Wash Away the Past

 

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland (Isaiah 43:19 NLT).

If we’re honest, we all have stuff—things we’re not proud of, mistakes we’ve made and decisions we wish we would have made different. Many of us keep a box of ‘if onlys” in the back of our mind. When we reach a point of transition—where things get hard or it feels like you’re not moving forward, it’s easy to drag that box to the forefront and begin to revisit the failures of the past. That’s exactly what the enemy of your soul wants you to do.

If your focus is on the past and where you’ve been, it’s easy to get stuck there. Then you don’t have the courage, energy or strength to push forward and accomplish the purposeful future God has for you.

My husband, Blaine and I made a promise early on in our marriage. We were stuck in a hard place. Our marriage was going nowhere. Once the word divorce escaped my lips, God gave me a picture of Blaine and me passing our toddler back and forth each week—raising him in two separate homes. As a child of divorced parents, I didn’t want that for my children. So, we came together and prayed, asking God to intervene.

We felt like we weren’t physically where we belonged. We agreed in prayer for God to place us wherever he would have us. We promised God and one another that day we would always go wherever he sends us.

We’ve moved many times during our marriage as God led us. The transitions from there to here were difficult each time. It’s hard when you know God wants you to do something, but you have to stand firm and wait for him to order your steps and open the door. I’ve had to fight discouragement and doubt while waiting. I’ve found the enemy will challenge you, and based on your past, try to convince you that you didn’t hear from God.

God desires for you to look forward to the new things he is doing in your life.

Right now you may not see it. It may seem difficult to hold on and believe, but the rewards are great. Let him wash away the past.

Make a conscious effort to throw away that box of “if onlys” and trust him to lead you to the new.

 

“The sea will grant each man new hope, and sleep will bring dreams of home.” Christopher Columbus

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Ask Anything

Do you imagine God so big that He is too busy for you? Perhaps you feel compelled to handle things on your own so He can spend His time taking care of “bigger” issues. Maybe you know people who are “worse off” than you are, or you think someone deserves His time more than you do.

Don’t believe the lie!

God desires to be there for you no matter how small you think your problems might be. He has endless capacity to do and be—far beyond anything you can imagine.

Imagine yourself the child of a father with endless resources who loves you, wants to provide for you and give you the desires of your heart. There is only one condition—He wants you to ask. You serve a God without limits. He is unrestrained in what He can do for you.

What things are you holding close to your heart today? Your Heavenly Father is just waiting for you to ask for His time, His wisdom, His intervention. He wants to give you the desires of you heart. It’s not a matter of deserving it. You’re His child and like a good father, He wants to do you good!

Open your heart today and relinquish to Him anything you’ve been holding back. He wants to be a part of the answer. Take a moment and invite him to intervene on your behalf today.

In that day you will no longer ask me anything.

Very truly I tell you,

my Father will give you

whatever you ask in my name.

Until now you have not asked

for anything in my name.

Ask and you will receive,

and your joy will be complete (John 16:23-24 NIV).

 

Obedience’s Miracle—The Widow of Zarephath (P1)

Part 1 of 3

God chose to take the life of the prophet Elijah and intertwine it with the life of one widow. Elijah served as God’s spokesperson, the man who stood in front of King Ahab and prophesied “…the next years are going to see a total drought—not a drop of dew or rain unless I say otherwise.”[1] Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, tried to kill all of God’s prophets. At one point, Elijah thought he was the last living prophet.[2]

Our lives our intertwined for mutual provision and blessing.

Those who worshiped Baal believed he was the god who brought rains and bountiful harvest—so the words Elijah spoke for God were profanity against Jezebel’s god. After declaring no more rain, Elijah hid himself in the Kerith Ravine, east of Jordan where the Lord sustained him with water from a brook and food ravens brought to him.[3] When the brook dried up, God sent Elijah to Zarephath with instruction to look to a widow to sustain him.

The woman, only referred to as the “widow of Zarephath,” demonstrates a powerful faith through her obedience in 1 Kings. The city serves as part of her identification. We can assume she is the only widow in her city. Zarephath rest inside the region of Sidon, the native country of Queen Jezebel, the woman who married the wicked King Ahab and required her god, Baal to be worshiped instead of God Almighty.[4]  We might easily assume this widow is not of Hebrew lineage, but she clearly believed in the Hebrew’s God and trusted Him.

So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah (1 Kings 17:15-16 nkjv).

God’s purposes are so much higher and wider than what we imagine. God tells us to go here or there—to do this or that—and it’s easy to think it’s about us. Hopefully we can see it as God positioning us for blessing. While that is often a part of his plan, our eyes usually rest on ourselves, when in fact it has less to do with us and more to do with what he wants to do through our relationships with the people to whom he connects us for a bigger purpose. Our lives our intertwined for mutual provision and blessing.

Who has God sent into your life to help you? Are you looking for God to answer you through the divine connection of relationship He’s placed in your life? What relationships does He want you to cultivate?

[1] 1 Kings 17:1 MSG

[2] 1 Kings 18:22

[3] 1 Kings 17:5

[4] 1 King 21:25-26

Give Him Thanks for His Unfailing Love

#5 of 5 Ways to Step into God’s Rest

Psalm 100:5 says, For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.[1] ALWAYS.

I can’t imagine where I would be today without the unfailing love of God active and constant in my life, and yet, I so often fail to thank Him for it. On many occasions, I am terribly guilty of taking His love for me for granted. Instead of a selfless focus, I choose a selfish focus—and that robs me of a deeper relationship with Him and the daily opportunities to choose to step into His rest.

Which brings us to the fifth way to experience God’s rest:

  1. Give Him thanks for his unfailing love.

Psalm 119:90 says, Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.[2]

David—a man after God’s own heart—learned to step into God’s rest. He struggled to stay in that rest throughout His life, but he always came back to thankfulness for God’s love. He could step into God’s rest and give Him those thoughts and concerns trusting He would do all He promised.

We can enter his rest because he loves us. His love never fails. No matter what choices we make or what direction we go—He continually and affectionately loves us. There is nothing we can do (or not do) to cause him to NOT love us.

What has God’s love promised you? What are you thankful for? What does it take for you to step into God’s rest?

[1] ESV

[2] ESV

Sarah’s Story Part 2—Helping God

Sarah followed Abraham and together they obeyed God not knowing where they were going. Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot with him, along with all the possessions and people they had gotten in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan and arrived safe and sound.[1] (Abraham was 75 years old, so that would make Sarah about 65, if you consider she was 90 and he was 100 when their promised son was born.)

It might be compared in some ways to a farmer these days, packing up the house, the barn, the animals and all he and his family possess and moving to another farm in another state—but they didn’t know where they were going. They just stepped out trusting in God to deliver all He promised.

Throughout Sarah’s story, there are many challenges. She and her husband were ordinary people trusting God for something greater than they could ask or think. They were far from perfect—just like us. They had their moments of doubt and unbelief along the way.

Sarah struggled to believe God’s promises included her. The natural circumstances crowded into her thinking as month after month, year after year she remained childless. It was a common practice in their time and culture to give a maidservant as a substitute wife to the husband, but remember, God had called them out from their people. He set them apart to follow Him and live according to His ways. He desired for their lives to look differently from the rest of the world.

God had a plan, but Sarah decided to help God out. Sarah encouraged her husband to follow the culture of her day and to sleep with her maidservant, Hagar. Sarah probably thought she could raise the child as her own. Abraham agreed and acted on Sarah’s plan. Once Hagar became pregnant, Sarah and Hagar’s relationship quickly changed. Hagar detested Sarah, and Sarah resented the woman who was able to give her husband the one thing she didn’t think she could give him.

The Lord appeared to Abraham when he was 98 years old and told him this time next year, I will return to you and Sarah will have a son. Sarah overhead the conversation and laughed at His words. The Lord confronted her asking why she laughed, and she fearfully lied that she didn’t laugh. The Lord again said, “Yes, You did laugh.”[2]

When we hatch our own plan to help God deliver on His promise, or hurry things along outside of His plan, those consequences can have lasting effects. Problems continued between Sarah and Hagar even after Sarah gave birth to the child God promised. (Even today the descendants of Ismael and Isaac continue to war against one another.)

Yet Hebrews 11:11 says, By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.[3] God is telling Sarah’s story from “the end.” It doesn’t matter to God how many times she stumbled, how many times she failed. It doesn’t matter to him that she laughed in doubt or tried to take matters into her own hands. In the end, she saw God’s promises for her life delivered. She became what He created her to be all along—a mother of a great nation. She believed God and walked with Him by faith.

If you’ve ever waited on a promise, you probably found it very challenging. Even if you’re a very patient person, it’s difficult to cope with a long wait. I know I spend a lot of time thinking about the thing God promised and wondering just how God will pull it all together.

[1] Genesis 12:5 MSG

[2] Genesis 18:10-15 NIV

[3] ESV

Sarah’s Story Part 1—Abraham’s News

Sarah’s story didn’t look very promising from the beginning—at least from the perspective of natural circumstances. The first mention of her in the Bible describes her as Abram’s wife, Sarai, who is barren and has no children.[1] (Eventually God changed both Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah.) When her husband’s brother, Haran died, Abram’s father took his family from Ur of the Chaldeans where Abram and Sarah grew up and traveled toward Canaan, but stopped short of their journey and settled in Haran where they lived until Abram’s father died.

Here’s where things get interesting. Sarah and Abraham’s family worshipped other gods, yet the Almighty God spoke Abraham and asked him to leave everything familiar to him and Sarah—their country, their extended family and the friends they did life with every day—and go to a land they had never seen.

The Lord said to Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you. Genesis 12:1-3 CEV

I can just imagine God saying, “Pack your family, tents, and all your belongings and start walking. I’m going to show you this great land. If you do this, I am going to make you into a great nation. I’ll make your name great. If you follow me I will bless you, and bless everyone who blesses you.”

Now imagine Sarah’s response. Abraham comes in and tells her the Only True God promised him a blessing—a promise to become a nation, and all they have to do is go to a land God will show him. I can’t help but think she said what she thought. Maybe she told Abraham,, “Well, how’s God going to do that? I’m barren. Everyone knows I’m barren. We’ve been married for years and tried to start a family without success.” And if she did believe, it’s highly likely she imagined different scenarios of just how God would do such things.

Perhaps she struggled with the grief of leaving everything familiar. I’m sure she had lots of questions. How far is it to this place God is going to show us? When will we get there? I won’t know a single person. What if the people are unfriendly, violent and savage? On the other hand, maybe she embraced this new directive  with excitement and expectation.

How might you feel if God called your family to leave everything familiar and travel to a place you have never been? Have you experienced times in your own life when you struggled to believe God’s promises belonged to you?

[1] Hebrews 11:29-30

Moving the Mountain Inside of Us!

I have heard the messages most of my life of mountain-moving faith. You may be even more familiar than I am of Jesus’ words in Mark: I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea!’ and does not doubt in his heart [in God’s unlimited power], but believes that what he says is going to take place, it will be done for him [in accordance with God’s will].[1]

So the other day, I’m thinking about Jesus’ words here. I’m thinking about the mountains that tested my faith and I saw thrown into the sea. Blaine and I experienced some big mountains in the first five years of our marriage. Only by faith in God and a lot of work, we overcame those relationship obstacles and built a strong marriage. I experienced many challenges with my first pregnancy including an inability to gain weight at first, anemia and preterm labor (which resulted in bedrest) and premature delivery. I delivered our second son full term with a very healthy pregnancy only to begin a fight for his life just five hours after I delivered him. Each time God proved faithful—and the mountain eventually went into the sea!

I’ve always thought about the external mountains—those external forces that reside outside of us. This time as I thought about this verse just this past week, a new question popped into my head. What about the mountains on the inside of us?

We all have stuff. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but our experiences shape us, whether we want them to or not. Those deep hurts and pains can become emotional mountains in our minds. Oh, we try to hide the hurts, to press down the pain, to ignore the wounds and to replace the losses—but they remain. When we least expect it, they come forward, much like a volcanic mountain rises up over time with each small eruption.

So, what do we do? We look to Jesus’ words again and realize that even the mountain inside of you has to move when you speak to it and believe.

One thing I’ve learned is you don’t have to take the mountain alone. Not only do you have Jesus’ word, his promise, but you have all of heaven backing you up—cheering you on. You also have other believers who will stand with you, agree with you and encourage you.

What external mountains are you facing today!  Please share your comments. I’d love to hear from you.

[1] AMP