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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Have you ever been faced with a challenge that goes against every fiber of your being?

In the story Like There’s No Tomorrow, a novel I hope to publish, a fictional Bible storybook called Daniel’s Friends Face the Fire plays a key role in the heroine’s journey. Emily is a selfless, caring young woman who has spent her life protecting others from pain and suffering, exactly as she believes God would want her to do. But as the story progresses, she learns she inherited the same disease that claimed her mom’s young life. What makes the news even more devastating is that she’s fallen in love with a widowed man, a man she has helped find healing and a renewed faith in God. A future with this man now is unthinkable. Yet he still wants to marry her. How could she? She has seen how loss of a spouse destroyed her father. She could never contemplate putting someone through that kind of pain, especially a second time.

How could God have the nerve to ask Emily to step aside and let him be God?

In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are forced to choose between standing up for what they believe and losing their lives in the fire, or saving their lives by giving in to a psycho king’s whim. I love their reply: “Our God is able to save us. But even if he does not, we still will not bow down to you.” I admire their courage to not only stand up for God, but to trust his sovereignty and wisdom in the face of circumstances that make absolutely no sense.

Because getting tossed into a fiery furnace isn’t the kind of blessing and provision we typically expect from God.

In this scene in the novel, Emily and two little girls are looking at a picture in the storybook of four men walking around in the flames without being burned. Three of the men are the brave young Hebrew men. The extra man, we realize, is Jesus, standing in the fire with them. Here’s an excerpt:

Hannah looked up at Emily. “Would you be afraid?”

The fiery furnace scene lay open on the floor between them. The three young men must have been terrified, and certainly had no idea how it would turn out. All they knew was to trust and obey God without question.

Would I trust God enough to surrender to the flames and stand firm, no matter what?

God, would you really ask me to do that?

Both girls waited. A pulse-quickening urgency stole over her, as though her answer was somehow forever binding—a test.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.

Emily drew a calming breath. “I think if the Lord wanted me to go into a blazing furnace, he would—” Have to send me a text message. In all caps. “He would go with me and . . . give me the courage and strength I need to do it.”

That’s good, Em. You almost have yourself convinced.

I believe God desires to spare us needless suffering . . . sometimes. But he doesn’t promise a pain-free life. (John 16:33) What he does promise is that when the plan we’re following is God’s, he will be with us and will provide everything we need. Whether that be courage, provision, wisdom, strength, his presence, whatever. He is good, always. His ways are not always logical (to us), but they are right. Always. When we can’t see any possible good in the midst of difficulties, we must trust that he can. We may never see that good thing this side of heaven. This is where faith is so . . . FAITH. So confident, so fully trusting. That God is so good, so beyond us and our abilities. If we could understand, stand firm, or endure on our own, we wouldn’t need him.

Emily must decide if she is willing to put God to the test and surrender her worst fears to him, to take him at his word that he is truly faithful. And to truly trust him to take care of those she loves. Can she relinquish control?

Hmm, I wonder how it ends . . .

Q: Have you ever had to “put your money where your mouth is” when it comes to trusting God? Have you ever gone through a “fiery furnace” in your life and felt God’s presence and strength with you in the midst of it? Do you have a hard time believing that God can somehow bring good from suffering?

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The Bible overflows with professions of God’s love for his children, like this one:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  Psalm 103:8

But what if the reality of his love just isn’t jumping off the pages at you? What about those times you need to feel it? Take a deep breath and just lean on it?

Are there tangible ways God demonstrates his love to us? I’ve listed few, and if you think of more, please leave a comment and share.

Creation

I live in view of a gorgeous 11,000 ft mountain (sorry, not this one…but isn’t this gorgeous?).  I can gaze at the pristine, snow-capped peak and never tire of its majestic beauty. Autumn leaves bursting with fiery color take my breath away. I love the soothing sound of waves lapping at the shore. The sound and smell of a rushing river. The scent of Lily of the Valley and the taste of ripe peach. The power of a raging sea. Endless blue sky. Bird song. Music. Seasons. The list is endless! How much we appreciate the beauty of creation varies with each person, but I believe God created the amazing splendor and harmony around us because he desires to delight us. I sense his love for me in creation.

Relationships

Healthy relationships are a reflection of God’s love. We have the ability and need to love and be loved. The affection we share with friends and family, and the two-become-one bond of marriage are gifts from God. I believe close relationships we now enjoy are only a tiny sample of the mind-blowing, unfathomably fulfilling love we will enjoy when bask in God’s presence for eternity!

Provision

God has answered countless prayers for help with finances and other needs. In lean times, the exact amount needed for an expense we couldn’t cover has come in the mail, out of the blue. We’ve prayed about a broken appliance we couldn’t afford to fix or replace and were given an appliance by someone who didn’t even know we needed it. And his provision doesn’t stop at material needs. He’s answered prayers for physical healing, given peace, a shot of courage, patience, wisdom, the right words in a difficult situation. He provides through answered prayer, but he has also provided protection in situations when I didn’t even ask. These things build my faith in him. But they also speak to my heart of his amazing love.

Gifts

I’m amazed at how God sometimes steers little treats my way. I might be at the office feeling a little down and chilly and thinking a vanilla latte sure sounds good, then someone shows up bearing a vanilla latte. (Okay, I know God doesn’t deliver Starbucks, but I’d give him credit before chalking it up as a coincidence…) Or we’re crunched for time and searching for keys or something we need, toss up a prayer, and suddenly think of a place we hadn’t thought of, and find that thing we need. Or maybe we need a job that needs to earn x amount. We ask God for the job and add specific things we’d prefer, like reasonable distance and hours around the kids’ schedules and others factors that aren’t critical but would be really convenient, and God provides just such a job. (This happened to me.) I could make a long list of all the kind little bonus extras God has given me. Perhaps he has his reasons, like giving us a chance to give him credit (glory) to help a lost soul find him, or to remind us of his faithfulness to help our faith grow. But I think he also gives us special things sometimes just because he’s a loving father.

Personal Encounters

I promised to share this story in my last post. About 20 years ago, I was a young mom. I’d been following Christ since I was a teen, but the fact that I was still a believer twelve years later was a miracle. As a teen and new believer, I didn’t understand who I was in Christ and how God wanted to heal the broken stuff in me. Instead, survivor chick that I was, I worked really hard for several years to give myself a churchy-girl makeover. I didn’t mean to fool anyone initially, I just assumed I was supposed to look and act like the nice Christians I saw at church, and I desperately wanted to fit in. Unfortunately, ignorance, a warped self-image, and misconceptions about God turned my life into a dangerously dual existence. As the years progressed, the conflict and gap between my outer façade and my inner self grew until it all caved in, wounding people and nearly finishing off my teetering faith. But Jesus, in his mercy, opened my eyes to the destructive lies I’d been believing, brought me back to him, and helped me start fresh. Over time, he guided me in his truth and grace to unlearn all those misconceptions I had about myself and him.

But there was still so much work to be done in my troubled heart. Twelve years after becoming a Christian, I was now on a clumsy but steadier path to trusting daily in Christ. But the road was slow, and shoving down shame and reminders of failures and seeing crappy stuff still present in me were taking their toll. Wearing me down.

One night, I felt especially drained and discouraged. Empty. I’d been focused on caring for our 3 young kids and keeping the home running smooth for my hard-working husband. We’d recently moved to new town and were basically between friends and without a church family. About two a.m., I was rocking my baby girl back to sleep as my boys and husband slept nearby. Yet in that moment, emotionally empty and depressed, I felt incredibly alone.

I remember pouring out my pain to God, all the while wondering what he thought of me and the way I was feeling. I closed my eyes and whispered in the dark, “God, you’ve done so much for me and I’m grateful for everything you’ve done, but . . . I’m just really struggling here. I know you care, but do you love me? Do you even like me?” I laid my daughter on a blanket and stood alone in the dark. Vulnerable. “God, do you love me? Because I’m not feeling it, and I just need to know. Do you?” I stood there, heart totally bared and tears streaming, hating to be so vulnerable. Vaguely wondering if I looked and sounded as pathetic as I felt.

I expected nothing in the stillness of that chilly February night. But I stood there anyway, letting the tears fall. Knowing I was taking a huge risk, asking for rejection that would only deepen the emptiness. I could either cling to what little hope I could scrounge up and keep plugging away, or just give it up now and let the need in me quietly die. Like the widow who gave up her last bits of oil and flour for the visiting holy man, knowing it meant certain death because it was all she had left. I gave up, and left the next move up to him. Held my breath. Braced for silence.

In that silent moment, I felt something I still have a hard time describing adequately. It was like a warmth that poured down and around me. I felt a wave of peace and an unmistakable sense of his presence washing over me, surrounding and filling me. I can’t explain how, but it felt like love. I felt God’s love for me. Tears pouring, I knew he loved me. He cared. He answered my doubts…again. He was with me and wanted me to know.

I’ll never forget that night. I have sensed his presence and love since, but I think he knew I would later need that special “pile of river stones” to remind me I am loved when I need reminding. To refill my oil jar when hope begins to run out. Because hope is such a powerful thing.

I hope you are not scraping the bottom of the jar. If you are, I pray these thoughts will encourage you today.

We may not always “feel” God’s love, but we can be sure he loves us more than we can grasp. Whether or not we feel it, we can see his love demonstrated in our world and in our lives. Most importantly, we see his immense, unwavering love demonstrated at the Cross.

God’s life-giving word speaks volumes of his incredible love. And if we wait in the stillness and really listen, it may just jump off the page.

Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:2-5

Question: Can you share an example of a tangible way God has shown you his love?

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