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When the Answer is Delayed: Five Steps for Walking In Faith Through the Wilderness

“There is another side to my wilderness. I am only going through it. I am not camping in the wilderness permanently. I am not settling. I am prepared to keep moving because my God is with me.”  – Rachel Wojo

These words caught my attention immediately this morning, as I opened Rachel Wojo’s Bible study Never Alone to begin my devotional time. Why? Because once again our family is in a wilderness situation.

It’s been a week since my husband, adult daughter and I decided to take some much needed family time and go out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. Since they have handicapped parking right next to the door, I decided to use my walker instead of my wheelchair that usually goes with me on all outings. We enjoyed the meal and the time together, but by the time we left the restaurant I was struggling with shortness of breath and wishing we hadn’t left the wheelchair at home.

I made it to the car, and we started on our way to one final stop before heading home. Suddenly, on one of the busiest streets on our end of Houston, the car abruptly stopped and we were stuck in heavy traffic. After one attempt to get the car into neutral so it could be pushed off the street into a nearby parking lot failed, my husband was finally able to get the gear to shift and some strangers pushed us to safety. Then we waited for a wrecker and a friend we had called to arrive so we would have a way home.

We had been having trouble with our car since having some transmission work done several months earlier, so my husband suspected the problem was transmission related and had the car towed to the transmission shop. But once the mechanics looked at the car, they concluded there was no way to prove the problem was related to their work and therefore they would not cover the repairs under the warranty on their work. So we now had a dead vehicle, our only means of transportation, a budget stretched so thin we were barely covering it monthly, and no way we could come up with to either repair or replace our car. 

What do you do when you face a situation like this? My first reaction was to give place to thoughts of fear and anxiety, but I knew this wasn’t the right response. So my husband and I prayed, turning this situation we saw no way out of over to the Lord. And as of today, that’s where it still is, with no understanding of how God is going to solve this problem.

Many years of walking with the Lord have taught me several things concerning how to walk through a wilderness situation such as this one, when in our own understanding we feel trapped and see no way out. 

  1. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Acknowledging we don’t have an answer but He does is the first necessary step, as we commit the situation to the Lord through prayer.
  2. Recognize our emotions will not always line up immediately with our decision to entrust our situation to the Lord. Therefore, we must make a commitment not to allow our emotions to effect our decision.
  3. Spend time meditating on Scripture. This renews our minds with the truth of God’s Word, which we need to stand upon when fear and doubts come in like a flood.
  4. Keep a grateful heart in the midst of the trial. A graphic of one of my favorite quotes on being thankful hangs in my bedroom, where I see it every morning. It is from Ann Voskamp and says, “There’s always, always, always, something to be thankful for.”  This is a daily reminder for me to look for the evidence of God’s goodness in the midst of every trial and to give him thanks.
  5. Remember what God has done in the past, when He has come through for us in similar situations. This builds our faith that He will meet our current need also.

The last time we were in a similar situation, receiving an answer to our prayers took a lot longer than we expected. God is faithful, but He seldom works on our time table. I’ve walked out these steps during the past week, and I’ll probably need to walk them out many more times in the future, both in this trial and in future ones.  

For now, I’m holding onto God’s promise that this wilderness is not our permanent residence. We are passing through, and with His strength and provision we will make it to the other side. I don’t know what you are facing right now, but these principles provide the keys for each of us to make it to the other side. 

Sometimes He Calms the Storm!


Renewing Our Minds

“In the flood or the fire, You’re with me and You won’t let go.”

I woke up this morning with these words rolling over and over through my mind. I knew they came from a song, but couldn’t even remember which one. A good reminder of how important it is for us to renew our minds daily by reading the Word of God and listening to Scripture-based music. Today, as our family faces a new trial that we have no answer for in ourselves, I’m holding onto this truth that God is with us and He won’t let go.

Asking God’s Direction in My Daily Plans

Lord, what should I do today? This question is a part of my daily prayer time – but this hasn’t always been true.


Two of my favorite Scriptures about seeking wisdom from God make it clear we should seek God for His direction:

  •  “Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.”  (‭‭Psalm‬ ‭25:12‬ ‭NIV)‬‬.
  •  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”     (‭‭James‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

Seeking God’s wisdom and direction in the big decisions of life is essential. Few Christians would disagree with this. But what about the small daily decisions that must be made? What about asking Him to help us in determining what tasks we are to work on today?

Until a couple years ago, I saw no reason to pray for direction concerning my daily activities. I knew what needed to be done, and I would start my day by spending some time in God’s Word and prayer and then get busy working on my current list of tasks needing to be done.

But then my life changed. Instead of just living with osteo-arthritis as a result of a serious auto accident, I began experiencing new health problems every few months. And gradually, my stamina and strength ebbed away. What I could accomplish in a typical day a few years (or sometimes even months) earlier would now put me in bed for several days. Trying to keep up with the daily schedule that had worked earlier in my life was now overwhelming. It became obvious that some changes were needed.

In addition to increasing health problems to deal with, I now had more responsibilities than ever. As the mother of a special needs young adult son, the office manager and bookkeeper for my husband’s home-based video production company, and a blogger, my to-do list was unending. I knew it was time for some changes in how I planned my days.

Some of the things God has taught me in this area are especially fitting for those with the reduced strength and stamina caused by chronic illness, but all of us can benefit from seeking God’s direction before deciding on plans for the day. These are some of the things God has taught me.

  1. With wisdom, a life with chronic illness can still be productive. It doesn’t have to mean accomplishing little or nothing during our days.
  2. Begin every day with time in God’s Word and prayer, asking God if He has something special to show you for this day. This is one thing that has not changed in my daily routine.
  3. One major difference: I now end my devotional time with a simple prayer: Lord, what do You want me to accomplish today? What do I have the physical, emotional and spirtual resources to handle today? I’m learning this is a prayer that God is more than willing to answer.
  4. Recognize some days you will accomplish more than others, and be flexible.
  5. Finally, be sure to make room in your schedule for rest.

My life is still busy. In fact, I am now busier than ever, with added responsibilities as a part of the leadership team for a large ministry to women with chronic illness. But I no longer feel like I have an overwhelmed schedule. I am learning to pray and listen to God, and to take it one day at a time. And whether you live with chronic illness or are blessed with good health, you too can benefit from this lesson. It makes for a much less stressful life!

 

 

The Conviction of the Holy Spirit: Six Positive Responses

Recently, I’ve sensed God at work in my life. This hasn’t been a season of great blessing. It hasn’t been a time of receiving big promises of what lies ahead. Rather, it has been a period of having God show me some areas of my life where change is needed. It has been a time of having my eyes opened to a particular sin that God was showing me needed to be dealt with. I was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit in the area of self-reliance, which God wants to replace with a greater trust in Him.

 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  So conviction of sin is not a bad thing. It is a part of a healthy Christian life. But it is important that we know how to correctly handle conviction of sin, because God does not convict us to leave us where we are. Conviction of sin is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, meant to result in spiritual growth.


First, we need to know the difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and condemnation which comes from the enemy of our souls, Satan.

  • Satan comes against us with usually general thoughts of condemnation. He may use our own thoughts to condemn us or he may use the words of others, but the words will bring guilt and condemnation without sowing us a way out. Hold onto the promise of Romans 8:1, that “there is no condemnationn for those who are in Christ Jesus,” recognize the ultimate source of hopeless guilt and condemnation is Satan, and refuse to give place to him. When we submit ourselves to God and resist the devil, he has no choice but to flee (James 4:7).   
  • Conviction, on the other hand, is always specific and comes as a gentle yet corrective word. It always comes with a way out, through the process of repentance. The Precepts Inductive Bible Study symbol for repentance has always helped me to remember the meaning of true repentance.To repent is to stop the direction I’m going, turn around, and start going the opposite way. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.

Once we’ve determined the Holy Spirit is convicting us of a specific sin, we need to take some practical steps to deal with that sin. 

  1. Prayer: Agree with God in prayer. I find the A.C.T.S. prayer method helpful when dealing with sin. A is for adoration, turning our focus on Who God is and on His character. C is for confession, admitting to God we have sinned and specifically naming the area of sin. T stands for thanksgiving, expressing our gratitude to God that He is working in our lives and that He has already made the way for us to receive forgiveness. And finially, S is for supplication. Supplication is simply asking earnestly and humbly for God’s help.
  2. Study: What does the Word of God say about this sin? What character quality do I need to work on to overcome this sin? 
  3. Memorize: Pick one or two verses that apply to the area of sin where the Holy Spirit is bringing conviction, and begin memorizing them. There are many ways to memorize Scripture, but one of my favorite is using the Scripture Typer app, which helps you memorize the verse and includes a built-in review system to continue focusing on it until it becomes a part of your life.
  4. Meditate. Meditating on Scripture is the process by which we begin exchanging our faulty way of thinking for God’s way of thinking. It begins with reflectively reading and rereading of the Word and by reflecting on its meaning. Studying a verse to understand what God thinks about this area, memorizing it, and then meditating on it’s meaning and application in our lives are all a part of the process of renewing our minds to think like God does in this area.
  5. Journal. Another step that helps me to make the needed changes is to journal about what God is showing me through my study and meditation on Scripture. Putting my commitment to change in writing makes it more real.
  6. Practice. Walking out what I believe God is showing me to do, not just for a day but as a new way of life.

Are you sensing the conviction of the Holy Spirit is some area of your life today? If so, praise God. That means God os active in your life and your are growing spiritually. Thank Him for the work He is doing in you, and determine to cooperate with the process of conviction, repentance, and change.  



The Significance of the Empty Tomb

I love the view near the main entrance to the sanctuary of our church. Two symbols stand out: the cross and the empty tomb. A quick reminder of the two central truths of our faith to everyone who enters!


As we celebrate Easter, and especially on this Good Friday, the emphais is on the cross. As Christians, we understand the importance of the cross; without it, we would still be lost in our sins. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, the penalty for our sin was paid in full, and a way was made for us to receive forgiveness and a relationship with our Creator God. 

But how many of us really understand the significance of the empty tomb? Sure, we know it proves that Jesus is no longer dead,  We serve a resurrected Lord! But why is that important?

The empty tomb:

  • Proves that Jesus’ death on the cross was enough, that the penalty of our sins has been paid in full.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬)
  • Rendered Satan powerless. “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,” (Hebrews‬ ‭2:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬)
  • Sets those who believe in Jesus Christ free from the fear of death. “and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬)
  • Gives us hope for the final victory over sin, death and Satan.  “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26 (NASB); “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation‬ ‭21:4‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

The cross and the empty tomb are the foundation of the Christian life.  As the recently released Christian movie The Case for Christ so clearly communicates, our belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is of primary importance. The cross and the empty tomb together show that Jesus’ suffering was was not in vain.  Or in the words of Bible teacher Kay Arthur:


Five Minute Friday: In Christ We Have Enough

When I read today’s topic, so many verses of Scripture came to mind. In many areas, in Christ we have enough!


Enough saving grace: “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans‬ ‭3:24‬ ‭

Enough sustaining grace: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭

Enough mercy: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭

Enough courage to say as Paul did: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:20‬ ‭

Enough power, love and self-discipline: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭

Enough provision: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭

Enough to be content: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭ 

We even have enough trouble for today, but with enough grace to bear it: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew‬ ‭6:34‬ ‭

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ 

IIn light of these truths, there is little excuse for worry, discontment, or complaining. 

Father, please help us to remember all You have provided for us, and to daily give you thanks. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Lessons From Job: God Speaks

For much of the book of Job, the main character in the story has been asking for an audience with God. In these final chapters of the book, when Job has come to the end of his own strength and understanding, the Lord begins speaking to Job out of a whirlwind. But I don’t think the words were what Job was expecting!

“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge. Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (Job 38:2-3 NIV)

What follows is a rebuke from the Lord. Through a series of questions, God basically puts Job in his place. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? … Have you ever given orders to the morning? … Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? … Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” These are just a few of the questions God addresses to Job, demanding an answer. And Job, who has had plenty to say in the past thirty-plus chapters, is reduced to silence.

The Lord’s questioning of Job is broad and detailed. It includes questions about the Creation, the weather, light and darkness, stars and constellations, and a wide variety of animals. So what was God’s purpose in asking all these questions? I bleieve He was wanting Job to be reminded of Who he was condemning with his words. He wanted Job to be reminded of His power and authority. And He wanted Job to come to the place of humbling himself in repentance. 

Where the words of Job’s friends may have been with the same desire, to bring Job to repentance, their method of reaching that goal was wrong. Instead of pointing out to Job all he had done wrong, God reminded Job of Who He is. Jehovah God is Creator, and He is the One who was and is and will always be in control.  Job’s eyes had become so focused on his trials that he had lost sight of this essential truth. And his faith in God and trust in His love and faithfulness had been weakened by his focus on his troubles. 

By the time God finished questioning Job, he was more than ready to admit that God can do whatever He desires, and no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:1-2). He confessed, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”  (Job 42:3)  Jobs response is one of sorrow over his sin and repentance.

With Job now repentant, the Lord begins addressing Eliphaz as the representative of Job’s three friends.  We learn that they had angered the Lord by saying things that were not right about Him. What had they spoken in error against the Lord? The book of Job does not specifically answer this question, so I won’t speculate about this. But we do see them doing what the Lord commanded. “So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering?” (Job 42:8)

Further evidence of Job’s repentance is seen as he also accepts God’s solution and prays for his friends. After the unkind and accusatory words they had spoken to Job, this could not have been easy. But in praying for his friends, Job was healed and his fortunes restored, even receiving twice as much as he had before. And verse 12a says, “The Lord blessed the later part of Job’s life more than the former part.”

So to conclude this week’s lesson from Job, what truths are we to take away and apply to our lives?

  1.  First, when we walk through seasons of pain and suffering, we need to keep our focus on what we know to be true about God. Job entered this time of trial with an understanding of the authority and sovereignty of God, as shown through his own words. For example, in chapter 2 when his wife tells him to curse God and die, he responds, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (verse 10). Job understood that God was still in control. Yet, as the trials dragged on and on, Job lost sight of this truth. 
  2. Next, when we face times of suffering, we need to be especially diligent about guarding our words. The temptation to wrongly accuse God will be there, and we need to guard against this sin and repent if we catch ourselves falling. Being honest with the Lord about how we’re feeling is okay, but accusing Him of being unfair or cruel is not. One of the main things God desires from us when we are hurting is the choice to continue trusting Him.
  3. Forgiving those who hurt us with their unkind words is an importsnt step toward healing. Just as the Lord healed and restored Job when he forgave his friends who had so deeply hurt him, He will bring healing and restoration into our lives when we forgive those who have hurt us by their words and actions. I wish that always meant total physical healing. Often it may, but even if God is currently more concerned with making us whole in other areas this process of forgiveness brings healing.
  4. Finally, Job makes a very important statement near the end of the book. In Job 42:5, Job concludes his response to God with these words: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”  


This is my own persoanl testimony of the benefit of suffering in my life. Through the variety of trials I’ve faced, I have come to really know God. My knowledge of Him is now more than just what I’ve read or heard from others. 

  • As I endured the suffering of losing a child, I better understood how much it cost the Father to offer His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sin. “For God so loved the world” took on new meaning.
  • By loving a son who is completely dependent upon others to meet all of his needs, I’ve learned much about God’s unconditional love. Our son David can’t do anything to earn our love, and we can’t do anything to earn God’s love. It is His gift!
  • And through the suffering from a long list of chronic illnesses, I’ve learned that God is just waiting for me to come to Him with my needs. I’m learning that He is my strength in weakness, my peace in turmoil, and my joy in sorrow. He is all I need, no matter what I face!

This concludes our study of Job. I hope you’ve learned as much through it as I have. I hope you too can sum up this study with Job’s closing words: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”