Our family has a small u-pick berry farm in Central Missouri, blueberries and blackberries. In our quest to continue learning and growing our farm in healthy ways, my husband and I recently went to Blueberry School the end of February. We hated to leave with our son not feeling well, but placed him in the capable hands of grandparents. The last night we were gone, our son’s ear drum ruptured. Don’t worry – he’s on the mend and back to baseball practices and pestering his little sister as usual. But with a ruptured ear drum comes limited hearing.Last week on the blog we looked into Genesis 16, the story of Hagar and our God who sees. In the midst of what I would consider a bit of chaos, we discover two complimentary facets God’s character. In verse thirteen we witness God as El-roi, God who sees. And in verse eleven God is revealed as a God who not only sees us, but hears our cry to him.God had promised Sarai and Abram children, as numerous as the stars. After ten years with no children, Sarai and Abram took matters into their own hands. According to the custom of the day, Sarai gave her slave, Hagar, to Abram in order to provide her with a child. Needless to say, once Hagar became pregnant there was a bit of tension between the women. In her heart pain, Hagar flees to the wilderness where she encounters God and his character.I believe God was so intent on Hagar (and us) knowing that he hears us, he named the son she was carrying, Ishmael, God hears. The name Ishmael comes from the two Hebrew words, shâma and êl. Shâma being to hear intelligently[i]; and êl being our strong and powerful, Almighty God.[ii] Ishmael’s name would be a permanent reminder not only to Ishmael himself, but Sarai, Abram, Hagar, and generations to come.Our hearing is delicate and human in every sense of the word. In sickness my son’s hearing was temporarily impaired, but God’s hearing is perfect all the time. Despite what we think or believe, God always hears us. He does not have selective hearing or limited in listening to one person at a time. Contrary to what we may think at times, he does not misunderstand when we communicate with him.We are repeatedly told through Spirit-inspired scriptures to pray, communicate with our God who hears. We can take that as a promise from a Father who listens to his children. Psalm 66:16-20 is a beautiful example of our God who hears, but take a specific look at these specific verses.“If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would have not listened. However, God has listened; he has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. Blessed be God! He has not turned away my prayer or turned his faithful love from me.” Psalm 66:18-20It’s tempting to turn from God when we believe our prayers have not been answered in the way we desire or ask. But friend, our call is to not be satisfied with our own desires but to bless him and trust. We are called to pray and communicate, then to trust him. Surrendering to his timing and firmly stand on the promise that our God hears us. Trust that God does all things well and he has not turned from you.Can I challenge you to read Psalm 66 and bless God with your prayers as you worship him this week? Trust that he hears you, loud and clear.With Gratitude,Amy[i] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 118). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. [ii] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
God is constantly teaching us, if we allow. This is what God has been teaching me, and I’d love to hear what he’s been teaching you. Leave a comment or send a message. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
When we hear the word wilderness, I’m guessing that we are transported to one of two places. We go to a remote area and experience the beauty and majesty of creation with awed expressions, or we shrivel with thirst and loneliness in parched and deserted places.Wilderness. Where do you go when you hear that word?I’ve been in Exodus for my personal quiet time lately, so I’ve been seeing the second of our two options. The reality is that at some point in our life we will find ourselves in a wilderness-season of life where we feel lost and parched, perhaps even wrestling with the enemy, ourselves, or God. In the wilderness, we’re more vulnerable to attacks and the worry for lack of provision is always at hand.As the Israelites were being led by God in the exodus from their slavery in Egypt, they were not taken by way of the road nearby, rather they were led into the wilderness. He led them around, taking the road pocked with detours. God knew the hearts of his people, how they would react and what they needed. The road nearby would have led the Israelites straight to the Philistines, and he knew the Israelites would have changed their minds and chosen to go back to bondage if faced with war. They weren’t ready.What seems to be the right, easy, and more direct route is not always the best.Rather, God led his people into the wilderness where they would learn to trust him for provisions and guidance. They would learn to be His people, and that He would never leave or forsake them. And in all of this, God would be glorified.God is all about his glory and not in a selfish and narcissistic manor. It’s God’s glory being revealed in such a way that brings us, and others, into closer relationship with Him. It’s about giving God credit for who he is and what he is doing. When God leads us by way of the wilderness, it’s an opportunity for an upgrade into a deeper relationship with Him. Through this, we come into contact with His glory and reflect it back to Him.I spent a few brief and glorious days in Chinle, AZ this fall. The landscape is one of wilderness, far removed and not on the main road. You have to be on-purpose in your travels. But in that dry and desolate, starving for Light, corner of our beautiful land - I see an opportunity for the glory of God to burn so brightly that it would be undeniably His. I am expectant!No doubt we will have trials and tribulations in our life, we are guaranteed it. What if we came to a place on our quest with the Lord where we could rejoice when our travels take a jolting detour into the wilderness? Where we are expectant for God to show up in wondrous ways and give Him the glory. What if we came to a place of spiritual maturity that in our ‘wilderness’ season, we choose to experience the unique beauty and majesty with awed expressions?Two questions for you : Would you be willing to join me in prayer for the Native American men and women of our nation? Pray for their salvation, restoration, healing, and wholeness.Whether you are walking the wilderness road right now or not, where are you seeing the glory of God shine? How might you reflect that back so others can see His light?I’m seeing Him shine through in glimpses of answered prayers, small bread crumbs on the trail. Therefore, I will stay the course; little by little as he is lighting the path. Praise Him!I encourage you to read Exodus 13:17-14:4 sometimes this week as you give Him glory.With gratitude,Amy
Living as if God’s promises are true, that takes some faith. It’s hard in a world full of promises that aren’t taken seriously or broken, and easy to become cynical. God’s Word is full of promises, some are specific to individuals while others are for a family line, there are even promises made to all of humanity for those who would call upon God’s name and believe.When was the last time you took God at His word? Trusting what He says to be true, and acted on it?Since starting our berry farm, we have experienced one summer of record drought and one with record heat and accompanying drought. Several times during those two summers, excitement filled my heart when we saw rain clouds. But nothing. After weeks, a hopeful heart turned to one of doubt. I knew it would rain at some point, I just didn’t believe it to be any time soon.1 Kings 18 opens with the land of Samaria experiencing a deep drought and the prophet Elijah receiving a promise from God that there would be rain. A lot happens in the in forty-four verses of 1 Kings 18 between when God promises Elisha rain and a small cloud brings rain to parched land. Elisha trusted God and acted on his faith, knowing that God’s promise would come to fruition.Abram lived a lifetime, some of which was in the same land God promised him. He lived as if God’s promise to him were just that, a promise.Joshua was promised success and prosperity upon staying on track with God’s law and ways. And lived like it.None of these men were without mistake in their trusting God and living according to those promises, they were in every way human. But they trusted and followed the one who made those promises.We are called to faith, which requires trust; trusting when God says go, and when he says no. That trusting kind of faith requires action even if that action is seen or felt in no other place than our heart or mind.We are promised His Holy Spirit. (John 14:15-17) Am I activating a relationship with His Holy Spirit and trusting that I have that connection?We are promised wisdom, if asked in faith and without doubting. (James 1:5-6) Am I asking for wisdom and believing with open hands and without doubt, that I will receive it?We are promised peace in response to seeking the Lord through prayer and petition with thanksgiving in our hearts. That peace is one which surpasses our understanding. (Philippians 4:6-7) When my heart is troubled and peace is nowhere to be found, am I seeking Yahweh-shalom, the Peace Giver?God is a trust-worthy Father. We have a choice each and every day to choose to trust Him or not. Will today be in our strength, or according to His? With Elisha, a lot took place between the promise and the reality of that promise. Faith and trust go hand-in-hand, it takes faith to keep choosing to believe.We have so many promises in scripture, but let us be sure to take them in context. As we faithfully trust Him, what promise can you choose to live by today?With gratitude,Amy“Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness.” 2 Corinthians 3:12 (CSB)
It seems fitting that the season outside my window reflects the season in my heart. As the leaves turn color and trees go dormant, the rest until spring begins. The world rests, and waits. It’s an active rest, roots still take up moisture and move nutrients. Slowly. I too find myself in a season of active rest and waiting. Life would seem so much easier if I just knew what the next step looked like. But I don’t. No matter how hard we desire skip winter and move in to spring, it's necessary. And rather than push ahead, we can choose to enjoy the season, and wait.Waiting is hard. It’s uncomfortable.Oh, I could take a step. But would it be in-line with the direction where God is working, where he wants me to join him? Would it be God’s will? Who knows. But I do know, if your lost it’s best to not go wandering off. That’s a good time to stop, get your bearings, and perhaps wait for help to arrive.When I stumbled upon 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 last week, it felt like receiving actionable steps for the waiting. “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (CSB)When the specific will of God seems to be foggy, this much is clear – rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Always, constantly, and in everything.For me, it’s hard to picture what always rejoicing might look like, especially if your personality tends to be calm and quiet. Now some of my friends – they walk around with outward rejoicing all the time! Me, it just comes out different. Typically, I imagine rejoicing to be boisterous, outward exultation with a lot of seen emotion attached. But how can I possibly rejoice always? The truth is, rejoicing comes out differently in all of us, and in various situations.Rejoice always - chairō pantŏtĕ in Greek. I so appreciate the Greek definition because it seems feasible to me. Rejoice, chairō, is to be calmly happy; be well, be glad, rejoice.[i] I also appreciate Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message translation, “Be cheerful no matter what.”[ii] Joy and cheer always, in all circumstances. It's not a joy that goes where the winds blow, it's eternal.As a way to posture our hearts and attune our spiritual focus, let’s work on always rejoicing these next few days. And if the “calmly” thing isn’t your style, by all means let that exultation bubble over! Maybe you’ll splash that rejoicing on me or the person next to you. Wouldn’t that be fun?!Next week we’ll look at the second part of those three directives in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – pray constantly.Would you mind sharing your experience of rejoicing always here? I’d love to know how you are experiencing God through rejoicing.With love and gratitude,Amy [i] A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 77). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.[ii] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (1 Th 5:16). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
It occurred to me that I never announced the arrival of my "book baby"...over a month ago! September 1st to be exact. I guess thats what happens when you're taking care of a new born.The outpouring of love and support have been amazing. I'm so grateful and honored to have been on this journey with the Lord in writing Courageous Faith. The process continually stretched my thoughts and beliefs, yet with each challenging step I was met with God's grace and loving kindness. Countless times I experienced His perfect timing and guidance.This study continues to challenge me. You may know the Bible story of the walls of Jericho tumbling down, but Joshua’s journey with the Israelites is so much deeper. Faith is an action word, and Joshua’s life is filled with deep faith and courageous obedience as he lived out the promises of God. Each step of this journey has allowed my faith to take root deep into my heart, resulting in a close walk with the Lord and claimed ground. I'm praying that result for all who participate in this study.Courageous Faith is now available on Amazon. So - grab a girlfriend, your women's Bible study group, or challenge yourself to dig in to God's Word with Courageous Faith. May God be glorified in your deeper relationship with Him.
Everyone likes to bear fruit, and be the recipient of fruit produced in season. There’s nothing better than a fresh picked peach in the height of summer or crisp apple when the cool fall arrives. Our berry farm is meant to bear fruit throughout the heat of summer. And just like fruit born in appropriate seasons, our lives are meant to do the same. That being said, it can be hard to not strive to produce the whole fruit bowl at once.Spiritually speaking, we are told that we will bear fruit and we are called to do so. I believe there’s more to simply being focused on bearing fruit. Take a look at Paul’s words in Colossians. “…so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God…” Colossians 1:10 (ESV, emphasis mine)Paul was specifically talking to the church in Colossae about the gospel’s effect in their lives, and his words are easily applicable to us today. Walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord, bearing fruit and growing. I appreciate the order in which Paul presents these things, bear fruit and continue in growth. We can have a tendency to want to bear fruit, but perhaps forget to continue growing once fruit has been born. In order to continue bearing fruit, there must be continued growth. We aren’t called to be corn plants, growing rapidly to produce a crop for harvest and then die. I believe that as eternal beings, we are called to continue bearing fruit for harvest and grow – a perpetual process.Familiarity with the Word may bring to mind what kind of fruit we are to limitlessly produce. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)How then shall we grow it? According to our verse in Colossians, we are to grow in the knowledge of God. The Greek word being used here for knowledge is ĕpignōsis, it denotes the idea of recognition, acknowledgment, full discernment, and to become fully acquainted with.[i] We aren’t being asked to become know-it-alls, knowing everything the Creator of heaven and earth knows, but rather to fully know Him. Recognize Him, acknowledge His ways, movements, and characteristics.One of the most powerful and active ways we can grow in knowledge of the Lord is having an active encounter with His living Word on daily basis. God begins revealing His character in the first line of scripture, and he doesn’t let up until the last.We have the free will to choose a relationship with God through His Word. Those Spirit-inspired words can be the water, fertilizer, and Son-shine the seed of the gospel message needs to grow in our heart and mind. We are called to both bear fruit and grow. If we are stunted spiritually, after a while the fruit will no longer come forth.Let’s have some dialogue on how God is revealing his character, so that together we may grow in knowledge and understanding of Him. What characteristic of God has been most real to you this week?[i] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 31). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
There are several trees in our yard, some we planted and some inherited with the house. One particular tree was inherited – a scraggly little oak. It was pitiful. The deer had used it as a buck rub for multiple seasons, several branches mangled and torn. It wouldn’t seem to grow, staying the same size for six or seven years. At one point, I seriously considered taking my little hand saw to it; put it out of its misery.Then one year, it started to grow.This little, scraggly oak tree has grown to become one of the nicest trees in our yard. It’s gotten rather large, and now holds a lovely shape. Gabe and I frequently stand in awe of its growth and maturity, in what seems like such a short period of time. Grateful that I never took that saw to its trunk, it serves as a reminder of possibility and the importance of a sure foundation.For years, I didn’t see any growth; but it was there. Hidden deep in the earth, this awkward little oak had been growing what was necessary to sustain outward fruit and vegetation. The fruit is pretty great, and well worth the wait. We don’t get juicy peaches from its branches but acorns for critters, strong limbs for climbing kiddos, and cool shade for picnics. Now, this oak easily withstands heavy winds and rain because it is deeply rooted with a sure foundation.For me, this tree has displayed what is necessary for each of us – to grow first in the secret. Our roots in faith are there to anchor and hold, creating that firm foundation so that we aren’t driven and tossed about by the wind. Those faith roots are vital for taking up the necessary nutrients for spiritual growth, maturity, and fruit production.It is known that for most trees, what you can visually see in size and mass above ground is mimicked below ground in the root system. In our fast-paced and immediacy driven society, we often want to produce fruit immediately. That can easily be a desire of our flesh. The sweetest fruit often takes time, God’s time. God’s timing is not our own; His can happen in the blink of an eye or take decades in our human understanding. We desire that fruit of the Spirit, which is a good and noble desire. In that desire, we must first also desire and be willing to allow our roots to go deep in Christ, taking the necessary time.It’s easy to accept Jesus in faith, and stop there. But I firmly believe our Creator is one of growth and expansion. We are not meant to sit stagnant and unchanged, like the homely oak tree in our backyard seemed to have done for so many years.Take a look at Paul’s words in Colossians. “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7 (CSB)Those deep roots are developed in the secret with Christ through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. It’s imperative that we not settle for stagnant. Even when I don’t feel closeness and growth with the Lord, I can know He is near and always active. And that knowing only comes from spending time in the secret with my Creator, in His Word. It’s where we grow our roots down deep in the truth of Jesus. For that, I am grateful.How are you continuing to be rooted and built up in the faith of Christ Jesus? Fruit will come – that’s a promise.