Saturday, September 15, 2012

His Raining Faithfulness

(I had to steal this photo from my friend, Heidi, who is such an amazing photographer!)

My eyes had been straining to peer through my semi-fogged windshield for over an hour. The windshield wiper blades were on maximum speed and pretty much useless to keep up with the torrential down pours I had to drive through. Using the white strips to my left, I guided my car as straight as possible and would have mini-panic attacks as other, larger vehicles would come blazing by me, splashing even more, unmanageable amounts of water onto my overworked windshield wipers. I thought to pessimistic and tired self, "Of course I  would have to drive through thunderstorms all day!" I was journeying through an open, Missouri Valley south of Sioux City, Iowa on my 12 hour drive home from spending sometime with my family that weekend. The sky stretches as far as you can see in all directions making it easy to track the movement of storms.

The rain let up enough so that I could see the morning horizon darken yet another shade of blue against the green fields with twig-like lightning strikes dancing slightly to my left. Lighter, grey-colored clouds were to my right: There was hope! The system appeared to be moving slightly ahead of me, so I even slowed-up more to allow the angry clouds to pass. With a few more spouts of rain, I was reminded of a passage of scripture that brought color back into my whitened knuckles and eased the pounding of my temples:

"Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
    his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
    as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

Is it not remarkable that the rain proclaims the faithfulness of our God? Another verse with a similar reminder of His faithfulness can be found in Joel:

“Be glad, O children of Zion,
    and rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
    he has poured down for you abundant rain,
    the early and the latter rain, as before."  Joel 2:23

ESV Commentary says that "for he has given the early rain for your vindication" can be understood as "the teacher (Hb.hammoreh) for righteousness." Keep in mind this is Old Testament text! Clearly, God is revealing more than his ability to make it rain but rather, using rain to remind us of His desire to give us righteousness through His Son, Jesus Christ!

 Such peace it brought to me as I drove down that long interstate highway that I know the God who opens up the sky to bring rain. Another thought that came to mind was the countless number of prayers that were being lifted due to the vast drought that had occurred along the interstate this past summer and I could not help but rejoice with the farmers that the LORD was faithful to their prayers and was bringing rains. 

"Ask rain from the Lord
    in the season of the spring rain,
from the Lord who makes the storm clouds,
    and he will give them showers of rain,
    to everyone the vegetation in the field."  Zechariah 10:1

I enjoy the commentary for this passage of scripture as well because it gives more of a background on how asking for rain would indicate the faithfulness of the Israelites. Paraphrasing, they were dependent on the rain--especially the spring rains for harvest. Going back to (9:17) God promised that he would provide grain and new wine for his people. So really this passage comes out as a challenge to trust the LORD instead of the pagen gods who also claimed to provide rain. 

That image of the sky ahead of me is still fresh in mind even weeks after arriving safely home from my drive. As I write this, I can hear the constant patter of rain outside the door of our deck and cannot help but smile.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Valley of Worry

How do you react towards life's surprises? If you're anything like me, you may tend to get overwhelmed in a matter of seconds. In fact, I think its safe to say you could put your watch by me: within 10 seconds I am deep in thought, figuring out my next step; around a minute to two minutes, I am in my worry-mode. Now, anticipating or planning in its entirety is not a bad thing, but when it along with the curtail of chronic worry, it becomes a problem. I feel like worry is something that we often excuse as christians; we think that it's an outward force therefore we have no control over it. In reality, it is the opposite and it teems from the well of pride within each of us. The root of worry lies in pride and is a slap of distrust in God. Why are you worrying? More than like your response goes something like this, "Well, I just don't know what's going to happen next! Life was going this way or my day was going this way and now it has all changed and I don't know what to do." Picking that response apart we discover that (1) You do not like NOT knowing what is going on that you have a limitation on knowledge, (2) You were comfortable in a position, (3) You don't like NOT knowing what you're suppose to do NOW. Am I correct? My worry often leads me into a twister of emotions that leads to erratic states of mind and everyone who cross my path gets a variety of quietness, or tears. Are you like that? Well, do not worry (no-pun intended) there is hope in God's Word that can be applied to EVERY surprise, twist or turn that comes your way. Follow me to the first chapter in the Book of James:

Testing of Your Faith

Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(J)If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire (X)when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

I have four take-aways from this passage that I hope will trigger my mind to recall the full extent of the passage:

  • Count the surprise or trial as all joy
  • Ask for wisdom in FAITH
  • Remain steadfast
  • Temptations to worry are not of God
"Joy" does not mean you have to paint on a smile when you receive difficult news, emotions in themselves are not wrong, but if they lay the foundation of fear and worry, we need to pray that God would grant us a different perspective. We need to read James 1:3 over and over, reminding ourselves of the stead and constant work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, perfecting our faith. Secondly, James says we are to seek wisdom. Notice he doesn't say, "Pray that God will relieve whatever trial you're experiencing, or that He will rescue you." I think so often my prayers center around escaping or returning back to the way things were when really, I should simply ask for wisdom in that particular situation. God, being an all-knowing God is the greatest resource we have. We can always have godly-insight from fellow believers, but He is the source of all knowledge and wisdom. So within that 30-60 seconds before the worry sets-in, breathe and pray for wisdom. And ask in faith knowing that God will provide. Stand-up and put some girth behind your prayer: this is God we are talking about! Matthew 6, probably a more well-known passage on worry speaks volumes with the examples of God clothing the flowers of the fields in splendor and feeding the forsaken sparrows. If you cannot seem to muster the strength to ask for wisdom, just saturate yourself with scripture of God's faithfulness. He has scattered verses throughout the entire Bible revealing this amazing attribute of himself. Second Timothy 2:13 is the tail-end of almost a pep-rally-like passage, encouraging followers of Christ:

11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

Zero in on that last portion, "if we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself." IS THAT NOT AN AMAZING TRUTH? If God were to be unfaithful, it would be as if he was denying Himself. So get it! Get after that prayer for wisdom with the strength from His Word with knowledge that God is faithful!

Thirdly, remain steadfast or endure. Matthew 10:22 says "...and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Furthermore, James touches on steadfastness later on in the Book in Chapter 5 where he says, "Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful." Remember your trial gives God a channel with which He can pour out his rich compassion and mercy upon you. Job went through a boat-load of trials, trial after trial, after trial and he remained steadfast. Again, it's not that you cannot be emotional or even frustrated with the circumstance, you're not a robot, God has given you feelings but continue to remind yourself, God will be glorified --He is faithful because He desires glory and more importantly, He deserves glory! He's the only God that can turn our filthy moments in this life into treasures. 
And finally, worry is not from God. My mom always reminds me of this: it's not from God and you're dwelling on things is not going to solve it. Thinking ahead and planning is not wrong, but devoting precious moments of your day devoted to analyzing situations and circumstances over and over and over is as if you're running on a hamster wheel, never getting anywhere. Invest that energy into prayer, spending time in the Word and in fellowship with the community of believers. Seek counsel but go to the Lord first. Ask Him to take your thoughts captive and to help you to not give into the temptation to worry.

It's tough. I know it is. I feel like this would be a thorn in my flesh that I'm constantly having to surrender on a daily basis. I go through these waves with each season in life and get frustrated along with the worry, because I know what I am not to do but still do (You know Paul's "Do-Do" chapter :) So I know that this will continue to be a part of my life, and it won't be until my faith is fully completed and perfected that I will be free, but I can rest in knowing that I am free in Christ. This sin area has been covered in His blood and His grace is sufficient. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

No Tissue Boxes in Heaven

It is so easy to become overwhelmed in day to day events. Life is full of disappointments, frustrations and unexpected turns. I think Western Christianity sometimes gives off the impression that as a Christ-follower, you will never experience pain, suffering or challenges. Knowing that you will encounter pain and suffering probably may not immediately relieve those feelings, but I was reminded this past weekend in Pastor Mark’s message on “He is making all things new.” In the message, Mark reminded us of having an eternal perspective. Passages in Revelation 21 and 22 both touch on the things we have to look forward in the New Heaven and New Earth. In Revelation 21:4, scripture tells us that 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. I sat and thought about that, and applied it to my immediate struggles and was overwhelmed: No more struggle of selfishness and timidity, no fears of the next challenge in life or what other people think, no health conditions--worn-joints or pain with exercise; no need to have to count calories or fat grams or need to fit the profile I impose upon myself with the influence of cultural standards, no autism: oh how I wish we had freedom from the condition and my heart breaks for families that are continually battling with the challenges it presents; no bills, tuition fees, exams or need to meet qualifications for jobs. There won’t be a need for a tissue box in the New Heaven and Earth. Isn’t that wonderful? No tears! No Death! Mourning, crying, pain all of these things will pass away. I know the feeling of “Well, I just want to get married first, or I just want to start a family or establish a career, THEN God can return.” I am by no means discrediting those blessings that God has granted us while on earth—but I pray you will ask for an eternal, Christ-centered perspective in those thoughts. I pray that you would write down your list of immediate struggles and apply this scripture and see why the last few words of the book of Revelation state, “Come, Lord Jesus.” So perhaps instead of us getting hung-up on our day to day challenges or trying to anticipate the next struggle in life, you will pray for endurance now and take hope in the fact that there will be no tissue boxes in heaven. If you’d like to listen to Pastor Mark’s message, I encourage you to visit the website,

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Seeking to Savor Christ This Year

We are a couple weeks into the new year: how are those resolutions coming along? If you're like me, you know the areas you need to improve on but don't want to make an actual declaration of your resolution for fear you'll end up like the other 80% of Americans that fail to keep them!

Our resolutions most likely fall into one of three categories: disatisfaction with our bodies, disatisfaction with our money, and disatisfaction of organizing our time; am I correct? Everyone looks at themselves in the mirror and says, "Welp, I need to lose this and this and this, build this up etc" We look in our wallets and say, "I need to save here, invest here, quit spending here," and we pull out our planners and say, "I need to drop this activity, add this activity, go on this vacation and so on."

Christians and Non-believers alike make these resolutions which are fine and dandy but have you ever thought about going to the source of the your disatisfaction rather than just treating these symptoms with your annual resolutions? Read back over these resolutions which one and only one will truly make you satisfied with who you are? If you lose those 10 pounds, will you be satisfied? If you save $5,000-10,000 this year, will you be satisfied? If you add one more activity, club or even Bible study will you be satisfied: feel as though you've accomplished something? No, you're going to move on to your next disatisfaction in life and try to treat another "symptom" of discontentment. Christians not only deal with this in the physical, emotional and mental relam but we carry it into our spiritual lives as well. We think to ourselves, "Man, if I would just get up every morning and spend my 15 minutes in the Word, then I could really feel good about my relationship with Christ," Or "Ok, I'm going to join my 4th Bible study during the week so that I am really super Christian and I'll honor God with how many Bible studies I am in.

I so appreciate one of our teaching pastors at Fellowship Bible for addressing this topic on January 1st and for John Piper's message at the 2012 Passion Conference for bringing such a great word on Salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Our Pastor used the text from Psalm 27:4-8 which says: (provided from

Psalm 27:4-8

English Standard Version (ESV)

4 (A)One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may (B)dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon (C)the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire[a] in his temple.

5 For he will (D)hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will (E)lift me high upon a rock.

6 And now my (F)head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of (G)joy;
(H)I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

7 (I)Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, (J)“Seek[b] my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”[c]

  1. Psalm 27:4 Or meditate
  2. Psalm 27:8 The command (seek) is addressed to more than one person
  3. Psalm 27:8 The meaning of the Hebrew verse is uncertain
Cross references:
  1. Psalm 27:4 : [Ps. 26:8; 84:1, 2]
  2. Psalm 27:4 : Ps. 23:6; 65:4; [Luke 2:37]
  3. Psalm 27:4 : Ps. 90:17
  4. Psalm 27:5 : Ps. 31:20; [Ps. 91:1; Job 5:21; Isa. 4:6]
  5. Psalm 27:5 : Ps. 40:2
  6. Psalm 27:6 : Ps. 3:3
  7. Psalm 27:6 : [Num. 10:10]
  8. Psalm 27:6 : Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16
  9. Psalm 27:7 : Ps. 30:10
  10. Psalm 27:8 : Ps. 24:6; 105:4

What a wonderful piece of text, Amen? There's an aspect of us seeking the Lord with the resolve He has given to us. The Bible is clear on examples of this resolve in prayers of people such as Psalm 68:1 (earnestly seeking) or in Jeremiah 29:13 (seeking with the entire heart) and in 1 Chronicles 6:11 (seeking with an urgency). But there is also an aspect of seeking the Lord that should stem from the moment we accepted Christ: seeing and savoring Christ. John Piper addressed this in his 2012 Passion Conference message and from his book "Seeing and Savoring Christ," where he explained the dependency we must have on Christ for Salvation. We don't just "decide", but there's an element of Christ revealing Himself while we're dead in sin and raising us to life. The longings of our heart are therefore only satisfied in Christ and Christ alone. Does this mean you cannot take care of your body? Does this mean you cannot be wise with your money? No! The whole reason for addressing the core of your relationship with Christ is to recognize that HE should be the reason you take care of your body and HE's the reason you seek wisdom in handling money and your time. You should be so focused on savoring the goodness of God's grace through Christ that the fruits of the gift of the Holy Spirit teem love, joy,peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control--all of which the resolutions we discussed fall under. You must also ask the LORD to provide you with the correct mindset: the renewal of your mind: the transformation that only comes from Christ. You cannot "will yourself" to Salvation: it comes ONLY by the gift from Christ's atonement. Christ is most glorified as the giver of Salvation: It's about Him being glorified not on your works to become a better person.
So I encourage you to instead of setting multiple resolutions this year: resolve to seek and savor Christ. Seek Christ through prayer: Seek God's face not and not just his hand: seek his beauty and not just his provision. Seek God through His word and savor it: meditate, ask God to grant you greater desires and longings for His Word. And allow the Fruit that comes from knowing your God cover the areas you feel need to change: your body, mind and emotions should follow the heart that is seeking God.