Finding Faith in the Fog

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  –Hebrews 11:1 NIV

Reality snapped me to attention. Just two hours before, I had left an encouraging Christian conference, full of hope, full of the love of Jesus, full of direction for my life, full of courage to get it done. So I thought.

The upbeat praise and worship music streamed from the car speakers into my heart as I loudly sang the words. Suddenly my singing stopped.

My fingers white-knuckled the steering wheel as I drove through the North Carolina mountains, cautious. The dense fog rolled in quickly, shielding the landscape like a thick blanket held from a clothesline. I had driven this familiar stretch of road a hundred times before. I knew it by heart. My heart doubted tonight, though.

My eyes strained to see past the hood of the car. I could barely see the white lines outlining the two-lane road.

“Lord, I am scared. Please guide me. You are the same God on the sunny, clear, mountaintop days, when I can see for miles, as You are right now. I see nothing. Please show me the way. I am doubting everything I know to be true.”

As my car inched along, I reflected back on the uplifting conference where I had just been for the last three days. God called me there to clearly trust Him, to serve Him, to write and speak for Him. I knew that full well, just as I know my name.

But minutes later, I was already doubting God. I was so scared. I kept driving.

“Lord, help me. Lord, help me. Help me drive scared. Lord, help me.”

About an hour later, I exited off the twisting, mountainous road and into the driveway of my destination. I exhaled. I don’t know that I had fully exhaled since I hit the fog.

My hands still shook as I reached in the dark for my car door handle. I breathed in that mountain air and made my way to the front door. Once inside the house, I fell to my knees in thanksgiving for the miracle God had just brought me through. It was only then that I realized I had just lived a message. The foggier nights result in deeper faith.

Since then, I have definitely hit other “patches of fog” in my faith journey. Usually the doubt comes soon after a deeply meaningful time when I feel God’s presence and feel clear about God’s purpose.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” –Hebrews 11:1 NIV

Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the Bible’s “Hall of Faith.” I love reading all the different examples of extraordinary faith, from Abel and Abraham to Rahab the prostitute. Each “Hall of Faith Honoree” demonstrated faith in the “foggy night” of life.

God is with you, whatever circumstances you find yourself in today, whether you just had an uplifting, mountaintop God experience or the foggiest night of your life. Know the same God in the sunny, clear day is the same God in the foggy night.  May we be encouraged to find and strengthen our faith in the fog and in the SON.

Lord Jesus, You are my Rock and my Redeemer. Thank you for the sweet times when I can feel Your presence so easily and know Your purpose for me. Forgive me for doubting You in the foggy times. Thank you for testing my faith and refining me. Please help guide me every breath to fulfill the purpose you have called me to do. Help me do it, even when I’m scared of the fog. I am Yours. You are mine. In Jesus’ Name, by the Power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Renew:

–Isaiah 7:11, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights” (NIV).

–Matthew 15:28, “Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted’” (NIV)

Reflect:

–What foggy night circumstances have you experienced lately?

–When have you felt God’s presence clearly, like a mountaintop experience?

Leave a comment here | No Comments

True Vision

I admired her from a distance  as she walked into church with her guide dog, Fiesta. Julie was so joyful, wearing a big smile. Several excited children ran up to her, wanting to pet her beautiful Labrador Retriever guide dog. Julie let them pet Fiesta. Julie was confident, comfortable, effervescent.

It had been only a few months since I joined our church. They said I could show up on Wednesday nights to sing in the choir. Although not formally trained, I love making a joyful noise and singing those beautiful words of hymns, as well as praise and worship songs. I showed up to choir practice the next Wednesday night and loved every minute.

Choir has been life-changing for me. I’ll always remember the first time I saw Julie walk into the choir room with Fiesta and sit beside me on my left. Fiesta sweetly and obediently laid down on her left. And then I saw it.

As we opened our songbook binders, Julie opened hers. A lump formed in my throat. Braille song sheets, printed out on card stock paper and perfectly three-hole-punched, filled her binder.

The musical accompaniment started for our first song. I watched closely as her hand gently started at the top left and followed every word and note. She sang beautifully, joyfully, confidently, not missing a beat.

fullsizerender-23

Tears welled up in my eyes. I immediately thought of the Philippians passage:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” –Philippians 4:12a-13.

After we practiced in the choir room and were about to process into the sanctuary choir loft, Julie asked if she could hold my left elbow as we walked. What a gift to me. I looked down and Fiesta patiently walked to the left of her master.

img_3789

As we walked down the hall to the church sanctuary she told me of meeting her husband in college, who is also blind. I watched her face radiate as she described her family.

Both their precious sons are sighted. The two boys had joined us in the choir room, the children’s choir practicing one beautiful song with the adult choir.

I found out Julie is also a top seller of Mary Kay cosmetics. She even walks her sons to Taekwondo in downtown Matthews. Is there nothing this girl can’t do?

Julie, Fiesta, and I made our way up the two steps into the choir loft. We stood together to sing. We sang the hymn with passion, feeling the presence of the Lord in a way I can’t describe.

She had told me she would dismiss herself after the first hymn to go to her Sunday School class. She graciously declined needing my assistance. Julie is a woman on a mission.

Helen Keller once said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

Julie has more vision than most sighted people I know. She is content in her circumstances.

She is such an inspiration and true ambassador for Christ.

It is an honor to sing off the same song sheet with Julie.  Thank you, Julie, for bringing more vision and clarity in my life. I pray to be more like Julie, my sweet new friend and sister in Christ.

Reflect:

Who is the Julie in your life? How can you be more liker her? Please comment.

Would you say you are content in your circumstances like Julie? Why or why not?

Renew:

“One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” –John 9:25b

“Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.'”–John 9:39.

Recharge:

High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all. —Be Thou My Vision (4th verse)

Leave a comment here | No Comments

Keeping The Passion Burning In Our Hearts

Mary Lou Retton, the 1984 Olympic Gold medalist and Christian, said “Each of us has a fire in our heart for something. It should be our goal in life to find it and hold on to it.”

What is your passion?

Webster’s Dictionary describes “passion” as:

  1. a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept;
  2. the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death.

Harriet Tubman, the courageous abolitionist, said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Any good leader has passion and fire in his/her belly for a cause. Nehemiah in the Old Testament is a leader who definitely had passion. I love learning from him. His name means “The Lord comforts.”

Four Leadership Lessons of Nehemiah we can draw from on how he kept his passion are:

  1. Prayer, fasting, mourning
  2. Participation from others
  3. Protection from opposition—half to watch, half to work
  4. Prompting of revival

Nehemiah was the cupbearer in King Artaxerxes’ court. His position was one of high honor. Even with his title, he remained humble.

While Nehemiah was on duty, brother Hanani and several men came from Judah, and Nehemiah asked him some questions. I love that Nehemiah was so inquisitive. He was compassionate about his roots.

The Jews had not been back home to Jerusalem in close to 100 years. Their enemies made it virtually impossible to build Jerusalem back after King Nebuchadnezzer had broken the walls down in 586 BC.

The report Nehemiah received was that the survivors were in trouble. “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and it gates have been burned with fire.” –Nehemiah 1: 3b. Nehemiah sat down and wept when he heard this news. Then he prayed fervently.

Nehemiah was humble. He mourned and fasted for days, then prayed fervently before the Lord. His prayer is one of the most humble, sincere prayers in the Old Testament.

Prayer is the first leadership lesson we learn from Nehemiah to maintain passion. Prayer is the cornerstone of passion and leadership. It’s truly the cornerstone for everything .

President Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

Nehemiah heard a vision from God. Nehemiah cast the vision to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and created passion among the Jewish people.

In Chapter 2 Nehemiah not only casts the vision to rebuild the wall, he humbly enlists participation from others. They replied “Let us start rebuilding. So they began this good work.” –Nehemiah 2: 18b.

I love how Chapter 3 of Nehemiah describes all the builders of the walls, including those who didn’t work hard, like in verse 5. One guy named Shallum in verse 12 is mentioned because he used the help of his daughters. Another guy Baruch is mentioned in verse 20 because he zealously repaired his section. He was passionate.

In Chapter 4 we see opposition and Nehemiah’s protection from that opposition. Nehemiah kept praying, stayed humble. “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half of its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” 4:6.

Protection is the 3rd Leadership Lesson we learn from Nehemiah. “Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other.” Nehemiah 4: 17.

When we are in the middle of God’s will, we will experience opposition and spiritual warfare. The Lord protects us with wisdom and the Ephesians 6 armor of God. Helmet of Salvation. Breastplate of righteousness—integrity. Belt of Truth. Absolute Truth. Shoes of peace. Shield of faith. Sword of the Spirit. It all faces the front as we face our opposition.

Some of those opposing the rebuilding of the wall began wanting to meet with Nehemiah.

I LOVE how Nehemiah responded. It’s one of my favorite passages.

Nehemiah responded by saying, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?’ Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.’” –Nehemiah 6:3-4

That is like us as leaders. No matter what the enemy throws at us, will not waiver from His Vision. Don’t let the enemy squelch our passion.

As God guides us and progress is made, the Holy Spirit will Prompt revival, as it did with Nehemiah. Prompting of Revival is the fourth leadership lesson we learn from Nehemiah to keep the passion fueled.

In Chapter 8, the book of Law is read from dawn till noon.

”…and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen! Then they bowed down and worshiped.”—Nehemiah 8:6

One of my life verses comes next. A few verses later in Nehemiah 8:10 they are repenting so much, Nehemiah says, “This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

The day in Nehemiah was sacred to the Lord because His people repented from sin and turn back to Him. Today is also sacred to the Lord.

Is there anything we need to repent from? Let’s examine our hearts and make any necessary changes in us as He prepares us for our sacred day. The Holy Spirit will change our hearts, refueling our passion even more and prompting revival in countless hearts.

Let’s keep the fuels of passion burning in our hearts for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

The good news is that that Jesus Christ is our ultimate Repairer of Broken Walls and Restorer.

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls; Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” –Isaiah 58:12

The same God for Nehemiah as the Repairer of Broken Walls is the same God who will continue to lead us passionately in our God-sized visions.

Leave a comment here | 2 Comments