Posts tagged faith

Perspective Matters

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Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I have a lot of memories of time spent at the beach. On one particular stretch of coastline where I grew up the sand arched down steeply to the crashing waves. I have a memory from when I was young seeing my Mom walking along that shoreline and from my (very young) perspective it looked as if the towering waves would crash over her. It looked so real that I was scared for her. Once I got closer and my perspective of the shoreline changed, I realized she was never really in danger.

Life often has moments similar to the one that I experienced as a young boy. Sometimes our experiences cause us to react wrongly and often times the reason we react wrongly is often because we have the wrong perspective.

God’s Perspective
God sees things not as they appear but as they are. If you’ve ever been to a beach and felt the sand between your toes you can confidently say you know what sand looks like, right? But in reality you don’t really know what it looks like because your perspective is limited. Here’s a picture of what beach sand looks like when magnified:

sand grains

(Used with permission: sandgrains.com)

God’s perspective is not just different in regards to a vantage point but it’s also different in terms of time. Think of someone like Nick Vujicic who was born with no legs and no arms. The world sees someone like that as hopeless. What could he accomplish? What would he have to live for? But God’s perspective is different. When Nick was born, God saw both the helpless baby and the man he would become; a husband, a father, and someone who would have a global ministry that would bring the Gospel of hope to thousands.

Eternal Perspective
Whether we were born into a difficult situation or not the odds are good that we’ll experience hardships at some point in our life. The Apostle Paul certainly had experienced tough times when he wrote:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

What is he talking about? He’s talking about having a right perspective. Faith in Jesus compels us to not just look at physical but also spiritual realities. This viewpoint changes everything and stretches our perspective to be long-term and even eternal. The Bible makes it clear that the world in its current state won’t last forever and so the dimension of the unseen is actually more real than what we can see.

Changed Perspective
When we allow God to change our perspective we have faith. Faith that the God who made us sees us as we currently are and also who we will be. When we get God’s perspective we also have hope. Hope that our current situation which seems impossible can be overcome. Getting God’s perspective isn’t just important it’s essential. It influences how we parent, choose our career, relate to others, spend money and so much more. When we start to see the world as God sees it we not only endure tough circumstances, we overcome them.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.“
-Jesus as recorded in John 16:33

And so one of the most powerful and challenging prayers we can pray is not for a situation to be changed but for the vision to see it how God sees it. Perspective changes everything.
In what areas of your life has God changed your perspective?

Don’t Let Your Faith Fade

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Do you remember 5 months ago? It was the beginning of the year and whether you came up with resolutions for 2013 or not there was probably at still a feeling of newness as you looked forward to the year ahead.

And now the year is nearly half over! How did that happen?

Those resolutions may be long gone, or at least hanging by a thread, but the good news is today is a new day!  Check out this great verse that has always helped realign my perspective.

Spring green Leafs - defocused Background

Summer is my favorite season. I get to be outside more, take some trips with my family, and in general life just takes on a different rhythm. I’ve also found that because my routine changes, sometimes my spiritual disciplines change, and not always for the better.

So, as we head into the Summer season here are three ways that can help keep your faith from becoming stagnant in the weeks ahead and keep the Lord as your portion.

Worship On The Go
Worship is more than just singing songs it’s living life in a way that brings glory to God and honors him. Maybe you’ll be missing some Sunday Church gatherings this Summer while you’re on vacation but that doesn’t mean your worship has to stop. If you’re out in nature take a moment to pause and reflect on God’s creation and just give him thanks (worship). If your family is on vacation take intentional time to thank God for his blessings and even have a family devotion time (worship) as part of your vacation time. Even a moment spent in worship can be powerful food for your soul.

Re-Connect
No, I’m not talking about fixing your WiFi, I’m talking about people. Between work, school, and other activities the opportunities to just hang out, eat food, and fellowship are often hard to come by. Think about the significant spiritual conversations you’ve had over the years. Many of them happened in a coffee shop, out on a walk, or late night in the living room of your house. Be intentional this Summer and create opportunities to have real conversations with people. Dig deep, listen, pray, and watch how God can use other people as a catalyst for your faith.

Re-Discover
Let the natural change of pace that Summer brings disrupt your routines in a way that causes you to approach your faith from a new perspective. Reflect, read, and pray in different environments or in different ways. If you’re a list and routine type of person try something different. If you’re more spontaneous try adding just a bit of structure to your Summer schedule. You might be surprised at how a little tweak to how you normally do things can help you re-discover and breathe new life into your relationship with God.

 

What are some of the things you’ve tried that helped breathe new life into your Faith?
Feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Fear and Faith

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My son has what I would call an irrational fear of ‘bad guys’ in our basement. Sometimes this fear is so overwhelming he won’t even go downstairs by himself.  This fear isn’t based on any prior experience but somehow it’s a very real fear for him.

Whether our fears are rational or irrational they often have the same effect on our lives. Fear both paralyzes us and has the power to veil the truth. Ultimately fear doesn’t save us from danger and actually leads us to death. Fear was present during the temptation that was offered in the garden to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. We certainly don’t know all that was going through Eve’s mind as Satan tempted her but she may have thought:
What if what the serpent is saying is more true than what God has said? What if I don’t eat this fruit? Will I be blinded forever, as the serpent is saying?
Fear can be a powerful motivator and in this case it was used to lead Adam and Eve away from the truth of God, not toward it. Fear didn’t lead them to life; it led them to death.

cliff jumpingSo how do we overcome our fear? We do it by deepening our faith. Where fear causes paralysis, faith challenges us to go where no one else will go. Where fear tears down belief, faith builds it up!

I’ll never forget the first time I went cliff jumping into the Pacific Ocean. I was living in Hawaii and my small group Bible study guys thought it would be a good bonding experience to hurl ourselves off a cliff into the ocean. As I stood looking down the 40 feet or so into the clear blue waters of the Pacific, with the waves crashing below me, fear took over. As the more daring guys in our group jumped off the cliff into the waters below, my fear should have subsided but it didn’t.  Even though I saw one guy after another land safely in the water, my belief that I’d be okay still wasn’t greater than my fear. I could logically see that everything would be fine, but knowledge alone wasn’t enough to make me jump.

Eventually, when I finally did jump, my faith grew and my fear diminished. Sure, I still hesitated a bit on the second jump but now that my faith was greater than my fear, it was easier.

Belief changes everything. When we believe that Jesus is who he says he is than our faith is about more than belonging to a religious club. And so we pray because we believe that God answers our prayers! And we read the Bible because we believe it really is the word of God!

Trusting in the truth of God allows us to respond to the lies of fear and tell them to go to hell where they belong. Faith believes that the one who created us is he is who he says he is. That he is right and true!

What lies have you believed that have paralyzed your life? Where have you allowed fear to keep you from stepping out in faith?

Spend some time with God asking him to speak truth into  areas of fear in your life and to fill your mind with the truth of his Word!

 

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Isaiah 26:4

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5

Faith and Fearlessness

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Meeting my firstborn for the first time was not quite what I expected. After waiting patiently in a hospital corridor pacing and praying for an hour, I had a short moment with my daughter in the hallway outside the operating room. I was permitted but a few seconds to see Soraya as the neonatologist wheeled her by in an incubator. She was so tiny and thin, about the length of my hand. The image of her beet-red body and hairless, translucent skin are forever etched in my memory. She looked more like a baby rat than a baby girl, but she was my baby rat!

It was a surreal moment, a moment when the shock and awe of crisis temporarily put a damper on the joy of fatherhood. Here lay my newborn daughter sucking her tiny thumb with an oversized CPAP affixed to her face. I wasn’t even permitted to hold or kiss her before she was whisked away to the NICU.

Meanwhile, my wife still lay on the operating table in serious condition. When we arrived at the hospital that morning, little did we know that a regular checkup would end in an emergency c-section. During her doctor appointment, Meljoné began to vomit and her blood pressure skyrocketed. As they tried to stabilize her, our daughter’s heart rate dramatically dropped, and that’s when the decision to perform surgery was made. At two pounds and thirty weeks, Soraya was abruptly brought into the land of the breathing two and a half months premature.

Throughout the next seven weeks, we spent every waking moment at that hospital. God was more than faithful to answer our prayers and give us supernatural assurance with every new obstacle we faced. Meljoné recounts hearing the Holy Spirit whisper to her that He was with her as she was being carted into the operating room. From that moment on she was never without peace.

Not Why but How
The gravity of any tragedy always settles in eventually, and for me it was during our second night in the hospital. I sat in the Intensive Care Unit at Meljone’s bedside while Soraya was in the NICU. As I began to think back on the past forty-two hours, it all finally hit me. I started to breakdown and cry and found myself asking questions. “Why is this happening to me and my family? Where did we go wrong? Was there something I did to deserve this? Could I have done something to prevent this?”

As I poured out my fears and cares to God in prayer, He reminded me of Paul and Silas being thrown in a Philippian jail for preaching the gospel. They were apostles, doing the will of God, but they never bemoaned their lot. They weren’t demanding God to give them an answer as to why He allowed them to be mistreated. They didn’t look for an opportunity to quit once things got dicey. Instead, in the midnight hour, beaten, bruised and bloodied, they praised God, and the prisons doors opened!

Asking God why is neither an inappropriate nor illegal question to ask. He is certainly big enough to handle our issues and complaints. The why question, however, is just not the best question to pose when going through adversity. There is a better question – the question of how. How will God be glorified through my deliverance? How can I praise Him through this circumstance? This is a more constructive inquiry that helps cultivate a kingdom mentality.

As I sat in that hospital room, I started to praise the Lord, and my whole perspective changed. My thoughts went from: “My wife is in the ICU. My baby girl is in an incubator. Things aren’t going so well.” To: “My wife is in the ICU. My baby girl is in an incubator. Praise God they are both still alive!” The circumstances didn’t change. I changed, and in that midnight hour my prison doors opened. From that moment on I knew our deliverance would come and that our purpose for being in that hospital was to glorify our Father in Heaven.

For the next two months we became witnessing machines. We witnessed to just about everything that moved. Doctors, nurses, phlebotomists, janitors and even other patients heard about little Soraya and her big God. We testified to many of the hospital staff, and Soraya’s remarkable story made it all the way up to the president of the hospital. Today, Soraya is a healthy and happy six-year old girl.

Don’t Waste your Wilderness
Every trial is an opportunity to advance the kingdom of God. If we’re going to go through trial, we might as well grow through them. God allows dark times to draw us to Him, so that when He brings us through it, we can bring Him fame.

But this story is not just about my family. It’s about you. You are a survivor and a reviver of others. The question is not: “Will you be delivered?” The question is rather: “Will you glorify God through your deliverance?” The fact that you came into this world is miraculous in and of itself. Regardless of how you arrived, you will not leave this world without facing a mountain or a giant that can only be conquered through faith.

How will you respond when life throws you a curveball? Those of faith who have walked before us were far from cowardly. They were men and women of valor and guts, possessing bravery in the midst of brutality, audacity in the midst of uncertainty. Their sacrifices sound a clarion call to our generation.

You and I are now handed the baton to run this race with boldness and courage. May it be said of us that through faith we subdued kingdoms, worked for righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned the flight of armies, and returned to women their dead raised to life. (Hebrews 11:33-35)

Live fearlessly, mighty warrior! The defining characteristics of the end-times will be terror or courage. Which one will define you? In Christ, you have no reason to live afraid.

 

Jeff Rostocil is a speaker and author. His latest book is called Bulletproof:Accessing the Favor and Protection of God in the Secret Place

 

Enduring Faith

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Last week at the Desiring God conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we were able to connect with pastors and leaders from all over the United States and even some church leaders from around the world. The conference was great, but after three 15-hour days I was ready to zone out and rest on the plane ride home. What I didn’t know was that God wanted me to hear a story that was unlike any I had ever heard and one I will definitely never forget.

As the airplane filled up, a young dad with his one-year-old son on his lap sat in between me and another gentleman who was sitting by the window. As the doors to the plane closed I noticed there were two empty seats in the row in front of me, so I moved up to them so the dad wouldn’t have to hold his son on his lap for the whole flight. In my new aisle seat, it was just myself and an older well-dressed gentleman sitting near the window with an empty seat in between us. In hindsight I wish I had initiated a conversation right away, but we only exchanged a ‘hello’ until the last hour of the flight. Our conversation started when I noticed he had a Russian Bible. I smiled at him and pointed to the Bible on my iPad. With a thick Russian accent this man named Yevgeny began to share his life story with a passion and emotion that reflected a deep well of experiences rooted in a death-defying faith. Here is a synopsis of the story he told:

Yevgeny was born in Communist Russia during WWII. Before he was born his father was imprisoned in Siberia for his Christian faith. His mother was about to be executed for her faith when in a moment of desperation she prayed to God and then plead with the solider about to pull the trigger, saying she was pregnant so he would be killing two people. The soldier had a young child at home and couldn’t pull the trigger. Yevgeny’s mother lived and so did he. When WWII ended, Yevgeny met his father for the first time and he still recalls that meeting – embracing a gaunt bearded man who had survived the horrors of prison in Siberia. Years later his father shared with Yevgeny how other Christians who were packed in his jail cell would scrawl pieces of scripture on the concrete wall as they remembered them. Their fragmented Bible was written on stone and served as the only comfort and hope they had in that dark and cold place.

This commitment to the faith displayed by his parents was a springboard for his own faith as he recalled to me the persecution the underground church faced in Russia. He told me how believers would print and bind their own copies of the Bible to distribute to the persecuted church. At one point, as he told me about a group of believers getting caught by the KGB for distributing Bibles, he looked down at his own leather bound Bible and momentarily reflected on the access to Christian literature here in the United States. With tears beginning to well in his eyes, he commented on  how easy it is to access Christian literature here compared to what he had experienced.

His parents had experienced intense persecution and he had as well. While serving mandatory time in the Russian military, his quarters were often subject to a search by KGB agents looking for illegal literature – his Bible. With hiding places for his Bible limited, all he could do was pray they wouldn’t find it. And they never did. God then gave Yevgeny an opportunity to pray with one of these same KGB agents to receive Christ. As the agent prayed, Yevgeny pulled his Bible from its hiding place. The new convert stared in amazement that the Bible had never been found even though it was there in the barracks the whole time. Three generations of Yevgeny’s family were persecuted for their faith before eventually immigrating to the United States and as he shared about this transition is was clearly evident how grateful he was.

As we approached the airport in Spokane, I asked why he was coming to Spokane. He told me his five children, parents, and siblings were now spread out around the United States. His mother had passed away the year before at age 99, and he was visiting his 97-year-old father in Spokane, knowing his days are short. I was amazed to hear that not only had they endured persecution they had lived long, full lives.  As the airplane taxied to the terminal, I regretted that I hadn’t started this conversation as soon as we had taken off in Minneapolis but felt incredibly blessed at the same time.

You never know the stories of those around you. I had just sat next to a 69-year-old giant of the faith from Russia, whom I will never forget.

 

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