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A Leap of Faith and Obedience

“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

There are some areas of my life that are currently in a state of flux and transition.  Things that were sure and stable have become unstable and iffy.  And because of these changes, I came to a crossroads where I needed to make some major decisions.

Rebellious child

So, as all Christians do (or should do), I began to pray and ask God for direction. And just as He promised in 1 John 5:14-15, he began to respond and answer my petitions. The first time I heard the answer regarding one specific situation, my response was “ummm…really?” That answer was NOT AT ALL what I was expecting, and it wasn’t something that I had a desire to do! So I proceeded to ignore that answer and kept praying.

Well, God is certainly a persistent God!  As I continued to pray, the same answer kept coming, but from different sources…multiple people who had not spoken with one another, passage of Scripture, and just a still, small voice that continued to speak to me.  These different sources served as confirmation of the original message, but also reminded me that God will not back down when I say no! I will admit, I waited a few months before heeding the voice of the Lord, but finally I stepped forward in obedience.

Ponder this quote from Henry Blackaby, author of several works, including Experiencing God:

The Holy Spirit doesn’t need to equip you for what you’re not going to do, so if you’re in rebellion against Jesus and refusing His right to be Lord, He doesn’t need to send the Holy Spirit to equip you for service. And, tragically, you miss out on the joy that He brings. 

So let the Holy Spirit deal with anything that’s keeping you from obeying Christ

As hard as it is to admit, for that time I did not obey the voice of God I was in rebellion! Listen to what Samuel said to Saul when confronting him about his disobedience:

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

Witchcraft???  Wow!  Ok, God, I hear you!  The good news is, once I put aside my will and took that step of obedience (and it was a hard one for me), I immediately felt a sense of contentment and peace.  I knew this was what God wanted and I began to rest in Him, knowing that He controls the outcome of my obedience.  Even though I have no idea what God is going to do as a result of this leap of faith, I’m trusting that He knows best (and He does, since He’s omniscient, and His ways and thoughts are higher than mine).

So, I’ve asked God to forgive me for my rebellious spirit, and I’m moving forward. And I’m waiting in great expectation for what God is going to do in my life.  Stay tuned…I sure am!

 

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It’s All In The Interpretation

When we interpret something, we try to gain some understanding of that thing.  We look at the facts, we may note what information we don’t have, and from there we draw a conclusion.  That conclusion will help us understand what’s going on in a particular situation or with a particular thing. Interpretation helps us to make sense of something that initially may be unclear or confusing to us.

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Two different people can look at the same situation and interpret things completely differently. Take the example of a jury deliberating a case.  They are presented with the same set of facts.  Five of the six jurors come to the same conclusion, but one doesn’t see things the same way. It’s all in the interpretation.

Let’s look at the biblical character Joseph.  The facts of his life are:  his brothers were jealous and wanted to kill him, they threw him into a pit, and then sold him into bondage, he was later imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, and was left to languish in jail (and forgotten by someone who promised to help him). In total, Joseph experienced challenges for about 17 years of his short life.

How do you think he interpreted these facts?  The Word of God can help us answer that question.

Genesis 39:2 – And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

Genesis 39:21 – But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

Based on these scriptures, I believe that Joseph trusted God in his circumstances.  Genesis never says that Joseph was bitter and angry.  It never says he mistreated those under whom he worked.  The Bible says that Joseph prospered, and received mercy from God, and was granted favor from his superiors.  I believe Joseph chose to interpret his circumstances in a positive light instead of a negative one, and this is reflected in the mercy, favor and prosperity he received.

What about you?  How do you see our challenges?  You can interpret them in a negative light (“I’ll never amount to anything” “I keep failing”), or you can stand on the word of God and see them from a different perspective.  Scriptures tells us in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  That means, no matter how bad your circumstances may seem right now, they are being orchestrated for our good and for our benefit by an omnipotent, omniscient God.  The facts are the same, but it’s all in the interpretation.

It’s important to note that we can choose our interpretation!  We can decide to listen to Satan and his lies, or we can focus on the truth of God’s word.  Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. We have free will to interpret our trials one way or another.

Today, I encourage you to ask God to help you see your circumstances from His perspective, gaining His interpretation of what’s happening.  How we see things will impact how we live our lives.  God says we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), and we can only live as a conqueror based on how we view our lives.  After all, it’s all in the interpretation.

Is It Still A Happy New Year?

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As I write this, we are about halfway through the first month of the new year.  Our lives have gotten back to normal after the sometimes chaotic days of the holiday season.  The euphoria of the Christmas and New Year celebrations has waned, and the newness of the new year is probably beginning to wear off for many people.  Some of us are now starting to come to the realization that, although we are in a new year, some things are still the same.  They are still looking for a job, their marriages are still in trouble, or their finances are still lacking. 

As I think about new things, the book of Isaiah comes to mind.  When the prophet Isaiah is writing, the Israelites are in a very sinful state.  Isaiah confronts them about their sin, and warns them of coming judgment against them.  At the same time, he urges them to repent and turn back to God.  Some of his words in the earlier parts of the book are not very hopeful, where he predicts their destruction (which will happen at the hands of the Babylonians). However, the verses that jump out at me as I think about the new year are verses 18 and 19 from chapter 43. 

 18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

To me, those verses have ‘hope’ written all over them!  God is offering consolation and hope to the Israelites that, although they will have to go through something (exile), He will deliver them.  They will face difficulties, but ultimately, they will get through them and will be able to give God glory for their deliverance.   The application to our lives is very simple.  God never said that when our man-made time system (our calendar) changed from one division of time (a year) to another, that things would automatically be different.  He never said that our circumstances would change instantaneously (we do know, however, that He has the power to do it if He so desired).  But God is giving us hope, just like He gave the Israelites hope, that He WILL do a new thing, and that is SHALL spring forth!  We are to expect our new thing!!  We are to anticipate our new thing with joy!  Why? Because He said he would do it!  And God’s word is the only word that we can bet everything on.  We should KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that our new thing will happen, because this promise is coming from the One who never breaks a promise.  This assurance is coming from the One whose word is true and faithful.

So what do we do in the meantime? We hold on to our hope while we wait for our new thing, we trust the One who made the promise to deliver our new thing, and we wait with great expectation and joy.

What new thing are you anticipating today?  Instead of losing hope because the days are the new year are passing by and nothing has happened, exercise your faith, be hopeful, and with joy praise God for the new thing He’s going to accomplish in your life.  It WILL spring forth!

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Mary

This Christmas, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary, the mother of our Savior. What must have gone through her mind when the angel Gabriel visited her? What can we learn from this teenage girl whom God gave such a tremendous responsibility?

Mary willingly said yes to God’s assignment
When we read the dialogue between Mary and Gabriel, there is no hesitation on Mary’s part. She does wonder how a virgin will conceive and give birth, but she doesn’t doubt that it can be accomplished. We don’t see her asking Gabriel to give her a few days to think and pray about it, or to talk to other people to get their opinions. In essence, she says, “whatever you say, I’ll do.” How many of us can step right into God’s assignment for you with full trust and no hesitation?

Mary sacrificed her own comfort and security for a greater cause
At the time of this life-changing encounter with Gabriel, Mary was betrothed to Joseph. They were practically married, so I’m sure you can understand the excitement and anticipation she felt preparing to be Joseph’s wife.  In the midst of this special time of her life, Gabriel comes and changes everything! She’s going to be pregnant outside of wedlock, and it wouldn’t be Joseph’s baby! Her fairy-tale betrothal and marriage were quickly fading away, and she could be faced with all the law prescribed for a fornicator. Despite this, she still says “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)

Mary faced difficulties throughout her life
Being the mother of our Lord had to come with some challenges. Based on the message she received from Gabriel, she realized that she was the vessel through which the Messiah would come. She also recognized that Jesus would not be an average son. I can imagine she asked these questions in her heart: Would he get married? Will I have the blessing of grandchildren through him? Would he be there for me in my old age? Every mother wants her child to live a long life, and does not want to even consider the thought of his life being cut short, but that would not be the case for Mary with her first born.  As she faced difficulties and uncertainties in her life, Mary serves as an example for all mothers and all women.

What were the results of Mary’s sacrifice? Because Mary said yes, because she was willing to sacrifice her own comfort and security, we have access to eternal life through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Her ruined betrothal and wedding and her public humiliation afforded us the opportunity to be reconciled back to God. She willingly accepted a difficult and uncertain life so that she could be used mightily by God. While we do not worship her, we honor her and are grateful to her for what she chose to do.

Is God calling you to do a hard thing? How could it benefit others? Like Mary, are you willing to sacrifice your goals and dreams to be fully yielded to God’s will?

 

One Day at a Time

 

I am a planner. I enjoy having a detailed outline of what I want to accomplish for any given day or week. I tend to look weeks and months ahead and have a general idea of where I’m going. Running two businesses, being involved in church and civic activities and going back to school necessitates that I use my time wisely so that I can do everything that needs to get done. However, I’m in a season of life right now where my planning skills really cannot be used. I’m waiting for God to resolve certain things in my life, and until He provides these answers, I cannot do my usual planning and outlining. How do I feel about this? What is God trying to teach me in this season of no clear direction?

To answer the first question, I feel unnerved and uncomfortable. I want to be able to say with some certainty that I’ll be able to participate in such-and-such activity in a couple of months, but right now I just can’t do that. I’m in a position right now where I can’t say with any clarity what will be happening in my life even over the next couple of weeks. I’ve never been in this position before and frankly, I don’t like it!

Look at what the word of God says in James chapter 4, starting at verse 13:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

Who are we to say what we will do next week, next month or next year? Who’s sovereign, us or God? James says our lives are but a vapor. So because of that, when we make plans, we make them in light of what God says and not in light of what we say or think. We preface our plans with “if it’s the Lord’s will,” keeping in mind that He can do whatever He wants to do (or not). And we rest in the fact that even though we don’t have all the answers and can’t see a clear path, we trust the One who can see the end from the beginning. We trust God’s sovereignty and His omniscience. We believe in His omnipresence and His omnipotence. That is what God is trying to teach me in this time…to rest in Him, to truly abide in Him.

So, right now I’m working on putting down my planner’s notebook, pen, and calendar. I’m asking God to help me be content in this suspended state I find myself in. And I’m being reminded that God is still God, even in the midst of questions with no answers. And I am, literally, taking life one day at a time.

The Freedom of Forgiveness

 

As I begin write this, the entire world is mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela. After months of illness, Mr. Mandela has passed away at age 95. News outlets show picture after picture of Mr. Mandela from his days as an activist against the apartheid regime, to his lengthy imprisonment, to his release from prison in 1990, to the impact he had a president of South Africa, and finally to his days as an elder statesman. Even in old age and illness, there was still something about this man that draws people to him. There was a glow, a light that emanates from his very soul. Where does someone who has suffered immeasurable injustice, not only against him, but all who are like him, get this light, the glow? What is its source?

The answer I believe is the freedom found in forgiveness. Mr. Mandela was someone who chose to forgive those who for decades have wronged him.  He did not seek retribution, and encouraged others to live the same way.  He released those who persecuted him.  And this release brought about his freedom, even while he was still physically in bondage.

Although I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Robbins Island where he was imprisoned for 27 years, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be subjected to such harsh treatment for about a third of his life, the prime years of his life.  But Mr. Mandela made the conscious decision to forgive, the process of which is not easy, and did not allow anger and bitterness to entrap him.  Anger and bitterness are traps that keep one bound and unable to live fully, traps of the enemy of our souls – Satan, traps that the enemy tries to use to prevent you from walking into the calling on your life. 

How could Mr. Mandela display such a beautiful smile, having experienced such a difficult life? How do 95 year old eyes still twinkle? How can joy and peace emanate from someone who has experienced trials many of us will never have to encounter?  Freedom allows joy and peace to shine through a person, without that person having to even say a word. And forgiveness is what brings about this freedom.

The Bible instructs us to forgive as God has forgiven you.  If you have unforgiveness in your heart, go to God’s word and learn what He expects of us regarding forgiveness (Matthew chapter 6:14-15 and Colossians 3:13 are just a few scriptures).  In her book “The Power of Forgiveness,” Joyce Meyer says, “Wounded emotions can become a prison that locks us into our pain and keep others out.” Confess the sin of unforgiveness, then ask God to give you the freedom that comes with forgiveness.  He is standing ready to release you today!  He will do it!

 

While I Wait on God…

As believers, when we are faced with trying situations, we know to seek God’s guidance and wisdom for answers and direction in our situation.  We’ve done that….but what if God ‘takes His time’ to answer us?  What if our answer is not instantaneous?  What if we see other peoples’ prayers answered before ours? What do we do in that in-between time while we wait on God?  I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject, but I am writing about what I am experiencing as we speak!

PURSUE – Don’t give up pursuing and seeking God.  Our quiet time in prayer, study and meditation with God will give us the strength to get through the wait time and to overcome the impatience we may experience.  In Psalm 27:4, David says that this is the ‘one thing’ that he is seeking after.   He is seeking God because “in the day of trouble, he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock” (vs. 5).

PRAISE – Praise help us keep our focus on the right place….God.   Again, looking at Psalm 27, David says that “at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord” (vs. 6).   Giving praise to God lifts our spirits when we get bogged down in the issues we waiting to hear from God on, and it helps us remember from whence comes our help! (Psalm 121:1)

PRESS – If you are waiting for instructions from God as to what move to make next, ask yourself, ‘what was the last thing God told me to do?’  Whatever that thing is….press on and do it!  We are not to sit at home and wait for lightning from Heaven to reveal the answer we are looking for.  Are you getting weary while waiting?  Again, press on!  Be faithful to what God has called you to do, and He will reward your faithfulness.  Why should we expect God to bless us with greater ministry, greater reach, greater influence and greater territory, when we are not faithful to the smaller territory that He’s already assigned to us?

PATIENCE – OK Lord, I’ve been seeking Your face, praising You, and pressing on, but nothing is happening!  Let’s look back at Psalm 27….verse 14 (NIV) says “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  This is when our faith kicks in…..when the time gets long for our answer, this is when everything we’ve read and heard about God needs to be put into practice.  We don’t just say that God is omnipotent, we BELIEVE He is!  We don’t just say that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, we BELIEVE He does!  This is where the rubber of our faith meets the road of our life. 

Lastly, the thing that underlies all of the above is PRAYER.  Continue your conversation with God as you wait.  God may have allowed this trial to come into your life to draw your closer to Him, and to enjoy more intimate fellowship with Him.  He may have allowed the situation to linger so that He can prepare you for greater works in Him. While we are ‘going through’, our prayer time should not be consumed with just our own needs.  Remember those who have greater needs than you, and ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to them! 

As you wait on God for your answer or breakthrough, I encourage you (as I encourage myself)….remember who it is that we serve!  We serve an all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God who is able to do all things well!  And remember that ALL things really do work together for the good of them who love God and are called according to his purpose!! Be Blessed!!

 

© 2009 Brenna Fields Taylor