Listening for the Lord

Do you ever experience those times…when God seems to be silent? 
 
That’s what I’ve been experiencing.  Recently, my husband Chris and I were on vacation and departed from our normal routines.  As much as we need vacations…there’s something that I like about ordinary life.  It’s easier for me to be disciplined in prayer and the study of God’s word when I’m at home.  I find that when I’m living out of a suitcase and traveling from place to place it’s harder for me to be focused in my prayers or to read the Bible without distraction.  So while part of me would like some more time off from work…I appreciate getting back into a disciplined schedule. 
 
While on vacation…I didn’t listen to my I-Pod which is chock full of sermons and Biblically based programs.  I missed it greatly.  During the long drive home…I had the time to put on my head phones and listen to God’s word again….and it felt like a welcomed friend.
 
Since then I’ve been working on my Bible study, reading God’s word and coming before the throne of grace in prayer.  Despite that…my spiritual tanks seem low.  I feel like God has been silent.  I’ve prayed that if there was an area of sin or something that is displeasing to the Lord, that God would help me to see it so that I can repent. 
 
I praise God that daily I can ask for Him to forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.  But I didn’t feel as though God was bringing to mind an area of disobedience that I needed to address.  Yet…the silence continue and I found myself focusing more and more on me and continuing to ask, “Lord what have I done wrong?”.

When I read my morning email devotional from Elizabeth Elliot a quote leap off the page at me, “There is another reason, I think, for the cause of the feeling (a spirit of discontent) within us.  It comes from the flesh and self-introspection.  It is good for us to look at self and know how loathsome it is, but with one look at self we must take ten looks at Christ.”

When I read that quote, I realized that in the time of silence from God, I had turned my focus inward.  In my attempt to examine myself for sin or a barrier between God and me…I had taken my eyes off the Lord. 

I need to keep my eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, stay in the word of God and preserver in prayer.  God calls us to walk by faith, not by sight.   I must not allow myself to be drawn off course by my feelings.  When I’ve sinned, I can trust the Holy Spirit to bring it to mind so that I can confess and repent. 

No matter if it’s a fruitful and intimate time with the Lord or a time of silence…I need to keep my eyes on Jesus Christ.

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Sight Walking Faith

Oh the error
Of sight walking faith

Instead of believing the Lover of my soul
I believe the one who seeks to steal, kill and destroy

I surrender certain victory in Christ
For continuous daily defeat

I swap the strength of the Lord
For my weakness

I exchange the truth of God
For a lie

I trade the peace of God that passes all understanding
For worry, anxiety and stress

I substitute praying to God in faith
With meditating on my problems
 


by Susan Bunts Wachtel
May 18, 2010

Old Woman Sight Walking Faith is Dead


Not sure how much of an inkling I had at some of the ugly stuff that would be revealed as I delve into my faith…in my study of Believing God.

I never wanted to do therapy…because I figure I’ve already lived the bad stuff…I don’t want to waste even one more moment of my life dwelling on it. But I’m starting to see the importance of examining the outworking of my faith compared to what God says it should be…and what pleases Him.

Boy oh boy…am I coming up short! And folks…it ain’t pretty. As the days and weeks go by in this study…I hope to better understand why my faith is so weak. But right now all I’m seeing is my failure of faith.

God makes it very clear in His word…that He desires for us to have faith and to believe Him. He even rewards our faith. Reading Hebrews 11….the Hall of Faith…I am in awe of what these people endured and how they maintained their focus on God and His promises. They didn’t waver with doubt and unbelief…nor were they concerned on how God would accomplish what He had promised. Instead they stood steadfast and resolute in believing their God.

Faith, trust and believing God is a way to glorify and honor Him…it pleases Him. Can you imagine a child who is fearful and concerned about how her parent will provide and take care of her? That surely wouldn’t speak too well of that parent now would it? But in this instance…my lack of faith and trust…doesn’t speak well of me.

I find it kind of amazing that God delights and rewards those who believe and trust Him in faith. But when I look at a parent…don’t they delight in doing good things for their child? Don’t they take great pleasure in bringing happiness and joy to their child? How much more so God?

When I look at Abraham…I marvel at his great faith. I ask myself…if God called me to sacrifice my only child….would I obey? If I obeyed…would I be quick to do so and not question God?

Am I going to believe God…and who He says He is? Trust what He says He will do? Or am I going to believe my circumstances…and only what I can see? I’m quite adept at sight walking faith. But God wants me to walk by faith…and I’ve failed that test miserably.

It’s easy to believe what’s in front of me and what I can see. It requires effort, faith and work to know God’s word…and His character as revealed in the Bible. In a different context the Bible tells me that I am to deny myself, pick up my cross and follow Jesus. Since doubt and unbelief is so ingrained in me…wouldn’t I be denying myself and following Jesus when I choose to believe Him by faith? So often…I think of denying myself in terms of denying certain pleasures…but perhaps that command encompasses even more than that.

As I look at my faith…and my poor track record…I realize that I’m not able to achieve this on my own…that God will have to give me the faith to believe Him. The Holy Spirit is going to be doing double duty…bringing to mind the scriptures I’ve studied…to help keep me walking by faith.

Sight walking faith has bigger consequences than just loosing out on blessings in this world. It also affects my prayer life. When I doubt my God…do I bring everything to Him by prayer and petition…and present my request to Him? Am I faithful to bring unbelieving friends and family before the throne of God and beseech Him for mercy and for their salvation? How many people are praying for them…for their hurts and needs? How many cry out to God for their salvation? Shouldn’t my voice be lifted up to God in heaven…that He would save their souls? What will I be feeling in heaven when the books are closed and people that I could have prayed for aren’t there?

Am I willing to deny myself…my doubt and unbelief…and trust God in faith? Am I willing to turn away from sight walking faith…and walk by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit within me?

Oh Lord…please help me. You know how I have failed, time and time again. You are going to have to give me the faith…because I am frail and weak in my faith…and unable to believe on my own. Help me to believe You and trust You. Help me to walk by faith. Thank you Jesus…that I am a new creation in You.

To quote Clarence Thomas’ grandfather Meyer Anderson, “Old Man Can’t is dead, I know, I buried him myself.”

Old Woman Sight Walking Faith is dead…I know because she was crucified with Christ. She was born again…and is now called Walking by Faith.

God…would you consider adding a verse Hebrews 11? Something like this, “By faith Susan…”

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!