Tuesday, August 31, 2010


pouting I have an embarrassing confession. I have been doing a lot of pouting recently. That is hard for me to admit, because I have always hated to see people whine, complain, and pout. My general response to such people has been a firm, “Grow up and get over it!”

But this past Friday I looked in the mirror and didn’t like the expression on my face. I looked like a four-year-old who had been sent to bed without dessert. And the sad part is that the expressing perfectly expressed the attitude of my heart.

Our house still hasn’t sold and there is not exactly a line of people waiting to see it. The news reports tell me that the likelihood of selling our home decreases each passing week. Then last week we were hit by a financial crisis that cost us nearly $3000.00 of personal money that we had set aside for our move, and that crisis was in the midst of an ongoing shortage of funds we have as a family. These circumstances, combined with a difficult personal issue, have left us drained and discouraged. And on Friday I found myself pouting and complaining to God big time.

“God, what are you doing? You know that we are selling everything we have to follow You, and everything we make from those sales will be given to You! We have downsized our lives and are laying aside comfort to live among the poor and care for your children. Yet, for some reason, You will not bring us a buyer for our house and seem determined to drain every penny from us! Meanwhile I see self-indulged and greedy people, many of whom profess to be Christ-followers, who use their money selfishly without regard for a dying world, yet You seem to prosper them with more and more! Why, God?!?” (Of course, this little diatribe was peppered generously with phrases such as “I trust you, Lord, but…”)

So that background should help you to better envision the pouty face I saw in the mirror that day.

On Friday evening as we were going to bed, Wanda and I talked and prayed together. We shook off our pouting and laid ourselves on God’s altar once again. We told Him that we did not worship and follow Him because of what He does, but because of who He is. Therefore, whether He sold our house and provided for our financial needs or not, we would keep following Him. And then, as Wanda went to sleep, I opened my Bible for my evening devotions. In God’s great plan, part of my reading was Psalm 37 which begins like this:

“1 A psalm of David. Don't worry about the wicked. Don't envy those who do wrong. 2 For like grass, they soon fade away. Like springtime flowers, they soon wither. 3 Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart's desires. 5 Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. 6 He will make your innocence as clear as the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. 7 Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. 8 Stop your anger! Turn from your rage! Do not envy others -- it only leads to harm. 9 For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.”

The entire chapter was filled with encouragement, but verse 34 spoke volumes to my heart:

“34 Don't be impatient for the LORD to act! Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you, giving you the land…”

And so, we continue to wait…hopefully with less pouting.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Different Kind of Faith

falling Over the years our family has seen our faith grow tremendously. As we took step after step of faith we did so tentatively at first, but with increasing confidence as we grew. We have seen thousands of instances of God’s miraculous provision, guidance, and healing. And now, more than ever, we find ourselves dependent on Him as we take the largest step we have ever taken.

Face it, it is no small endeavor to sell almost everything we have and move to another country. At present, we are still short of the monthly support we would need to pay our bills, yet we are ready to move as soon as our home sells. Further, our faith is required even now as we have a monthly shortfall in our budget of a significant amount. We have not received our entire paycheck for the last two months and have experienced some significant financial setbacks. And yet we trust, because God has always provided for everything we have needed…sometimes at the last possible moment.

So, last month when I felt that God was leading me to pray that we would received a workable offer on our home by a specific date (July 30th) our family did so, fully expecting God to answer that prayer. We prayed and fasted with passion, conviction and confidence believing that God would respond with a buyer. But he did not. And not only did we not receive an offer, not one person looked at our home over the two weeks we prayed that prayer. Ouch!

As the date came and went, I began doubting myself. After all, I had made this request known in a very public way. But after everything was done, God did not respond. Had I mistaken my own desire as the leading of God? And, in so doing, had I dishonored God and spread doubt in other believers? Those were good questions that needed to be asked. So, I did. And, as I sought the Lord for these answers, He showed me something about my faith.

You see, over the years I have developed my faith in God’s ability and willingness to answer prayer. We have learned to step off the cliff repeatedly in response to God’s voice, knowing that He will catch us. And that is a great kind of faith to have. But it does not represent the whole of faith. There is another equally important side of faith that is shown through our willingness to trust God when He does not answer our prayers or catch us when we leap.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had that kind of faith. As they stood before king Nebuchadnezzar they spoke these words:

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)

They did not walk in obedience to God because they knew He would spare them. They did so because they knew His way was best and He was trustworthy, regardless of the outcome.

Likewise, the apostle Paul speaks about faith in Hebrews 11, and as he does so he talks about God’s miraculous provision and protection for people such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, and more. Each of them trusted God and saw His hand move in mighty ways. But Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on to write this:

“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- the world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:35b-38a)

These people believed, trusted, and followed God yet faced severe persecution and, sometimes, death. Does that mean their faith was less that those who did not suffer similar fates? Of course not. Faith is more than trusting God to provide and spare, it is also trusting God when He chooses not to.

This flies in the face of the American church that seems to thrive on promoting the concept that God wants us healthy, wealthy, and entertained. But it is central to scripture. As Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…” This faith has been absent in much of the teachings of the western church, and it is the most undeveloped aspect of faith in my own life.

As I write this entry, our home still has not sold and we are still short of vital funds that are needed for our ministry. But I know this simple truth: I will not follow God because of what He has done and what He will do for me. He owes me nothing; I owe Him everything. I will follow Him because He is good…and that does not change, regardless of the events of my life or death.