Sunday, September 13, 2009

Strengthened by remembrance

As I woke up today and thought more about yesterday's entry, I deeply felt there was more to write. Both my mind and heart hovered over the meditation brought up in chapel by our school principal.

Just as in Luke chapter five, when Peter is learning what it means to trust Jesus fully, only Jesus knew what would soon happen when Peter would deny him not once, but three times. I believe that Jesus also knew that Peter's trust in him was at the root of this and would play out in his denial of his Lord in the coming hours. What Jesus says next is disturbing, to say the least, for he tells Peter that Satan has demanded to have him, that he might sift him like wheat.

However, even though Jesus knew that Peter would deny him and struggle as Satan brought trial against him in this time of failure, Jesus states, "And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." It says "when" you have turned, not "if." Jesus looked beyond Peter's failing to his future triumph as he would establish the foundation of the church in the Lord's grace for its future expansion . Jesus knew what Peter was capable of and who he actually was as God's son. As our school principal stated in chapel, "Jesus is not surprised at our screw-ups. Jesus has prayed for us that our faith won't fail. He looks past our failure to being fast in our walk with him atfterward, being strengthened and not quitting in faith."

And so this brings us back to Peter in the boat, straining and striving to catch fish all night. What Peter learned here, I think, is that self-effort is no effort at all--that it is ultimately failing. However, the same grace that lifted Peter out of his circumstances when he failed to fill his nets with fish was the same grace which looked beyond Peter's failure when denying Jesus to his death. But Jesus himself prayed on Peter's behalf and he prays on ours as well, interceding for us that we might not fail.

I certainly have had my bout of victories as well as trials while on this journey at Bible College in Australia. I believe that because the enemy knows what fruit is coming out of this season, he is trying his best to sift me and throw me off course. However, I can take confidence knowing that Jesus is interceding for me even right now, just as he did for Peter, that my faith might not fail. It is the same for every one of us. I am convinced that oftentimes when we step into a place where the Lord wants us most, we meet the greatest amount of opposition. But we will not fail, as Jesus is himself interceding for us.

Our school prinicpal relayed that when the enemy came to sift us during our journey at Bible College, one of our greatest weapons with which to fight him is to remember all of the ways the Lord has revealed Himself to us--how he has shown his faithfulness to us in times past.

The Israelites, who we learn much from, seemed to unfortunately lack the abilitiy to do this. In Psalm 106, it notes how God delivered his people out of the hands of the Egyptians, bringing them across the read sea, then miraculously providing for their every need in the desert. However, this provision was not enough for them and they began to mumble and groan in their spirit. This was an act of mistrust and doubt. Verse seven illustrates this well: "Our fathers in Egypt understood not nor appreciated Your miracles; they did not [earnestly] remember the multitude of Your mercies nor imprint Your loving-kindness [on their hearts], but they were rebellious and provoked the Lord at the sea, even at the Red Sea." Even though they doubted all along the way, the Lord continued to show his faithfulness to his people. Verse thirteen goes on to reveal more of the tragedy of it all: "But they hastily forgot His works; they did not [earnestly] wait for His plans [to devlop] regarding them..." (Amplified Bible)

As I begin to reflect on this, I am ashamed to even admit my doubt and lack of trust while facing questions of the Lord's provision during this current chapter. The Lord has taken care of me all during this year in every single realm, health, finance, friendship, community... the list goes on. And all of these provisions have been through the body of Christ--God's family. Why would he stop his provision now?

I must remind myself that Jesus is wooing me to himself to bring me to a place of complete trust as I become more aware of my own lack of resources, just like Peter's lack of resources in his midnight fishing fiasco. It is in this place of dire need where the Lord chooses to fill our net to the greatest extent we have yet known--full to bursting! It is in this moment that he works a miracle.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

An unexpected catch

Hello again! I have been meaning to write for the past two and a half weeks.

Life has been a little hectic as of late, but I'm blessed in it all, nonetheless. Maybe I'll just recap a little of what's been going on at the Hillsong International Leadership College...

I have been blessed to receive a job just five minutes away from where I live in Sydney. I have also been able to start leading a venue team for Hillsong College. Aside from this, I have been attending a full-time school and ministry schedule and still managing to find time to sleep and get my daily routine of excersise in. I am also being reminded of the importance of making time for relationships in the midst of busy schedules. As my friend who is a pastor at Hillsong says: "People, after all, are the only thing you get to take to heaven with you."

It's also been interesting trying to fit work in, for I've had a resurgance of health issues as I've tried to take on this new role during an already full-time school and ministry load. As a quick recap, I have battled on an off with the symptoms of chronic fatigue since arriving in Australia. Although getting a job has been a great blessing, it has also tested the limits of my energy and strength while in this season of recovery. I have been recovering so well with my health in the past couple of months that, to be honest, it scared me a bit when I had a setback after starting my job. As I'm now in my last bit of savings for school and needing to work to continue but not knowing how I'll actually hold up in the process, I'm starting to ask the question, "Lord, how is this all going to work out?" I think what I'm really asking is, "Are you going to take care of me Lord?"

I'm reminded now of my school Principal's message to the students the other day in chapel. She was reading from Luke five where the disciples have been fishing all night and have caught nothing. Jesus then asks them to try the fishing net on the other side of the boat. Of course, the disciples have been doing this all of their lives and so for them to comply is definitley an act of humble submission. They are shocked to find that out of their own lack they find provision when they obey Jesus' direction. As the disciples knew, and what I am discovering, is that trust leads to obedience.

Daniel was one such example who I read about this morning. Even when Daniel was persecuted and tried by his enemies who were trying to frame and defame him, Daniel's one response was to seek the Lord more fervently. He was thrown, however, into the lion's den because of it. But Daniel never stopped trusting the Lord; because of this, the Lord showed his faithfulness to Daniel by shutting the mouths of the lions.

And so, in all of this, I have begun to ask myself the question: "How am I showing God that I trust him? Do I really believe what He has promised in his Word? Do I have the integrity to 'go to the lions den' because of my devotion to the Lord in complete faith?" As Jesus relates in John 15, if we really love him, we will obey his commands. One such command which speaks to me is found in Matthew 6: "Do not worry." When our trust comes out of a revelation of God's nature and who he really is, then obedience flows naturally.

Although I don't know exactly how everything will pan out in this season, I do know that he who began a good work in me will carry it out to completion. Although there are questions regarding jobs, finances, health, and even how I might pay for a second year of college (I am feeling more and more called to stay) I do know the one who has already accomplished it all on the cross and secured my eternal future. And so, why do I find myself worrying? I think because God has assure my eternal destination, then providing for health/finance/fill in the blank... shouldn't really pose a problem. God is ready to fill our fishing nets beyond capacity when we simply follow him in trust and obedience--a lesson I'm apt to apply and re-apply every day.

Jesus truly is the best fisherman of all and wants to fill our nets when our own resources have failed. I think that Jesus actually wants us to reach this point of realizing we have nothing left to offer or give, nowhere else to turn but Him, so that his power in our lives may be realized to the fullest potential possible for our human understanding. I am finding that striving and straining must go and that trusting and obedience must flourish. I want to avoid all-nighters fishing when I can rest in my God, knowing that he has the biggest catch of all for those who trust in him.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The reality of healing

Today, I was privileged to be a part of something miraculous. I was out with some students for Tuesday's ministry outreach team and we were visiting with a friend at her apartment. Toward the end of our time together, she rubbed her arm and commented on how sore it had been ever since it hadn't healed properly when she had broken it. She essentially had no mobility or range of motion with that arm. However, I sensed the Lord was wanting to do something big in this moment. I asked her if we could pray for her and she happily agreed.
As we prayed, I was expectant and thrilled at what God was going to do. I just knew in my spirit that something was going to change that afternoon. After we finished the prayer, our friend burst into a big smile, saying she had felt heat coming from our hands and that she knew that something had changed in her arm. She was full of joy and said she felt extremely light although she couldn't fully explain or describe it.

As we were getting ready to leave a few minutes later, our friend drew attention to her arm, which she was waving excitedly over her head. Just minutes before, she could lift it no more than a few inches. Now she was stretching it out, waving it around, and displaying one the broadest and most joy-filled smiles I've seen in a long, long time!
I just stood there, finding it quite difficult to comprehend that I was standing in the midst of a miracle. I remember while we were praying, thinking, "All glory to you, Jesus. All glory to you," and it was truly to his glory that we were witnessing this miracle. We do not know exactly where our friend stands with Jesus Christ, but we do know that the Holy Spirit tangibly invaded that room this afternoon with profound healing power because of his great compassion and love for this woman. As Psalm 145:8 says, "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love."

As I reflect on this afternoon's events, it brings fresh insight to Psalm 103:2-5, which sums up our great joy best: "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all you diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Get out and do something"

It's amazing sometimes how caught up we get in our own story. No doubt our story is an amazing journey and a gift from God when we walk with Him, but is it possible that we sometimes take ourselves a bit too seriously? I know I can. The other day I found myself stewing over some "predicament" or another and I was seeking God for direction. Although I was seeking God, I was focusing on my circumstances more and more that pretty soon, all I was getting was more and more confused. I'm reminded now of how Proverbs 3:5-8 says to not rely on our own insight or understanding but to acknowledge the Lord in everything we do and he will makes our paths straight. So, as I was asking God what to do, I heard something inside quip, "Get out and do something." I was looking for some profound word from heaven, some fire to fall and consume the altar. I don't know. But as I started relfecting, it became clear that oftentimes I get really preoccupied in figuring out the answers when what I really need is an outlet. If we are getting poured into but we have no outlet, it doesn't matter how much fresh water is coming in; we will still become stagnant. An inlet as well as an outlet is required for a fresh body of water to stay fresh. It was interesting that God gave freedom of choice in this statement: "get out and do something." He trusts our judgement and oftentimes rather than giving us the answer in neon lights in the sky, he wants us to step out in faith as we are seeking his best. I've been struggling with this a lot lately in looking for a job. God has provided in supernatural ways that have blown me away this year at Bible College and I have been amazed at how, time after time he has provided for me through the body of Christ. Right now in my journey, I'm getting to the bottom of my barrel with my finances and I'm starting to talk to God a lot, if you know what I mean. "God, show me what to do; please guide me." I have been worried about having the strength to work should I get a job as I'm recovering with my health during this season. But now my perspective has shifted a bit. I've decided to step out in faith, believing that He will provide the strength I need in this season to do all I need to do and to do it well. Now, don't get me wrong--sometimes we need to take a step back and evaluate what's on our plate when we suddenly find items spilling off the edge. But I believe what we have here is something different. What I have experienced lately is simply desiring to act in faith rather than sitting and stagnating, pondering what I am to do. I believe God honors action and faith as we seek Him in wisdom.
Something else the Lord has shown me is that he shows favor to those who live with humility but that he also opposes the proud. When we try to figure out our problems without taking action in faith to change our circumstances, we are essentially feeding pride--pride in us thinking we can figure things out and at a certain point arrive at a conclusion. When we engage in faith through action, we are showing that we do not know it all but are willing to set our understanding aside in order to pursue the Kingdom first. In this, we are trusting God and we are humbling ourselves. And here's the amazing thing: When we do this, God's supernatural favor flows over us because we have humbled ourselves before him. Now that is a way to make decisions, in my mind! Easier said than done, and God will speak to us uniquely and individually in our own circumstances, but I know from my experience that God honors faith and that he honors humility.

For me, "Get out and do something" means that I must lose my life in order to find it. Getting outside of my circumstances means that I'm giving up control, and thus pride, and seeking to trust God rather than what I see or understand in my own ability. And I believe this can look like getting out to help someone, offering an encouraging word, a listening ear, a smile--being others focused. Believe me, I've got a long ways to go in this! The temptation is to pull into ourself and fix things on our own but the reality is that this is pride and exalting ourself and our own needs above God and his wisdom. However, "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be given to you as well." I've found that when I get outside myself and seek first the kingdom, my circumstances seem to solve themselves with more than a little divine help from above.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Love covers a multitude of sins

It's funny when these things come to you. Sometimes we sit up late at night with our leather-bound journal and our peppermint tea latte straining to have some inkling of creative inspiration or tap into some God-whispered mystery, when all the while God wishes to speak to us in his way and on his watch. Such was the occasion today when I was sitting in introduction to worship music class and mid-lecture, I found my mind drifting to God's love.

In this season at Bible College, I have had some rather large hurdles with health that, quite frankly, make me think at times that it might be best to take time off from school and simply rest up, get better, and come back when I'm healthy. But that's making a lot of assumptions. That's assuming everything goes according to plan, that everything in this plan will be safe, and that in the end, everything will work out the way I foresaw.

What, then, about relationships? Do these usually go according to plan? There's actually a lot in relationship that probably will not go according to plan. There's the chance you could get hurt--a big chance, actually. What if you are married and then, a year into marriage, much like C.S. Lewis's story, you find your spouse has an incurable disease about which neither of you knew. Obviously, this will dramatically change your lives. In a similar way, God chose to enter into relationship with humanity, even at the great risk of being hurt, and hurt deeply at that. But what is love's response to the sin that we willfully brought into our world? The Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins. But can the cure for all of our greatest trials and pains really be distilled down to this love of which the Bible speaks?

Oftentimes in life, the temptation is to look at the peripheral, those things which seem to be most pressing and those directly at hand. Let's go back to the newly-married couple. Perhaps the introduction of this disease into their lives makes things hard--very hard. What would one think if the couple separated in order to allow one partner to heal from the disease before coming back to the marriage--all this in order to prevent any tainting of the marriage? I would hope one finds the idea as rediculous as do I. The healthy response for the couple would seem to work through this new and unexpected trial together, letting their love for each other grow, flourish, and ultimately carry them through their hardship, and on the other side of it all, posessing a stronger and more perfect love than ever before.

Isn't it much the same in our relationship with God? At least in my life, it is often tempting when I realize something needs fixing in my life to tell God, "Ok, I'm going to go work on this and then come back to you. Is that cool?", when in real-time, this isn't the reality of relationships. When things get tough in life, God's perfect love expands to exceed the trial's demands. Of this I am convinced: God wants our trials to make us fall back into his arms of love rather than drive us further into ourselves and striving, self-effort, self-help, and self-promotion. In our trials, God is desiring for us to catch a complete glimpse of his perfect love and grace. Oftentimes, it takes such trial to get us to this point. This is why, for me personally, I don't believe that simply packing up to work on the peripherall of my health is the main issue at hand. I believe the Lord is showing me something more profound--calling to the deeper places in my heart. He is asking me to trust him in faith and let his love cover everything--all pains, all ailments--and alllow his perfect love to be made complete in my life. This is truly one of God's greatest graces of which I have yet known.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The adventure continues..

Wow, I can't believe it. I officially have a blog! It has taken a while to get started but it's up and running and that's all that counts. And it's my goal to keep all those I care about, my family and friends, updated on what is going on in my journey.
This "maiden voyage" post finds me in Sydney, Australia, just stepping into my second semester at the Hillsong International Leadership College. The first semester has been quite the journey, and I hope to dedicate a full posting or two to to more fully document it. As I begin this next semester, I am mindful of God's provision in getting me here and keeping me here and I find it vital that I give Him praise for his faithfulness.
In order to best explain this, I must briefly recap my time here thus far. During my time here in Bible College with Hillsong, I have run into several health problems which unfortunately climaxed while beginning my studies in Australia. This has limited what I have been able to do in my time here. However, God has provided for me in amazing ways. After my loving family and friends back home have contributed in prayer and even financial support for my time here, I have been able to step into my second semester here at Hillsong. And after wondering which direction was in store for next semester and provision, God surprised me yet again with an amazing group of friends from my home church, Maranatha Baptist in Logan, Utah, who spent a great amount of time in prayer interceeding for me. During this time, I felt great breakthrough in my situation and also in direction for my future time with Hillsong. Then about a week later, a financial gift from an anonymous source simply turned up in my home mail box in Utah. This gift more than doubled what I had pledged to give to our "Heart for the House" offering at Hillsong--a financial gift meant to pour into our church's ministry for reaching people worldwide with the gospel and sharing Christ's love. Oftentimes, this goal is accomplished through meeting the practical needs of food and shelter of those in third world countries or providing disaster relief for people caught in tragedies such as the devastating flooding in Fiji.
So, this is what blew me away: Just that day I had prayed for God to provide a way for me to be in college if that's where he wanted me to stay. (At this point, I was considering taking time away from college to get my health settled before continuing.) My mom then called me literally right as I finished praying and gave me news about this financial provision which had just come through. I was just blown away by God showing me that he had not forgotten this act of faith and that he was wanting to provide for my time in Bible College here in Australia and take care of me.
So, the adventure continues this next semester and I take it day by day, seeking the Mana from heaven daily, and receiving the provision I need for each day. And do you know what I'm discovering? It's not always comfortable in the process, but it's an exciting place to live from and it's teaching me trust the Lord more fully. I'm excited to see where the Lord takes me this semester as I seek him day by day. And he's teaching me more and more to seek his face and not his hand to change my circumstances or bring what I think I need. I am realizing more and more that we are transformed in his presence and in his presence is fullness of joy and the joy of the Lord is truly our strength! Out of this place of intimacy, we find true fullfillment and provision.