Tuesday, March 24, 2015

God Our Redeemer

I had a really great conversation this week. I sat with one of the pastors of my church and we discussed some aspects of my story.

I shared how sometimes I fight to trust the goodness of God. I know that God will always use anything that transpires in my life- the good, the bad, the easy, the hard- to make me more like Jesus. But as one who has a passion for learning, I recognize that I grow the most in the hard places. It’s in those places that I see God more and rely on myself less. Thus, I tend to think God wants hard things in my life because I certainly recognize how far from Christ’s character my lifestyle is some days. I need to grow.

I confessed that sometimes I feel God had to do something so extreme as to take my boys because I am so hard-headed and stubborn and independent. It took that much to free me from my self-righteousness and show me my need for Jesus.

And there my pastor stopped me. And what he said is a truth my heart still needs to fully grasp.

Don’t confuse causation with redemption.

To summarize my take on what we discussed, God did not cause my boys to get sick and die. That came from living in a broken and fallen world where disease exists and death occurs. In God’s patience and timing, He tolerates this brokenness until all that are His come to Him. But He did not cause my boys’ deaths. He did not take them from me.

Rather, He walked with me in the midst of the brokenness, true to His word and promise to never leave me and forsake me. True to His word, He redeemed this evil in my life using it for good. My boys found Jesus and secured their eternal destiny. My struggles and failures revealed the fallacy of religious doctrine and as I searched for the truth about God, He freed me into relationship and taught me about grace.

God does not cause the hard things in my life.
God does not cause the hard things in your life.

But He promises that when the hard comes, He will be right there the whole time. As we run to Him, He won’t let us be overcome. He will meet us in the hard and redeem it for good.

For some of you, this totally makes sense. But for those of us wounded, it’s a healing salve that eases pain.

Friends, we do serve a good God.

In His love for the world, He allows this period of brokenness. But rather than abandon us to the tragedies that transpire, He comes alongside. He meets us there. He redeems it, turning evil into good, thus providing the grace to endure.


Father, let this truth move from my head to my heart. Free me of my doubts of your goodness. Help me to trust your intentions of goodness in my life. And for those reading that also struggle, let this truth bring healing salve to the wounds in their heart. Continue to reveal yourself to us and make yourself known. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What's My Job?

The LORD is making this covenant, including the curses. By entering into the covenant today, He will establish you as His people and confirm that He is your God, just as he promised… Deuteronomy 29:12-13

Today’s key verse practically jumped off the page when I read it this week.

So often I fall into the trap of striving… striving to earn grace, striving to be good enough, striving to make the things happen in my life that are not my responsibility to manifest, striving to do it all myself instead of leaning on God.

But when I read this verse, it acted like a giant mirror revealing why I fail.

Set in the context of Moses reviewing the covenant with the Israelites before they entered the promised land, Moses wants to make sure the Israelites understand whose role is whose.

This verse explains “The LORD is making this covenant... He will establish you…. He will confirm that He is your God.” God sets the parameters. God does the establishing. God does the confirming. All of the results are His responsibility, not mine.

What role do I play? I simply “enter in.” I make the choice to accept God’s terms, trust His work, and receive His gifts. My only role is to choose – to accept, to trust, to believe, to receive. 

What a place of freedom!

I simply must choose to believe: I keep taking God at His word regardless of what I see;
I simply must choose to obey: I align my life so that God alone is boss –
and He promises to take care of everything else!

Feeling bogged down as winter ends? Let’s enter into a place of new life this spring, a place of refreshment and growth, of freedom and peace.

Let’s choose to believe and obey.

Everything else?

God’s got it!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When Life is a Struggle

My heart broke as I recently talked with my friend and she shared of the shame she felt over her constant struggle. I could relate to that “broken record” feeling. I too often feel people must tire of hearing of my struggles with grief, struggle to trust that God has only good intentions for me, my struggle with fear.

But as we talked the Spirit rose up within me adamant that shame had no place here. He directed my eyes instead to the victory in her proclamation instead. For even though my friend continues to struggle, more than she wants and more than she feels she should as a daughter of Christ, in the midst of her struggle she continues to lean hard, to turn to Jesus for her manna, the daily strength to try again.

This my friend is Victory!

When did the church, our culture, lose sight of Jesus’ Words in John that said In this life you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world!? Whether from the root of the American dream or the fantasy of happily ever after, we feel that our 
lives are only evidence of victory if they are trouble free.

But that’s not what Jesus said.
Absence of trouble does not equate to faith.
Absence of trouble does not equate to victory.
Absence of trouble does not equate to God’s presence.

Rather, the victory, the witness is borne in the reality that faith is maintained even in the fire. What my friend struggles to see is that her life is a living witness every single day! Because though she struggles to overcome her battle completely, she daily runs to Jesus. She knows she cannot function without Him – and she no longer tries. She clings desperately to Him for help. She runs confidently, though broken, sorrowful, and repentant, to her Father’s lap when she falls. 

This my friend is Victory.

Victory displayed in her confidence of God’s continual acceptance.
Victory displayed in her faith that nothing can separate her from the love of God.
Victory displayed in her certainty that no sin is greater than Jesus that He could not overcome the grave.

This is a subtle shift but an important one. There is no shame, we are not overcome, as long as we keep running to God while the battle rages.

Please hear my heart. I know that Paul writes how the grace of God does not give us the license to continue to sin. That’s not what I’m speaking of here because that’s not what I see in my friend’s life. Rather, I see her earnest constant battle to obey. Yet because of a hard gift God has not yet chosen to remove, she wavers. Because of the persistence of that battle, she feels a failure and unworthy.

Church, this is where we must extend grace. This place is where we must be God’s merciful hands. This is where we must become the Aaron and Hur of Moses, and help our struggling friends keep their hands raised in praise while the battle rages.

If your life is a struggle right now, please do not let the enemy bring judgment against you. Struggle is not evidence of failure. Remember, God spoke to the Israelites as a nation for the first time from the fire. Allow God to use the fire to reveal Himself to you.


Persist in unwavering faith. Like Job, may you find the courage to say though He slay me, I will hope in Him!

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Song of Praise


Oh the faithfulness of my God
I shout my praise to your name
The mountains towered
Questions bombarded each day
Yet I always saw Your hand

Your Word to me
Declared all that transpired
You go before me
You prepare the way
I have no need to fear

You alone control my life
You alone have the final say
No one can close a door you open
No one can open a door you close
I simply need to trust

But through it all
What matters most
Is knowing You are here
Seeing You provide
Experiencing Your care

Thank you God for being Who You are
I love Your promises: all are true
Thank you Spirit for rising within
You are providing all I need
The words, the needs, the peace

In the hard and in the good
I will continue to praise
I will rejoice and maintain my faith
My life
Is in Your hands.



Friday, March 6, 2015

Pausing

Am headed out for my church's Women's Retreat this weekend! Please pray for me and for the 200 women who will be opening their hearts and lives to God's instruction.

See you soon!
Juli

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why Hard?

I’ve shared of some recent “funks” when I’ve been struggling. God continues to be so patient with me. Who else can tolerate my constant asking questions and then getting grumpy when I don’t like the answer? J

That’s what happened. I’d been asking God for direction and then when He provided it, I didn’t like it. Instead of being awed that He would answer, I got mad at what He said. (Proof that these blog posts are really written for me!)

As I’ve asked for God’s leading, His response is pointing into a direction that feels way beyond me. It’s different. It’s going to be hard.

My response was why? Why do I have to keep doing hard? Haven’t I done enough hard? Why can’t I just press the cruise button and let things be as they are?

This is the question God’s answered most recently. This time I am a bit awed that He answered because this wasn’t really a question – it was mostly a complaint. But God in his patient mercy answered me any way…. Through the book Kisses from Katie.

In a chapter I just read, she shares about her return to the States after spending a year in Uganda starting a ministry God laid on her heart. The transition back to such abundance and convenience from such poverty and struggle was difficult. As she processed the adjustments she finally realized what was making her so disgruntled. It really wasn’t the taking-things-for-granted, the excessiveness, or even the lackadaisical attitude toward the Ugandan people that had so little. It was the difference in her relationship with God.

When she lived in Uganda, caring for a family of 6 orphans she adopted, and 150 students she sponsored for school, plus the multitudes in the surrounding villages for which she cared and ministered to, she relied every second of every day on God – for safety, for health, for provision, for even the most basic of daily needs. She never knew where the funds would come from, but she knew God would provide. She never knew if she’d get another day for herself or with one that she loved, but she knew she was there right then. Her life was one of constant dependence and connection. And that resulted in an amazing relationship of intimacy and joy.

But in the States, she didn’t need to be dependent. If she got sick, she went to the pharmacy for some medicine. If she was lonely, she visited her family. If she needed guidance, she’d chat with her roommate. If she needed to get somewhere, she’d hop in her car. Everything she needed was so readily at her finger tips she didn’t need to go to God and thus was forgetting to go to Him first.

This is what bothered her most about being back in the States. This is what she missed most about being away from Uganda. This was more important than anything and why she returned to Uganda for good after one semester home.

And this was my answer.

God doesn’t give us hard because He’s a slave driver. He leads us into hard so we can experience the richness of connection with Him – the ultimate purpose for which we were created. As I sat there and whined and complained about how I’d already done enough hard, I was ignoring all of the rich benefits that came from those hard times – the growth, the freedom, the intimacy, the witness to others.

When I move into this new direction God’s pointing too, it is beyond me. And that’s a good thing as much as it scares me. It’s good because I won’t be able to do it alone. Even the challenges I’ve faced these past 4 years in returning to the classroom have built my reliance on God and given witness to His miraculous provision completely separate from me. How much more so in the years ahead.

God is not calling me to Hard. He’s calling me to Himself.

There’s no way I’m going to turn that down no matter how scary it feels.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Eyes On Me


Lord, I praise You, Exalt Your name

May all my life be for Your fame

I look ahead and stare afar

The horizon stretches, Challenges my heart

You tell me out there, somewhere I cannot see,

There is a point at which I’ll be

The journey long, and in the way

Mountains, trials: My feet wish to stay

These I fear, these I see

But then You whisper Look at Me!

The journey is for Me to make

To clear the way, all for My sake

Your job today, what I ask of you

Just take one step; Eyes on Me- glued!

To say yes, simply to obey

That alone do every day

A trusted vessel for Me to use

A voice, a witness of the news

“God does it all, it’s by His hand

That I’ve arrived, I’ve reached this land”

So Eyes on Me, don’t look ahead

Step by step- your daily bread

Draw your joy not from where we’re going

But from My presence, walking together, knowing

That I delight in time with you

This journey a gift from Me to you.