Always Hope. Always Know.

psalm-71_14Your righteousness reaches heaven, God, You who have done great things; God, who is like You? You caused me to experience many troubles and misfortunes, but You will revive me again. You will bring me up again, even from the depths of the earth. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. Therefore, I will praise You with a harp for Your faithfulness, my God; I will sing to You with a lyre, Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You because You have redeemed me. Therefore, my tongue will proclaim Your righteousness all day long, for those who seek my harm will be disgraced and confounded. (Psalm 71:19-24)

Hope catapults us forward. We can trust God, not for specific outcomes we want, but always for the promises of redemption, reconciliation, and provision. We see how God has worked in our lives and place standing stones of testimony, remembrance, and hope. When we know God, we know hope. When we know God, we can claim who He is and trust His faithfulness.

But we must know Him. We must pursue Him. We must proclaim and praise Him.

The Vastness of God

psalm_36_5_by_seconteen13Lord, Your faithful love reaches to heaven, Your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains; Your judgments, like the deepest sea. Lord, You preserve man and beast. God, Your faithful love is so valuable that people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They are filled from the abundance of Your house; You let them drink from Your  refreshing stream, for with You is life’s fountain. In Your light we will see light. Spread Your faithful love over those who know You, and Your righteousness over the upright in heart. Do not let the foot of the arrogant man come near me or the hand of the wicked one drive me away. There the evildoers fall; they have been thrown down and cannot rise. (Psalm 36:5-12)

Sometimes we need to be reminded of God’s vastness: the reach of His love and faithfulness, the height of His righteousness, the depth of His judgment. He preserves, protects, fills, and refreshes. His light causes darkness to scurry.

He is nothing but faithful, loving, and just to everyone, because it is His character; He cannot be anything else. Yet to those who know Him, He spreads His faithful love over them. He fills and equips them to reflect His light well. Not because they are better or more worthy of others, but because they are willing. And willingness overshadows ability, power, and position in the long run. Always.

Our Love/Hate of Daily Requirements

indexSo David left Asaph and his relatives there before the ark of the Lord’s covenant to minister regularly before the ark according to the daily requirements. (1 Chronicles 16:37)

What are our “daily requirements”?

We all have them. We might look at others’ daily requirements, including those we observe at different times, different cultures, or different beliefs, and we declare them silly, unimportant, oppressive, or irrational. But we all have them, even if we don’t listen to God and rely on Him to determine them for us.

Even if we do listen to God for our daily requirements, we don’t necessarily see them as a blessing or honor. At times, we still feel as if they are silly, unimportant, oppressive, or irrational, even as we choose to follow them. Of course, sometimes we reject them. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that they are consider as “requirements” that we don’t like. We rebel against what is expected of us, especially in our independent culture. We don’t want anyone to boss us, including God, even when He is determining something that grows and helps us.

Our feelings about daily requirements don’t determine their worth. What God says about them does. Perhaps it’s not really the daily requirements in and of themselves that are nearly as important as our faithful discipline and trust that God knows how to lead well, even when we don’t understand.

Of course, we need to discern whether God is determining daily requirements, we are following tradition that no longer applies, or we are following people who we might respect and to whom the requirements might have made sense for them personally at some point but doesn’t determine our own faithful obedience.

Discernment is always key. Following isn’t about an established pattern but a firm faithfulness, whether God keeps our routine the same but grows us through it or changes our routine but reveals His own and our faithfulness through the changes.

Discernment is a daily requirement.

Steep, Don’t Dip

One of the things I appreciated most when recently speaking north of Toronto was the excellent tea. In most places I travel (and live), when I ask for a cup of hot tea, I get a cup of hot water with a tea bag. I don’t get tea; I get potential tea.

Tea needs to steep. That’s how the flavor floods the water so it is bold and consistent. Dipping a tea bag in water that cools with every passing second doesn’t have the same effect. Steeping requires heat and time.

There is a lot in our lives that needs to be steeped with heat and time, yet we prefer to dip. We cautiously, repeatedly dip and are satisfied with the results because we see some change. We don’t worry about the potential, better results we could get with a different process, because we rationalize contentment with our smaller efforts. We don’t want to endure the heat, and we certainly don’t want to wait across much time.

The topic of the weekend at the conference was joy, and we talked about how we can’t expect to truly experience the fullness of the joy God intends by just dipping into it every now and then. We need to steep in it, so that its flavor truly permeates us.

Isn’t that the case with so much of what God provides and wants for us?

What would happen if we steeped in His love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? His mercy, grace, forgiveness, generosity, wisdom, power, justice, and compassion?

Steep or dip? It’s your choice.

What Is Faith?

What is faith?

It’s not an easy question to answer despite the billion-plus results listed with a quick Google check. Even a variety of “expert” dictionaries find difficulty in agreeing:

  • Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
  • Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
  • Allegiance to duty or a person; loyalty.
  • Fidelity to one’s promises; sincerity of intentions.
  • Belief and trust in and loyalty to God; belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion.
  • Firm belief in something for which there is no proof; complete trust.
  • Something that is believed especially with strong conviction.
  • Confidence or trust in a person or thing; faith in another’s ability.
  • Belief that is not based on proof.
  • Belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion.
  • Belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.
  • A system of religious belief.

Of course, there are themes through the definitions, but as I peruse the Google results, quotes, definitions, and blog posts, I realize people generally define faith in whatever way best suits them. Like so many other aspects of our lives, we begin with what we know and what we want, and we build assumptions based on our preferences and comfort zones. We then project the meaning we assume from our own experiences to the greater world.

We cannot define God and everything related to Him by our own definitions. Only He fully and clearly defines Himself. He created us in His image, so we have His imprint upon us; however, we don’t have all the pieces. Our understanding is limited. We’re not going to help our limited understanding by starting with ourselves and projecting what we believe on God or everyone else. When we start with what God gives us, our experiences take on a new role. They’re intended to enhance what God reveals to us. He defines truth. He defines faith. We respond by living in truth by faith.

Consider how you define faith.

What would you like to clarify with God about faith?

Pay attention to the types of questions and issues you face. What might you need to yield to God in the process of expanding your personal definition of faith into God’s reality of faith?

Be prepared to see God’s faithfulness.

There will be many who read this and slam my premise from the very start. After all, who am I to say faith can only be accurately defined by God? Who am I to say God even exists? Some will assume I’m being judgmental and intolerant. To engage in that conversation addressing such accusations, I’d have to know the accuser’s definition of judgmental and intolerant. I’ll admit that under some definitions, indeed, I am being judgmental and intolerant. I’m clinging to God’s character—at least, as well as I can humbly grasp the reality of who He is and who He created me to be. As such, I can soundly declare that God is judgmental and intolerant. Of course, He is also loving, merciful, and patient. All these qualities, and more, come together in the character of who God is. Because I’m created in His image, I am supposed to reflect the totality of His character. His love involves judgment, and I trust Him to help me discern how to approach each situation. He refuses to tolerate some behavior, yet He is merciful. Again, I seek and trust His discernment in order to know when to say what and when to be silent. It’s not easy.

So, what is faith? Begin and stick with what God says about faith. Regardless of where you are on your faith journey, whether you think it has anything at all to do with God, I hope you’ll take the next steps with me. Open your mind and heart. You might be surprised at what comes next.

Consider Hebrews 11:1.

Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.

What a great definition of faith! It’s certainly not a simple definition; it includes several aspects.

  • Certainty
  • Hope
  • Things
  • Knowledge
  • Reality
  • Sight

Which of the six aspects of the definition of faith do you consistently emphasize the most?

Which of the six aspects of the definition do you downplay, neglect, or question the most?

What do you feel is your biggest stumbling block to developing a pure faith in this season of your life?

Explore faith further with Pure Faith: A Study of What Faith Is and How to Live It Out Loud.

God Cares…Even When You Don’t

I watched this video a few weeks ago, and while it’s a touching story of a marriage, it made me think about God’s response to our spiritual blindness. Even when we choose not to see Him, He pursues, loves, and cares.

Encouragement for Today

Yet I call this to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:21-23)

lamentations 3 21-23