Friday, November 6, 2009

Where is my hope?

We wait in hope for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in His holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33:20-22

Marriam-Webster's definition of WAIT:
1 : to stay in place in expectation of : await
2 : to delay serving (a meal)
3 : to serve as waiter for

1 a : to remain stationary in readiness or expectation
2 a : to look forward expectantly
b : to hold back expectantly
3 a: to serve at meals
4 a : to be ready and available
b : to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized

We seem to spend the majority of our lives waiting. Waiting to move from one position in life to another. It seems to be a constant state of being.

This brings up an important question- HOW do we wait? Do we wait with an attitude that reflects number 4b in the Dictionary definition above? "to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized". Do our attitudes reflect one of hopelessness regarding what is neglected or unrealized in our lives? Do we wait passively, or in pessimism?

Psalm 33:20 says to "Wait in HOPE". This is an active form of waiting. Look at how this reads if you apply the dictionary definitions from above:

Remain in a place of expectation in hope.
Remain in a place of readiness in hope.
Look forward expectantly in hope.
Hold back expectantly in hope.
Be ready and available in hope.

Expectant, ready, available-to-respond hope!

The key to this attitude of hope in waiting is in the next words: "We wait in HOPE for THE LORD" and the "why's" follows that: "He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His Holy Name."

Are you without hope in your life, or in a particular situation in life? The first question to ask is- "What is my hope?" Is your hope in yourself, in your own ability to be strong and handle a situation, or what you or someone else can do for you? That hope is not lasting. We all will fail ourselves, and no one else can consistently sustain you or provide for you through all time.

There is a hope that lasts, and that hope is found when you find a line of communication with God. What is exciting is that God has given you two main lines of communication! First through prayer- talking to God just like you would another person. The second is through reading the Bible. God has chosen to give us the Bible for our direction and encouragement. Amazingly, the Bible is the primary way that God speaks to us. I encourage you, no challenge you, to start reading it actively, with persistence. You will find that when you ask God questions, or need Him to speak to you, He will. When something you have read from the Bible comes to mind in response to a situation, this is God speaking to you. God will speak to you in other ways also, but if you have never heard, or feel like you are having trouble hearing God, you might be missing a key ingredient- reading His Word.

If you actively read His word, and seek Him out through prayer, but are still entrenched in a pessimistic and hopeless time of waiting, ask yourself, "Where is my trust?". What do you trust in? Do you TRUST God? If you find yourself shaking your head 'no', you need to reevaluate why. Is there a root of distrust in your life that has entwined itself around your heart, ideals, and concept of who God is? If you distrust God, and God is the provider of hope, you will be separating yourself from the hope you need.

The Hebrew word for Trust, used in this passage of Scripture is defined as: trust
a.(Qal) trust, trust in have confidence, be confident be bold be secure
b.(Hiphil) cause to trust, make secure
2.(TWOT) to feel safe, be careless

Insert this into the Scripture we are looking at:
"In Him our hearts rejoice, for we ARE SECURE in His Holy Name"
"In Him our hearts rejoice, for we ARE BOLDLY CONFIDENT in His Holy Name"
"In Him our hearts rejoice, for we FEEL SAFE in His Holy Name"

God is a God of safety and security, who we can speak to with boldness and confidence. In His care, we are safe.

If you don't feel safe, is there something you are holding back from Him or holding against Him? If there is, take the time to tell Him. Go before God in a quiet place where you can be alone, and tell Him about your lack of trust and why. He will not look down upon you for what you are about to tell Him, and He is a big God, who is not intimidated by your questions or doubts. I encourage you not to feel ashamed of your humanity. He understands where you are coming from. You need be open before Him to give Him and opportunity to respond to you. If you don't provide an opportunity, you may very well be missing a chance for Him to communicate with you.

Finally, to move from a place of waiting in hopeLESSness, to one of hopeFULness, use the powerful weapon of speaking His word out loud. If you don't know of a verse of Scripture to apply, ask the Lord to provide one for you, and spend time reading your Bible. You can also search a particular subject on Bible Study . In the search field enter a word, and it will provide you with verses that have that word in it. Do you need hope? Enter in "hope" and search the New Testament: (go here). Then make sure you take the next step to write down the scriptures that speak to your heart, and read them out loud throughout the day and whenever you start feeling hopeless again. This allows the Word to enter your heart, soul, and being, inviting it to be alive and active in changing and encouraging you.

I encourage you to evaluate today what your attitude of waiting might be. If you have grown discouraged, may the Lord renew your hope, so that you may wait in a place of expectant hope once again!

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

In Hope,

(do you have questions or want to know more? email me at megphilp at live dot com, and we can talk!)

Monday, November 2, 2009

When you walk on water

In the Name of Jesus,
This man whom you see and know, was made strong.

It is JESUS name
And the Faith that comes through Him
That has given this COMPLETE HEALING to him,

-Acts 3:16

I have something burning in my very soul that I need to share with you. And I pray that it changes your life!

Last night I was out walking my two dogs, enjoying the cool crisp fall evening. And O the Joy I am filled with as I soak in Autumn! As I walked I prayed, and contemplated God's work in my life.

First, let me confess to you my humanity. I know that God healed me, and I can see that God healed me, but I still have moments when I wonder "Will this last?" It is then that I stand on a verse He gave me: "I know that everything God does will ENDURE FOREVER...nothing can be taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him." Ecclesiastes 3:12-14 (abbreviated)

I cannot help but believe that the many whom Jesus healed while he was on this earth had the same struggles with their humanity. Did the lame man wake up every morning wondering if his legs would stand strong once again? Did the blind man's heart skip for a second before he opened his eyes from the dark of sleep, hoping that his eyes would continue to see?

I think that, in their humanity, some of them struggled with the same thing.

FAITH. It is by faith that we experience the fullness of God. My husband and I are learning so much about faith. We are but infants in the grand scheme of faith, but I thank God for where we are, and for what is to come.

Look at Peter's experience with faith in the New Testament-

About three o'clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost. But Jesus spoke to them at once. "It's all right," he said. "I am here! Don't be afraid."

Then Peter called to him, "Lord, if it's really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water."

"All right, come," Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.

But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink.

"Save me, Lord!" he shouted. Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him. "You don't have much faith," Jesus said. "Why did you doubt me?"

And when they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. "You really are the Son of God!" they exclaimed (Matthew 14:25-33)

Oftentimes we focus on Peters failure in this passage. It is what sticks in one's mind after reading it, wouldn't you say? But look with me at the whole of it.

Peter asked Jesus to command him to walk on water, and Jesus did so. Peter knew that if Jesus spoke it, it could be done. Then came the faith walk. Peter heard Jesus say "Come" and he went. Can you imagine?

There is Jesus, standing out in the middle of some pretty wild surf. Since I live near Seattle, I picture the waves of Lake Washington on a stormy day. To go into Seattle, you drive on a bridge that spans the water. On wild and woolly days, that water gets choppy and rambunctious. One time, when I was a child, we were driving across that bridge, and it was so stormy that a wave crashed up over the edge of the bridge and over the top of our mini-van, engulfing us in water. Definitely not the type of weather and water for a nice little stroll.

I'm wondering if the disciples (Jesus followers) thought they were loosing their minds? Maybe the fear was making them imagine that Jesus was walking towards them?

So Peter takes his first step of faith. "If it is really YOU Jesus, tell me to come to you!" I don't want to take liberties with the Bible, but lets pretend for a moment that he was bluffing. Surely this was a hallucination, but just in case, Peter didn't want to miss out on THIS opportunity. I mean, imagine the story he would have to tell! "You caught an awesome wave? That's pretty cool. I WALKED on them." I don't know. I can only imagine the motivation one would have to ask Jesus to walk on water. I do know that it required faith to even voice the idea, in fact, it required faith to even HAVE that idea! I don't think I would have come up with it on my own.

Jesus saw Peter's faith, and so he called out to him "Come."

Now came Peter's second step of faith. Looking out upon those crashing waves, with the wind whistling around him, he stepped out of the (relative) safety of the boat, and placed his foot on those rebellious waves.

That first step must have felt shocking. His foot hit the water and it was cold and wet...and somehow his foot did not sink. I bet that his mind had a hard time connecting with what was physically happening. One foot was out of the boat now, holding part of his weight. Would he trust the words of his Lord and put both feet on the water, in complete faith?

It seems like that first step of faith was a two step process. Are there times where I only step out partially in faith, without allowing God to fulfill His word and complete His work?

And so, Peter did his part, he stepped out on the deep blue, and when he placed both of his feet on the water, he walked. He moved his feet and walked in faith out over the depths of that lake, and that faith-walk was recorded in the history of God's word as an example for us all of what stepping out in faith looks like.

Now we get to the part where fear invaded Peter's faith, and caused him to start sinking in the reality that surrounded him. He took his eyes off Jesus, and looked instead at the physical circumstance he was in. He stood amidst crashing waves, far from the safety of the boat. His world was rocking, the waves beat at his confidence as they shook his body. And he allowed fear to enter in as he began to look at himself.

We mentally chide Peter as we read this. "Oh Peter, how could you? I mean, come on! You can SEE Jesus! You have seen him heal people from horrible diseases right before your eyes! You have seen him multiply a few pieces of bread and fish to feed a thousand people! You have sat at his feet and learned about the Kingdom of God! Peter! Get ahold of yourself!"

It is here that we are again given a visual of what it is like for us to walk in faith. Once we step out in faith, we in our humanity feel exposed, because the only thing carrying us is God. We live in earthly bodies in a physical world, and sometimes when we are surrounded by our waves, we can't see Jesus anymore. We see those waves crashing, ready to overtake us. We see our physical ailments and symptoms. We see our emotional distress that is too much to handle on our own. We see life circumstances of complete impossibility financially and economically. And it is too much to bear. You see, we are now looking around us, not at Christ. When we decide we are stepping out in faith, we have to focus on God: Who He is, What He can do, and What He has promised to us in His Word- the Bible. Our success depends on wearing blinders to the things that entangle us.

"We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish." Hebrews 12:2 (NLT)

From start to finish. We keep our eyes on Jesus from that first step, that decision TO step, and we keep our eyes on Jesus as we walk. And then we remain with our eyes on Jesus.

How do we do this? Do we just think really hard about God and Jesus? What does it mean to keep my eyes on Jesus? The most foundational and important part of faith is found here. We have to read His Word. We have to read the Bible.

We pray, yes. Pray fervently! Pray desperately! Pray joyfully!

But my friends, we can only form faith and grow in faith through reading God's Word. This sounds so elementary I know, but its the plainly laid out truth. God uses His word to speak to us. If we aren't reading it, we are shortchanging God on opportunities to speak. When you read the Word, it makes its way into your very soul. And as life happens, God will bring what you have read to mind, and that my friends, is God speaking to you. What is wonderful, is that when He speaks His Word to you, it is TRUTH. That truth never fails. It is THE truth.

Here is something mind blowing- Gods truth is greater than your reality. He is beyond our reality, not trapped in an earthly realm with physical laws that box us in. When we unite ourselves with God, He picks us up out of our reality and places us in his realm of all-possibility.

Reflect with me on Peter's slip of faith. He shouted "Save me Lord!" INSTANTLY Jesus reached out and helped him stand again. Thank you Lord for Peter's sheer humanity. Thank you for letting us know that when we stumble in our faith you are there. When we cry out, you are INSTANTLY there. You set our feet on solid ground again.

The men who followed Jesus- His disciples- the ones who walked with Jesus daily, walked in faith yes, but also humanity. We learn from them that God uses doubters, people who fail, human people. God saves and heals doubters and sinners. Thank you God!

I learned through my healing what it means to step out in faith. We felt God telling us something, and if I hadn't ACTED, I wouldn't have received that gift of healing. I had to reach out and walk on water. Jesus said "Come." If I hadn't listened and taken that opportunity, I would still be sick. How heart wrenching that is for me to say! How many times do we miss out on something God has for us because we second-guess what He has said, and fail to Walk?

Once you step out in faith it is a continual process. I read and re-read Scriptures from His Word daily, even hourly, that hold promises for me and my situations in my life. I cling to them. I have moments of doubt. Days of doubt even. But Praise the Lord for his mercy! I cry out and he is instantly there for me, forgiving my doubt, and setting my feet on truth once again. This process will continue for the rest of my earthly life. Stepping out in faith can be very scary. It will defy your earthly sensibilities. It will DEFY YOUR REALITY, and place you into GOD'S ABSOLUTE OVERCOMING TRUTH.

I pray that you will begin that glorious faith-walk in the areas of your life where God is saying "Come."


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