Why do you stand here?

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the angel asked. It was as if he was mocking their astonishment at their Teacher’s ascension. Didn’t you know this was going to happen? his merry eyes seemed to say. He’s going to come again, too. Will you still be standing here staring?

“We’ve never seen anything like this before!” they could have exclaimed. But they had. They’d been with him for three years, watching him heal the sick, turn water into wine, make the blind to see and the lame to walk. Peter, James, and John had been with him at the Transfiguration. They’d seen far more dramatic things than a simple disappearance. In fact, you’d think they’d be used to it by now! Jesus had been coming and going like a wizard with a hole in his Floo-powder pouch for several weeks, appearing and disappearing from the Upper Room and on the road to Emmaus. So why did this event leave the disciples staring?

Maybe it was his words before he left. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” What was this Holy Spirit? Maybe they were waiting around for it to descend right there–not that the disciples had a great track record for taking Jesus at his word.

To be fair, who could blame them? He had an awkward tendency to say the craziest things. “If anyone comes to me and does not despise his mother and father…yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” Whaaat?

The disciples sometimes take a lot of flack from the modern-day church for this. He’s talking about himself, you idiots! But seriously, what would it look like if we started taking Jesus at his word? “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” “If anyone slaps you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.” “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” “Seek, and you will find; knock, and I will answer.” “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Think our lives might look a little different?

Before Jesus left, the disciples had asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” His answer? Not yet. Wait and see. And in the meantime, he had a job for them.

“Why do you stand here?”

Maybe it was because they didn’t know what else to do. Maybe because the weight of Jesus’ last charge hadn’t fully sunk in yet. “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here? This same Jesus, who you have seen go up into heaven, will come back in the very same way.” The angel spoke with urgency, galvanizing them into action. These were the words that lit a fire in the early church! The disciples had to prepare for their Lord’s return!

But he didn’t come. Not yet.

I think the two thousand years since then have made us complacent. We metaphorically stand and stare into heaven every day, blinking into the sunlight and wondering what to do.

“Why do you stand here?”

If Jesus came back today, would he ask you the same question? Don’t just stand here; move! In your current vocation and location, what is he calling you to do?

Maybe you don’t know. Overwhelm is an understandable feeling. Maybe you should start by taking Jesus at his word: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

Ours is the same charge as that of John and Peter–of Paul and Joshua and Timothy and Moses. Maybe we should spend less time squinting into the sky and waiting for answers to come to us, and a little more soaking in his word and letting him teach us how to love. Maybe that’s where the answers really come from. Maybe sometimes, when we think we’re waiting on God, God is really waiting on us.

So why do you stand here?

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Fear is optional

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said my pastor this morning. “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).”

Don’t you think our world could use a little less fear, and a little more power and love and sound-mindedness?*

Uncertainty is unavoidable, but fear is optional.

Do you know why? It’s because of the God we serve. We serve a God who parts the waves and shakes the solid ground, the God who at a word would stop the sun or send down chariots from heaven. We serve a God who holds a host of angels at his command and formed the earth with his breath, the God who makes water spring from rocks in the desert and lets bread fall like rain from heaven.

We serve the God who holds the world in his hands yet catches the sparrow before it falls, the God who reversed places to take the curse we deserved. We serve the God who conquered death, who went through hell and back for me and crushed the darkness beneath his heel like an insect.

This is why, while uncertainty is certain in this broken world of ours, we do not have to be afraid, because this God is on our side. Our sovereign Lord has become our friend.

I am reminded of the old hymn:

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

That’s power, isn’t it? To know that that God is the one who is with me. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” How little do we take advantage of that power!

When I was a little girl, I often fantasized about what it would be like in heaven to meet Moses, and Abraham, and Peter, and Paul, and to ask them, “What was it likeWhat was it like, to have the literal voice of God ringing in your ears, to hear his voice and commands and to carry out his work directly?”

Someone I said this to once responded: “I think maybe they’ll say, ‘No, you tell me what it was like, to have the literal spirit of God dwelling inside you?”

How quickly we forget! How quickly we take it for granted! How often do we let the power of God blow our minds? How often do we let his love ravish us, sweep us away on his tide of grace? His love and faithfulness, to never give up on us, never let us go, to see us through to the end as we “run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).”

Uncertainty is unavoidable, but fear is optional. He takes our fear, and fills us with his spirit–with love, and power, and a sound mind. May you never lose your wonder at his grace.

Blessings,
–Bre


*Spell-check isn’t underlining it, so I’m going to assume it’s a word.

“Today, God is going to heal my daughter through prayer.”

One writer said, “Genuine faith puts its letter in the mailbox and lets go. Distrust, however, holds on to a corner of the envelope and then wonders why the answer never arrives.”

You can’t halfway commit with faith. If you’re still holding on to it, you haven’t given it over to God.

This sounds basic, but it’s harder in practice. Oftentimes, when I pray about something, it continues to stick in my mind for the rest of the day, causing me stress as I rack my mind for a solution. But if I’m still worried about how to do it  on my own, I’m not trusting in God’s solution.

There was a teacher of mine whose little daughter hit her head and went into a coma. They could see the life draining out of her and the doctors didn’t know what to do. The entire right side of her body was completely unresponsive. Before he left the school to be with her at the hospital, he wrote on the whiteboard: “Today God is going to heal my daughter through prayer. Celebration at my house, I’ll slaughter a pig. All invited. Serious!”

That was it. Telling the story later, I heard no doubt in his voice. He was unwaveringly confident in what God would do. And in his statement, he left no wiggle room in case just maybe God didn’t. He didn’t say, “If it is his will, God will heal my daughter.” He didn’t say, “Praying that God will heal my daughter.” He even just say, “God will heal my daughter through prayer.” He said, “God is going to heal my daughter, today.” He put all the cards on the table, everything on the line. And today, she is alive and vibrant.

I know that Jesus prayed, “Your will be done.” And that is a prayer of surrender, and an important way to pray. But I think maybe sometimes, we’re afraid of risking it with God. We’re afraid to believe, because what if he doesn’t answer? So we fill our prayers with qualifiers, not because we truly have surrendered to his will, but because we want to leave room for our doubts.

Real faith doesn’t say, “God, can you?” but rather, “God, will you?” And the person whose heart is close to God’s is close to his will.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and evidence of what we do not see.” Faith doesn’t have any wiggle room. Faith commits and lets go.

Just some thoughts that have been challenging me. I encourage you this week to make your prayers prayers of faith. Blessings!
–Bre

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WHEREVER you go

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I was praying last night about the horribleness of the college search and future decisions and this verse just popped into my head. It’s a familiar old passage, but this time I really heard it anew.

I had just read a devotional about strength in and even gratitude for the hard times, but I didn’t really apply it to my life. After all, things are going great for now — it’s the future I’m worried about.

Ah, the future. The cold black abyss of uncertainty. However many times my dad tells me that oh, you still have plenty of time and we’ll just keep praying about it and maybe a lightning bolt will magically fall from the sky — however many times my wise mom offers me her advice and makes me feel better about it — however many times my teachers express certainty that things will come together or my friends sympathize over the decisions they too are facing or I just try to avoid thinking about it altogether — while all of these people mean well, and often their words do help, it doesn’t change the fact that time is winding down in the next few months and that there are actions that do need to be taken and decisions that do need to be made and I have no clue where to even start.

Another word for “dismayed” is discouraged. That’s really how it feels. Discouraging and overwhelming. There are so many options and how the heck am I supposed to know what’s best? Have I been praying about it? Heck yeah. But I haven’t seen any lightning bolts yet.

But you know what? This verse says that’s okay. And it doesn’t say it’s okay in the way that one person assured me that at least one college in the world received applications from seniors just the other week, in May (because seriously, how do you think those seniors whose applications didn’t come in until the last possible day have been feeling all year, huh?), or okay in the way that people toss over their shoulders that it’ll work out eventually, or okay in the way of well, it’s okay to not know so I should just sit back on it and not care about my future. This verse is God’s voice saying “Do not be discouraged, for the I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.” And suddenly he means wherever not in a metaphorical sense like wherever is a state of mind or emotion or stage of life, but in a very real and practical and physical way. And that’s why it stood out to me. Because I do not walk alone; I have a travelling companion. And that’s regardless of how I act or feel — God’s faithfulness is not a conditional promise.

And for that reason, I do not have to be discouraged. I do not have to fold my arms or tighten my grip; I do not have to block off my heart or fear the uncertainty of what is to become of me. While it is true that the decisions still have to be made and I am still in the waiting, I am reminded that not all who wander are lost, and those sneaky voices in my head are drowned out by a different one. So maybe if I search less for my future and more for his faithfulness, I will be able to find contentment in the shadow of his wings and step forward, undiscouraged.

When the morning dawns

Wrote this poem last week during National Poetry Writing Month. The last line of every stanza is taken from Psalm 46:1-5.

When my heart is faint and my courage weak,
And I know not for what I seek,
When the weight of the world drives me to my knees,
God is our refuge and strength.

When what I see is not what’s real,
And I’ve lost trust in what I feel,
You are my solid rock, my shield,
A very present help in trouble.

Though I may wander, your truth will remain;
Regardless of storm clouds, forever you reign.
Nowhere could I go to escape your domain!
Therefore we will not fear.

You are my constant, my compass, my chart;
You’re the North Star to my wandering heart:
Faithful and steadfast in light and in dark,
Though the earth give way.

He hems me in, before and behind;
Oh, where can I go that I may hide?
He’s in the depths and in the heights,
Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.

He’s counted every grain of sand;
He quiets the wind with his strong hand.
The sea is no match for his command,
Though its waters roar and foam.

Pick a star, he knows its name.
I long to look upon your face,
Content in your sufficient grace,
Though the mountains tremble.

Unto you I cast my cares,
Pile my stones into a cairn.
My lungs are full of mountain air;
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.

In your true Word do I delight,
A light that does not fear the night.
I’ve fought the fight, at last to find
The holy habitation of the Most High.

I hear the voices of the saints;
One day he will call my name.
I long that those who know me say,
God is in the midst of her.

Because he is faithful, because he is true,
Because so far he went his passion to prove,
Because his command even death can’t undo,
She shall not be moved.

By the world unseduced, she is seeking the truth,
Hangs on to the faith that his promise will prove,
Clings to the Rock that she knows will not move;
God will help her when the morning dawns.

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Lost in translation

Do you let life interpret God or does God interpret life?

(You can read that multiple times if you need to.)

We may not say it, may not give it voice, may not ever even shape it into words in  our minds, but we do this all the time. Your situation shapes your view of God. It shapes your emotions, love, contentment, and peace. It shapes your trust and your faith. As soon as things start going bad, you start questioning your relationship with God. Oh, I haven’t been spending enough time in the Word. Oh, God hasn’t been speaking to me lately. Oh, I just don’t have that spiritual strength I used to.

Here’s the reality: Your relationship with God does not depend on how you feel, but what he’s done. And God does not depend on how I feel, but on who he is. God does not depend on your circumstances, status, struggles, or state of mind. God’s character is not determined by your situation, stresses, social circles, or stage of life. The truth of who God is is unaffected by your decisions, desires, despair, and delusions. God is based on one thing, and one thing only: Himself.

In Exodus 3 when Moses stood barefoot before the fire that did not destroy and asked God what name he should give to the Israelites to describe their God, the Lord answered with five powerful words: I AM WHO I AM.” Tell them “I AM” has sent you.

I AM truth. I AM righteous. I AM love. I AM holy. I AM good. I AM just. I AM strong. I AM gracious. I AM glorious. I AM enough. I AM sovereign. I AM in control.

Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes, in the good times, we take God for granted and forget to be in awe, to be constantly learning more fully who he is and so then when the trials come we’ve forgotten that. We’ve forgotten who he is, this God we claim to serve.

He is a God who transcends circumstance and surpasses situations. He destroys excuses, eliminates obstacles, and supersedes fear. He is over all and in all. He is sovereign, and he is strong. He is powerful, and he is protection. He is refuge, and he is restoration. He carries us through the fight and protects us through the night. He is over every worry and every conflict and every stress and every complicated situation life throws at you because He is Lord.

Ask yourself this question this week, and remember to keep your eyes above the waves. Blessings!
–Bre

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