would be victorious.  Now lets just try to put ourselves in his shoes for a moment.  Picture yourself a part of a small army of 10 people (this is not true to the biblical account but I am just trying to paint a picture here).  Now picture yourself completely surround by an army of 1,000 people made up of all sorts of tribes from different places, all hell bent on wiping you out.    

Would you doubt God’s promise that you wouldn’t even need your sword?  I know I’d want my sword…and I’d probably be the one saying we’re toast.  But Jehosephat believed.  Do you know what he did next?  He got his army together to go and face the enemy (it doesn’t really say if they suited up or not) and…this is the best parthe put  his worshipers up front to lead the way.  Not his biggest, burliest, toughest shield and sword wielding warriors…HIS WORSHIPERS.  He appointed singers and instrumentalists to lead the way because he believed God would do what he said he would.  I think you can guess what happened.  They didn’t even have to fight.  God confused the other armies and they turned on each other until there were no survivors.  This is a beautiful reminder to us of the POWER OF WORSHIPespecially in the face of a bleak situation that most certainly would cause us to doubt!  So I challenge you, if you are facing hardship and doubt in your life, bend your heart towards God and WORSHIP HIM FOR WHO HE IS.  You can command your soul to worship God even if you don’t feel like it.  David commanded his soul all the time in the Psalms.  You will be changed, I promise.

I want to leave you with a Psalm that one of our house church members pointed out last night as we talked about honest doubt.  Its comforting, sometimes, to read the Psalms and realize that doubt is a normal part of life with God.  But I challenge you to focus on David’s final thoughts after expressing his doubt.  May we have the same heart in the face of our doubts.

Psalm 13
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? 
   How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts 
   and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
   How long will my enemy triumph over me?
 3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
   Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
   and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
 5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
   my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise, 
   for he has been good to me. 

Faith vs. Reality

Sometimes it can be hard to have faith when faced with reality.  This is where having faith is most important.  Faith and reality don’t really make sense together.  If we can get to that place of trusting God in the midst of whatever hard reality we are faced with, this is where miracles happen.  God never changes.  He stays the same and He is who He is.  He is REAL too, and greater than anything we might face.  (1John 4:4)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.  Eph 3:20-21

Living in the "already but not yet" – More thoughts on suffering

Some of you probably wonder what the title of my blog means.  It doesn’t seem to make much sense at first glance.  Its a stolen phrase, I didn’t come up with it and I honestly don’t know who did.  I first heard it from my brother who is also my pastor.  It is, in my opinion, the perfect way to describe the Kingdom of God.  We have not yet reached it but it is also already here.  God’s redemption plan is not finished and we are not fully restored, yet God lives in us, among us and brings his Kingdom through us.  He is Emmanuel, God with us.

I was struck by this today as I spent some time in silence before my Creator.  It is often in these times God brings great revelation and he held true to that today.  He birthed a deep desire in my heart that, to put it mildly, surprised me.  (I don’t feel I can disclose the details just yet)  At the same time came the realization that my life, my marriage, my family is not even close to being what it needs to be for this desire to become a reality.  The desire consumed me and the realization of  the brokenness that is keeping me from it gave me an ache in my soul I’ve never experienced.  Enter the enemy.  It is undoubtedly true that brokenness draws our Savior to us like a magnet to a steel beam.  (Matthew 5:3, Psalm 51:17)  But the one who “prowls around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) preys on our brokenness too.  He whispered, “You’ll never have that.  God will never fulfill your desire because you aren’t good enough.   You’re too weak.  You’re broken.  Can’t you see how messed up you are?  You might as well forget about that.”

Pain and brokenness turned into despair and hopelessness.  All I could see was my current situation and at that all I could do was weep.

Then I heard another voice whisper…”Emmanuel“….and I remembered….

God is here!  

Not all things have been redeemed yet so I still suffer pain and brokenness in this world.  But God is with me NOW.  My Comforter, my Rock, my Defender, my Shield…Abba Father (which in the original language means “Daddy”).  His greater purpose to restore all of creation, including me, perfectly overshadows the suffering I might face today.  Even more, he invites me to be part of his greater purpose and my suffering then becomes part of that purpose too because my suffering is part of me.  This gives me hope.  This changes everything!

Living in the “already but not yet” is just that.  Realizing things are not yet as they should be, so, there is pain, suffering, disease, heartache and disappointment to say the least.  But God’s great purpose, his rescue plan, has been activated and HE IS HERE.  We are being rescued!  And our life, if we let it, can be part of God’s great rescue mission…messy, dark, broken and depraved as it is.  That, my friends, is REDEMPTION.  Not something we are just waiting for and looking forward to, but something we can have TODAY.


One In The Spirit

Ahhhh, Sundays.  I love going to church for so  many reasons.  The people are amazing and there is so much love in that place when they’re all there.  Anytime we have visitors they are definitely noticed and welcomed with enthusiasm and genuine excitement at a new face.  The coffee is great and of course, the donuts are a nice perk too.  There are so many young children and babies and its so beautiful to watch them play and form bonds of their own.  They bring such a life to the church that only they can bring.  The music is great and our worship is always spirit filled.  God moves in our services and truly inhabits our praises like the psalmist says. (Psalm 22:3)  The message is always challenging and uplifting.  All of these things make for a great time at church.

Today, during the service, I could feel my spirit uniting with the spirits of those there worshiping with me and it made me stop and think about they mystery of the Holy Spirit.  (It also may be on my mind because we just had a teaching weekend at church and it was about the Holy Spirit)  I have Christian brothers and sisters all around the world.  Some I know deeply and some I’ve just met.  Some I talk to on a regular basis and some I never even see because they are so far away.  But it doesn’t matter, the distance between us.  We share a common bond that keeps us united and that bond will never be broken.

This is one of the great mysteries of the Holy Spirit.  Its a mystery because  you can’t explain it.  You can’t see it but you can feel it.  When the Spirit of God in you connects with the Spirit of God in another the union is nothing less than divine.  Have you ever encountered a perfect stranger and without even having a conversation you get this feeling in your gut that they worship the same God you do?  Its as if your souls recognize each other.  This only comes through the Spirit.  What a beautiful picture of the third Person of the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead and his action perfectly displays the heart of God in his relentless pursuit of a relationship with us and his unquenchable desire for us to relate to each other.  What an honor to be in a relationship with such a Lover as God.

So, here’s to all of my brothers and sisters, near and far.  The ones I talk to often and the ones I have lost touch with.  I may not always have you in mind, but our Spirits will be united for all eternity.  AMEN!

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"It is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time. He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds. Yet, mortals still can’t grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end of time." Ecclesiastes 3:11

Greg Boyd – ReKnew

"It is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time. He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds. Yet, mortals still can’t grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end of time." Ecclesiastes 3:11

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"It is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time. He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds. Yet, mortals still can’t grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end of time." Ecclesiastes 3:11

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