Category Archives: Answer God’s Call

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 6

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1).

It’s when we stop running from God that we experience the lasting hope and true the freedom that only He can give. My friend Erin came to understand the love of God in a fresh way through her encounter with a stray puppy that refused to be rescued.

GUEST BLOG: Erin Fede

I have a habit of rescuing lost or hurt animals that cross my path. There was a tiny baby turtle trying to cross a road, a baby bird fluttering around a busy parking lot, a baby squirrel, and four stray dogs. Each animal’s rescue was unique—according to its needs and best chance for survival.

But then there are the dogs that didn’t want to be rescued—I remember them as clearly as the ones who welcomed my care. One particular pup looked so bad I convinced my husband to go back out with me that night to search some more. And we found her! But the little fluff-ball, whose once-white fur was now grayish brown and full of mats, continued to run. Sometimes we’d get really close, gently speaking to her and offering her treats. But again, she ran.

We went back home that night empty handed. And as silly as it may sound, I sobbed. Why wouldn’t the dog just trust me? I assume she was afraid—and maybe she had good reason, depending on the environment from which she came. But as valid as her fear of me may have been, it was unnecessary. And it prevented her from experiencing love. From being warm, clean and sleeping with a full belly. Why was this stirring up such sadness inside me? What was it that compelled me to keep looking? Why did I call the shelters the next day trying to find her? I believe it’s because I, myself, have been rescued.

I was once that mangy dog, running from God when all He wanted to do was nourish my soul and give me the best life possible. But I didn’t want to be “contained,” I didn’t particularly appreciate authority and I most certainly wanted to do whatever I felt like doing, whenever I wanted to do it.

But that’s just me. Perhaps you ran (or are running) for a different reason. Perhaps you had a bad experience with “religion.” Maybe someone who claims to reflect the love of Christ lives in a way that is the exact opposite of loving, and therefore gives you a false perception of God’s character. Or maybe you just feel plain unworthy, unlovable or unforgivable. Regardless of your reason for running, don’t let it rob you from seeking the Truth… from running toward the most fulfilling relationship you could possibly experience: the unconditional love of your Creator.

God was relentless in pursuing my heart. He is endlessly patient, forgiving and loving. He captivated me with his kindness. By submitting to His authority, I actually became free and full of hope.

Freedom cannot be achieved by running from God any more than that dog could find freedom in roaming the streets. She chose to keep fighting for herself when someone exceedingly more capable wanted to fight for her.

God not only fought for us but, through Jesus, He won the battle for our eternity. He died to give us life, and was raised from the dead to give us HOPE. We are not unwanted, nor unforgivable. We were each uniquely created with a great purpose. And we are loved beyond anything our brains are capable of comprehending.

The love and hope I wanted to extend to that little dog didn’t disappear when she ran away. But the stray animals who trusted me got to receive all I had to give. If a broken human like me would go out of her way to help little creatures (even getting up at 3am for weeks to prepare a special formula and feed a baby squirrel), how much MORE love and care does our Father in Heaven want to lavish on US!! Anything good we do is just a tiny glimpse of the goodness of our gracious God.


30 Days of Hopeful: Day 3

Lord, in the morning you hear my voice. In the morning I pray to you. I wait for you in hope (Psalm 5:3).

Welcome to Day 3 of 30 Days of Hopeful. Perhaps you have a hope or dream that has been a long time in coming. Seems like waiting for our heart’s desire is just part of being human.

If we are followers of Christ, we can be sure that the Lord is aware of our deepest longings.  Jesus reminds us that our heavenly Father already knows what we need even before we ask Him (Matthew 6:32).

What’s more, if we are truly seeking Him with our whole heart—and if our dream lines up with God’s Word—most likely, it was put there by God himself.

I want to remind you that our heavenly Father is kind and loving. And while there’s no guarantee that we get everything we desire—not even good earthly parents give their children everything they want—our heavenly Father delights in giving His children good gifts.

The Bible makes several bold promises:

-Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights (James 1:17).

-No good thing does God withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).

-Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

-Seek first the Kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33)

But our dreams usually don’t come without a fight. Holding onto hope can be an uphill climb. It’s a muscular journey—this thing we call hope—and not for the faint of heart. One way I’ve learned to condition myself for the climb is to come to the Lord often and early. I agree with the Psalmist:

“Lord, in the morning you hear my voice. In the morning I pray to you. I wait for you in hope” (Psalm 5:3 NIRV).  Another version puts it this way: “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3 NLT).

Hope comes with a risk, as all who would warn us point out. “Be careful. Don’t get your hopes too high,” they caution. But I would rather risk the disappointment of high hopes than live in the valley of low expectations. Let’s dare to seek God wholeheartedly. To dream big dreams. To wait expectantly—with hope.


30 Days of Thankful: Day 28

Today’s guest post was written by my friend Ashley nearly three years ago.  I was impressed to post it again today as part of our 30 Days of Thankful.  First, because you will see Ashley’s beautiful and thankful heart.  And second, because looking back, we can now see that God was preparing Ashley for a special calling.  This calling included not only a fourth child (a biological child), but a missions assignment that took Ashley and Peter and their four children to Japan where they are sharing the love of Jesus with this largely unreached nation.  Ashley was open to what she thought was God’s call to adopt a child from Asia–instead, she is now loving many of God’s lost children in this part of the world.  In observing Ashley’s journey,  I’ve come to believe that a trusting and thankful heart is the open door through which God invites us to our destiny.   

GUEST POST:  Ashley McKenzie (February 13, 2013)

God is my Provider. He often reminds me that He can be trusted to meet my every need.  I am humbled that God speaks to me.  I am nothing special.  Many days I feel less than ordinary.  I have no credits to my name, no college degree, no extraordinary skills, no great power of speech or commanding leadership abilities.  All I have is the love of a beautiful Savior—a kind and gentle King who has captured my soul and filled it with life. 

A few months ago, right before Thanksgiving, I was packing up my car for a trip to my parent’s house.  With three children four years old and younger, this is no small feat.  Amazingly, all three kids were in the house napping so I was able to pack the car without distraction.  It was an ordinary day that turned holy in seconds.  I saw an eagle flying right above my head- so close that I could actually hear it soar.  Immediately, I felt The Lord asking me to sit and watch the bird.  My heart was beating out of my chest; I had no choice but to sit and watch this majestic creature.

I watched it for at least 15 minutes as it soared back and forth in front of me until it finally flew away.  Over the next two months, I had the oddest encounters with birds.  And every time God said, “Watch the birds, Ashley.  Watch the birds.”  I had vultures in the back of my yard, saw at least two more eagles, and every day had a whole flock of little black birds fly across the sky in front of me.  I have been asking God what is it with these birds.  And then he answers just as I need it.

 Blog photo-eagle

To back up a bit, God has asked some fairly big “faiths” of me for 2013.  Long ago he asked me to allow him to “grow” my family.  For whatever reason I feel a big growth this year. My heart aches more and more for orphans.  I yearn to adopt a child, and he has given me several verses and glimpses of hope and faith in this lifelong dream.  But with this dream comes a dependence on his provision, resting in the assurance that as we expand, he will meet every need as he always has.

And so, as I’ve prayed for faith in all these things, I continue to see birds.  God says quietly to my soul, “Watch the birds, watch the birds.” And I pray that he reveals what these crazy birds mean.  He gives me verses like Roman 12:12, asking me to be “joyful in my hope and faithful in my prayers,” and Isaiah 49:8, reminding me that he will “provide in His timing”.  He is my salvation and help in all things.

 And then in a moment of desperation, as worry and doubt set in over and over again, as I wonder if God will really provide and if I will ever be given this gift of an adopted child–is he really going to do what I feel in my heart he has said–during a sacred moment in his word, he whispers, “You are the bird.  I give you food.  I provide.  I watch over you.  you are mine.  That eagle?  He soars because of me.  I build his house.  I give him strength.  You are my bird and I will provide.  Trust in me.”

What do you say to this except thank you?  How do you respond to such kindness, such love except a complete surrender of worry and doubt?  Finally, I am drawn to John 15:16:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

I am chosen, and because I am chosen I have a responsibility to bear lasting fruit.  I don’t think that I can remain a worrier and doubter and believe in John 15:16.  I am a bird, and whatever The Lord asks of me, he will provide.

 


30 Days of Thankful: Day 6

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (Philippians 4:6).

A friend confided to me the other day that she’s had to go into counseling because she’s worried about the threat of ISIS.  The same thing happened again.  Another woman admitted to me that she is suffering panic attacks because she’s fearful of  threats in the Middle East.  These are affluent, suburban women, far from the conflict. But anxiety over the world situation has crippled their hearts. That’s the goal of terror.

It’s Day 6 of 30 Days of Thankful.  And you’re probably wondering what in the world anxiety has to do with our discussion of thankfulness.   I’d like to suggest that giving thanks may be one of our best secret weapons against worry.

I decided to talk with a friend who serves on the front lines of war, giving relief to refugees. I asked him if he was afraid of ISIS. He answered matter of factly, “We’ve learned to trust God for our protection.”  He said these words as calmly as I would have said, “I’ve learned to buckle my seat belt when driving to the grocery store.”

But it was his next words that really got me thinking.  “I am overjoyed at the work God is doing among these refugees,” he said.  “Many are accepting Jesus. I praise God and give thanks as I  see the children reciting Bible verses and taking a bold stand for the Gospel.” There wasn’t a trace of worry in his voice—only gratitude.  And joy.

Most of us live far from the front lines and don’t face daily threats from war. But fear and worry can still attack us right where we live.  Let’s take a lesson from my friend and simply trust God for His protection.

And let’s follow his example in our own neighborhoods and step out boldly to share God’s love with the broken around us.  As we watch God at work, let’s remember to pray and give thanks–and watch fear and worry flee.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).


Watch for His Return!

Look Up! The personalized license plate on the car in front of me caught my eye. Look up!  Two simple words right out of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus was reminding His followers to pay close attention to the signs of the times.  “So when all these things begin to happen,” He explained to them, “stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:28 NLT).

Today is Easter, a time when believers all over the world celebrate a risen Savior.  The Resurrection of Jesus changed everything. But there’s more to the story. He is coming back.  How fitting that Easter Sunday is the final day of our 21 Day Watch. We’ve been watching for signs of God through His Word and His work all around us. And we’ve been alert to His perspective of world events—God’s big picture.

Jesus also wants us to be watching for His return.  But I’ve noticed that some people become so fascinated with the “end times” that they retreat into a form of  spiritual escapism. Is this the best we can hope for?  Clinging by a thread of sanity while we wait for Jesus to rescue us from this messy world? Surely we were made for more.

What does it look like to be ready for Jesus’s return?  I like Paul’s instructions to the church in 1 Peter.  These believers were fiercely persecuted.  They were always in danger of getting killed so they had plenty to worry about.  Early Christians lived  in continual readiness for Jesus’s soon return.  So Paul reminds them to live with the end in mind.  But he doesn’t tell them to become obsessed with signs, retreat to a survivalist community, stockpile their goods or take up arms. He simply tells them to be ready by living as faithful believers:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms (1 Peter 4:7-10 NIV).

Dear friends, we are Easter People! We’re to remain alert and watchful so we can pray, for prayer helps us stay connected to God. We’re to love each other in community, forgiving one another, inviting others into our homes. We’re to serve each other and share God’s grace using the gifts and resources He’s given to us. We’re to share His Good News with the least and the lost at home and around the world.

We keep watch for Jesus’s return by being faithful.  We remain ready by doing the same things  we should be doing every day. We keep watch by doing God’s will. Then when Jesus comes, He’ll find us ready for His return.

Come soon, Lord Jesus. Keep us alert and watchful. And while we wait, may we be faithful to answer Your call to a hurting and broken world.  Because of Easter!