Believing in Yourself

“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He also was able to perform.” (Romans 4:20-21, NKJV) 
If I’m honest here, right now, I often live in unbelief that God will do as He’s promised. I’m not talking about these “false promises” we like to put God’s name on and call it a day (for traffic to be light, our day to go well, marriage, children, prosperity). I’m talking about those in Scripture, the ones He has given us to remind us in the daily that we cling to faith when those moments of doubt come and not to our own strength. 

But Paul is showing us in Romans back to the start, where Abraham could have wavered, scoffed at God’s promise to multiply his family. But he didn’t. His faith was firmly rooted and steadfast in God, a God who gave him the strength and the faith in which he believed. 

You see, He is a gifted…of faith, salvation, promises, strength, goodness. Yet I find myself doubting those gifts and relying instead on my own faulty and very unstable ways to put faith in.  Doubt will try, in all of its crafty ways to get us to believe in ourselves instead of God. It’s a cunning way for the devil to sneak into our thoughts and get us off-track and away from God. And boy do I fall for it. 

I can look back and see God’s faithfulness in every area of my life as I’m faced with the choice to stand fast or to waver. To be strengthened in faith in Him or take a step away into faith in my disobedient self. 

Maybe like me you’ve made yourself a god in your own life when faced with the lies of doubt.  Choosing belief in self over Him who is faithful and true. Maybe today you needed that reminder of His character and the lies you’ve believed that led to doubt and self-sufficiency. Maybe today your faith needs strengthening in the only One who can give it to you…God. 

Here I Am

“Mom!”

“I’m over here!”

You’ll hear that a lot in grocery stores, shopping malls and the like, especially this time of year. I know I even still yell it on occasion when I’m with my mom someplace. That universal cry of “MOM!” in a crowd and inevitably that mom will know it’s their kid, even at 35. 

In Genesis, Abraham hears God call his name, notonce  but twice. This often means urgency and need for attention. You see, Abraham had a knife lifted above his only son, following in the command of God to sacrifice him. God called to him, not out of a need to know where he was but to gain his attention at this pivotal point. Abraham’s response?

Here I am

It wasn’t as if God didn’t know where he was, searching all over the mountainside He’d guided him to for this event. The response by Abraham gave such distinct clarity to his obedience to God. He was right there, right there where God had called him to be, even when he might have wondered why or even in the hurt of the impending loss of his son. He was very present to the moment of obedience. 

God doesn’t have to search for us, that’s not what he was doing here, and it’s not what we see done throughout Scripture when these responses have been given. In reading I was doing I found that over the course of the Old Testament Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, and obviously Abraham all responded with “here I am,” when called by the voice of God. “When used in conversation with God, it’s an obedient response that always seems to have monumental consequences.” Trace the stories of those men from their response and you can tangibly see that presence to God’s call leads to some pretty major events. 

Even in Isaiah 58, as he prophesies, we see even God respond with this exact phrasing of presence in the midst of or hurting, He responds with healing and salvation. We see Him move into that space for us and let us know we are not along in it. But He also desires that response from us when called. He knows where we are, so when He’s calling out to us, it’s for our response of obedience. 

“Here I am,” means I am present to what You have me in and I am willing to accept it with You. It’s not a response of doing it alone or reluctance. It may mean laying aside the dream or desire you are clinging to, much like Abraham had been with his beloved son Isaac. While the Lord God stepped into his obedience and saved him from death, obedience often looks at whatever we’ve  been clinging to as the thing that needs to die, or at the very least lain down in order to have open hands of receiving the better thing He wants to give us-Himself. The cost of it can often be much, but what blessing in obedience we reap is far greater. 

It makes me wonder, and hone in on whether I am making myself available and present to Him. Whether I am responding with “Here I am” or attempting to dodge what I know He is asking of me in the present. When I am available and present to Him, He always is available to me. 

By Faith Alone

I am a planner, it comes naturally I think. I like to map out things and plan trips. I think that’s why I enjoyed event planning and teaching, it gave me the opportunity to plan and prepare. If it were an Olympic sport, I’d be the Michael Phelps of it.

So you can possibly get some context to my discomfort when I read these verses in Hebrews recently:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and he was offering his unique son,  the one it had been said about, Your seed will be traced through Isaac. He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, and as an illustration, he received him back.

You see Abraham had no way of knowing. He just didn’t. God didn’t reveal some divine knowledge to him about the place He was telling him to go. He didn’t give him a map and say, “Here’s the land where I want you to go, this is what you can grow there, here’s the supplies for building homes. You’ll need a winter jacket and several military grade weapons to protect yourselves from the giants who lived there.” He didn’t have foreknowledge of God putting a ram in the thicket of bushes.

No, God told Abraham to go…and so he went.

God told Abraham to sacrifice the son he had waited decades to receive…and so he went.

Abraham had faith in God. He trusted without the details, without the knowledge within himself. He simply trusted (as if we ever allow it to be that simple). It didn’t involve anything but going on Abraham’s part. He went because God called him to go.

I try to overcomplicate matters, no I do overcomplicate matters. I want the GPS directions, a full detail spec sheet on the situation and a debrief on the plan to address a situation, along with a full guarantee of my safety, security and comfort. Plain and simple, I don’t trust God with what He’s asked me to do, what He knows is ahead I simply do not have the faith that He’ll see me through it. I want to look at the end goal, and how I am okay in it all. He looks at me and desires to have me move towards being more Him-like in the process. I want answers and He wants obedience.

Abraham obeyed in full faith when he couldn’t see beyond the step in front of him. How is my faith and trust in God when He asks me to do the same? He’s not asking any more of me than he did of Abraham…He’s asking for faith in Him, belief that He is faithful and good, trust in that His Promise is sure.

Maybe you’re like me and want the answers and the full Google maps directions with travel times before you will say yes to God. By faith today, let’s just take the step to go. Without the knowledge of anything else, without the security of answers, but with God.

Provisioning

The other night I watched Noah for the first time. While I know many liberties were taken with the script, I have to say it was done well. I honestly didn’t expect it to be all that great…maybe that’s why I found myself coming to the end thinking it was a pretty good depiction (imagery wise).

SPOILER AHEAD

But it steered off course when it came to the story of Shem, Ham and Japheth, or as we know the populators of the human race post-flood. It didn’t actually play out in the movie as it does in Scripture.  You see Ham questions why he doesn’t have a wife yet Shem has been provided for. He also points to his younger brother Japheth who will have no wife either when they board the ark. He even points to the animals being mated for re-population.

Noah lobs a whopper of a question back at his son when he points to the trees that were provided for building, and the animals as well (turning his son’s argument back on him), when he asks “Hasn’t He sent everything we need?”

God provided exactly what was needed at the appointed time. Not before it was time. He gave the wood. He sent the animals. He laid the plans on Noah’s heart and mapped them out in his mind. Here he was, a man building an ark in the midst of a drought. People mocked his choice, they doubted his sanity. They questioned his God and his use of his talents.

I can imagine that to be a difficult task for Noah. To undertake something with full dependence on God to provide. To show up and be present in every moment, every nail and every board. I can guess at the frustration Noah might have felt in building something…waiting on the promise God gave (as a judgement on the people). I wonder if in the quiet, long days Noah called out to God without a response. If he cried in the whys of this burden he now felt he was carrying. I wonder if he thought God had forgotten what he had given him to work on..to be.

Maybe God’s given you a promise that is ark-sized. Whether it is children, marriage, missions or any number of other calls for your life. To you, they are bigger than that ark, and holding all of you, your life, your dreams and hopes in it. Maybe…just maybe you (and I) are not at the point of deepest need for fulfillment of that promise. That you (and I) just think we’re at that point of most extreme need, and yet He knows we aren’t. He sees the entire unfolding of the plan and knows that His provision comes at the point of deepest need, as He defines it. Not you (or me).

 So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood.  And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.  At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son.  Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Genesis 22:6-14 (NLT)

My Namesake Moments.

I love the story of Sarah in the Bible. Not only because we share a name (albeit mine is without that pesky h) but there’s a bit of her personality in me…

God tells Abraham he will be the father of many nations. This truly isn’t a euphemism for something else. Abraham’s lineage will father countless nations, birth two religions that even today seem to be at odds with one another. He shares this with his wife, and for a while I believe Sarah was right there with him in that belief. But doubt crept in as the days, weeks and years passed. 20+ years pass and still Sarah remains childless. How does she respond? She takes matters into her own hands to get God moving on His promise.  (waves hand) Hi, matter-taker over here. When I have felt that God’s timing isn’t working for my schedule, I like to get in there and fidget with it. I put my hands on it, and take it back up off the altar where I have committed it to Him. I feel like I know better for myself and frankly, don’t trust God’s going to honor what He has said…eventhough He has never once reneged on a promise.

From Sarah’s example alone, I should trust God’s timing is not my own. His schedule is perfect and sure. When I get my own hands on His plan without His urging, all I do is create a mess. A mess I will have to then be responsible for long after God’s work in that area would have been complete.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

God shares a promise with her and her husband to give them a son, thus beginning the covenant promise to Abraham to make him the father of many nations. What does Sarah do when she hears it? She laughs to herself, and then questions the Lord’s will for her life. On more than one occasion I have laughed at what God has set in my path or shown me explicitly a peek at the plans He has for me. Then I have questioned Him. I have very openly questioned His own authority and sovereignty, His power and goodness within my own life. Then when He calls me on it, I try to back away from my actions of doubt.

You’d think I would have learned from my namesake alone to trust Him in all His promises. Regardless of my own strength or ability, He will accomplish what He sets out to do in the lives of His children, those whom He loves.

My namesake has alot to teach me about who I am in so many ways, as well as how God works in me and through me to accomplish His will. Too often I find that I believe I know what’s best for me. I can figure this out without consultation and regardless of what God has said He would do in His time. I believe I would fair much better in my relationship with God if I take a moment and learn the lessons of my namesake.