How to Build a House

efab7e03ee9194b2ee896c635a79ce35A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure. (Proverbs 24:3-4)

I love this imagery.

I’m not a house builder. I don’t want to be faced with all the big and small decisions that need to be made. So many details. So much to consider. So much as stake.

But I realize I’ve built a home, not all by myself. My husband helped. God helped even more. We made big and small decisions: when and how to rely on God from the foundation to details of decorations. He helped determine the memories we filled our rooms and years with. We tried some things on our own and learned how disastrous that can be. We got off track, then back on track – several times. We did our best. Or rather, we tried to give God our best, because He always gives us His.

Wisdom, understanding, knowledge. The best building materials of any home.

At The Crossroads

crossroads-confusing-sign-595x335Doesn’t Wisdom call out?
Doesn’t Understanding make her voice heard?
At the heights overlooking the road,
at the crossroads, she takes her stand. (Proverbs 8:1-2)

We may not be clear at all times, but the crossroads are revealing. We are faced with options. Whether we are under pressure or have time to process, gray separates into black and white. We know we need to take a step. We may not be completely certain of which way to go, but we stand up, turn, gaze forward, and walk.

With Wisdom and Understanding, we have courage and assurance. Even when we misstep, Wisdom and Understanding correct us. God knows. He helps. He guides.

Without Him, the crossroads are disorienting.

With Him, we proceed in faith.

Knowing It All

if-you-think-you-know-it-all-you-are-not-listening-quote-1There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read before the entire assembly of Israel, including the women, the little children, and the foreigners who were with them. (Joshua 8:35)

When we share what God says, we must try to keep it in its entirety and context as much as we can. Of course, we’re limited by time and understanding, but we can steward what we have well. We can never know it all, but we can be in the continual process of knowing it all. We should never come across as a know-it-all, but we can certainly rely on the One who does each step of the way!

Practice When You Don’t Know Why

We don’t have to completely understand the purpose in each discipline to benefit from and commit to it.

Consider Daniel in Karate Kid. He wanted to learn karate, and Mr. Muyagi committed to teaching him, but he starting with waxing cars, sanding floors, and painting fences. Daniel wondered when the actual training would start. He was confused and irritated, not understanding the important conditioning of his discipline.

We sometimes read sections of the Bible while wondering why the details are even included. We pray without making a connection to any benefits or results. We serve on a ministry team to get involved and end up frustrated with the dynamics of the group. We give generously yet feel a strained need for provision and wonder where we went wrong.

There’s not always a clear cut if/then causal relationship with spiritual disciplines. Results aren’t as important as the process. Yes, we need to keep the results in mind, but sometimes what we believe should be the result differs from what God says about the process. He wants us to rely on Him throughout the discipline, trusting Him even when we don’t completely understand. We could jump through discipline hoops and end up no closer to Him. We could choose legalism over relationship.

Instead, God wants us to trust Him, take one step at a time, and rely on Him for the refining process. He will train us, but not always in the ways we expect. That’s okay, because He’s not taking us where we want to go but where He wants us to go. And that’s a better destination.

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Are You Struggling With A Struggle?

struggle: to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition; to proceed with difficulty or with great effort (www.merriam-webster.com)

When have you struggled with something? Have you stayed in the struggle?

It seems like a stupid question. After all, who would want to stay in a struggle? Yet how many things have you repeatedly or consistently struggled with? Thoughts of struggles tossed and turned in my mind recently, and I began to wonder if we sometimes begin to define a struggle as such simply because of the repetition or consistency. If we could deal with something and be done with it, we might not define it as a struggle, but when it consumes increasingly more time and energy, we define it as a struggle.

We can settle into the struggle because it becomes consistent in our lives. There’s a pattern, and even when we don’t like it, we can become somewhat accustomed to it. In a sense, we settle into or stay in the struggle.

The question is: Are you active in the struggle, or have you taken a passive role, expecting not to be able to change anything or becoming paralyzed to make an attempt to try anything?

The definition of struggle indicates action – a quite intense action: to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition; to proceed with difficulty or with great effort.

What are your struggles?

Most will respond in one of two ways. Either they’ll indicate something acute going on in the current season of life or something chronic that seems to be repeated over a longer period. Perhaps you look back on your life and see consistencies, so you connect the dots and call it a struggle. You’ve made strenuous efforts to proceed through the difficulties. You’ve pushed against the opposing winds blowing into your face. You’ve set your eyes on forward progress and knocked barriers out of the way. Even if your situation hasn’t changed much, you’re struggling, and you’re not staying in the struggle because of the efforts you’re making.

On the other hand, if you’re labeling consistent issues in your life as a struggle but you’ve made little effort to change or move forward, you’re staying in the struggle. Actually, you might not be struggling at all. It might feel like you’re struggling, because you’ve become accustomed to thinking struggling occurs when nothing changes, but struggling involves change.

Struggling is active, not passive.

I’m not saying you can fix everything. You can’t rearrange all the messy pieces of your life and put them together into a beautiful mosaic. You can’t explain all the cause and effects, see the potential, and accept what’s going on in your life with complete understanding. You’re human. You have limitations.

God doesn’t have limitations. Whatever you can’t do, He can. He can rearrange all the messy pieces of your life and put them together into a beautiful mosaic. He can explain all the cause and effects and see the potential with complete understanding. However, as long as you live in this messy life on earth, you won’t be able to see the beautiful mosaic in its entire splendor. You won’t have complete understanding. He’ll give you glimpses, but there will always be a gap between God and you.

And that’s where faith comes in.

Faith is active. It’s giving everything, the good and the bad, to God…and trusting Him with it. It doesn’t stop there. It’s not a one-time “please fix this” request. Faith includes a trust that God can fix it as well as the acceptance that God wants you to be involved in the process. Faith involves listening to what action God wants you to take. It’s a delicate balance, because it’s tempting to declare:

I’ve given it to God, so all I have to do now is wait for Him to take care of it.

or

I know God wants me to be active in the process, so I’ll figure out what needs to be done next.

Either rationalization indicates an imbalance in the relationship between a person and God.

Faith isn’t the absence of struggle. Faith itself involves struggle. In faith, we must acknowledge God, give everything to God, listen to God, and respond to God. Faith requires trust and action.

Be cautious in how you’re defining and responding in struggles. If you tend to push ahead in determination and self-sufficiency, you’ll need to pull back. Replace your self-sufficiency with God-sufficiency. Give it all to God, including control, and let Him tell you what the next steps are. He’ll guide and provide.

On the other hand, if you tend to sit back and wait for something to happen, especially after you’ve given it to God, you need to take a step. There’s likely something you’re holding back from God: yourself. Place yourself in his hands, knowing He isn’t going to let you sit and mope. He doesn’t let spiritual muscles atrophy. He’ll get you up and moving even though you’d prefer to let Him do the work. Let Him tell you what the next steps are, and be obedient. He’ll guide and provide.

So…are you staying in your struggles? Are you struggling in your struggles?

Most important, are you faithful in your struggles?

To do this, I work and struggle, using Christ’s great strength that works so powerfully in me. Colossians 1:29

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.

Living Out Great Expectations

LiveWithGreatExpectations
©2015 PurePurpose.org

You have done amazing things we did not expect. You came down, and the mountains trembled before you. (Isaiah 64:3)

Many times, the difference between expectations and reality causes disappointment, but it can also cause surprise and celebration. Throughout the Bible, God showed up in amazing ways that people didn’t expect. Follow God’s lead.

Be understandable. If people don’t understand what you’re saying, they won’t follow, learn, and grow. They’re not going to understand everything you say – just as you sometimes won’t understand their perspective – but strive to find common ground and start there.

Be passionate. You’re not going to be excited about everything you’re doing all the time, but keep your passion level in check. People around you can sense if you’re going through the motions or if you’re seeking, learning, and growing. Passion is contagious.

Be protective. Avoid being overly protective or developing co-dependent relationships, but pay attention so that people aren’t getting left behind, lost, or hurt. Set healthy boundaries. Invite accountability. Learn lessons of responsibility and consequence.

Be attentive. Get to know the people around you – their interests, quirks, experiences, and dreams. As you get to know and care about people, they’ll trust you more. Listening might seem like it’s a small thing, but it’s one of the most inexpensive, sacrificial, generous gifts you can give.