Faith as Fuel

Faith as Fuel

Let’s say you are working in a job that you can’t stand, or have duties/responsibilities that feel more like drudgery than blessing. Some of us have sick elderly parents to tend, or needy friends who constantly take and never give. You don’t feel that the paycheck of your 9-5 job is worth the stress you take home at the end of every shift. What do you do? To which thing or person do you go? What do you tell yourself? For me, it’s Netflix.

First, we should call it what it is. Ok so it’s not turning to the bottle or the needle. I’m not a traditional addict, but instead have chosen a much more “acceptable” way of dealing. I binge watch TV shows. It just wastes time and takes me into another world where problems are solved in 30 minutes. It’s not that bad right? Except that it is just another way of numbing the pain of an underwhelmed soul. There’s no public shame associated with distracting yourself from something you wish would change. Therefore it remains an untouched subject in my heart.

Second, remember that God blesses us in unexpected ways, places, and opportunities. Like I mentioned in my last post, I was enormously depressed because my first job out of college was “beneath my dignity” as a new graduate. Even so, I received many comforts and assurances from God that summer, through my coworkers and managers. (Not to mention a paycheck that got the job done) Then a few months later my favorite aunt invited me to live with her in Maui and work for her company. A job. In Hawaii. With a boss who is invested in my wellbeing. And all the people said AMEN.

What if I had gone straight into a brand new job after college and missed this opportunity? To be sure there are plenty of what-ifs, but this is a big one for me. God’s will for me in this season was the protection and love of family at this time. What might be just around the bend for you?

Third, consult the Lord. He has a plan and a future for you. Can I say it again? He’s on your side. If there’s a chance to make a change, jump for it. Some seasons are inescapable though, no matter how much you pray and try to change it. When we are hurting in this way the last thing we want to hear is an ignorant but well meant “It’s a blessing in disguise”. Let’s skip over those clichés and go straight to the truth.

  1. Pray for strengthened faith

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’” (James 2:17-18 NLT)

We believe in God’s sovereignty and that his purposes get worked out in his time and specific ways. So consider this trial an opportunity to tending our garden in a special way. (James 1:2-4) When we keep working in the face of trials, our faith is proven and strengthened. Faith is the trust that God will do what he promised. Use your faith as fuel to keep on going and god will direct your path.

  1. Pray for patience

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Read this verse over a few times. Do you notice anything interesting? It says that the Lord is patient toward you, not the other way around. He’s not up on his heavenly throne chatting with the Seraphim going, “Yeah, Molly is really getting impatient with this new plan I’m working on for her. I better finish up quickly so she can get on with it!” Ha! On the contrary, who am I to believe my plans and timing as better than the Lord’s? Let’s not forget either – our ultimate purpose is to love God and love each other. THAT is the calling with multiple expressions. So in this season, if I am stuck with no way out, I can still fulfill my purpose while I wait for something better.

Now all that truth sounds really good and all, but let’s be honest. It’s easier said than done. Just because I believe in God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean I like it all the time. The hard part for me is sucking it up and accepting the fact that I am not the master of my own life. Galatians 2:20 says “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. This is something that each person who follows Jesus must work on accepting but thankfully we don’t have to do it alone.

What do you think? Journal your thoughts as the spirit leads on the verses mentioned above:

  • James 1:2-4
  • James 2:17-18
  • 2 Peter 3:9
  • Galatians 2:20

Thanks for reading this month’s series on Work and Purpose, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to share how the Spirit moved you on the Tea & Testimony facebook page . As a thank you I have created free printables. Print and hang these words of truth where you will see them the most.

Sharing A Seed

Sharing A Seed

Tonight I met up with a dear friend who lives abroad, but with whom things never seem to change no matter how long between visits. We shared the stories of the past 8 years of our lives over two enormous vanilla lattes. (I’m convinced that I could die happily in a cozy corner of a coffee house sipping a latte with a friend.)

As we chatted, the conversation organically turned to faith. While she’s not a believer, she was a genuine and ready listener. I silently asked Jesus to give me His words wherever the conversation went.

She wanted to know why Christians follow some parts of the Bible like Jesus’s commands in the new testament, but other parts were ignored, like the temple laws in Leviticus. Amazingly, I was able to launch into an explanation of the difference between old and new covenants, and how Jesus changed the game upon his arrival. And consequently, very fitting for the Christmas season!)

Afterward, I was astounded by how much I actually understood. As much as we downplay our abilities to “got out and make disciples”, we often know more than we think we know. Most of the apostles were simply ordinary guys. Jesus proved to us that you don’t need to hold a degree in Biblical Studies in order to share God’s truth.

Tonight I shared a tiny seed of truth into God’s purpose and plan with a friend. Even if I never get to see it, I know for certain that it will not fail to produce fruit somewhere, somehow.

Read

10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

Isaiah 55:10-11 New Living Translation (NLT)

Think

Have you ever shared the gospel of Jesus with anyone?

Did you leave feeling satisfied that God would use your efforts?

Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

Pray

Dear Jesus, Thank you for the opportunity to share your truth with another one of your children. I pray that as we go out into the world “ready to give a reason for the hope that we have”, we would always remember that it is YOUR words, not our human ideas, that are being communicated. Help us to keep your word in reverence and to immerse ourselves in it daily. We love you and praise you because you are. Amen.

 

[Book Review] Not a fan. Kyle Idleman

[Book Review] Not a fan. Kyle Idleman

Fans are people who cheer someone on from the stadium, but who you’d never see out sweating on the field. They maybe own jerseys of their favorite players, know all the stats, and never miss a game. But when the team has a bad season they are quick to jump the bandwagon and support a team having a more successful season.

Sadly, it’s how we see many fellow Christians. Maybe instead of jerseys they have t-shirts that say “Jesus is my Homeboy”, or sport one of those snazzy WWJD bracelets. They might go to church but then from Monday morning to Saturday night, there’s no evidence of spiritual fruit or that Jesus is indeed their homeboy. For this type of person, it’s more of a hobby than a lifestyle.

Our church most definitely has a disease. It’s not a new one, and in fact it’s been around ever since the days that Jesus still walked around attracting large crowds. It’s called Fandom and I’m guilty as charged of it.

Up until reading this book I would have told you with proud confidence (red flag #1) that I am most certainly a devoted follower of Jesus, not just a “creaster” (which is what he calls people that only attend church on Christmas and Easter). If you are reading this, I’m guessing you consider yourself a follower of Jesus too. But just sit back and imagine with me for a moment that every assurance of your being on the right path to salvation … is wrong. Just, what if – this whole time I’ve been thinking I was right with God but really was confusing my religion for true relationship with Jesus.

That is the premise of his well-written book – centered around the section in Matthew 7 when Jesus, frustrated with the opportunist attitude of the large crowds following him tells them plainly, “Look, you’re all calling me ‘Lord, Lord’, but the day is going to come when the truth will come out and I’m going to say, I never knew you, away from me!”

Whenever I need a slightly louder version to hammer a verse through my thick head, I turn to the MSG version. Just read Jesus in this translation:

13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

. . .

21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Lukewarmness in faith is actually the same as being stone cold in faith. Or as Revelation 3:16 puts it succinctly, “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. Jesus didn’t just want people to “like” his fanpage on facebook, he isn’t interested in your memorized scripture or impressed in how many charity events you coordinate. He wants your whole heart, soul, mind and life, to transform you until you are so much like him you gleam in perfection.

Although please understand, we don’t earn our salvation. Rather, we are expected to recognize ourselves as desperate and empty-handed and wholly in need of an overhaul, and then to allow God to change us through faith in Jesus and the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to work in God’s will for our good and the good of those around us.

He offers a very helpful set of questions to diagnose fandom, and help separate it from the outward “doing” part of religion. Each section should be read thoughtfully, and soberly. I definitely want to go back with a pen and spend more time answering his questions. Not only does Mr. Idleman address the state of the lukewarm Christian today, his writing style is enjoyable and easy to read. I have to be honest, I initially picked this book up because it was on sale for $2, expecting some punchy and quick encouragement to what I already thought I knew. What I found was a response to the disease of assuming. (you know what happens…) The answer: Don’t assume you’re good to go to Heaven holding your badge collection. The process of sanctification is far sweeter and far more worth the trouble.

You can get Not a fan. at Amazon here or at his site where he has small group studies and an accompanying journal.

Sunday worship: Are you a dancer or a statue?


raised-hand-during-worshipThere are two kinds of people in the Church – those who dance all around with arms raised to Heaven, and those who stand still awkwardly.

And let’s just get one thing straight — I’m totally awkward!

Although I’d like to defend myself somehow by saying, “I just don’t feel like worshiping that way”, or ” I truly worship in my heart”, I actually learned today that God wants us to worship him both in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). AKA. Internally AND externally.

We are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, all our mind, all our strength. Add to that our whole body.

One of my favorite stories about King David is this one from 2 Samuel chapter 6. After having been stolen for a time, the Ark of the Covenant was finally on its way back to its home in Jerusalem. [The Ark was an ornate chest, designed by God Himself, in which to keep the sacred tablets which contained the 10 commandments. People died on the spot by just touching the Ark with an unclean heart — serious stuff!)

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window [David’s first wife, daughter of Saul, not a believer]. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

To anyone looking in from the outside of the faith, David was making a complete fool of himself. Michal thought he was being undignified and she hated him for his enthusiasm. When he got him, she scolded him for his display:

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

But David didn’t care – he was so concentrated on God’s mightiness and love, he couldn’t care less about how the world was seeing him. He replied:

“It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

When I’m worshiping, I often don’t “go all out” in my worship style, simply because I’m only thinking of what others are going to say behind my back. It’s time to decide who we are worshiping here: God or man.

God LOVES it when we worship him in our hearts and minds, as well as externally with shouts of joy and loud clanging cymbals. He loves when we clap, dance, bow, kneel, shout, raise our hands. It honors him but it also is good for us. 

Look at Psalm 150, a virtual instruction manual of who, what, why, when, and how to praise and worship God.

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;

   praise him in his mighty heaven!

2 Praise him for his mighty works;

   praise his unequaled greatness!

3 Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;

   praise him with the lyre and harp!

4 Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;

   praise him with strings and flutes!

5 Praise him with a clash of cymbals;

   praise him with loud clanging cymbals.

6 Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Too many times, our relationship with him is about what he does for me only – God help me, save me, please work a miracle for me. We forget that it’s a love relationship and it has to go 2 ways. Psalm 57 says “My heart O God is steadfast. I will sing, awake my soul…” We are danger when our souls go to sleep.

Worship is what wakes us up! He sees us asleep and grabs our hands to lead us to his wonderful plans and future for us. God tells us not to look back – take the step of faith and I’ll protect you, I’ll give you grace, come with me. How can we not worship a God so great?

In worship and awe,

Molly

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How to pray so that God will hear us

We hinder our own prayers when we live blind to our own sin.

Every once in a while it will occur to me that I am living in sin. It’s an ugly phrase, and is often used as a condemnation or judgement on someone else. So what does it really mean to be “living in sin”? Simply put, it is when you deliberately refuse to repent about something, and basically pretend God will forget about it.  By extension, I (wrongly) expect my prayers to be answered my way and give no thought to what God might want for me.

For instance, time theft from work; gossiping about a friend; choosing not to forgive someone. Without a regular examination of my conscience, it is easy to overlook these things, and conveniently forget that as a child of God I am to live a life set apart for the Gospel.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking you get blessings and answered prayers because you examine your conscience. God owes us nothing. What he wants is for us to turn toward him in love and fear.

He can be trusted to heal us, however he chooses to do it

Like a good Father, he knows exactly what I need and when I need it. And sometimes what I need is for my prayers to be rejected.

Isaiah 41:9,10:
“You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, You are my servant, I have chosen you, and have not cast you away. Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

How to pray so that God hears us

Confessing our sins shouldn’t be something to avoid or dread. In fact, it is freeing. The way to get God’s attention and tell him we are serious, is to let go. Let go of whatever secret sin you are hiding away. God already knows everything, but he wants to hear it from your lips, and he delights and cherishes a contrite heart.

  1.  Ask Jesus to reveal any sins that would keep him from hearing your prayers. Repent of each one. (Ps 66:18 & Isaiah 59:2)
  2. Pray to have you thoughts bound up so you can hear the Lord (2 Cor 10:5)
  3. Thank and Praise the Lord (Ps 100:4)
  4. Listen to what the Spirit guides you into praying for, and don’t stop praying until the Spirit leads you to stop.

Happy Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Happy Feast of St. Joseph the Worker


Never forget that Joseph worked.
That Jesus worked.
That Mary worked.

Joseph was a “tekton,” in the Greek. So was Jesus. This is often translated as carpenter, but woodworker, craftsman, handyman, or even day laborer, are all good translations. Jesus worked as a “tekton” for upwards of 18 years.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph honored the Sabbath and they paused for prayer but, like the poor today struggling to make ends meet, they worked–and worked hard.

Jesus understands the working life. All work, if done with a good intention, can be holy.

-Fr. James Martin, SJ

Confidence before atheism

Atheism is the denial of the existence of God. I have many friends and family who identify themselves as atheist, and I myself used to live as though it was true.

This is the subject on my mind today, and being on vacation, I have let myself slip with my daily readings. Suddenly when a situation arose, I felt naked and unprotected. I had to get to a private place and build up my confidence in Jesus, my salvation, and the Word.

What I found was Isaiah 32-33.  It’s kind of long, but I want to encourage anyone who is up to it, to take a moment to slow down, clear your mind, and read these 2 chapters in their entirety. Isaiah is speaking to about Jerusalem and Babylon, but reading this today, all I could think of was the end times; of people who turn to God for protection and forgiveness, and those who vehemently deny the existence of God.

33:13 Hear, you who are far off, what I have done;
and you who are near, acknowledge my might.
14 The sinners in Zion are afraid;
trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions,
who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe,
who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,
16 he will dwell on the heights;
his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks;
his bread will be given him; his water will be sure

18 Your heart will muse on the terror:
“Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed the tribute?
Where is he who counted the towers?”
19 You will see no more the insolent people,
the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,
stammering in a tongue that you cannot understand.

It is easy to get carried away with our feelings and judgements on both ends of the spectrum. Remember –God alone is the judge of those who are not believers. Our job is not to attack, nor hide our light under a basket.

Be bold with how you express your Christian love: patient, kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. Not insisting on its own way, not irritable, nor resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Cor 13).

This isn’t just a nice poem to recite at weddings, it is reality. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.the sword given to us that is so razor sharp it can  between the Soul and the Heart (Heb 4:12).

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s lovehas been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Rom 5).

To learn more about atheism and how to respond, visit http://carm.org/atheism