Where was God? This is the most commonly asked question when something bad happens.
Where was God when I had a miscarriage?
Where was God when her husband left her?
Where was God when that young mother dies of cancer?
Where was God when that candidate won the election?
Where is God in all this crazy hatred in the world?
I am currently doing a study on the history of the early church. It is a study of how the church established itself after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Here is what I am learning as I really study the scriptures. When I look past the miracles and gifts of the Spirit, I see a darker story.
The church actually grew through persecution. When people had to flee their country of face certain death for being a Christian the gospel spread to new lands. When people stood firm in their faith at the cost of being beheading, or shouted to God to forgive the crowd as they were being stoned to death, a statement was made. My God is bigger than the evils of this world. Wasn't that the point of the cross. To proclaim once and for all that evil could not, would not, conquer good. As a result the gospels spread and many believed.
So where is God now? In a crazy world of genocide and racism and power hungry leaders. A world where a dollar is more important than a life and being right is more important than love? Where is God?
He is in each story of triumph that builds hope in the oppressed. He is in each hand that reaches out to help the poor and sick. He is in each word that says I will not lash out when I don't agree but I will lean in and listen and try to help. He is in generosity. He is in each act of love.
Loving in hostile times can be hard. Overcoming affliction with hope can be daunting. I like how Moses handled it in Psalm 90. As his nation was sinning against God he talked to God. He pleaded with God for help, he asked God to fill him up with joy and love, and then he ends the prayer asking for God to establish the work of his hands. He didn't know what to do so he asked God for direction.
Good idea Moses. Good idea.
Psalm 90:13-17 NIV (A prayer of Moses, man of God)
Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us--
yes, establish the work of our hands.
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Hey, you, my friend. Did you know that God did not create you to be a beat down Christian?
Look we all have troubles and trials that easily overwhelm. Yesterday, I talked to my boss after he received some bad news. After processing it, he said something profound. "The reality has not changed because I now know the news. So it's not bad news. It's the opposite. Now I am aware of a reality that already existed and I can respond to it."
Awareness of your troubles is an opportunity to respond. You can respond in fear or anger or worry or you can respond in seeking God for strength and courage and joy. You can choose to live joyfully triumphant. Either way. Your reality does not change.
The Prophet Habakkuk explains it like this:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk was living in a time when injustice surrounded him. Nothing made sense. Nothing seemed fair. But he chose joy. He chose to tap into the strength of his creator.
Did you know that you have the power to tap into the joy of God's spirit anytime you need it? You do not need to embrace your emptiness and reduce yourself to dry bones when you face troubles.
Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Don't get me wrong, we can do nothing without God but if we tap into his spirit we can do everything with him! We may have trouble mustering up joy on our own but we can find it in God! Seek Him, find joy. Isn't this good news? Isn't this reason to preach on our wholeness and not our brokenness?
Hebrews 13:5 “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
We must maintain hope which brings joy.
Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”
We must be thankful which stems from appreciation not anxiousness.
Philemon 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Don't worry, thank Him for all the good He is, all the wholeness He extends, and then make your requests known. Be patient as you wait for the response and kill the time with being hopeful. Joyful. Triumphant.
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I have set a goal for November to tell as many people as possible why I am thankful for them. Being specifically acknowledged for who you are is one of the best gifts. Words. Words are gifts.
I want to help you all tell some people how thankful you are for them this Thanksgiving Season so I whipped up these printable note cards for you to use. There are 22 cards all with lovely fall images,quotes and a corresponding Bible verse on the back. Just print them on card stock, cut them out, write a personal note and hand them out.
I plan to use them in my daughters lunch, slip them in my friends purses, leave the under some windshield wipers...and who knows what else. Follow me on Instagram to see how I use them all November.
This is a follow up post to The Faith To Not Grow Weary.
Whenever I write about the fact that my husband is an unbeliever I get a lot of responses. They are always quiet whisper responses…a private email, a personal message on LinkedIn, a phone call. They are almost always “me too” responses.
Me too…I have that problem.
Me too…I feel that pain.
Me too…I get weary.
Me too…thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.
I have been thinking long and hard on the responses I invoke. It is never my intention to wallow-or help others to wallow. For Christ came that we may have life and life abundantly. He came to earth to bring the Kingdom near so we could live in freedom. If He’s given us the gift of abundant life, then surely we should walk under the banner of that gift. I don’t think anyone has ever been won to Christ though sulking.
I share simply to enter in. I know the subject of being married to an unbelieving spouse is somewhat taboo. People don’t like to talk about it or don’t know what to say about it. Or often when they do have something to say about it-it’s all wrong. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was at a Pastor’s conference and I was speaking to a fellow teacher of our church. The subject of my husband sporadically attending church (because he has not yet come to faith) became the topic of conversation.
Now, in my mind, I was celebrating that sporadic was better than never. I was counting the ways I see God wooing my husband-even though my husband doesn’t see it yet. My friend across from me saw something else. He said, “You know what Pastor Rick would say if you guys weren’t married yet? He would say don’t get married.”
Hmmmm…long pause while I try not to reach out and strangle the young man for trying to strangle my hope. Isn’t it funny how we know our task is to build each other up in Christ but a thoughtless comment derails our purpose. The Bible warns against this. A lot! Proverbs 18:21, Ephesians 4:29, Proverbs 17:28, Proverbs 15:4, Matthew 12:36, just to name a few. I decided to let it slide. He is young and still has much life before him to learn the lessons only learned through time on this earth. We all deserve grace when we speak out of turn, and Pastor Rick has nothing to do with this, so I can’t hold someone else’s careless words against him.
But it does remind me of the importance of entering in. God gave me my unique situation and my unique gifting to minister to people who have the same struggles. Same goes for you, same goes for the young teacher with the careless words. You see words are never careless if the pain of the recipient is felt. It reminds me to stay in my own lane.
So here is the thing. We ARE married and there is nowhere in the Bible that says leaving an unbelieving spouse is a good thing. It says the opposite. Study it.
Here is the OTHER thing. I feel that God trusting me with an unbelieving spouse is one of my greatest honors. It is one of my hardest trials, but one of my greatest honors. God sees something in me that He knows can lead my husband to him. If you are married to an unbeliever or living with an unbeliever or friends with an unbeliever than God sees something in YOU that can lead that person to HIM.
It flips the situation on its head to no longer be about the unbeliever, but about you. It becomes about how God is pursuing you. Stay with me as I elaborate. If God sees something in you that can draw people to Him but you haven’t figured out what it is yet, then the dilemma is not the unbeliever but rather you seeking out God’s will for your life. This is about the relationship God wants to have with you, the things God wants to teach you. Because when you know God in such an intimate way that His presence rests on your shoulders when you come and when you go then people won’t be able to help but want to know him too.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them”. I don’t think my husband coming to faith rests on my actions. We don’t serve a God that keeps score on a merit based system. His blessings are given freely through His grace alone. I am just saying that if I draw close to the Lord and get to know Him in such an intimate way that I begin to reflect who he is in a powerful way, and in doing so His kingdom is brought near through my daily living, that it will be a beacon to my husband. A lighthouse shining the way. Then as God woos my husband through others he is more receptive.
Is all this easy when you break it down to the day to day trials of being human? No. But is it worth it? Is it worth the suffering to be closer to Jesus and to have hope my husband will come to know Him? Yes. Every bit worth it. Times ten. For where there are trials. There is opportunity.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
James 1:2 NLT
This is part 2 of posts about living with an unbelieving spouse. Read The Faith To Not Grow Weary HERE
It is common for us to confuse our gifts with our purpose. In fact, most people will spend their entire life developing their gifts, focusing on their gifts, and never scratching the surface of their purpose.
Purpose is eternal, gifts are a means to accomplish the purpose. For example, my gifts are speaking and writing and connecting people. My purpose is using those gifts to lead others to Jesus. I could use my gifts for many things and never lead a person to Jesus.
Using your gifts for God is not easy. It requires a daily dying to one's self, setting aside your personal ambitions and selfishness. It requires setting aside accolades to do the less popular. It requires thought and work and discipline. But it is so worth it. Folks, if you know the feeling of living in God's will, it is a high with no comparison.
So how do we live in the will of God and use our gifts in alignment with our purpose? Well, this is our journey, isn't it? It's what our time on earth is all about, answering this one question and acting on the answer. Let me help point you in the right direction.
Last week, I attended the Purpose Driven Conference at Saddleback Church led by my Pastor Rick Warren. This conference had about 1000 attendees of Pastors and Church Ministers from all over the world. All with the same focus, how they could use their giftings as Pastors to grow their church and lead more people to Jesus.
I listened as Pastor Rick taught how to create the proper balance of worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry in your church. The information was amazing and all based on scripture. But something really stuck with me that Pastor Rick spoke about. One of the reasons I love my Pastor is that he preaches the Bible in such a way that it makes sense to even a non believer. (Part of His Church growth strategy.) He has a way with words and a way with making the Bible relative.
He said, "If you want to see the Church grow. Do what Jesus did. Jesus came to earth and interacted with people. He met their needs, loved them, and was interesting as He taught them. He planted a church and preached reconciliation, he equipped leaders, assisted the poor, cared for the sick and educated the next generation."
Those seem like simple enough tasks, right? We could all use our gifts to focus on one of those goals couldn't we? And if we did, we would be fulfilling our purpose of growing God's church.
What are your gifts? Are you using them in the context of your local church and to spread the gospel?
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I am sitting at my desk on a dreary Tuesday morning and I come upon an email. Distraught with a weary heart I scanned over the words not really absorbing them until I read these words...
“So, sweet one, in pursuit of our gracious Father's heart, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’ (Colossians 6:9). Live for Him, love Him, and be loved by Him.” ~Kaylene Yoder
You see my husband is not a believer. Besides the obvious, this also creates division in the leadership of our family because we both have a different lens through which we love others. One self-centered and one God-centered.
Every once in a while, like a thief in the night Satan tries to wrap his slimy fingers around my hope. His grip tightens with each critical comment from my husband, with each harsh word that knows just where to jab. As I shut down my emotions to protect myself the chaos takes over the joy in my home. How does hope turn to despair so quickly? They don’t call him a sneaky devil for nothing.
His grip tightens and squeezes the gentleness from my responses until I start looking much like the old self-centered version of myself. I cry out to God, “How long must I endure? How long must this go on? Could today be the day you redeem him? Could you please make him whole today? This is too hard. I can’t keep on loving and being kind all the time when I am faced with this! He can’t treat me this way! He can’t yell at the kids like that! He can’t be that selfish and get away with it!”
“So, sweet one, in pursuit of our gracious Father's heart, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’ (Colossians 6:9). Live for Him, love Him, and be loved by Him.”
How He slays my selfish heart with his Word and the word of those that love Him. “In pursuit of our gracious Father’s heart”. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Pursuing God, accepting His grace and offering it to others so that they may see Him through you.
It is the sweet reminder of His amazing grace that spurs me to move towards anger with gentleness, snide remarks with soothing words. It is what helps my ears tune into the hurt behind the rage and pray that God will help me be a healing balm and not add to a festering wound.
But before I can be any of that, I must first be filled. So I come to the throne of my Creator and ask for Him to make my heart new today. I ask him to pour his refining fire on my mind so that all resentment and frustration gets lost in the embers of grace. I ask Him to pour out his love into my weary open hands so that I don’t look for it somewhere else. I ask Him to fill me with His spirit so that I may act out of self-control and with eternal ambitions.
And He does, because He is God. Unwavering and unfailing in His love.
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Be sure to read my follow up post to this one:
Jesus Walks on the Water (Matthew 14:22-32)
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Jesus, being Jesus, was like, "Here take it. Everything I have is yours. Come walk on the water with me." He does everything to make it possible for Peter. Peter just has to step out in trust.
And He steps out and it's amazing. He is really walking on water! But then he looks around and sees all the reasons why he shouldn't be walking on water. The winds are blowing mightily, the waves are crashing, and well...it's water. People don't walk on water.
With each negative thought Peter sinks into the water until he has to cry out to Jesus to save him. I can just picture Jesus shaking his head slowly, wanting so badly for Peter to take hold of the miracle. Then he says, Peter "why did you doubt?" In essence He was saying. "Peter I did all the hard stuff. I produced the miracle and all you had to do to take hold was believe and put one foot in front of the other.”
AND NOW FOR A COMPLETELY CONVICTED CONFESSION FROM YOURS TRULY.
Three weeks ago I started this site. It was a long time coming but the timing was affirmed by God. I knew it was right. At that same point in time I was working on a big project for a ministry that is transforming lives. I am collecting stories of life transformation to tell through video, social media and other outlets. These stories will play a role in the redemption of others. Then my son chocked on a toy at daycare and was rushed to surgery. I was distracted, rightfully so.
The last week was spent trying to come to terms with what happened and the fact I was not there for my precious 2-year-old boy, and then looking for a new preschool for him and trying to keep up with work as I care for him at home in the meantime. Suddenly my life is full of distractions. Suddenly I am just like Peter standing on the edge of a miracle, the miracle of God using me to build His kingdom, and I am just like Peter, doubting.
Maybe I should not write.
Maybe I should stay home and not work.
Maybe I took on too much.
But here is the thing. God gifted me with a love of words and a passion to preach His Word. He told me to step on the water and start this blog so who am I to cower and say that the distractions are too much to keep going? God orchestrated my employment and even the childcare that my son was in. Who am I to say his plan was not right or that the road is too hard? Who am I to make excuses of why I can't use the gifts God has given me in the way He asks me to use them just because the waters get rocky sometimes?
And that, friends, is how distractions steal your focus. That is how Satan makes sure that you don't use your gifts to bless others. So we have to push in and encourage each other.
We have to have the faith to stay focused on the gifts God has given us and to doing the good work He has set before us. TWEET THIS
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9
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I'm just a girl, standing before my God, knowing that He loves me and wanting others to know that love too.
I do that by encouraging women to live with abundant faith in moments both big and small by helping women study and understand the living Word.
When I am not blogging you will find me on the podcast, on nature walks with my kids, cooking with my hubby, serving at my local church or at my day job where I help ministries, christian artists & authors, and churches with their social strategies.