{re}fresh

Month: January, 2015

Hearing Like a Child

by mandyade

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Recently, I lost an important book that I needed for the following day. I searched, asked God, but still went to bed frustrated. That night I dreamed that I found it in the most unusual place and, yes, it was right there in the morning!

God was not only helping me find my stuff, He was speaking to my heart. He wanted to show me something tangible through this dream. You see, before I went to bed that night I had read an article that created a wave of doubt. I wondered if I was taking God’s voice too literally.

I have been hearing God in dreams for many years and this was the first time I have ever considered that maybe I was too childlike in my approach. My questioning didn’t last for long because that night He showed up in my dreams, but this time in the most undeniable, concrete way as he showed me where to find my lost object. He was encouraging me to dive into childlike faith like never before!

It is so important that we hear our Father with a childlike heart. I think most of us start out with childlike faith when we first believe. But experience can tarnish that child’s heart. The good news is, we get to decide whether we will remain a child in our faith or grow up and out of childlike faith.

We can respond to His voice in one of two ways:

1. We can question, poke and prod.

Most times we tend to question ourselves, not God. Its not that we don’t trust God, its that we don’t trust ourselves to hear. I have learned it is better to be a fool for thinking it was God and acting on it, than a wise woman cautiously questioning and letting windows slip through my fingers.

Obviously we want to get it right every time, but we won’t. If we expect perfection from ourselves we will doubt more and see His glory less. But if we rest in Him, expecting more of His goodness, with less emphasis on our ability, we will see more of His glory.

I would rather die a fool believing than die a wise skeptic.

2 We can believe like a child.

Of course this takes faith. If you’re reading this you probably have faith in God. But most of us lack faith believing that we can hear Him. We know He can speak to us, but we doubt His ability to make Himself clear. A little child believes whatever daddy says, she knows that daddy would speak loud enough for her to hear, because she knows how loved she is. We have to believe that He wants us to be able to hear as much as we want to hear!

It is good to ask God for signs, but signs don’t substitute simple faith. Even with signs, there will always be place for skepticism if we allow it. Gideon, Moses (and many others) had great signs from God, but they needed childlike faith to pull heaven to earth!

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The Depths and Heights of Death and Life

by mymorethanme

 

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I don’t know about you, but when I am deeply desperate, when darkness is suffocating, and I am feeling close to death–that’s when I am driven to my knees. Even knowing God, I still tend to stand tall, exhausting every last possibility within my power, until when all my best efforts have failed, I cry out. Don’t misunderstand me: I do pray first, and throughout, but when I am at the end of myself my prayers turn to pleas and I cling like a child, like a drowning child gasping for, grasping at Life.

Over the years I have found myself in an ocean of darkness many times; I have sunk to my knees less frequently. I prefer to float, to coast, and when waters get rough, signaling an approaching storm, I make lists. I plan, I research, I prepare. When the waves kick up and the sky gets black and my lists are violently wrenched from my grip and my mind goes blank forgetting my plans and my research becomes ineffectual as I never accounted for factors x, y, or z, and all my preparations go straight down the drain I scramble, arms flailing, blindly reaching out, desperate for debris, for a raft, for a hand.

Without fail I find Life reaching back and I am pulled out of the raging waters. I am steadied, I am soothed, I am stilled. The storm may stop; it may not. But I have. I have stopped striving; I have ceased seeking my way. I have surrendered myself into His care and have at long last found rest. Until the next time. Until this last time. See, this last time I cried out and reached up and God grasped my hand, and then–He let go. He let me sink. On the bottom, on my knees, I drowned and died and He raised me up and showed me, “This, this is what you must do.”

I had to let go; I had to let God. I had to trust beyond the blessing I sought; I had to trust the Blesser. I had to die; I had to live. I had to dive deeper. He wanted me higher. He wanted my sights set solely, securely above the storm–on Him. In this place, even in pain, even in the choppy, sloppy storms of life, I have peace. I have joy. I have hope. Even face-to-face with apparently unanswered prayer, all my prayers are answered. Even in the face of nothing going my way, I am face-to-face with Everything.

The Lord has allowed these storms to wash away my walls, wipe them clean out, and Love now flows freely, and this, this is Everything. I have cried out through sweat and tears and have found that better than receiving the blessing is receiving the Blesser.

Like Jacob, we must contend, we must fight. We don’t fight God; we fight our flesh. We fight the enemy. We fight through to cling to the One who can change our names, who can change our lives. Persistent prayer will prevail. Even if it seems He’s let you go, let you down, let you drown–fear not. His life is resurrection life. The end of you is the beginning of Him. And He is Everything.

How to Argue with God and Win

by Mike McKinniss

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Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” Genesis 18:32

Sometimes—like anytime He asks me to do something—I argue with God. More often than not, the Lord is compelling me to do something nice for someone else, He’s asking me not just to tell another person that God loves them, but to actually be the manifestation of that love.

But I’m more comfortable being, you know, not loving. Or at least, just minding my own business. What’s the deal, God? Can’t I just ignore this person beside me or the desperate need right in front of me? How come you never ask me to do that?

That’s how my arguments go with the Lord. I hardly ever win because He’s always right, of course. And even when I do win and I neglect the loving thing He’s requested of me, I actually lose. I become a worse person for having fought His intention to care for the people around me.

So, arguing with the Lord is generally a bad idea, I suppose.

I was told one time by a rabbi friend, however, that the reason God chose Abraham to be the father of the nation through whom He would save the world (Gen. 12:1-3) was because Abraham was willing to argue with the Lord. Abraham was chosen because he argues with God? What did this mean?

The evidence for Abraham’s willingness to take God to task is found in Genesis 18. Three strangers, representing the Lord, come to Abraham’s camp. They are on their way to Sodom so that they might destroy it. The city’s wicked stench has reached God’s nostrils and it must be destroyed. Abraham, for his part, is probably thinking of the well-being of his nephew Lot, who had settled there. So Abraham pleads with these powerful strangers to spare the city if any just ten righteous people can be found there.

In effect, Abraham wins the argument. God agrees with him.

Abraham is not the only biblical character to do this. In Exodus 32, Moses descends Mt. Sinai to find that the Israelites have fashioned a golden calf in his absence and have commenced worshiping it, forgetting that the invisible God is the one who saved them from the Egyptians’ spears. God sees it too, and swears to destroy the Israelites for their short memories and blatant idolatry. But Moses stands up for them and for God’s honor.  Moses argues that God’s mercy would better display His greatness to the world than His quick judgment.

Moses wins the debate. God relents in His judgment and Israel is spared.

Maybe the rabbi was right. There seems to be something to this theme of biblical heroes arguing with the Lord and getting what they want.

The difference, though, is that these biblical figures are arguing for good things, things that are on God’s heart already. Abraham and Moses each contradict the Lord, not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others. Not interested primarily in their own interests, Abraham and Moses are fighting for more of God’s goodness. They appeal to God’s mercy—his higher nature, perhaps—and pull out of the Lord His best.

Maybe arguing with God isn’t such a bad idea, after all. I just have to get on the right side of the argument.

My Jacob Moment

by Dawn Aldrich

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So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. Genesis 32:24 NIV

There comes a time in our walk with Jesus, when our past catches up to the present. That past that we gulped down hard and packed away deep below the surface; the chapter that we thought we finally closed. But the funny thing is, if we don’t resolve the past, it keeps challenging us to a wrestle in hopes of a resolution.

It was early spring and the New Hampshire mountains remained captive by winter’s frozen veil.

Lost in thought, I trudged my way up the newly formed snow path from my bunkhouse to the chapel, wondering if I’d made the right decision, because women’s retreats weren’t “my thing.” Maybe it was all the fluff and foo-foo conversations that seemed to permeate every women’s retreat I’d attended before. I’d much rather bypass all those niceties and jump right into the hard stuff—the meaty conversations that changed your heart forever.

I waded through the thick molasses worship set and then poised myself to take copious notes of the speaker’s message, all-the-while praying, “Dear God, I showed up. Now speak! Make this retreat worth my effort, please?” Oh, boy. Did. He. Ever.

It wasn’t so much what the speaker said, but the challenge she presented for the next morning. Based upon God’s name, Abba (Father), we were to make a list of all the positive life lessons we garnered from our earthly fathers. {In marches my past…that chapter I’d slammed shut when I was fifteen when I spewed disrespect towards the father who walked out on us all.} I wrestled God to the ground all night—argued my fatherless, painful past was punishment enough. How dare He open up that closed chapter again? Besides, what positive lessons could I have possibly learned from a father who walked out on his daughters?

By daybreak, I conceded and slipped away to a quiet room, alone. In the silence I gave God another punch, spilling my angry words onto paper. Five pages later, I took a breath and God asked, “Are you done yet? Now, write these words down. Here are all the positive things your father passed onto you.” And God proceeded to bring to mind all the wonderful characteristics embodied by my father—those things that I saw in myself, but ignored because I knew it meant I was a bit like him. Then when the list exhausted itself, God said, “Now write these things down. Here’s the positive lessons you learned DESPITE the fact your dad walked away. And this list was where God showed me how he redeems the past, the wrong and makes all things work for good for those who love Him.

And before the hour ended, God threw me a challenge. Knowing the wrong and the pain my father caused me, knowing now, all the positive aspects he added to my life just because of who God created him to be and despite the facts, God forgave him. God could see the wrong no longer and only saw the man…the father…He created him to be from the beginning of time. So, what about me? God asked me to offer my father the grace and forgiveness that Jesus freely offered me.

Exhausted, I left the retreat a few hours later—a whole day early—and pondered God’s challenge. I’d love to say I took action immediately, but I didn’t. I’d be lying if I said my heart melted that day and I ran to my father’s side and threw my hands around his neck and forgave him instantly. It took months. God wouldn’t let me go and kept reminding me of Jesus’ grace so freely given. When I finally had enough wrestling, I visited my father and relayed this story, face-to-face. I truly forgave him for the past and God redeemed the past.

I call this wrestling, my Jacob moment after the Old Testament story found in Genesis 32:22-32 where Jacob wrestles with God through the night. Have you ever had a Jacob moment? Are you resisting God’s prodding for some unresolved issue? Is there someone you need to forgive?

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