Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done

Today’s reading is Psalm 57 where David is hiding in a cave from Saul who is trying to kill him.

Have you ever had something “really bad” happen to you in your life? Perhaps someone close to you has died young or unexpectedly, you or someone close to you has had a serious illness, job loss, financial challenges, or divorce. How did you feel during the midst of it or after? How do you feel today? Of course you were sad, but beyond that were you feeling sorry for yourself or perhaps even mad at God. If yes, that’s ok. I would say these reactions are all normal and human nature. I’ve been there and felt that way as well.

Recently I heard someone say that one of the differences in great leaders and successful people is how quickly they recalibrate and get back to their vision and putting everyday good habits first after something bad happens or they are feeling down. In a similar way, I have to say I really admire Christ-followers who I’m sure initially feel upset, but who quickly turn to God for strength, help, and recalibrate to focus on how God can use them in their circumstances for His greater purpose and glory.

While David was fleeing for his life and hiding with seemingly nowhere to go he says in Psalm 57:2, “I cry out to God Most High to God who fulfills His purpose for me.” Jesus taught us that we must ask for what we want from God in prayer and have the faith to truly believe that it will happen. He does so in Matthew 7:7-8 and Matthew 17:20. David asked God to rescue him in Psalm 57:1 and 57:3 and believes this will happen. David also says God’s purpose will be fulfilled either way in Psalm 57:2. Jesus tells us to ask for what we want and that’s the only way it will happen, but that God’s Kingdom and will are most important. He instructed us to pray about this and keep it on the forefront of our heart in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10 when He said, “Your Kingdome come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Jesus didn’t just tell us to do this, He modeled and did it Himself in His toughest moments when He knew He was going to suffer the wrath of all the sins ever committed through a brutal scourging and crucifixion. In Luke 22:42, He prayed, “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” He asked for what He wanted, but in the end put God’s will first despite the incredible suffering he was about to endure. Did God remove the pain and suffering? No. And I can’t promise you God will remove your suffering during your current or next challenge. But, God did send an angel strengthening Him in that moment in Luke 22:43. I can promise you that God will be with you always through every storm and challenge. David later became king and Jesus was raised 3 days after his death to give all who believe in Him eternal life in Heaven. He can turnaround the worst of circumstances through miracles and in ways on He could do. There cannot be a miracle without a setback! And whether we actually see it or not, He’s working all things for His good and His purpose through us. We must remember that “His good” and “our good” may not be the same, and although we may suffer through tough circumstances, we should be humbled that He would think enough of us to use us for His glory even in our challenges in a similar manner to how He used His Son Jesus.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

Do You Believe In Miracles?

One of the great things about Christmas, if we take step back and reflect, is that it reminds us that Jesus was human like you and me. He came into this world the same way we did and experienced the same emotions and temptations. Yes, Jesus came for the ultimate purpose to pay the price which should have been ours for our sins, but I believe one of His purposes was also to allow us to truly see the heart of God in a way we could not fully comprehend if there was only God the Father up in Heaven. One of the places where we get great insight into his heart is through the death of Lazarus in John 11:1-43.

I don’t know what 2019 has brought you and what 2020 and beyond will bring you, but I know this past year has brought my family and I some challenges with 2 spine surgeries in my neck and some loss of functionality in my hand, as well as other changes, I thought I would never see. However, it has also brought blessings and what I would call miracles in the midst which we would not have experienced without these challenges. Yes, I am still praying for an additional miracle for my hand to fully come back, but these experiences brought me closer to God with more gratitude for His blessings and my main prayers have been that my experience helps others in some way (at least 2 people so far are seeing the same surgeon) and that God be glorified through it.

In these verses in John, we see Mary and Martha first react in a way that most of do through challenges.. questioning why He let this happen and even why He wasn’t there (John 11:21, John 11:32). After He sees Martha and the other Jews crying it says in John 11:33 that He was “deeply moved in His Spirit and greatly troubled.” It then says right after in John 11:35, “He wept.” In my humble opinion, He is not weeping because His friend, Lazarus, died…for He knew what was going to happen and says so at least 4 times before this (John 11:3, John 11:11, John 11:14, John 11:23). I believe He is weeping because He sees the pain of Mary and Martha and the other Jews. How blessed are we that we have a God who cares about our pains and showed us that in the physical person of Jesus? Our feelings matter to Him. He cares.

Jesus also tells us multiple times here in these verses the purpose of our pain..

“..This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”          

John 11:4

“Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to Him.’”

John 11:14-15

“Jesus said, ’Did I not tell you that if you believed you will see the glory of God?’”

John 11:40

“’…..but I said this on account of the people standing around that they may believe that you sent me.’”

John 11:42

We must know and trust that nothing happens “to us”…only “for us”…or better yet…”for Him.” This is hard. We don’t like pain and problems. I mentioned earlier Martha was upset and took a jab so to speak saying to Jesus that this wouldn’t have happened if He was there (John 11:21), but she also says in John 11:22, “But even now I know whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” It’s okay to be human and be upset for a moment..that’s normal..but she gives us a great example of going back to believing and trusting in Him. Jesus says we must fully believe in the glory of God and His ability to do miracles in John 11:40 when He says, ….”Did I not tell you if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

Through my health challenges in 2019, I’ve tried to do my best to share my faith in God and His plan and will for my life, and most importantly, share the miracles/blessings that have still come in the midst of it. What could have been could have been way worse. It was a miracle to find my doctor in Pittsburgh who performed a procedure no one else is doing with the least long term effects..even my doctors at Mayo didn’t know about it. I only found him because my sister-in-law’s sister had the same condition and found him. Or worse yet, if I was born in a different time in history when no treatment was available, I would have become paralyzed in time.

One of the biggest miracles in this situation did not happen this year though, it happened in 2002. I can vividly remember sitting in front of the computer at home and trying to decide if I was going to choose a major of biology on my University of Illinois application and pursue my dream to be an orthodontist, or switch to a business major at the 11th hour. I decided to switch to business. Why? I didn’t fully know at time…maybe less time in school (haha)..it was my dream though. Now, 18 years later, I can see God’s plan for that change. I would not be able to practice as an orthodontist today with the loss of functionality of my hand, and I would not have been able to purchase insurance to protect my income for my family due to pre-existing conditions before I would have even started my dental training. However, because of that click of a button and God’s plan..not mine…I can still continue my career as a financial advisor and have multi-generational impact and provide for my family through the work I do. Praise God.

We can find God’s blessings and miracles through every situation, even death, when we just reflect and search. Will you join me in praying for wisdom to do our absolute best in 2020 and beyond to look for them…and most importantly to glorify Him through them…no matter how hard it is? God cares, and He has a plan…even when it seems impossible to see. Let us trust in and remember that.

 

 

The Cure

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

As I read the Bible I’d like to be able to compare myself and say I’m like some of the heroes of the Bible such as Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Paul, or even some of those in the New Testament who by faith believed that just by touching Jesus’ cloak or by Him saying the words they, or a member of their family, would be healed. Unfortunately, I find I’m much more like those in Luke 20 who try to challenge and question Jesus and have selfish, impure motives. Here in this chapter we have the chief priests and scribes who question Jesus’ authority to which Jesus tells the parable of the wicked tenants and later says is Luke 20:45-47 that they exalt themselves and take advantage of others. We also have in this chapter spies sent by the chief priests and scribes who try to test Jesus and ask if they should pay taxes or not, and we have the Sadducees asking Him an irrelevant question about whose wife someone will be in the afterlife.

Instead of just trusting in Him and having peace in the fact that he defeated Satan and sin through his resurrection and will permanently defeat Satan and sin through His second coming foretold in the book of Revelation, I find myself trying to figure out at times why God is letting certain things happen in my life and in the lives of others around me and why He lets the terrible things we see on the news in the world around us happen. This questioning of Him and asking why is clearly Satan impeding and getting us to focus on the problem, not the solution…Jesus!

In his book, The Grave Robber, Mark Batterson discusses how miracles are happening all around us, but we don’t focus on them, we focus on problems. He discusses that we may feel like we are sitting still right now but the Earth is spinning on its axis at 1,000 miles per hour and the Earth is hurtling through space at 67,108 miles per hour which is not only faster than a speeding bullet but is 87 times faster than the speed of sound. He jokes that even if you didn’t feel like you did much today you traveled 1,599,794 miles through space! He asks, when is the last time we thanked God for keeping us in orbit or said to God, “Lord, I wasn’t sure we would make the full rotation today, but You did it again!” He talks about how the biggest miracle we see daily is really our own life. There are chemical interactions that must take place perfectly in our body every moment for us to be alive and that our brain is performing 10 quadrillion (I didn’t even know that was a number!) calculations per second. We aren’t just surrounded by miracles each day he says, we are one. Just look in the mirror.

This helps us clearly see that when we lose sight of God in our lives, we focus on all the bad things happening and ask why. We focus on the irrelevant like those in Luke 20, as opposed to looking at the miracles he’s performing this very second. And most importantly, this keeps us from focusing on being thankful for the greatest miracle He performed which was sending His perfect Son to die on the cross and to be raised to life to permanently defeat Satan and our sin bringing us back together with Him and giving us eternal life which He didn’t have to do.

Help us focus on You. Jesus…you are the Cure!

Feeding the Multitudes

Mark 8 opens with the miracle of Jesus Feeding the Multitudes of people with just some loaves and fish. Back in the days of Sunday School flannelgraph lessons, I never knew there were two separate events of this miracle! Jesus fed thousands – TWICE!

All four gospels record the Feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, near Bethsaida (Matthew 14:13-21Mark 6:31-44Luke 9:12-17John 6:1-14).

Then in Mark and Matthew the second miracle of Feeding the Multitudes was recorded – 4,000 people fed with 7 loaves and 3 fish ( Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9).

We know this is two separate accounts because later in Mark, verses 18-20, Jesus reminds the disciples of the two different accounts and questions why they’d be worried about having something to eat when they just witnessed these two miracles.

Have you heard of the book or seen the quote “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? Well… I’d like to think that it’s really “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Sunday School”! So much of my adult experiences can be traced back to some of the true stories we learned in Sunday School. The Parting of the Red Sea… Danial and the Lion’s Den… David and Goliath… Feeding the 5,000.

This one is especially close to my heart, because God has continued to be so faithful in meeting my needs – making something out of nothing, when I least expect it.

Miracles of supplication and abundance have been in my life since I can remember: food on our table, a roof over our head, and clothes on our back, even when times were bleak (by western standards). I have continued to see this through adolescence, as a young adult, and as a wife and mom. These miracles have no bounds, covering me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s no coincidence that in each stage of life I’ve been blessed by spiritual mentors and discipleship. People caring for me as an “angel unaware” (Heb 13:2), at times, taking me by the hand and showing me the way.  Giving grace when it wasn’t deserved. Sharing their abundance when they had nothing to gain from me. Praying on my behalf.

I witnessed miracles as a kid, with my parents sharing their little loaves and fish and God making it more than enough. There was an old school bus they acquired in the 80s – my mom would make these massive pots of beef vegetable soup in the winter and load it onto the back of the bus. We would run it in downtown Dayton, heat it up and the homeless would get warm and have a bowl of soup. My siblings and I would tell bible stories and sing songs to the homeless people. I was seven and we were one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. We always had enough soup and our bus never ran out of gas, it would run on fumes much longer than it should have!

In recent years there have been countless situations where God was there, turning loaves and fish into more than enough. When I left my corporate career after 13+ years, we had no idea how we would makes ends meet and manage the debt we would incur. We felt a strong leading to make this change, but financially could not make the numbers work.  And mirroring the loaves + fish, God stepped in and turned the single income household into more than enough. Only by this miracle did we not go in the red. Every month we were astounded at how the numbers worked out. True miracles, not luck or coincidences. The biggest miracle in this, is that we did not change our giving habits!

The Feeding of the Multitudes was a HUGE testimony to the thousands… but imagine the little boy that shared his food. How much more did this mean to him, seeing Jesus use his willing heart for others? Can you imagine the testimony he had for the rest of his life?

Each year our church takes up a special collection designed to expand ministry across the globe.  Each year Tim and I pray for unexpected funds to come in that month, with the intent of giving whatever that surprise is. Every single year, a large amount comes in, completely out of the blue.  An overpayment from something from years before… a surprise bonus not at normal timing, etc. Each year it’s become a fun game to see where the money will come from that special month and what we will be able to give. I share all of this purely as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and not in the least from our doing.

Whether it’s sharing and serving in our circle, or way out of our circle, God has a plan to use what He has given us. What loaves and fish do you have?

Do you have a life experience that God intends to be shared with someone walking thru the very same thing? Do you have a heart for prayer and can be a warrior for someone else’s battle? What purpose does God have for the talents He has given you? Maybe you have one of those smiles that light up a room, desperately needed in dark place today. If you are reading this and feel like you don’t have much to share, let me encourage you – YOU DO! Do you think the little boy thought he had a purpose on that day, or that his little lunch would make a huge difference? Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what things He has given you that are intended for His kingdom.

God, you are the perfect provider, and your timing and ways are far beyond ours. Help us to trust You more and open our hearts and hands to be used miraculously for your kingdom. Give us a heart for stewardship with all the talents and blessings you’ve given each of us. Forgive us for doubting Your provision (just like the disciples) and thanks for the reminders of your faithfulness in the past. Amen.

He Will Fight For You

Today’s reading is Joshua 10 and Proverbs 10.

I will admit, growing up, like many I thought the Bible was boring. This must have been because I hadn’t read enough of it. In reading through Joshua in preparation for today’s post, I could not put it down. Joshua is filled with stories of redemption like Rahab, battle after battle, deception, and amazing miracle after miracle by God to assist the Israelites. I’m just wondering when Hollywood will do a movie on Joshua! Let’s just hope they stick to the Word and get it right.

One of the things that always struck me about the Old Testament is how many people were killed in battle against the Israelites because they were God’s chosen people and the other nations were not. How could God let all these people be killed? Our pastor, Mike Baker, said something to the effect that all these other nations and peoples could have been saved if they would have just surrendered to God by surrendering to Israel. We see this in Joshua 9, as the Gibeonites surrendered to the Israelites in fear and their lives were spared. However, we see throughout the book of Joshua, more times than we can count on one hand, every other nation who did not surrender to God and Israel were destroyed. Time and time again the leaders of these nations and the people stated they heard of the many miracles God had done for Israel, knew God had chosen Israel and they were fearful, but instead of surrendering to Israel and God, they fought back and were destroyed.

How many times do we try to fight our own battles in our everyday lives, instead of surrendering to God and trusting He will fight for us and has a perfect plan? This is very tough for me. I’m in a career where there is a direct correlation between effort and reward and there is even a science showing what activity leads to what results. However, I have to keep learning and trusting in my professional and personal life that yes, I have to put in effort and use the talents and abilities God has given me, but I have to trust and truly believe that He is in control and will fight for me.

In Joshua 10:14 and Joshua 10:42, we read that the Lord fought for Israel. Moses spoke similar words all the way back in Exodus 14:13-14. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you and you only have to be silent.’” We read in Joshua 5:4 the generations who God brought out of Egypt passed away, yet God was still fighting for Israel to complete his plan and keep his covenant. Here in Joshua 10, we read how God made the sun stand still, and it remained daytime so the Israelites could win. He also rained down stones to kill the enemies of the Israelites. Really?! We’ve already read so far in Joshua alone He stopped the waters of the Jordan from flowing and made the mighty walls of Jericho fall with only a yell, just to name a few. Do you think the Israelites were fearful as they wandered in the desert for 40 years, and as they went into battle? Yes. Do you think with their human minds they could have thought of the miracles God would do to help them? No. Are we any different in our everyday lives? No. But, God fought for them, and He’s fighting for you when you’ve given your life to Him through Jesus, surrender to Him in prayer, and when you ask Him to do miracles in your life where you will use them for His kingdom and give the glory to Him. We are now all God’s chosen people like Israel through Jesus. Romans 8:34 says, “Who is to conderm? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised, – who is at the right hand of God who is indeed interceding for us.“ He will fight for you, even while you sleep, in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God..”

Reading Proverbs has reminded me we must pray for God’s wisdom, and then we will live righteous lives due to His direction (Proverbs 10:24, 10:30). We must also ask God for wisdom to remember past miracles in our life to remind us He can and He will do it again in ways we can’t imagine. He knows we are prone to forgetting and need reminded. How cool is It in Joshua 4 that He instructed them to bring 12 stones from the Jordan so they could remember God helped them by stoppping the rivers of the Jordan flowing and so they remember to tell their children even. In the Israelites journey, we see they are similar to us and are prone to forgetting God’s miracles, questioning Him and His presence, and falling back into sin. However, we don’t see as much of this in the first ten chapters Joshua. Could their continuing trust in God during this stretch be due to them having stones as a reminder? They didn’t know what exact miracle God would do to help them. They could have never imagined how, but they knew He would.

Reflect. What past miracles has God done in ways you could not have imagined? Remember them. Pray for Him to give you wisdom and do miracles again in your life and you will give Him to glory. Let Go. He will fight for you.

Check out “Do It again” by Elevation Worship. I pray it can impact you, as it has for me, going into 2018 and beyond.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOBIPb-6PTc

 

 

A Just Balance

Today’s Reading: Matthew 17

At the end of Matthew chapter 17 something very interesting to happens. At least interesting to me, I hope you will find it interesting and profitable too. It starts when “they that received tribute money” came to Peter to ask of Jesus “Doth not your master pay tribute?” (Matthew 17:24)

When Peter came to Jesus to inquire of him on this matter. Jesus spoke before Peter and asked him:

What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? (Matthew 17:25)

Peter answered “Of strangers.” That is, they tax not those of their own family but those outside their house.

Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:26)

Some think this was Jesus making it clear that because He was the Son of God the tax does not apply to Him. This is why some believe the tax matter was a temple tax and not a civic tax.

Jesus then said “notwithstanding”, which I take to mean some version of, even though I am not required too. Then Jesus said “lest we should offend them” and then proceeded to describe the precise manner in which they would procure the tribute money for payment.  

At first glance the phrase “lest we should offend them” could be taken as a reinforcing statement of what Jesus first said; “notwithstanding”. In this case the “them” would be referring to the tax collectors. Instead though, let us consider for a moment that the “them” was actually in reference to the strangers that Peter mentioned. If this were the case, I think the statement may be more linked to the manner in which they are procuring the payment and not a repetitive statement describing why they are in fact going to pay. After all Jesus just got done explaining why they did not need to. So, if it is in fact about how they are going to procure the payment, the question then became for me, why is this so important? For that answer I turn back to Jesus’s explanation, “Lest we should offend them.” And this is where it got so interesting to me. 

Here is what I think we may be seeing. Coming up with the money to pay the tax is certainly not a problem for Jesus. I think it is reasonable to say He could have done it in any number of ways. One thought is that he would simply lift His hand up to the sky and ask for it to be created. But the issue with creating is that it wouldn’t be fair.

Creating money in any system and increasing the money supply is simply stealing from those who hold money. It is debasing the currency, which basically means everyone else’s money would than be worth less. God pronounces this as a curse and judgement in Isaiah 1:22. Instead, I think Jesus in his sovereignty and absolute authority knew about a coin that no one had a claim to and commanded it brought to Peter. This way they would not offend anyone, or hurt anyone by decreasing the value of their coins, in paying the tax.

There is of course a strong possibility I am way off here. Perhaps reading too much into things. But on the other hand, perhaps this is why the manner in which they paid the tax was described in so much detail and why it was important for Jesus to break down who the groups involved in the tax were and how they all relate to each other. Perhaps it was to continue to lead us in the way we should go. To give us another example of God’s law applied to this world. For me, yet another reassurance that God is all knowing, all powerful, and above all. Praise God!

Here is a link to the scripture: Matthew 17:24-27