The Timothy Project: Let’s be sure…

 

Our church is studying the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy this month, so I began reading them again today.

I have had this blog mulling around in my head for about a month (its been a long time since I posted last) and I just couldn’t get it out on paper–or on the screen. As I read 2nd Timothy 1:12 today, it finally all came together in my mind. It says,

“For I know the One in whom I trust and I AM SURE that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until the day of His return.”

Wow. That is powerful. I have been studying about truly believing God at His Word and trusting that He will answer prayers and do what He says He will. Again, my struggle with that isn’t in believing that He can do the impossible. I know He can do the impossible. I am not scared of impossibilities. I am scared of His timing.

But that verse challenges me. First, Paul says ‘I know the One in whom I trust.’ He didn’t say he knew of the One, or about the One, He KNOWS the One. That is so powerful to truly know the character of God and know His love, His Care and His Voice enough to do the rest of that verse – TO BE SURE that He is able to guard what we entrust to Him. And we entrust the most valuable things in our lives to Him–our children, our marriages, our families, our health, our livelihood, our calling, all of it! There are not many things I am completely sure of in this life, but to counting on God is one of those things I need to be sure of.

As I read through the gospels for this Easter season, Jesus talked about belief and unbelief a lot. So many of the scriptures about deep-down-believing surround His ministry on earth doing miracles in people’s lives.

As He healed the paralyzed and the blind, He spoke to that belief.

Matthew 8:13 “Because you believed, it has happened.”

Matthew 9:28-29 “They went right into the house where he was staying, and Jesus asked them, “Do you believe I can make you see?”“Yes, Lord,” they told him, “we do.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.”

But still I waver. In the situation, in the prayer, there lingers a twinge of doubt. I was reading Mark 8:14-21 and I realized the disciples felt that way, too, at times.

The disciples had JUST seen Jesus feed over 4000 people with seven loaves of bread and some fish they found. They had seven large basketfuls left over. After this, they immediately headed out in a boat with Jesus.  They made a stop, and then crossed the lake.

They JUST witnessed a miracle with Jesus and bread. Then there’s this-

Mark 8:16-21 “At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.  Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all?  When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”

“Twelve,” they said.

 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”

“Seven,” they said.

 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.

I mean, when I read this, I felt like He was  saying directly to me, “Do we have to go over this again???” You can almost hear what I think was an annoyed parental voice of Jesus (not sure if He had that voice, just how I hear it directed towards me) at the disciples.  You know when you ask your kids, “What did I tell you?” and then they mumble the response while shuffling their feet. “Why didn’t you do it?” and then they mumble “I don’t know.” That voice. Right at me.  When I am acting like the disciples did, fretting over what perceived lack I have, even though I have the God of miracles right here with me, I am reminded that I am seeing things from a human point-of-view, and not keeping the One in whom I trust in my view, and definitely not being sure that He is able.

Just a short chapter after that incident, Jesus was healing a man’s son. The father asks Jesus to help him if he can. Jesus says, “What do you mean, IF I can? Anything is possible for a person who believes. The father says, “I do believe, but help me with my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24 paraphrased)

And there it is. I think its where most of us stay. In that mix of belief and unbelief. I love that the dad expresses that. It gives words to our wavering. It reminds us the grace that Jesus can extend when our weaknesses sneak up on us.

I want to be sure. I am sure, but Lord help me when I am not.

And as I read through the gospels, God solidified this journey of being sure, and believing whole heartedly by reminding me of this amazing truth.

Matthew 21:21-22 “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”

That is powerful belief. That scripture is not to be misconstrued that God is our genie that grants us all our wishes. But it’s truth that He listens, He cares, and He is on our side waiting to move mountains for us. And it goes along with a quote my husband preaches which says, “if I want what God wants, for the reason God wants it, then I am unbeatable and unstoppable,” and maybe, just maybe we can see mountains moved.

Team Up With Jesus

Luke 8:22-25 (NLT)
22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. 23 As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. 25 Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?”

The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”

This is one of those passages of scripture that most people learn in Sunday School or children’s church growing up. I, probably like you, have read this story many times. This week, as I read it again, the words “they were in real danger” caused me to pause. These men were in a boat with Jesus, the Son of God.  Which has always caused me to focus on the part where Jesus corrects them for doubting, or the part where He calms the winds and waves. Never focused on the part that says they were in real danger.

If the disciples were with Jesus all the time, in His actual physical presence and they went through a storm that caused them real danger, that translates to me that we will be in different types of real danger in this life.  It reminds me of the scripture, “In this life there will be trouble, but take heart because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We will be in real danger. We will hurt. We will feel overwhelmed, confused, angry. We will have loss. But Jesus is in the boat with us. He’s in my boat when I feel like I’m drowning, and when it feels like He’s not answering. He’s in the boat with me in the silence and in the stretching times. And He will calm my storm. The storm has to obey Him–and suddenly. He can respond suddenly in our situations just like He suddenly calmed the storm for the disciples. One word from Him can change our lives in an instant, and calm the raging winds. He’s always right there with us. Lately I have been adding the word suddenly to end the of my prayers. I know God has His own timing, and I have learned a lot through times of delay and waiting on the Lord. There have been many times in my life that God has not answered me immediately, or at all in ways that I wanted. And there is a season for that in our lives. There is a reason for the delay. God is not our genie ready to grant our wishes as we command. But the other side to that is that He can move suddenly. You need to know He’s in your boat and He can speak one word to bring peace and calm and provision into your life.

You know, as I kept reading that same day, I read Matthew 11:28-30:

“28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

A yoke is a wooden bar that allows two oxen to be TEAMED UP together and work as a team efficiently.

Wow. I want to be teamed up with Jesus. I want Him to take the lead, and carry the burden, and teach me, and show me how to rest. (Don’t we need Him to show us how to rest?)

And notice it says, “let me teach you.” Oh how often do we refuse to listen. Refuse to rest. I think the key to teaming up with Him is to be teachable and actually come to Him. Come to Him in the storm, in the busy, when we are weary, and when we are not. Just come to Him. Every day.

Team up with Jesus. Let Him carry your load and give you rest. He pushes the weight, He holds it all together. And He’s in your boat, and on your side.

Pick Up Your Mat

 

Ever want God to wake new things inside of you? New boldness, new vision — to just stir something more inside of your heart? And give you the capability to just go all in for what’s stirring? I was asking God to do that for me a couple of Sunday’s ago during worship. Nothing earth shattering, just asking Him expand my heart for Him and do more in me. However, when He does do more–like I asked, that usually brings back the struggle of feeling inadequate to follow through with the newness and the tendency to shrink back from the challenge.

That makes me so frustrated with myself. So, as I was contemplating these things while talking to God about the next day. Monday morning I open my Bible to my regular reading for the day, which happened to be John chapter 5. I had just written in my journal all that I just wrote above about wanting more from God and yet struggling with that “more” and the feelings of inadequacy, and then my eyes fell on this this story….

John 5:1-9

Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.  Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking.

As I read that, I focused on the question pointed directly at me, “Would you like to be well?” YES! Yes I want to be well! It’s not that I am actually sick, but I am so tired of timidity and want to daily default right into operating in that promised Spirit of power, love and a sound mind. Yes, I want that!

As I was answering that question in my head,  I then read the next line, in which the man answers, “I can’t.” And I felt God nudge me with the questions of, “How many times have you said ‘I can’t,’ and how many excuses have you made?” And then the question came again, “Would you like to be well?” I thought “YES” again and kept reading. After the man told Jesus–the Son of God, Creator of the universe–“I can’t,” Jesus completely ignores the excuse he gave Him, and says, “Stand up, pick up your mat and walk.”

Pick up my mat. Do what He says. Who cares how I feel, and what my excuses are. If I want to be well, then pick up my mat. If I want to run after all God puts inside me to do, then just pick up the mat.

Sometimes I feel like I coddle my own self. I dwell on what’s hard, or things I think I can’t do, or excuses. Jesus pushes pasts excuses here and just says do what I say. Take responsibility for what I have given you to do and pick up your mat.

I looked up the word “mat” in the Greek language and it literally means a bed for sickness. God doesn’t want me to lay around on what hinders me and wallow in that.  He’s calling me to pick myself up–weaknesses and all– and walk in His freedom and grace.

That day I was reading this passage, there were several things I was facing that I was intimidated to do. Each time I was preparing for one of them, I just decided that I was going to pick up my mat. That’s kind of become something I say now. Instead of thinking anxious thoughts about something I just say, “I’m gonna pick up my mat.” Instead of procrastinating because it’s difficult, I say, “I’m gonna pick up my mat.”

To me, that just means I am not making excuses to disqualify myself from something God has given me the power to accomplish. I am going to pick my mat and WALK.

Do you need to pick up your mat?

Take courage because He promises to go with us when we pick it up.

Deut. 31:6 “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

 

Perfectly Weak

 

Sometimes we do something we don’t want to, or think we can’t do, because God asks us to.  2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that we have not been given a spirit of fear/timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. I often find myself leaning on my own nature of fear and timidity and not operating out of that power God’s nature gives me. When He asks me to do things that I think are scary, I have to choose to operate in His strength and not in my weaknesses. I have been so keenly aware of my weaknesses each time God asks me to take a risk and step out in obedience so much so that I have shrunk back from obeying Him.  I have decided to stop letting fear dictate what I say yes to from God, and rest perfectly weak in His Strength that is perfected in my weakness.

As God has asked me to begin writing (which I think I can’t do) and then sharing the writing (which is really scary for me) I have resisted and put it off. So much so, He has nudged and pushed so hard that I can no longer say no. He has even revealed to me, through a study of the book of James, that it is sin to know what I ought to do, and not do it (James 4:17). It is not humility to tell God that I can’t do what He asks me to do because I am too weak, untalented or afraid. It is disobedience. So, with great trembling, I have begun this blog. I am writing from a place of weakness that I might spur someone else to do the same in their life with their own gifts. I am writing from weakness to produce God’s strength in my life.

I have a passion to help others develop their gifts God has placed in their lives to use for Him and His glory, yet I have been dragging my feet using mine. I find it funny, and ironic, that the verse right before 2 Timothy 1:7 (saying I have do not have a spirit of fear) then instructs us to fan into flame the gift of God.  God must’ve known that it can be daunting to step out into obedience and fan that flame, so He had to follow that up with reminding us we can do it with His power, love and sound mind. He must’ve known that Satan would try to use his scare tactics to prevent us from obeying God and taking risks for Him. So I launch this blog to fan the flame of the gifts God has entrusted into my life, I encourage you to do the same. In this culture of self-promotion, and the building of our own kingdoms, I seek to make myself smaller and myself less known, so that HE can be bigger in my life, and more known in what I do.  I do not start this blog out of self-promotion, but in God-promotion. I truly desire to share what He gives me to share, with the intention to push us all towards serving God with our gifts in such a way that we are stretched way out of our comfort zones to make His name famous and change this world. I do this to serve God with all that I have –  to be full on committed to do what God asks me to do even if it scares me.

My usual pattern is to care what others think, and then shrink back from the task. And recently we had a women’s event at our church that was way bigger than what we had planned for. That is amazing, right?! My husband kept saying, “not enough seats and not enough food is a good problem to have.” Well, one morning driving in the car I wasn’t feeling that was a good problem to have. I started whining to God that this had gotten too big for me to do and that I was overwhelmed. After the long whine session, He said to me, “How many times have you asked me to be a part of something bigger than yourself?”

That’s when I said, “I’m in God.” And I am. I am in for allowing God to do things that are bigger than I can accomplish in my life by myself. So let’s do this together. Let’s be full on committed to fan the gifts of God into flames in our lives and not be afraid or held back from taking the God-sized risks to be obedient when He calls us to step out in faith. All of us together, using our own unique gifts and abilities fearlessly can become a great army for God.

Ezekial 37:1-14 says, ”

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones.  He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!  I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.