Loser!!!

“Loser”…that was what I speculated that Jesus might greet me with when I enter heaven.

Instead of the much desired words, “Well done good and faithful servant” Jesus might be taking me aside and whispering some different words. Words like “Stupid…just what about faith didn’t you get? Why did you fail to trust me? Why was your faith so small? Do you have any idea what I wanted to do in and through you if only you had trusted me? Instead you chose to believe the lies of the enemy. Why?”

Not sure I’ll have a lot of answers to those questions…except to confirm that yes…I am spiritually stupid…and if left to my own devises…I am a loser.

After Bible study this evening the conversation ventured onto the subject of faith. I commented that today was such a low faith day. I got to wondering what it’s like for great men and women of faith.

My own beloved former Pastor Chuck Obremski…was a man of deep faith. When trials and tribulation struck…he dug deeper still into God’s word. God strengthened his faith and enabled him to stand against the attacks of the enemy. Not with wavering faith…or doubting faith. But faith that was firm because of the solid foundation upon which it rested.

Another person who strikes me as having a great big faith in a huge God who can not be contained…is Beth Moore. The woman takes my breath away…as I see her unpack and explore God’s word. I see God afresh and new and a very personal God who cares.

When I see such examples of faith walked out before me…I hunger and thirst for such faith, love and passion for God and His word.

Last week when I struggled with faith…God encourage me with the words, “Only believe!” To feed and encourage my faith I decided to feast on faith in the form of Beth Moore’s Bible study “Believing God”. It was just the right study at the right time. Each CD I listen to…I find God dealing with another area of weakness or doubt that I’ve allowed to creep in.

I desire so to have my faith grow and be firmly rooted in God and His word. But I tremble with fear that my desire might get off track. That I may be tempted to make it about my faith instead of about my God. My faith is only as good, big and strong as my God. He alone is the prize.

When my focus is on God…my faith is big. When my focus is on the truth of His word…then my faith is strong and rests on a firm foundation. When my faith is on my circumstances…my faith is negligible, weak and will topple. It’s not a question of if…but when. I know that…I’ve lived that, I know it well. Yet time and time and time again…I fall into the same trap. Why? Thus you can see why I fear Jesus will accurately call me “Stupid”.

If my salvation was dependant on me…instead of “Well done good and faithful servant”…I’d be hearing, “You just made it by the skin of your teeth”. Or worse yet “Away from me…I never knew you”. Thankfully my salvation is secure in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross paying the penalty for my sin debt in full.

But my faith…that’s another matter. That is something that God gives me…but I also need to participate and grow my faith. Grow it through prayer and knowing God and who He is and what He says in the Bible.

Where’s my focus? Is it on God…or me? Do I only look at the past and see what has been? Or do I look at my God…and in faith believe and trust Him knowing that He is able to accomplish what concerns me today…and tomorrow? That which is impossible with man is possible with God? Do I have the assurance that nothing is impossible with God? Am I mindful that without faith it is impossible to please God?

On a side note…why would I willingly and knowingly let the enemy who desires to bring me harm win? Why? Just tell me why?

Fleshly Wisdom

You know…there are times I think God must just be weary of dealing with me. Positively weary! Honestly…sometimes I’m weary of being dealt with. Goodness knows I need it. It seems like when I actually “get it” and understand what God wants…that lasts for about 20 seconds…and then I’m back to being a bonehead again.

As I look at my actions and words over the past few days…I wonder…do I live my life as if I have a relationship with the living God who loves me and sent His Son to die for me? Specifically in the area of going to God with questions and asking for help when I desire wisdom and discernment.

I’m afraid to admit it…but I find I like to get my answers from someone who has flesh on…who I can see face to face.

I acknowledge that when I’m asking a person…something that only God knows the answer to…I’m getting answers and feedback that is lacking. Sometimes woefully lacking. Also I can manipulate the situation based on what information I share. That manipulation may not even be intentional…just a predisposition or prejudice to view my situation in a certain manner.

But goodness knows I can’t do that with God.

So today…when I found myself asking a friend for advice…I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. God saying to me, “Susan, why are you going to her for advice? Why aren’t you coming to Me? Asking Me for discernment and wisdom and help in your situation?”

Why do I first tend to go to humans for wisdom, instead of God?

When I go to God…I need to quite my spirit…and put some thought into what I’m asking or want. As I draw close to God…I see that perhaps that which I desire is not of His will…and then I’m faced with the decision to surrender or not? Am I ready and willing to state, “Thy will be done”?

God knows the truth…He knows the situation intimately…and people involved. I can’t fool Him or spin my story in a way that is favorable to me. And I may not get an answer right away. There may be a delay…and it may appear as if God is not going to answer. That requires that I wait and trust Him and His timing and His will and His wisdom.

Thus…the human answer seems easier and more desirable in the short run. The problem is…it’s based on limited finite human knowledge. When I have my ear tuned to man’s wisdom…I usually make poor decisions. Especially when I’m listening to my own voice unchecked by the word of God.

So Jesus…I bring before you my situation…my dilemma. I confess…I don’t know what to do…I don’t know what’s going on…both in me and others? I don’t know what step to take next…or not to take? I don’t know what to say or do. I don’t know if I should shut up and let go and let God? Or if I should persevere…and demonstrate great faith? I don’t know. But Jesus…You know. You are omniscient…You know each of us intimately. You planned our lives from before the foundation of the world. You know the good plan that You have for me. You know that which is according to Your perfect will. So Jesus…I ask You to give me wisdom. Help me to have an ear to hear You. To follow Your guidance and direction. Help me to surrender and obey. Help me to trust You and be patient…to believe despite what’s in front of me. Help me to walk in love…and think of the other person’s good before I think of myself. When I’m frustrated and want to give up…help me instead to bring the situation and person before Your throne in prayer. Jesus…I’m sorry for not trusting You fully and leaning on my own understanding and seeking my will before Yours. Help me to love others more than I love myself or want to get my way. Thank You for forgiving me of all my sins…and washing me in the precious blood of the Lamb. Help me to make decisions and live my life in such a manner that I bring You glory. I come to You in Jesus name…Amen!

Only Believe


If the words had been audible…God’s message to me couldn’t have been clearer. “Susan, only believe!”

As I studied this week’s Bible Study Fellowship lesson I saw example after example of people who demonstrated great faith. From the men who brought their paralytic friend to Jesus so that he might be healed. To the woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years. Jairus had mission to have Jesus do the unthinkable…bring his dead daughter back to life. Even the blind men came to Jesus believing that He was able to restore their sight. In their joy and excitement over the miracle that Jesus had just performed…they went out and did the very thing Jesus commanded them not to do…they blabbed about what the Messiah had done to everyone they encountered.

Do I have great faith…the kind of faith that motivates God to answer my prayers? Faith to believe that He is able to do that which is impossible with man? Do I have the kind of faith…that brings Him glory because it shines forth…even before it’s answered? Do I have such joy and excitement that I can not be contained and must share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone I encounter?

The example that has always touched me the most personal…is the woman with an issue of blood. Think of it…in the Jewish society…this woman was considered unclean. She would not have been able to worship at the temple. Anyone who came into contact with her would have been considered unclean so she would have been shunned, she couldn’t even have normal relations with her husband. On top of the social aspect…this condition must have left run down to the point of exhaustion. There were no iron pills to fix anemia. She couldn’t take an Advil to help alleviate any pain…her condition only got worse and worse…and now she was broke and bleeding still.

Jesus was her last ditch effort. Perhaps she had heard the stories of ones before her…the lepers that were cleansed, the sick that were healed by His touch or by His word, the blind who were made to see. There were even whispers of a storm on the Galilean Sea that stopped in an instant as Jesus said the words, “Be still”. Surely this man must be God.

She believed…she knew that all she needed to do is reach out her hand. Even if she just touched the hem of His garment…just that alone would be enough to heal her, end her suffering and misery….restore her life as it once was. But once you’ve been touched by the Savior’s healing touch…your life will never be the same.

These people had faith. A faith that was unstoppable. A faith that would not be discouraged, pushed down or ignored. A faith that tuned out the naysayers and loud voices of doubt and unbelief. A faith where their eyes were focused on Jesus. A faith that knew the scriptures about what God had done for those whom He called His own.

Faith is one of the key areas that I struggle with. It’s never been an issue of whether God is able to do that which I’m praying about…but will He? That’s where the rubber meets the road…and where I’ve gone off track.

Something about “have faith”…just seems like you either have it or you don’t. And when you don’t…where do you get that infusion of faith and how long with it last?

But “Only Believe”…now that is something that requires me to have a living active faith. Something that I’m choosing to participate in. I’m choosing to believe God.

Faith is the avenue by which God chooses to answer our prayers. When Jesus is my aim and focus…trials and tribulations fade to the background. I know that He is the invincible and mighty God…who is more than able to accomplish what concerns me today.

Will I choose this day to “walk by faith”? Or will I choose to have “sight walking faith”?

God…Your word tells us that You give us the measure of faith to believe. So Jesus…I’m asking for trial and tribulation breaking faith. I’m asking for Jesus vision faith. I’m asking for faith that will bring You glory. I’m asking for faith that breaks down walls and perseveres until prayers are answered. I’m asking for unwavering faith…that never trembles or doubts when confronted with the impossible.

Jesus…I’m asking for the faith so that I may, “Only Believe”. Amen!

Spirit of Christmas

Michael was right…well mostly.

I think yesterday was my first real Thanksgiving dinner since before my step-dad Joe died in 2001. In the year or two preceding his death…Thanksgiving and Christmas were much different than early years. The large family gathering had dwindled greatly. It was either Thanksgiving or Christmas that found Joe, Gayle and me in the car looking for a restaurant to dine at. While it’s good to be with family and loved ones…there’s just something about a sandwich at a restaurant that doesn’t evoke the feelings as a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at home.

After Joe died…the next Thanksgiving was spent with my mom Gayle…who about seven months later would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. With the foresight of hindsight…I finally understood why she was acting so odd. What seemed unusual then…would soon become our reality over the next six years and continuing to this day.

So when the invitation came to join the Morgan family for Thanksgiving I was most grateful. I so looked forward to a regular Thanksgiving. My sister Denise and I stopped by to see Gayle in the morning before heading off our separate ways. In some respects I did feel bad that I didn’t spend the day with Gayle. In recent years…we have had a “new kind of Thanksgiving” which included me spending the afternoon with her…watching a Christmas movie and putting up her Christmas decorations. But this year…I was eager for a normal Thanksgiving Day.

This was my first time over at the Morgan’s. As I drove down the tree lined street…I knew I would fall in love with the house. A house with old wooden floors and antiques…and pictures of ancestors hanging on the walls. Let’s just say…I could spend the afternoon looking about at all the treasures. From hearing stories of the tree planted in the backyard almost 50 years when Daniel was 2 years old…to the story of great grandfather who lived during the Civil War…I was enchanted as I beheld his picture and heard the wind blowing the leaves of the tree planted so long ago.

A meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce was topped off by a slice of yummy pumpkin pie. An afternoon walk seemed just right as I looked up at the trees that lined the street and was regaled with stories of what it was like to grow up in the neighborhood.

It’s odd because just a couple of miles away…I spent my sixth grade year…sharing an apartment with my mom. She was in nursing schooling following the death of my dad. I was what would be termed a “latch key kid”. It made me wonder…did we ever pass one another at the store or meet each other all those years ago?

Just as I was thinking I was being obnoxious for staying so late…I planned to bow out at half time during the big USC vs. Arizona State ball game. But that plan was quickly laid to rest as we chatted about movies. Jerry and Louise told me about one of their favorite movies “Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines”. Half time came…and on went the movie. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. The movie was made in 1965 long before ethnic humor was a no, no. I found myself quite smitten with Stuart Whitman…and looked forward to his movie scenes.

So after a wonderful day like that…how could I be downcast, tearful and feel devoid of the Christmas spirit? Let’s just say…I’m wrestling with God again. This time over His timing and trying to trust His good and perfect plan for me. I found myself…walking by sight…not faith as His word commands.

This morning I was greeted with an email from Mike Paddison as we exchanged post Thanksgiving greetings. Mike reported that he and his wife Jo had a nice Thanksgiving and were getting started on putting up Christmas decorations.

I filled him in on my Thanksgiving Day…and my struggle with God. I ended by telling him…I wasn’t even sure if I would decorate for Christmas. Mike encouraged me to put on some Christmas music…and the Christmas spirit would follow.

Well Michael wasn’t far off. Following a trip to the Main Place Mall I felt ready to get out the decorations. I ran into a snafu with my new Christmas tree…which necessitated a trip to the store to make an exchange. In the car…I put my new Josh Grogan Christmas CD in the player. As I was driving home on this clear windy night…Josh was singing The Little Drummer Boy.

That song has never impressed me to any degree…so I was surprised when I was quite moved by his rendition. My mind was flooded with thoughts…on being poor and having nothing to offer my Savior. I was reminded of one the beatitudes “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

Suddenly my “sight walking faith” seemed to bear witness to my being so poor in spirit. But thank you Lord that I have the assurance of being with You in heaven in spite of my poor spirit.

Jesus…I’m sorry I keep looking with my physical eyes…and looking at my past. I haven’t been looking at my Savior who has power over sin and death. He who can bring victory over all my circumstances. Like Mary and Martha looking at dead Lazarus, I cry out “Where were you Lord? If only you had been here.”

But Jesus was about to work a miracle. Where their faith and sight walking ended…Jesus was going to perform a miracle. Oh Jesus I pray that You will work a miracle in me and my life too. I confess I am so poor in spirit. But nothing, no nothing is impossible with You!

Thanksgiving Reflections

Thank You to God…who double blessed me. I am chosen, predestined by Him for salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord…and He placed me in the greatest nation on earth today. Thank You Lord!

Thank you to the men and women of our military…who fight for this nation. Preserve, protect and defend the freedoms which our founding fathers guaranteed in the Constitution. A guarantee doesn’t count for much…unless it’s honored. Thank you for your sacrifices.


Below are just a few things for which I am most grateful this day:

A = Amazing Grace…Grace that saved me from my sin, grace that sustains and strengthens me.

B = Bible…where I can learn about and know my God and His will for me, my life and our nation.

C = Chuck Obremski my beloved former Pastor…and his faithfulness to preach God’s word and provide an example on how to “Finish Strong”.

D = Day…God only has me go through one day a time…so even when my circumstances seem overwhelming and threatened to overtake me…I just have to deal with it for that one day. His mercies are new every morning.

E = Eternity…even though I may have problems here…they are for but a season. I will spend eternity in heaven…where there will be no more tears or sorrow.

F = Faith…the avenue by which God saved me.

G = God the Father…who from before the foundations of the world had each day planned.

H = Holy Spirit…who dwells within me. He intercedes on my behalf when my words fail me.

I = Immutable…my God is unchanging. He does not change His mind…He will not be moved.

J = Jesus Christ…my Lord and Savior…who took my sin upon Himself…redeemed me, paid the ransom, bought me back, gave me eternal life…and assurance that I will be with Him in heaven.

K = King of kings and Lord of Lords…Jesus Christ…He who is preeminent over all things…all power and authority have been given to Him.

L = Love…the depths of which…we will never know the end of. Love that which motivated God to save us from our sins by providing His Son…whom He loved and is well pleased…as a sacrifice for my sins.

M = Military…the men and women of this nation who serve, protect and defend us. Those who preserve our freedom as a nation.

N = No…God’s “no” is just as important as His “yes”. It sets boundaries in which I need to operate. I especially like…“No Satan…you can not do as you wish with my child.”

O = Omniscience…God knows all, sees all and has power over all things. There is nothing that escapes His attention or knowledge. There is nothing too hard for my God. That means my life, my problems, my cares and concern are safely in His hands.

P = Philip De Courcy…my beloved Pastor…who faithful preaches God’s word…which convicts, guides, corrects and encourages me in my faith walk

Q = Quiet…a place of quite and solitude…time to get away…focus on God…and His word and will for my life.

R = Rock…He is the Rock of my salvation. He will not be moved.

S = Savior…He redeemed me from my sins…pulled me out of the miry pit…and set my feet on firm ground.

T = Thanksgiving…what a wonderful thing. To set aside a day to remember and thank God for His presence in my life…and the many blessing He has given.

U = United States of America… from it’s inception…guaranteed in the Constitution the freedom of religion so that I may worship the God of the Bible, proclaim the Gospel message to those who are perishing in their sins.

V = Victory…over sin and death…victory that is found in Jesus Christ alone. He who crushed Satan’s head…now sits at the right hand of the Father.

W = Worship…as I focus on God and who He is…everything else pales in comparison. A chance to dwell on Him who is prefect, holy, righteous and good.

X = X…God crossed out my sins…put an “X” through them…marked my sin debt as paid in full…because my sins have been covered by the blood of the Lamb.

Y = Y’shua…Messiah…Savior…Son…God…Man…Holy…Righteous… Perfect…Without Sin…Beloved…The Christ…Redeemer…Lamb of God…Friend…Ruler

Z = Zion… Israel…whose existence gives evidence that the God of the Bible is faithful to keep His promises.

Defined

“Susan…are you going to be defined by your past…or by your future?”

That was God’s challenge to me following an evening of wrestling with God. I was assailed by thoughts as I listened to Pastor Philip De Courcy’s message at Kindred’s recent Men’s Retreat. He talked about among other things priorities…with time and family…and the most importantly…God.

Upon hearing this I was reminded of my own poor choices for many years. Perhaps it was because I had worked late this evening that I was especially sensitive to God’s gentle reminder. You see there was time in my life it was not uncommon for me to work 10, 11, 12 hour days. I didn’t give it a second thought. After all I wanted to do my job with excellence.

But God brought me to an end of my misplaced priorities. After doing what I thought was a job well…at the end of the day…it counted for precious little. While I was fast at work…my bosses and co-workers were home with families…living a balanced life.

I on other hand exchanged a spreadsheet for relationships. I exchanged preparing a report to studying God’s word and growing deep in my relationship with the Lord. I exchanged the eternal for temporary praise from people.

Hindsight is always 20/20. If only I knew then…what I know now…I might have avoided some of those pitfalls.

I then stared down the rabbit trail of why. Why I was so foolish and why did I make such bad choices. I got to thinking about my past. What had shaped me….what drove me. That’s much more than what I want to get in to here and now. But let it suffice…that life can be very painful.

Not only did feel the weight of my own sin…but also from those who had sinned against me. Feeling quite desperate and overwhelmed about the prospect of my life changing…I cried out to God. “I can do something about the present…I can do something about the future…through Your power, guidance, wisdom and strength. But I can’t do a blessed thing about the past. I feel so scared and broken.

Then God said, “Susan…yes you can do something about your past. You can let it go. Let go of those wrongs done to you. Let them go. I’ve got them securely in my hands…and I’ll handle it. Just as you received my forgiveness in my Son Jesus Christ…so too…you can give Me this. You gave me your sins…and I washed you white as snow. Give me your hurts and wrongs done to you. Give me your loneliness and pain and sorrow…I’ve got you covered. You see I do have good plan for you…a perfect plan I’m working out in you. My timeframe is a little different than yours…but you can trust me on this.”

God went on to bring it full circle…and showed me that in the past…I was focused on my past…and let it define my present. I had no vision of my future. And then I was born again…and behold all things were new.

Only now am I beginning to grasp a vision of His future plans for me. My victory…is not solely in heaven…but in here an now.

“Behold I have made all things new. You are a new creation in Christ. The old things have passed away. I have given you a future and hope. Susan…will you take hold that hope that is in Christ Jesus your Lord?”

Yes Lord I will…help me please.

Pass You By

I never rightly know where God will touch me when I’m doing my Bible Study Fellowship lesson each week. Sometimes I’m encouraged or challenged…but more often than not…I’m convicted. Usually it’s not over some overt sin in my life…but instead God is dealing with a heart issue.

This week we’ve been studying Matthew chapter 8 and the question that really stuck me asked “what points were particularly meaningful”. I answered the question for the passage it pertained to…but it stuck with me.

In reflecting about Jesus…I was struck with the thought that Jesus never passes people by.

He always stops and reaches out to them. He touches them…He heals them…He even restores life to the dead. In this chapter…we find a leper cleansed, a servant paralyzed and a mother lying ill with fever are both healed, a raging storm stilled with just His word, and two men freed from bondage of demon possession.

Jesus was filled with compassion…and reached out to those who came to Him in need. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t say He was too busy. He didn’t say… you’re not important enough, wait in line…or that impossible.

Instead Jesus’ compassion moved Him…to do that which only God could do. From a mere touch…or words spoken these peoples lives were changed, made whole, restored.

Today…while Jesus sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father…He still reaches out and touches people. He still cares…and is moved with compassion. Do I like the leper or demon possessed men cry out to Jesus to heal me? When the storms of life threaten to overtake me…do I cry out to Jesus…trusting and knowing His is able to cause the wind and waves to cease?

When I encounter hurting people…people in need…do I pass them by? Do I make time to listen to them? If I’m able to meet that need…do I? Or do I find an excuse and reason why I can’t? Do I pray for them? Do I encourage them? Do I point them to the wise counsel found in the word of God? When I see a soul lost in their sin…do I remain silent or do I share the life giving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Or dear Lord…may I be mindful of what it’s like to be passed by, ignored…and the pain of being invisible. May I instead reach out to those whom You bring in my path.