life of faith

taking baby steps & leaps & everything in between


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Don’t Compare: We Serve a Very Personal God

Read this today and thought it was too significant not to share…

In the gospel of Mark, Jesus heals the same affliction (blindness) in different ways. One person’s healing involves spit and gradual clarity, while another’s healing comes instantaneously through Jesus’s words (Mark 8:22-26, 10:46-52).

The Daily Walk Bible draws out:

“…Why the different approaches to healing? Most likely it was because Jesus’ methods were often tailor-made to the individual’s needs.

So it is with spiritual lessons God wants to teach us. God may teach your friend to depend on him through financial problems; you learn the same lesson through an illness. Another Christian learns to walk by faith in affluence; you learn it in poverty. One person learns patience through being single; another learns it through being married and having children. In each case, it is dangerous to compare – rather than commit to – God’s perfect curriculum.”

Another reason why comparison is unhealthy – even (and especially) among our Christian walks. Each person is different and God uses & teaches each person differently. One is not better than the other.

There’s another instance in Mark where a man who had just been healed from thousands of demons wants to follow Jesus, and Jesus tells him instead to “go home” and tell his family what God did for him (Mark 5:18-20). It may seem like being Jesus’ disciple was the more “glamorous” of the two options, but God had other plans for this healed man and his community that were just as important and meaningful.

I hope God will continue to teach me this lesson because I am so guilty of comparing myself to others, and also of being hurt or offended when I sense that people don’t fully approve of my life or my decisions.

I have to say, comparison can even be a problem in marriage. Dayne’s and my spiritual walks are not the same; we don’t learn the same way or grow the same way, and we’re not called to all the same things. We’re different people. For some reason, this has been more of a struggle for me to accept than for Dayne. I keep wanting us to always be on the same page, which is just impossible and a bit ridiculous.

Why does comparison steal our joy? Because we were created and designed to live our lives, not anybody else’s.

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Walking with Jesus

Walking through the Gospels is so different from walking through the rest of the Bible. Yes, I know, I just wrote a blog post stressing how Jesus is the same person as the God of the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is absolutely relevant to modern-day Christians. I still hold to what I said. In fact, I think I’m noticing how the book of Matthew is so different because I read through the entire Old Testament, and now it feels like I am getting this intensely intimate look at God in the flesh. Like I am constantly waiting to see what He will do next (!), even though I’ve read the Gospels before.

I’m reading the book of Matthew very slowly and taking it all in… in fact, I am underlining so much I think my pen will run out before I’m through. What really strikes me is not only the things that Jesus introduces that are “upside-down” to the culture of the time (esteeming women, advocating for nonviolence, hanging out with tax collectors & “sinners”, teaching a righteousness surpassing that of the Pharisees, loving your enemies, etc.), but also the standard Jesus is calling us to if we follow Him.

Today, I was so convicted by these passages:

“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and “sinners”?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” (Matthew 9:10-13)

What does it say about me if I only hang out with people who “meet my criteria”? Why haven’t I been seeking out and giving my time to the “sick” (those who are going through difficult times, the poor, the literally sick, the addicted, people who may be different from me, etc.)? Jesus has given me something to share, and if I never seek out the people who need it, what good am I? (cf. Matthew 5:13) This is a huge challenge for me.

And look at what Jesus says to his disciples early in their ministry:

“So do not be afraid of [men]. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:26-31)

What really stands out to me is 1) how the disciples must feel hearing this as they are about to go out on their own to preach & heal for the first time, and 2) how I’ve read the second half of that verse (about the sparrows) many times as a comforting passage, when it is really contextually about not being afraid of men (and possibly being killed for your faith) because God is your Father, knows you intimately, takes care of you, and has a plan for you, even in death.

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32)

I confess that I do a poor job of acknowledging Jesus before men (and women). I have especially noticed this in the past few months when it seems like everyone and their sister is reminding me that God is in control over my health. I should be the one taking God’s Word to heart, proclaiming that God is in control over my health, and sharing what Jesus has done for me, because He is Lord. I really want to do better at not fearing men (and women), not being concerned about offending someone, and just sharing the truth. I believe in Jesus as my Savior, and I am challenged to be open about that.

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)

Wow. I think this verse really speaks for itself. I am challenged once again to look at my priorities and make sure I am not loving anyone or anything more than Christ, including my husband. I imagine this will be even harder when I have sons or daughters.

I’m also challenged as I think about the strenuous way I’ve been comparing my life to those around me rather than seeking Jesus above all else. I’m talking about comparing my marriage to other marriages, my travel to others’ travels, my house to others’ houses, my car to others’ cars, my job to others’ jobs, my clothes to others’ clothes, and around and around we go. Whoever finds his life will lose it… well, it seems to me that I’ve been looking to “find my life” a little too much and not seeking the Kingdom first.

This has always been a challenge for me – the tension between seeking comfort in this world vs. seeking Christ. Our American culture forcefully teaches us to seek comfort, especially in the area of material possessions. I don’t consider myself materialistic, but I can truly get caught up in this, especially as we’re trying to make our house a home. You can really go overboard in that, just like you can go overboard in trying to look or dress a certain way, etc. Not only are you seeking comfort, but you can be indulging pride and heightening standards of competition and comparison with your neighbors, friends, and families.

I read this quote from Rick Warren (author of The Purpose-Driven Life) once:

“We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn’t going to make sense. Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfortGod is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.”

This could all sound very morbid until you realize that God is the source of all joy. God is the foundation and author of your purpose. Nobody loves you more than He does. He desires your good, not your harm, and He has compassion on you (cf. Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 9:36). In the midst of all these challenges, Jesus was also preaching the good news – that we can be forgiven of all of our sin and be in eternal relationship with our Maker, who is in the midst of making us perfect to His glory.

Today’s reading ended with this passage, which is a comfort to me:

“Come to me [Jesus], all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)


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God Blesses Our Obedience

I had a girls’ night in with a dear friend of mine this past Friday, and she told me all about the decision God was asking her to make in one of her most important relationships. Evidenced by the amount of tissues we went through, this was not an emotionally easy or pleasant decision. In fact, it was a pretty rough decision given that she was going to have to trust God – not to give her what she wanted, but to give her what He knows is best for her in the end. In fact, that is having to trust God’s character more than anything else – that He is good and that He has our best interests, and the world’s best interests for that matter, at heart.

It wasn’t easy to watch my friend go through all the hurt that goes along with obeying what God was calling her to do, and part of me wanted to “fix it” for her, which in my limited human view would have been NOT making the decision and keeping the potentially destructive yet quite comfortable patterns going.

However, both of us had full confidence when she left that night (despite strong, selfish emotions) that God is sovereign and that disobeying Him leads to deep heartache…

Saturday morning, my husband and I got up early to go to marriage counseling. (Yes, we go to marriage counseling. It is awesome. I fully recommend it.) Anyway, in retrospect of the last few weeks, I realized that I had obeyed the Lord and grown in faith. I know because I never would have done anything like this naturally. I took a difficult situation that I felt VERY strongly about, and I surrendered my feelings about it to God and to Dayne and waited. I gave Dayne weeks to ponder the decision we had to make together without inserting my two cents everyday. I prayed through it and prayed for Dayne’s wisdom in making the decision. I talked about the situation with others in an honest way without putting Dayne down for having a different viewpoint (showing respect for my husband). And when it came time to make the decision, I gave Dayne a few days’ notice that we were going to have to talk soon so he could wrap up his thoughts and bring it up when he felt comfortable. And it came out in marriage counseling that he really appreciated the way I handled the situation. We were able to make a decision together quickly after our counseling session and now we are on the same page as a team with a beautiful compromise that I couldn’t have envisioned for us…

Last night, I was feeling really discouraged and anxious around the time I was going to have to go to youth group (I’m volunteering as a leader with my church). I didn’t feel well yesterday, and a lot of thoughts were running through my head about my health situation, my job, my friends, etc. I talked with Dayne about how I was feeling and how I wasn’t sure if it was worth it for me to be at youth group anyway, since I haven’t gotten to know the girls very well yet and it didn’t feel like we were getting the chance to connect. Dayne reminded me that it’s only the third week (see how my emotions run away with me?) and that I have to keep trying. I almost turned around twice on my way there. In fact, I warned Dayne that I might be coming home. And I had to pull over at one point to gather my thoughts and calm down. BUT I felt an extra push to go the second time I tried to turn around, and I went. And wouldn’t you know – I got to have some good conversations for the first time with four girls last night, and I finally learned ALL of their names. I love ministry and encouraging younger girls in their lives and walks with Jesus, and I know God has gifted me for it. I just have to learn to step forward in faith (with a little push from my husband) when my selfish emotions tell me to walk away. I really felt like God clearly rewarded me for obeying Him last night…

I got to catch up with my good friend from Friday night on my drive home from youth group. She told me all about how well things went when she went forward with that difficult decision. Beyond her wildest expectations. And I can clearly see God working in her life and in that relationship, and it is thrilling…

Whatever God’s calling you to do in your life, keep walking with Him. He won’t leave you when things get tough.

I’ve almost finished the Old Testament in my Daily Walk Bible (I’m in the book of Zechariah). Even in some of the most trying of times for the Jewish people (God’s temple being destroyed and the exile in Babylon – the consequences for all of Israel’s idol worship and sins), God kept promising them that He would establish a remnant in Jerusalem, and He would be with them, and He was going to send the Messiah to take care of their sins once and for all. On the other side of Jesus’ sacrifice, I can see just how faithful God has always been to His people. All He desires is for us to fix our eyes on Him and to walk in obedience with Him.

“Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. … Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 11:16, 18-19 (NIV)

“But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge…” – Psalm 141:8 (NIV)

“Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” – Isaiah 46:8-10 (NIV)

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

“Becoming a Christian has been likened to taking a step into the unknown… and landing on a Rock.” – today’s Daily Walk Bible devotional