Do I Really Believe?

I can say the scriptures from memory. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  “God works all things together for good for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.”  I can recite the scriptures word for word…but do I really believe them? 
Perhaps God allows difficult circumstances or people in my life to cause me to depend upon Him and to reveal areas in my life…where I’m not walking in faith. 
What does it mean in my everyday life that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me?  How will that change what I think about my circumstances?  If I really trust in the Lord with all my heart how will that change how I will choose to respond to people or situations that are difficult?
When I’m treated wrongly by people that are just plain stinky…every part of me wants to do a smack down…verbally or even physically.  But there is that still small voice within me that says, “Susan, be quite and don’t respond.  Trust Me.  I see what’s going on and I will direct you…draw close and follow Me.”
It’s there in the middle that the Holy Spirit is prompting me to have an eternal vision.  To know and to trust that God is at work in my circumstances…even though it’s not evident at the moment.  That’s where I have to walk by faith, not by sight.
Perhaps He is doing a work in me…sifting me to remove something that is sinful, displeasing or dishonorable.  Perhaps…He is causing to me look to Him and depend on Him even more.  Perhaps He will use me, when I respond in obedience, to work in the lives of those that don’t yet know Him.
Am I willing to endure difficult circumstance without knowing exactly what God is doing or when He will bring relief?  Isn’t that part of “trusting in the Lord with all my heart”?  I can trust God…even in the storms because I know that God is good…all the time.  Even when I’m hurting or troubled…He is good.  
In myself I have such limited vision…but when I look through the eyes of faith…I can trust God. 
When I start believing that “God works all things together for good for those that love Him”, then I can trust Him in all circumstances…including when wrong is done to me.
One of the most freeing things that I can do in the middle of difficult circumstances…when I have been truly wronged is to pray.  Not only pray for God to deliver me…but to pray for the persons who are sinning against me.  Not that God will bonk them upside the head…but to pray for what they are facing in their lives.  Pray for their salvation.  Pray for them to have a conscience that is tender and sensitive towards God and yielded unto Him…that God will plow the tough and rocky soil of their hard heart and plant the seed of the Gospel message.   That it will come to fruition according to God’s perfect timing. 
Time and time again…God has been faithful to work in various relationships when I have trusted Him and forgiven my enemy.  It seems there is no better way to get rid of an enemy than to make them a friend…and God has done that in my life. 
So today…when I’m facing difficult people or troubling circumstances…and part of me wants to scream for God to deliver me…if I can just remember the past…remember what God has done…how He’s faithfully brought me through…then I am freed up to pray for those who despitefully use me.   
How about you….do you really believe?

Blessed Is She Who Believed

Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.  And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” – Luke 1:39-45
Mary had just received the news from the angel Gabriel that she, a virgin, would conceive and give birth to a Son.  Not just any son, but the Son of Highest, the Son of God and she was to call Him Jesus.  Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua…Jehovah is salvation.  Jesus would be given the throne of His father David and of His kingdom there would be no end.
Mary was a young Hebrew girl, about 13 years old, unmarried and a virgin.  Never before in the history of the world had a virgin given birth.  Never before was God incarnated as a Man.  Who would believe her?  Who would believe her that an angel, sent forth from the presence of God, had come with news that she would give birth to Israel’s long awaited Messiah?  God had been silent for 400 years and now He had sent a messenger to tell Mary the Good News.  She was…an ordinary Jewish girl, in a poor town called Nazareth.  There was nothing noteworthy or deserving about Mary.  Would her parents believe her?  What would her fiancé Joseph say…would he believe her or put her away? 
Mary arose with haste to go to the one home whose occupants would believe her good news.  The angel Gabriel told Mary that her relative Elizabeth, in her old age and barren, was now pregnant.  For with God nothing is impossible. 
Mary quickly went to the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth in Judea.  It was a journey of about 75 miles and it would have taken her several days.  The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly when Mary became pregnant.  However, we know the Holy Spirit came upon her and overshadowed her.  Some time from when Gabriel told Mary the good news to when she arrived at Zacharias and Elizabeth’s home, Mary conceived.
Gabriel had prophesied that even in his mother’s womb John would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  That he was sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord.  In scripture, we are told that when Mary greeted Elizabeth the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leaped.  The Greek word means leap for joy, it’s akin to skipping.  This child was sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord.  Even while in his mother’s womb, he heralded the coming Savior.  He did so without words, a fetus filled with the Holy Spirit…he leaped with joy at the Messiah’s coming.   
At that time, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she began to loudly proclaim that Mary was blessed as was the fruit of her womb.  Have you ever experienced something that was so exciting that you wanted to shout it from the roof top?  A joy and excitement that couldn’t be contained? 
Elizabeth recognized that Mary was pregnant with the Lord.  Not just any lord…but her Lord and God.  She asked why it had been granted to her that the mother of her Lord would come to her.  Was she aware of her own sinfulness and unworthiness of being in the Lord’s presence?  Elizabeth was humbled, as we all should be when we come into the presence of the Lord.
How gracious of God to confirm the angel’s prophesy.  Elizabeth pronounced Mary blessed because she had believed God.  She assured her that the things the Lord told her would be fulfilled. 
How could Mary know with any certainty that indeed she would give birth to the long awaited Messiah?  She was pregnant such a short time and it would be a while before that would be evident. 
She could have confidence because God was true to His word.  Through the angel Gabriel, God told Mary of Elizabeth’s miraculous conception…and she found it had come to pass.  Elizabeth and Zacharias had also received a word from the Lord, through the angel Gabriel…just as Mary did.  The baby within Elizabeth’s womb leaped and at that time Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit as she spoke words that confirmed the angel’s message. 
Mary stayed three months with Elizabeth and Zacharias.  She returned home before John’s birth.  What were those three months like?  Despite the fact that Zacharias was not able to speak, Elizabeth and Mary had to have communicated to Zacharias the good news that Mary would be the mother of the Messiah.  Did they pour over the scriptures that foretold of Israel’s Messiah?  Did they go over and over everything that Gabriel had told them?  Were they filled with wonder and amazement at all that God was doing through them? 
Those three month must have been instrumental in building up and reinforcing Mary’s faith, for soon she would return home to face her parents and her fiancé Joseph with the news that she, a virgin, would give birth to the Messiah.  Soon her pregnancy could not be hid…what would the neighbors say? 
There many stories and myths throughout various cultures of a virgin birth.   How can we be certain that what’s recorded in Luke’s Gospel is true? 
Luke wrote his Gospel after carefully compiling eyewitness accounts.  Did Luke talk to Mary herself to find out about Jesus’ conception?  Mary would have been able to relay what had happened to Zacharias and Elizabeth…she had spent three months with them. 
We can know with certainty, that Luke’s account is not just another myth or legend because of what would happen 33 years later.  Not only Jesus’ death on the cross, but his resurrection three days later.  Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed by hundreds of people during the 40 days that Jesus remained before ascending to heaven.  Many eyewitnesses suffered persecution and were killed because of what they knew was true. 
Have you believed John’s silent but joyful proclamation that Jesus is Israel’s long awaited Messiah?  If not…why not read Luke’s eyewitness accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and decide for yourself if you will believe God?

Christmas Reflections..Faithful Obedience

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. – Luke 1:5-7

When I read about Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1, I’m mindful that it had been 400 years since the Lord had last spoke to Israel.  400 years of silence.  Think about it.  Have you ever experienced a time of silence in a relationship?  It’s hard, isn’t it?  Nowhere more so than when that silence involves God. 

For Zacharias and Elizabeth there were untold years of silence when God did not answer their prayer, yet they remained faithful.  God tells us that they were upright and blameless in His sight.  They went about their daily lives faithfully serving the Lord and obeying all His commandments and regulations. 

Even though the Lord was silent, they didn’t use that as an excuse to go off and live according to their own will or take things into their own hands.  They didn’t become slack or lazy in doing what God had commanded.  Their obedience and faithful service was not contingent on God blessing them or answering their prayers for a child. 

In their culture, a couple that remained childless would likely bring judgmental speculation by others.  Speculation that perhaps God had not given them a child because of hidden sin in their life.  I think that Zacharias and Elizabeth’s commitment to walk upright and blameless before the Lord brought a measure of peace.  Peace with God…a peace that passes all understanding.  Peace that remained, no matter what others thought.

Instead of focusing on what they didn’t have, instead of listening to what others said about them, Zacharias and Elizabeth, kept their focus on God.  They trusted that God was good…that He is exactly who He revealed Himself to be in His word.  They believed that God was worthy of worship, praise and adoration because of who He is, not because of how He answered their prayers.  Nor was it based on what He did for them. 

I’m challenged by the faithful obedience of Zacharias and Elizabeth.  Do I remain faithful and obedient to do what God commands even when He is silent?  Am I willing to serve Him, bless Him and praise Him when God, by His perfect will and plan, chooses to withhold something that have I prayed for?  Do I continue to pray, watch and wait expectantly for what God will do?


I had a “tude” today
I could have given you a laundry list of everything that’s wrong
Lament about things that aren’t fair
Drone on about things that are just not right

I know that there is a fine line
Between a heart that is hurting, sadden and grieved
And spirit of grumbling and complaining against God
I crossed that line today

But my God was patient and gentle with me
I know that instead of whining and complaining
Against circumstances, people and God
That I should go before God with my cares and concerns

Today, He went before me
Offered grace and mercy when I deserved none
He heard my cry of pain
Thinly disguised as complaining

He worked out the circumstances of a busy day
Smoothed out the path before me
Allowed me to accomplish all that needed to done
Showed me that my fear was for naught

He led me to the healing balm of praise and worship
Through hymns, songs and spiritual songs
Reminded me of His sovereignty in all things
Assured me that He is working all these things for good

While I may not know His purpose
In allowing things that are wrong, not fair and just not right
He does have a purpose and a plan
None of it escapes His notice

At God’s appointed time
He will provide deliverance
Work through my circumstance
And bring much more than I could ask or imagine

Susan Bunts Wachtel
October 3, 2009

Yester day my attitude stinketh.  I meditated on everything that wasn’t fair or right.  I mulled over the things that are wrong in my life. 

But I was amazed at how gently God dealt with me.  I know that just like the Israelites grumbling and complaining as they walked through the desert was wrong and an offence to God…so too is my grumbling and complaining.

In the midst of my bad attitude day…God led me to put in a worship CD from Kristen and Keith Getty called “Awaken the Dawn”.  Was a wonderful way to be reminded about the sovereignty of God!  Of His tender loving care even in the midst of difficult circumstances. 

In thinking about the sin of grumbling and complaining…I see that it is simply a manifestation of doubt and unbelief.  It’s doubting God…doubting that He is who He says He is.  Displaying a lack of confidence that He can do what He says He can do.  It’s my failure to trust His goodness and character.  It’s focusing on me.  It’s wanting things my way, in my timing.  It’s having no regard for God’s plan, purpose and timing.

Grumbling and complaining is doing the easy thing.  It’s not disciplining my heart and mind to go to God in prayer and lift up what concerns me. 

When I grumble and complain…there is no room for thanksgiving or prayer for others.  Just as the Israelites complained about the manna that God provided…my bad attitude and grumbling was really a complaint against what God has seen fit to provide me.

When I grumble and complain, I fail to recognize that God is doing a greater work to conform me to the image and likeness of Christ. 

Complaining make my heart hard and resistant to the hands of the skillful, knowledgeable Potter who seeks to form this pot as He sees fit.  The hardness of my heart against my circumstances and God makes the work that God is doing in me, more painful than it needs to be. 

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your mercy to me.

God Stop – Faith…Expecting the Unexpected

This fall started out the same as usual…but quickly took a detour from the route I expected and planned. I started out in one Bible study and due to changing circumstances made the move to a different study.

Thursday was my first week with the new group. This is the first women’s Bible study I’ve been involved with through my church. We are going through Beth Moore’s study, “Jesus the One and Only”.

I think that God prepared the way for this move as I worked on Beth Moore’s “Psalms of Ascent” study this summer. It was so different from the Bible study I’ve been in for over ten years that it took me a little while to get used it. But before long I was enjoying the new study. One thing I liked in particular were the “ah ha” moments I experienced as I started to think of my life, beliefs and thinking in light of God’s Word.

Because I started the study a week late…I did not have my first week’s questions completed. So mostly I listened while the other women shared their answers.

One of the segments spoke about the different responses that Zechariah and Mary had when the angel Gabriel visited them with good news about God’s miraculous intervention in their lives.

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had wanted to have a child for years. They prayed for many years, but now their bodies were well past the child bearing years. But the angel came to tell that their prayer had been answered and that Elizabeth would give birth to a boy. He was to be called John. He was to be no ordinary child, but instead he was the forerunner of the Messiah and would prepare the way of the Lord.

Zechariah responded with doubt and unbelief and asked, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

As a result of his unbelief…the angel struck Zechariah mute until after John was born.

Now Mary on the other hand had a much bigger miracle in store. She hadn’t prayed to have a child. In fact she was betrothed to Joseph and still a virgin when the angel Gabriel informed her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that she would give birth to a Son. She was to call Him Jesus and He was the Holy One and would be called the Son of God.

Mary also asked angel a question, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

But Mary’s question wasn’t motivated by doubt and unbelief. The angel did not rebuke her. Perhaps Mary’s question was motivated by wonder and amazement how God would accomplish this impossible event.

After reading the events from Luke 1, I started to think about at what point did Mary conceive Jesus? Was it at the moment she believed the angel’s words? Or was it when she was in route to see her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant in her old age.

Was it similar to the ten lepers in Luke 17, who cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”? Jesus heard their cries and told them to go show themselves to the priests. As they went and obeyed Jesus command they were healed.

Did the Holy Spirit come upon Mary as she went forth in faith?

The study also provoked me to challenge myself…when I pray, do I pray in such a manner that I’m ready for God to knock my socks off? Do I believe God for the impossible? When I’m praying do I look at my circumstances or is my focus on God? Am I prepared to trust and wait upon God and His timing in answering my prayers?

Well…I look forward to the study as I seek to know Jesus more…and have Him be my All in all.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Susan Blog Sig 2

There Must Be A Rainbow

I look up

Find the sky is filled with rain clouds

As far as my eye can see

Overhead dark threatening clouds

Large rain drops start to fall

I’d best take cover

But my eyes are fixed

On the strange golden glow

Surrounding those once ominous clouds

The glow of the sun

Cannot be hid

By even the fiercest storm

I begin to search the sky

For when the sun appears in the midst of the storm

My heart tells me…there must be a rainbow up there somewhere

By Susan Bunts Wachtel

January 23, 2009

Dedicated to my husband, Chris Wachtel. Through the stormy, cloudy times…may we always have hope and look expectantly for the rainbow. Not looking for a sign like a wicked generation, but one who is assured that God is with us, knowing He is faithful and true. Confident that He will deliver us in His time, according to His perfect plan.

Yesterday when leaving work the sky was filled with rain clouds…but there was a beautiful golden glow. I looked up and just knew that up there, somewhere, there was a rainbow.

Only Believe

If I had believed those who told me

It’s God’s will that you never marry

Would I have ceased to pray

Never more asked God to grant me the desires of my heart

If I believed that the chapters yet to be written

Would never be different

From that which had gone before

Would my faith have failed me

If I believed the lies of the enemy

Doubted the goodness of God

Would I have presented my requests to Him

Confident that He is able

If I had never asked

God to bring me a godly husband

Would I have ever donned a wedding gown

Or felt your hand in mine

If I had not risked

Being embarrassed

Feeling the failure

Would I have gathered the courage to asked others to pray

If I had not heeded

The still small voice within

Would I have lacked the vision

To only believe

By Susan Bunts

September 3, 2008

Dependable Faith…Tried, Tested & True

At times the topic of faith seems like the subject du jour. If I’m not in the middle of a crisis…I’m analyzing the last one I went through…examining my successes and failures. Sometimes it feels like for every time I get it right…trust God and believe Him in faith…I falter and fail twice as much.

At times I feel that my faith walk with God should in reality be called my faith wrestle with God. I feel like such a faith failure and wonder why God ever bothered to choose me. A Christian having failure of faith…probably isn’t the best witness to an unbelieving world. But I found reassurance when I heard Beth Moore say that when you wrestle with someone…it’s up close and personal. You are right there with them.

So while my wrestling may not be pretty….it’s real and honest. Maybe the best thing to take away from it…I’m still there wrestling…I’m hanging in and hanging on. Hanging on to Jesus.

In the past couple of days…I recorded some random thoughts about faith…and trusting God. Believing that He is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do.

When I pray and God is not answering my prayers…I know God can act and in the past has acted. But for whatever reason…He chooses not to do so now. At those times…I just don’t understand. I don’t know why He chooses not to answer some prayers. Sometimes getting over that faith barrier seems insurmountable when I’m not able to do anything to move the hand of God.

I won’t know for sure this side of heaven why God permits some things. But if I might suggest this…God wants me to praise Him and trust Him even when the answer is no. Look at Job and how much affliction he suffered unabated for so long. I think part of it is surrendering to His will and continuing to know that He is good…even when it doesn’t feel like it. Will I continue to trust Him…will I continue to reach out and pray anyway? Will I praise Him when the answer is not forthcoming or the answer is no?

Sometimes it’s harder to trust God when my prayer is unanswered than when His answer is no.

With a human being…if they have the ability to do something good and help…but refuse to help it reflects poorly on their character and heart. But the same does not hold true with God. His purposes are not only our immediate present here and now. He is looking at a greater good…and heavenly eternal lasting rewards. I want relief right now. Sometimes that will not achieve His greater plan. Thus His ways are higher than our ways…His thoughts are not our thoughts.

I think perhaps it’s about surrendering at a heart level. Knowing and believing that God is good and that He does love me…even when He allows pain and hurt and loneliness to continue…even when I don’t understand it.

I remember one of Pastor Philip De Courcy’s messages at Kindred Community Church….it was called Back from the Dead? He said that Jesus said to Mary and Mary…”For your sake I’m glad he’s dead…” Philip paused there and expanded on why Jesus…and God the Father may be glad in our pain and sorrow. Because He is in the process of working out a greater good.

His eyes are focused…far beyond…He can see the good in our immediate pain and difficulty. He knows how He’s changing us and using our circumstances to grow us…or to reach others. So…yes…in some respects God does want us to experience pain. But not for ill or bad purposed…but for good…and greater glory.

Doesn’t feel too good now does it. To know that there is One who is able to help…but He doesn’t. It hurts. My friend Mike Paddison recently observed that unanswered pray feels like rejection. Never thought of it like that…but yes it’s an apt description.

As I’m going back through and listening to Pastor Chuck Obremski’s Luke study…I’m relearning a lot about faith. Pastor Chuck reminded us that faith isn’t real until it’s tested. It can’t be depended upon until it’s tested. There are days I don’t like buying that notion…but honestly Chuck’s faith was among the most real that I’ve seen.
Faith that is purified and refined…goes through the fire. Will mine come out as pure gold?

I will call you Israel!

“I’m going to call you Israel from now on.” That was Mason’s response after I had asked for prayer on Sunday evening. I explained that recently I felt like I was Jacob wrestling with God…and I was growing weary and want this episode to come to an end. Yet…I will not let go…no…I will not…until God blesses me.

While I love God and will serve Him…no matter what…I would rather God take me home than to let my life continue on as it has been for low these many years.

Yet this is a stronghold…and it will not be demolished and nothing will be accomplished without God’s hand in it. I desire to praise Him and testify to His goodness, mercy and love to one so undeserving as He gives me the desires of my heart.

Sometimes I find it humbling and difficult to ask a person to pray for something that’s very personal. It’s embarrassing to ask people to pray for me. Why? Probably because I feel such huge failure and I’m not able to accomplish something on my own that people do everyday with ease. But more than that it touches my heart in such a deep place…a vulnerable spot that I don’t feel comfortable having exposed.

I guess having my hope deferred for all these years has made it…if not easier…than at least necessary to ask for others prayers in this situation.

Mason has a logical way of approaching things…and even faith seemed simple and easy when Mason offered a word of encouragement.

When I said it was hard to ask for prayer on this…Mason asked “Why would you deprive your brothers and sisters in Christ the opportunity to be in prayer for you and see God at work in your situation? They will be part of the process…and God will use it to build up their faith in addition to your own.”

He assured me that “it’s the journey that’s important…not just the end”. Indeed I know that’s true…but I also look forward to the end destination of this journey…knowing that the next one will begin as this one concludes.

When Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord, he wrestled all night long. Many believe this to be the pre-incarnate Christ. As day break approached the angel told Jacob to let him go…but Jacob held tight and said he would not let go until he was blessed. The angel asked Jacob what his name was…and Jacob told him his name. “I am Jacob”…this one who had lied and deceived…he who was known as a supplanter gave his name correctly this time around because he wanted to be blessed.

Indeed he was blessed. The angel told Jacob that he would now be called Israel for he had struggled with God and with man and had overcome.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” – Genesis 32:24-30

As I wrestle with God…I wonder what will He call me? In Revelation God tells us that He will give us a new name that only He will know.

I wonder…what will be my name? Will it be Faith? Steadfast? Overcomer? Immovable? Patient? Waited Upon the Lord? Beloved?

Or will I hang my head in shame as I bear the name “Oh ye of little faith”? Failure? Weak Willed? Believed the Lies of the Enemy?

Israel…I would gladly bear that name. Oh to be known as one who struggled with God and man and who over came. I continue to wrestle with God and will do so until He blesses me. I would be most grateful for your prayers on my behalf.

Mason…this is dedicated to you…thanks for being a faith encourager!