God is Faithful

mary-and-joseph-603772[I first wrote these words 6 years ago on my personal blog. I was just recently reminded about these events. I pray this story encourages you as it did me once again.]

As I have mentioned before our family celebrates the Christmas Advent. We really enjoy this tradition and the devotional from yesterday especially good. I would like to share some of it with you.

The subject was on Gods faithfulness.

Matthew 2:19-23 (NIV)
 19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

This is not the biggest part of the Christmas story, but It so resonated with me. As I think about how Mary and Joseph felt at the thought of going home. Here again another angel had appeared and told them they were safe to go home. I can only imagine the Joy and excitement but also the fear and  uncertainty as they faced a long uncertain journey. The bible doesn’t say, but I wonder if they still were trying to process all that was going on in their lives?

I mean think of the year (or two) they had just had. Unexpected Angel visits (truthfully that would get me right there.) An unplanned pregnancy, an almost divorce, a long journey 9+ months pregnant, for a census that could cost them dearly. A home birth in a stable. Strange encounters with unexpected guests. Blessings beyond their dreams. A death threat to their child who P.S. was the SON OF GOD! Another long journey to a place they had likely never been. More Angels. Another long journey home, and the uncertainty of what they would find or how they would be received.

I could easily look at their circumstances and think; “My goodness, look at what you have been through. Why would God let all this happen to you?” “Why?”
But that’s not what they did. They trusted God, and they had faith. Though I have to believe that as humans it may have been shaky faith at times. I have to think that when the bible says,
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV
She was really just trying to get a grip on what was happening in her life. But, no where does it say she got hung up on the, “why?” She knew that God had been faithful thus far and trusted that God would remain faithful. Which probably made the whole ordeal look more like:
When they received unexpected Angel visits: God was faithful and revealed his plan. When Mary was found pregnant they had faith that it was as the Lord had told them. Even with the stress on their relationship and all the trust issues this pregnancy brought on, God was faithful and saw them through it. God was faithful in giving them safety during their long journey. God was faithful and provided a place to have their baby. God was faithful to provide for their needs as these unexpected Magi brought them gifts. Even when the life of their child was threatened, God was faithful and gave them time to escape. God faithfully brought them to Egypt and provided for them there. And God faithfully called them home. And faithfully directed them to Nazareth. God had provided for all their needs. He had seen them through what was surely one of the most difficult season of their lives. At least up to that point.

Just as assuredly as Mary and Joseph had to be people of Faith, they had to know that they weren’t alone in this. It was just on their shoulders to believe. They had God with them (quite literally actually. Which is a bit ironic if you think about it.) And God was faithful. He didn’t leave them wondering what to do. He didn’t drop the ball. And just as He did his part in being faithful, they did their part in having faith and trusting that God knew what He was doing.

Which makes me think about my life, and more specifically this past year. I’ll give the short version: Our family moved 1,800 miles in JANUARY this was our second cross-country move in 10 months. We came home to a house that was too small, We struggled to restart a business and find work and make ends meet. This all put a huge strain on our marriage.  I became pregnant unexpectedly, and just when I had come to grips that a third child was on the way… I had a miscarriage.  Follow that by an intense grieving period. Only to have my husband have a serious back injury that will likely forever change how we live or make a living, and couple that with the financial strain of a loss of income ….and that brings us to now.

Roses right? No, and I don’t think my story is unique. I know we all have years like this but what I am learning is that its the perspective we have. God is faithful but, it is also my job to have faith. And so when I rehash this story NOW it looks more like this:

In January for reasons unknown to us we were led back to Michigan. God was so faithful to give us safe travel. God so faithfully through our friends and family prepared our home for us, with everything we needed. God faithfully provided a job for Kyle, and gave him many of his old clients back. God faithfully provided for our every need as we re-started this business. Even with the stress of Kyle working so much, God was faithful and saw us through some of our most challenging “married moments”. With an unplanned pregnancy, and the subsequent loss of the baby. God has been so faithful to comfort me in my grief and to teach me how to lean harder on HIM. Praise the Lord for that!!!!

Even now as we struggle with my husbands injury and a loss of a large part of our income. God is STILL faithful. We have not gone hungry, All our needs are being met. Be it by groceries given to us, or the anonymous gift that arrived in the mail, to the many gifts of friends and clients,  to the unexpected job I have had sewing items for a friend. God has been faithful. And I can walk forward in the assurance that not only HAS God been faithful, He will be faithful.

I only just now, feel like I am coming to grips with all that has happened and I realize I have a choice; I can look at all that has happened and ask “why?” or I can look back and thank God for all the times he has been faithful.
Thank Him, and move forward knowing that I am not in this “life struggle” alone, that like Mary and Joseph, God is with me.

As a final note, the following are some of the key scriptures that I have prayed and meditated on. I can’t help but wonder if Mary or Joseph thought of these words as they walked out their faith? These verses are written  and posted in my house. They have offered me great hope and strength. I would like to share them with you that you also may boast of Gods faithfulness.

A reminder to have faith:
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

When I get hung up on the “why?” of things:
Isaiah 55:8,9 (NIV) (
I love this whole chapter but these verses in particular)
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

When I am worn out, and do not think I can handle another thing:

2 Corinthians 12: 9,10 (NIV)
9 But he [the LORD] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

My Prayer:
May these words edify. May they touch a soul. May Gods faithfulness be evident. And may we remember Your great gift to us, your son Emmanuel. Truly God with us. Amen.

 

~Rita

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Action Faith

dl moody quote
I loved this D.L. Moody quote that was part of my Advent study this morning. The beauty of the word “Faith” is that it is not just a noun, but it has a verb tense to it as well. It is one thing the believe something, it is another to act like you believe it.
My study was in reference to Abraham, and how God said he would give him a promised land and make him the father of a nation. What a wonderful promise for him. But, what good would it have done Abraham if he believed the promise, yet never packed up and walked the miles to receive the fulfillment of that promise?
The fullest realization of a blessing from God comes not with just believing Him, But with receiving and moving into the process of the promise.

The Call of Abram

12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.[a]
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”[b]

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring[c] I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

Genesis 12:1-7 (NIV)

~Rita

The Coming

advent-wk-1-psalm-25-5

This time of year the days can seem so dark. I rise before the sun and I lie down well after it has set. It seems that the brief moments in-between fly by with a twinkle of light. So momentary that we could almost miss it. 

Today, I wake before the sun, realizing that a new day will soon be upon me. A day which I really can have no knowing of what it truly holds. For all the futility of my planning I have truly no idea what lies before me. 

Yet, today is December 1st. This date wakes some light in my soul. Like that single candle we will light this evening. December first marks a new day on the calendar but also a new season. A season that in all its hustle and bustle and bright lights and charismatic calls to buy and be filled. December 1st also calls us to a place of quiet expectation. 

Advent – from the Latin means “Coming.”

It is a time to anticipate. 

A time to wait expectantly.

Because we have, in all our darkness been offered a great hope. 

~

I wonder how dark the night felt? God’s people had from the beginning of time been promised a Savior. A king. A Redeemer who would reconcile them all back into relationship with the Creator God. For thousands of years men and woman cried out for salvation. 

So, I wonder how dark the night seemed when for four hundred years there was silence like a dark night. No prophet, No priest. Exile. Separation, forgetting. Did God forget his promises in those years called silent?

We of course know he did not. We also have the blessed viewpoint to see how it all ties together. 

But, this is the perspective I wish to offer. That regardless of how you feel about this Holiday. Some will love it, some will shy from it. For some it brings back memories that bring joy, for others it is a representation of pain and heartache and what will never be. 

Regardless of your season. I wish to invite you into the Holy place of waiting for the coming of that Redeemer. The one who redeems the most broken. Let us anticipate His coming. Let us give space to remember that the night will not last forever. It cannot. Day will always break over the horizon. And some day, the night will be forever over. We will be forever redeemed. On this first day of December, I think that is a pretty great gift. 

 

~Rita

 

Listening

Hebrews 4-12

Do you ever wonder if God is speaking to you? Or maybe you wonder, how does God speak to us? I know I do. So often I’ll think I’m hearing Him, only to find out that I was totally missing the mark. While other times I’m certain it is my own thought process that is leading only to discover that it really was the Holy Spirit’s prompt. Oh, how I wonder if I’ll ever figure it out?

The other day was a prime example of the latter. Me and my 4 children had spent the day with another home schooling family and late in the afternoon we began our journey home. I’ll confess that I’m not a super planner and have a tendency to only focus on one thing at a time. That day was no exception, because just before we were to merge onto the interstate, I glanced at my gauges and was surprised to see that all important needle pointing very near the “E” on the fuel gauge. Stopped at a light I look up and see a station and the thought drifted through my mind, You should get some gas. I quickly surmise that I still should have plenty of fuel to get us to the city of our destination where my normal fueling station is. Doing so would mean earning those all important points as well as saving a few pennies per gallon. Yes, I’ll wait.

The light changed to green and we begin our journey again. Me, confident that we will save time and a little money by my rational decision.

No sooner did we get out of the city did the horizen light up with brake lights and the rapid deceleration of the vehicles in front of us. As soon as I realized we had all made the quick stop without a crunch, I breathed a prayer of thanks. As we inched forward in the backed up traffic I tried to guess what the hold up was? Construction? Accident? who knew? It wasn’t long though before I realized we might have a second back up on our hands. There it was, that worrisome ding that we were low on fuel. Great.

Traffic was now at a complete standstill. A first responder buzzed passed on the left shoulder of the line of cars. Next a State Police officer. Then the Jaws of Life. Followed by more police and an ambulance. This was not looking very good.

I did the only thing I could. I turned off the car to save fuel, and we prayed for the the people involved in the obvious accident. In the back of my mind however, I couldn’t help wonder, if God had tried to speak to me back when we were at that last traffic light? Was it He who put the thought in my head to look at my gas gauge? Was it He who stopped me right in front of a station that could have saved us from this inconvenient and embarrassing predicament?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it must have been a Holy Spirit prompt. But regardless of whether it was my own rational or if I had totally missed the message that could have saved us from the stress and discomfort of sitting on the side of the highway on a rather chilly evening with an empty tank. If nothing else, it did make me think. Where else am I missing Him? Where else am I not quite listening? I know it happens.

I know it happens in church when my head is bowed and I just barely hear that still small voice and then I finish the sentence for Him. I know it happens when I’m at home trying to survive the day and I snarl at the God images in my care instead of taking time to reach out for their hearts. I know it happens in the time spent on my phone rather than seeing the person in front of me that might desperately need a smile, a word of encouragement or a hug. I know it happens every time that I choose to do something “important” rather than opening His Book and listening to the words printed on the page.

You see, I do believe God speaks to us. He most obviously speaks though His Word. Every time a verse leaps off the page and cuts through to the heart. He speaks to us in the songs of worship and praise. He speaks to us in the quiet moments and in the chaotic moments. And I believe he whispers at the stop lights before we choose our own way home. God speaks to us, for our good. To bring us hope. He speaks and breathes love even when we least deserve it.

The question is: Are we listening?

~Rita

 

Terrified…

Habakkuk 3-18-19

This past weekend the news was a little overwhelming, wasn’t it? It seems we are reminded daily that we are not safe anywhere. That even the places who for much of the span of history have been sacred and places of refuge. Even there, terror and evil has the audacity to walk through those doors. I don’t know about you, but that makes me angry, and sad, and really, if I’m honest a bit confused. Why God? Why does it have to be this way?

I’ve spent a quite a bit of time lately trying to gain perspective about the world in which we live. In a season, where I’m trying very much to keep my focus on gratitude and blessing. I’m going to be quite honest and admit that with all that is going on, with all the suffering, with all the evil that seems to be winning, it really is difficult to maintain a heart of thankfulness.

~

Did you know I’d never read the book of Habakkuk before? It’s kind of a small book. Only three chapters. This morning, still sad and overwhelmed, I prayed for something to remind me of the purpose of living in such a broken world. As I went to my familiar places, I found them offering great inspiration, but not a word to satisfy the longing within my heart. As I began flipping pages I landed in Habakkuk. There the words before me leaped of the page.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
    but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
    but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
    so that justice is perverted.
Habakkuk 1:2-4

Habakkuk was a prophet that lived during a time when Babylon was overtaking the known world. It was a terrorizing time no doubt, and they didn’t even have the media to stir the pot and sensationalize evil like we do today!

Reading Habakkuk I realized two things. First, evil has been and will be a part of our world until the awesome day of Christ return. Second, God’s sovereignty is still in power even when we do not understand the plan.

Habakkuk’s prayers resonate with me, because I have prayed them myself. “How long Lord?” “Why do you let such evil take place?” My questions come not because of a lack faith, but because I hate to see a world perishing. I hate to see people choose evil instead of good. Yet this book also reminds me that God is sovereign, and that He is also our strength. 
Holocaust survivor Corrie TenBoom once said:

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”

Unfortunately evil will be a part of this world until the end of days. But, as Christ followers we can take comfort in a Sovereign God who knows exactly what is and must take place until then. 

And what are we to do while we wait? I think we can find solace in that last chapter of Habakkuk as well. At the end of the book Habakkuk makes the decision to submit to the Lord. To lift him as God above all, and glorify Him even during unimaginably hard circumstances. In return he received strength from the Lord to go on. 

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:18-19

 

 

~Rita

_______________________________
Reference

Habakkuk Ch. 1-3

The Season of Gratitude

Psalm 107-1

Welcome to November!

The month of Gratitude. At least that is what comes to my mind on this first day of November. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is a season, when we try to put our priorities in order. We begin to look more inward. We find ourselves indoors, ordering our homes and preparing them for the new season before us. We check our hearts and prepare for gatherings with those we love. Those easy to love and those hard to love. But really, it is so much about the love, isn’t it?

You see, I believe in order to feel grateful about anything we need to be able to love and receive love. Gratitude comes from that place in the heart where we feel we have been loved. It is the feeling that because someone loved us we received a gift. Gifts of time, gifts of gathering, gifts of seeing something as extraordinary. Gratitude is also an expression of the love we have for others. That offering of our hearts to another. That offering of time to read one more story to that precious little soul. The offering of putting our wants aside so that we could get one more gift for another, or meet the need of another. 

So, as we enter the season of Thanksgiving, I would like to encourage you to see your gratitude, for what it is: The opportunity to give and receive the love that has has been lavished on us through Christ. I have no doubt that in doing so your heart will be filled with the deep gratitude that the life in Christ offers. 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
Psalm 107:1

 

~Rita

Reformation Day

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It was on this date 500 years ago that the German Monk Martin Luther nailed The 95 Theses to the Church door in Wittenburg Germany. The actions of this Christian hero upon realizing that his salvation comes from faith through Christ alone, began a movement called the Protestant Reformation.

We have him and many other Christian heroes to thank for our freedom to worship God, as well as read and understand the scriptures. So, while some use this date to honor a different holiday, October 31st is also a date of great relevance to our Christian Heritage. 

It is said that Martin Luther began his journey to realizing that salvation is offered to each of us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ while studying the book of Romans. I wonder how these verses impacted him? 

“11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Romans 13:11-12

Happy Reformation Day!

 

~Rita

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Resources
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/martin-luther-posts-95-theses
http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/reformation_day.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformation_Day