Spiritual Growth

A Divine Potential

remodeling

I admire people who can make something out of seemingly nothing or, who find value in another person’s trash. Sadly, I am not one of those individuals. You may never find me making crafts or shopping for used items at some yard sale. Call me spoiled or uneconomical, but I take pleasure in purchasing quality items and paying the full price (unless there’s a sale).

However, lately, I have noticed a lot of DIY projects on Pintrest and Instagram that has got me feeling like I missed out on one of God’s greatest giveaways – an abundance of creativity. Apparently, my friends have a lot of it to spare.

One gal pal in particular found four old, broken chairs behind a restaurant. She loaded them up in her car and took them home since she was in need of a dining set. She took the seats apart, sowed new fabric onto them, sanded the wooden frames and painted them gold. After attaching the seats back to the bodies, she had brand-new fancy looking chairs to call her own. What I would have considered a lost cause, she deemed priceless, figuratively and literally.

It dawned on me that when she discovered the chairs, she didn’t just see a big mess; she saw potential just as God did when He created the world.

Contrary to the Big Bang Theory, the book of Genesis makes it clear that God created everything and everyone. It states, “In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate” (Genesis 1:1-2).

After God made the skies, land, plants and animals, He decided to create humans. God took dirty, loose soil and made a man. Then he took a bone from man’s rib cage and created the woman (read Genesis 2:7, 21). God was pleased when He looked down at everything He had made. He saw potential in a dark space and created perfection.

Even though much of God’s creation today has been marred by sin, He doesn’t obsess about the broken fragments of our lives. He’s God and He’s pretty creative. According to the author of the Book of Hebrews, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14).

Simply put, we are no longer a lost cause because of the finished work of Christ on the cross. And because we are not a lost cause, we shouldn’t interpret difficulties as a sign to quit. In knowing this, we should look at the circumstances in our lives and see them the way God sees them – with potential.

When the Israelites were released from captivity in Babylon by the Persian king, Cyrus, not many of them returned to Jerusalem. The small group who did, found the city in ruins. Under God’s command, Cyrus was committed to restoring the region to its glory days by rebuilding the Temple. The people participated in this project using materials that Cyrus provided them with. Although the task was daunting at times, the people persevered and completed the Temple (read the Book of Ezra).

The damage done in Jerusalem represents the obstacles that we all face in life. It is interesting to note that God did not get entirely involved with the rebuilding project by performing miraculous deeds as in former crises. He let the people do it themselves which is a clear indication that God does not give us success on a silver platter.

Much like rebuilding a city or taking on DIY projects, getting over a divorce, dealing with health issues or overcoming a financial calamity takes a lot of faith, patience and hard work – all of which are developed through the sight of potential.

It’s hard to see the beauty in difficulties, but they are in fact gifts from God. Through them, we are able to grow and propel to greater heights of perfection which can only be found in Christ.

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Faith in Action

“You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” Deuteronomy 1:6

Have you ever felt stuck? Paralyzed? How many times have you talked yourself into doing something, and even envisioned yourself going after a dream only to find yourself in a standstill?

The inability to do something that you are fully capable of doing is the worst feeling in the world. It’s a feeling I know too well.

I can recall days when I literally felt bound. When I was in high school I was sitting in my geometry class feeling groggy from a cold I was just getting over. I folded my arms on my desk and put my head down. Before I knew it, I dozed off. The sound of the bell awakened me, and I opened my eyes, ready to grab my bags and dash out of the classroom. I was so embarrassed I slept through the entire period.

But when I tried to move, my limbs would not budge. I felt lethargic and frozen in place. I tried again, but I could not lift up my head. I panicked because from my peripheral vision, something dark and evil was looming over my shoulder. I could not even scream.

I could see my teacher looking at me. She had one arm on her hip and the other one in the air with a board eraser in her hand. “Well, aren’t you going to leave? I know you don’t love my class that much,” she said. She turned her back to wipe the blackboard. I could not reply.

I said a silent, desperate prayer to God. Please forgive me for not paying attention during lecture. I am sorry. Help me!

Finally, I was able to wiggle my fingers, then I sneezed. My head jerked and I lifted it up and all of sudden felt life throughout my body. I grabbed my stuff and left the room as fast as I could.

I don’t know what happened to me that day. But years later, after a couple of more episodes, I discovered through an online medical article that I may have had sleep paralysis. According to research, this phenomenon is the result of sleep deprivation or irregular sleep habits and affects half of the population. In some countries, people refer to it as “spiritual oppression.”

Thankfully it’s not uncommon and usually does not persist or cause bodily harm. Neither should fear of failure.

While sleep paralysis can evoke fear, fear alone is debilitating. It can cause you to not move forward when necessary, even if there is nothing physically stopping you and every single body part is functioning properly.

When the Israelites reached their window of opportunity at the Red Sea, they were filled with terror. How were they supposed to cross over? There weren’t any boats in sight. And it did not help when they noticed that the Egyptians were pursuing them. At that point, all they could do was cry out to God. Moses tried to calm them down, saying “Fear not.” But God’s children were not convinced. Moses himself felt uncertain.

The Lord said to him, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward” (Exodus 14:15). If you read the whole passage, you will find that God never once entertained their fears. You would think, with Him being powerful that He would have stretched out His mighty arm, gather them in His hand and carry them over. But instead He gave them instructions to follow. He made them put their faith to work so that they might be delivered from stagnation.

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So in a sense He did carry them over! Hearing from God restored the Israelites’ motivation and destroyed the power of fear over them. What looked impossible became effortless and they were able to overcome their obstacles. Why? Because they stopped standing and did something. They prayed and followed directions.

The Israelites’ journey is no different from our own. Just like them, we are all trying to get ahead in life, and sometimes that means breaking out of our comfort zones (dead ends) and trusting God all the way. We don’t only need faith (Matthew 17:20) to believe it can happen; we need clear instructions from God (Psalm 32:8) and a solid work ethic to make it happen (James 2:17).

Scripture to meditate on:

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17

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Keep People in Prayer…For Real

 

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” 1 Timothy 2:1Image

I recently found a stack of sympathy cards that my husband and I received from our friends years ago after the loss of our unborn baby. Many of them read, “You are in our prayers.”

I wondered if our loved ones had really been praying for us or if they jotted those words to provide comfort for the moment. It’s not that our friends are bad people – I am sure they meant well – but, some of them were not even believers at the time.

And if I could be honest, there have been times when I have written and verbally shared those same thoughts to loved ones and I did not follow through with those prayers. It’s not that I didn’t want to pray for them. It’s just that I allowed time to pass and as a result, the promise slipped my mind or I had such a busy day that I felt too tired to pray.

But as valid as my excuses may seem to me, it doesn’t make my behavior OK. Instead, it reveals my lack of integrity. If I say I will do something, I must mean it and do it … right away. Besides, who is to say God is not counting on me to pray on behalf of whoever is in need of a miracle or blessing of some sort? I don’t ever want to let an opportunity to pray for someone slip my mind only to find out that their circumstances took a turn for the worse.

In the Old Testament, the Book of Ezekiel records the sins of the people, mainly the prophets and priests (God’s leaders) and princes (political leaders). According to one passage, they “have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice” (Ezekiel 22:29).

God was getting ready to unleash his wrath on them and was looking for someone who would pray on the people’s behalf. He said, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one” (v. 30).

In other words, God was looking for someone to be a hedge of protection for the people because they were going to need it. The people were so sinful that there was no way they could pray for themselves. It is written: “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29). Because there was not a righteous person to intercede for the land, God carried out His plan to punish the people.

There are other cases in which God was looking for someone to “stand in the gap” for the people and actually found some volunteers. In one case, Isaiah volunteered to preach the Good News to the people so that they might repent (Isaiah 6:8); Queen Esther prayed and fasted on behalf of the Jews, who were facing execution, and God protected them (Esther 4:5); and Moses stood in the gap for the Israelites when they complained, demonstrating their ungratefulness (Exodus 32).

Each of these individuals took initiative to pray in the midst of a crisis. They did not hesitate or allow enough time to pass for the situation to get worse. They recognized the danger and took advantage of the opportunity to pray.

Today, God is still looking for people to pray for the lost, the grieving, the needy and the oppressed. He is looking for people to “stand in the gap” for the church and world leaders.

The great thing about it is that he is not looking for a perfect human being. He is seeking believers with a willing heart and a spirit of readiness.