God's Calling

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”. C.S. Lewis

I just love that quote. It reminds me in a very powerful way that God’s call on our lives is real. It’s tangible. Something we can taste, touch, feel, and see. And it’s not something so far out of our grasp that we’ll fail.

Failure.

Every time I tried to manage my schedule the past couple weeks–I’ve failed. I just wasn’t doing a good enough job. When my panic attacks came back, I felt like a big fat one–failure that is.

I just wanted to cuddle up in my blankets and hide in my bed until things got better.

When they didn’t I roused myself out of bed really early to deal with it. I decided that it’s now or never. I finished writing my third book on forgiveness.

The hardest part for me has been revisiting all the painful stories of the past. When I write books, God doesn’t just give me fluffy words, He reminds me. I get to relive each story in present day. “Oh joy!” I say sarcastically.

Then I read about Joseph in Genesis 39:2 & 21

“The LORD was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home [palace] of his Egyptian master…But the LORD was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the LORD made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.”

The truth is, “we must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God…” says Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together.

It’s funny how God had to interrupt me in my misery. Last week I said in Something Borrowed that I have no idea what to pray for–now that I’m married.

Then I read this in “Seize The Day with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” In it Charles Ringma writes:

“In the final analysis, the key issue is not whether we are married or unmarried, a missionary or a mechanic. The more important issue is that we have made some sense of God’s call in our lives. For that call to be realizable, we need to understand ourselves sufficiently so that we know our gifts, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. When God’s call harmonizes with our giftedness, we become candidates for lasting achievement. And true achievement does not arise from a negative reaction to life, but from embracing God’s perspective on what is good” (Charles Ringma).

Lord, please show me your favor. Everywhere I go, don’t let me be afraid of suffering. It’s not up to me to determine my life, but only You. Help me to stay flexible even when change scares me BIG TIME. Show me how to be blessed like Joseph whether I’m in the palace or in prison. Amen.

p.s. Father, I’m sorry for doubting God’s calling on my life. Please forgive me?

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The Spirit of Forgiveness Part V

Today’s blog post is the fifth and final post in a series on The Spirit of Forgiveness by Marc Fisher, my husband, for the week of Advent.

“There I will meet with you and, from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the Testimony, I will speak intimately with you of all which I will give you in commandment to the Israelites” (Exodus 25:22, AMP).

And what comfort.

One place I will be available to you in counsel, in whatever situation, here is where I will be and in no other place. I will meet with you in the place of conflict and opposition and not in any other place.

Here is where God’s sanctuary is to be found.

If we refuse to enter in to such a place then we void our ability to have counsel with God and that is why we see so much unresolved conflict without resolution.

So much brokenness in the church and our relationships, a repetition of the same issues over and over but always lacking any resolution.

To be delighted in the entirety of the mystery of this passage though requires a remarkable security in God.

So many of the tears in our relationships are nothing more than us speaking out of fear and insecurity.

Where is our confidence in our God?

Can’t you trust and wait on God?

It is fear and insecurity because we do not come to the realization that it is one piece of gold, making the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat.

We are made out of the same piece and He is the gold!

He Himself is inclusive of all contradiction for He has designed all opposition. [Colossians 3:11, Corinthians 12:13] That which seems in opposition to us is as far from God as we are. Don’t just let that statement pass over you without wrestling with it!

That which seems in opposition to us is as far from God as we are for we are out of the same gold.

That is the church my friends, a sinew of human relationships under one King for the sake of one Kingdom, that is the way it was designed to be.

Can you place your faith in a God who promised to bring about the completion of His bride?

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13:, NIV).

What is even so much more glorious in all this is that this was all in God’s design so that the Church could be to the world as a statement of the greatest of all acts of reconciliation, of divine forgiveness!

What is the answer for our relationships, for the church, is also the answer for the world!

Let us rejoice in that!

We must be as reconcilers or what else do we have to offer to a Rwanda? It was in His sovereign plan to reconcile both the Jew and Gentile. [Romans 1:16]

We have the solution.

It is in the reconciliation that has begun at the cross and will be completed in the end!

It is in the God, who gave His only Son to reconcile the world to Himself, in which reconciling not just black with white would be possible but even black with black.

I thought it was best to end with a true story to drive home this truth, a story of how two men arose from a surrounding opposition among their brothers and sisters in the Lord and as they were reconcilers at home became reconcilers among the lost.

“In 1722, persecuted brethren began to gather on an estate owned by Count Zinzendorf, a wealthy governor in Germany. They were part of the remnant of their day, fleeing persecution. They were Lutheran, Anabaptist, Moravians, and even converted Catholics. They all converged together at Herrenhut because the Count was willing to give them a place of refuge where they could live peacefully and serve the God of heaven. This little group quickly grew to several hundred people, but those first five years were very shaky. Several times it seemed the whole community would be totally destroyed as the strong opinions of this diverse group continually clashed with one another. In May 1727, after much prayer, fasting, admonition, and teaching from the Word of God, Zinzendorf persuaded them to lay down their theological guns, to look to Christ, the Head of the body, and to love one another just the way they were. From that point, the Holy Spirit began to brood over their meetings in a new way. Unified prayers began to rise up out of the hearts of this divided people. In August 1727, a visitation from God came, and they were never the same after that. The whole church was baptized in the fullness of Christ. Then in 1732, the first of many missionaries rose up, as two young Moravians heard of an island in the West Indies where an atheist British owner had 2000 to 3000 slaves. And the owner had said, ‘No preacher, no clergyman, will ever stay on this island. If he’s ship wrecked we’ll keep him in a separate house until he has to leave, but he’s never going to talk to any of us about God, I’m through with all that nonsense.’ Three thousand slaves from the jungles of Africa brought to an island in the Atlantic and there to live and die without hearing of Christ. The two young Moravians heard about it and sold themselves to the British planter. As the ship left its pier in the river at Hamburg and was going out into the North Sea carried with the tide, the Moravians had come from Herrenhut to see these two lads off, never to return again, for this wasn’t a four year term, they sold themselves into a lifetime of slavery. The families were there weeping, for they knew they would never see them again. And they wondered why they were going and questioned the wisdom of it. As the boat drifted out the young boys saw the widening gap, and one lad with his arm linked through the arm of his fellow, raised his hand and shouted across the gap the last words that were heard from them, they were these, ‘MAY THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN RECEIVE THE REWARD OF HIS SUFFERING!'” — Taken from “The Radical Example of Moravian Missions” by Denny Kenaston

Further Questions to Study
1. Why would God have their wings touching?
2. Read Romans 8:28, if God authored all contradictions among us, what does that say about opposition we perceive among each other? Can you embrace that type of understanding and disposition?
3. Why would God have put this passage so early in Scripture?
4. Are you quick to see man as the threat? What does Scripture say is the threat?
5. Read Revelation 5:9. What can you say about God’s love of diversity? How does it currently impact your life? How should this impact your life?
6. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-28. As the Church, God’s hands and feet, how does our lack of a spirit of forgiveness cause harm to the body? Can harm come to the body that does not also pain the head of the body?
7. God being infinite means much will remain mysterious to us, how do you deal with the extensive mystery of who God is and His ways?
8. When did you last pass judgment on someone and then later find out there was more to their story?
Bonus! I encourage you to read about the Moravians and how it relates to reconciliation and forgiveness. It will change your life and ministry forever.

Recommended sermon by Marc on Sermon Index from John Piper called “At The Price of God’s Own Blood.”

[Photo taken from Pinterest]

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The Spirit of Forgiveness Part IV

Today’s blog post is the fourth of five in a series on The Spirit of Forgiveness by Marc Fisher, my husband, for the week of Advent.

“And the cherubim shall spread out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, facing each other and looking down toward the mercy seat” (Exodus 25:20, AMP).

God continues, facing each other, or as the King James says, their faces shall look one to another.

What a magnificent thing!

Being married this has become even a more enlightened truth for me now!

It takes two on either side, the polarity of everything that is in nature, God, the church, and the callings of God.

He could have told Moses to make one figure, like the pagan religions of the day with a single idol, but God’s unity comes out of conflict and opposition. That reconciliation that comes in the end through His grace, which could not have begun to come if He had only fashioned one thing, what glory there is in that amen!

We never want to gaze into opposition with a steady and non-faltering gaze; we want to look into that which compliments us only.

God is calling us not to just tolerate those differences but to understand and apprehend them.

To contemplate them.

Look into the face of them.

To appreciate them.

Admire them.

And see the beauty of God in them.

If He has required it, then He will give us the grace. It wasn’t just they were looking each other in the face though; it was also that they were looking down toward the mercy seat. Through the mercy seat to the testimony God told Moses to put there, namely the Ten Commandments, His righteous decree to His people.

Every issue that seems to create these irreconcilable differences has got to been seen in the context of God’s righteousness.

But to see God’s righteousness independently of God’s mercy is not to see rightly. Can you imagine a church with this type of understanding and disposition? Can you imagine your own relationships with this type of understanding and disposition?

Right is wrong if not tempered by mercy.

To be right is not right enough.

To be correct is not correct enough.

To be right without mercy is more painful than error.

Can you be wrong even when you are right?

What seems as a paradox amidst contradiction, but God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts. [Isaiah 55:8–9] We must see the righteous requirement of God through the place of mercy or we don’t. We NEED to have that reality in our lives.

A spirit of forgiveness is required if ever such a reality will be allowed to seep into every part of your soul.

We are so quick to cause a rift between us and another when it comes to wanting to be right. We see something through our own vision and immediately it becomes irreconcilable.

They don’t talk like me.

Think like me.

Dress like me.

Enjoy the things I enjoy.

Act the way I act.

Wwhatever it may be but this is our own distorted vision of trying to see righteousness apart from mercy, apart from forgiveness.

Oswald Chambers once wrote, “There is always one fact more in every man’s case about which we know nothing” and if we did know it would radically alter our perception and reality about that person. But you see it is NOT for us to know, just as we do not know why exactly “two and a half”. We need to learn to be humbled in our knowledge that there always is one more thing and that we cannot be complete in our own assessment of any person or be offended because if we knew the totality it would remove the offense.

Can we see the beaten work?

Can we understand what goes into the making of such a man or woman? Oh to be wrong even when we are right!

[Photo taken from our wedding via Danny Avila]

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The Spirit of Forgiveness Part III

Today’s blog post is the third of five in a series on The Spirit of Forgiveness by Marc Fisher, my husband, for the week of Advent.

“And you shall make two cherubim (winged angelic figures) of [solid] hammered gold on the two ends of the mercy seat” (Exodus 25:18, AMP).

But we must also realize that “And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work”, that it is all beaten out of gold!

The willingness to bear tension is the willingness to suffer pain.

Don’t miss that!

God is the author of that tension.

Pain is to defer immediate gratification for something distant and to wait on it in trust.

And this is what God is willing to do and is doing it now in heaven, it pains Him. [2 Peter 3:9, Psalm 130:5] He wants an authentic resolution hammered out of gold!

Every hammer blow is pain!

You beat them out of solid gold.

Much of our tension with one another is often really a result of another making a genuine attempt to keep things right and pure but we don’t see that.

Our doctrinal disputes, arguing over the right style of worship, even in our marriages picking away over how to raise our children, use our time, or spend our money.

You have to ask yourself are you willing to beat it out till your relationships with your friends, family, spouse, other believers is not just a piece of compatibility but a statement of glory?

One of the saddest statistics in the church is the overwhelming amount of divorce. How many marriages end because two people can no longer bear the continued agitation of something not yet reconciled? God Himself is the author of that disparity and contradiction at times though. It is tragic we let our own satisfaction become more important than the glory of God.

We look for a more instant gratification for ourselves instead of passing through these difficulties so that God might be glorified when the things yet incomplete are made complete.

Our relationships, in particular marriage, are an issue of the glory of God not of compatibility because it is the mystery of the church itself.

Are you learning to walk in forgiveness, bear those differences which create pain at times, knowing it must be beaten out the gold and when it is it will be something pure and angelic?

The passage also makes it clear that “Thou shalt make”, not God.

Let this register on your soul and conscience, it is not going to fall from heaven.

But isn’t that what the church is, what marriage is, what relationships are?

You must experience this; this must be engraved in your heart. Pure gold is the symbol of deity. God makes the situation and circumstances; He is letting us employ what is of Him. To pass through and be formed from our handling those experiences which He has already established in heaven. We have been called to something authentic not magical and we can only come to that authenticity if it is out of our own handling.

You can’t avoid being inflicted by what seems irreconcilable right now.

It is going to come.

Do you bear the tension?

Do you go through it so something of greater purity and worth might be revealed in the end?

[Picture taken from Pinterest]

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The Spirit of Forgiveness Part II

Today’s blog post is the second of five in a series on The Spirit of Forgiveness by Marc Fisher, my husband, for the week of Advent.

“And you shall make a mercy seat (a covering) of pure gold, two cubits and a half long and a cubit and a half wide” (Exodus 25:17, AMP).

Can you live with incompleteness knowing it precedes something whole that is yet to come?

It is here but not yet here.

It is like the kingdom of God is here yet not yet here.

We have it in part but will have it in full.

Man tends to not like things in part. But the distinctive of the church is to live with incompleteness, to be comfortable with something that is partial that will one day be completed and to live as though it is already in hand.

As in our broken relationships, to live under that tension of something that has not yet been resolved, not demanding terms that will complete it instead waiting on God to perfect in His completion not only something that will alleviate that human tension but also glorifies Him. That is our calling as believers, to be willing to live with the tension of incompletion, confident that when the resolution comes it will not only be answer to the agitation as applied to the human nature but will glorify God.

The very reason for the rupture is so that a solution can come that will not only please man, though it undoubtedly will, but that God will be all the more glorified. For that reason we can bear the tension, for the glory of God we must always raise far above our own human infirmities.

Think about this for just a moment.

Of all people, Jesus, who was perfect, deserved to be among only perfection and yet was willing to bear the imperfection of man because He knew the completion was yet to come and that in it God would be made great among the nations.

He bore the incompletion and because of that by His stripes we are healed. [Isaiah 53:5] In bearing the tension you also are part of God’s design in proclaiming His Son to a lost and dying world through His church. It is in His plan that His church, as an example of reconcilers, bear testimony of Himself, as the ark bore the testimony of God.

[Picture taken from Pinterest via The Life, Art, and Times of Fudge]

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The Spirit of Forgiveness Part I

Today’s blog post is the first of five in a series on The Spirit of Forgiveness by Marc Fisher, my husband, for the week of Advent.

“Yet now has [Christ, the Messiah] reconciled [you to God] in the body of His flesh through death, in order to present you holy and faultless and irreproachable in His [the Father’s] presence“ (Colossians 1:22, AMP).

In 1994, in the course of only 100 days, the world sat back as it witnessed one of the more cruel and inhumane episodes in human history, the slaughter of over 800,000 people in the African country of Rwanda.

Almost 20% of the country’s population was wiped out as the culmination of tensions between the Tutsis and Hutu people boiled over. A war raged between two sets of people, of a close ethnic kinship, but of seemingly irreconcilable differences due to a long history of one group monopolizing power. The events were so extreme that the Kagera River literally became plugged with bodies as they flowed up towards Lake Victoria.

If we are daring enough to stop and put our ear to the graves of these victims we just might hear God’s truth echoed through their deaths, a truth in fact that is meant to change the world.

Let us go back to a passage from Exodus 25, that for most probably seems as far removed from this subject as possible, but we need more exploration of God’s Word beyond the surface level. We need, as Paul puts it, gravity [Titus 2:7, KJV] in our preaching and in our studying of God’s Word.

This may seem as an obscure passage to most, but God put it there in His infinite wisdom, from before time began He laid its foundation, knowing what is appropriate for one generation is appropriate for all and that it takes on heightened meaning as it comes nearer to the last generation.

“Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. And you shall make it according to all that I show you, the pattern of the tabernacle or dwelling and the pattern of all the furniture of it… And you shall put inside the ark the Testimony [the Ten Commandments] which I will give you. And you shall make a mercy seat (a covering) of pure gold, two cubits and a half long and a cubit and a half wide. And you shall make two cherubim (winged angelic figures) of [solid] hammered gold on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on each end, making the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat, on the two ends of it. And the cherubim shall spread out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, facing each other and looking down toward the mercy seat. You shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony [the Ten Commandments] that I will give you. There I will meet with you and, from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the Testimony, I will speak intimately with you of all which I will give you in commandment to the Israelites” (Exodus 25:8-9, 16-22, AMP).

This passage is a statement about God Himself!

It speaks about some aspect of His infinite deity and therefore it is with great care and concern we ought to approach it and all Scripture for that manner. It is God breathed for the purpose of revealing Himself to us and getting glory for Himself as its truth penetrates our needy hearts. He lays out things in remarkable detail and that detail deserves exacting examination–for He is instructing Moses to establish a counter-part to that which is altogether perfect and heavenly. Each word is designed to bring us to a greater awareness of God as He is and therefore there is much to be gained from such a passage.

He wants to speak to us of reconciliation, of a spirit of forgiveness, and how this all fits into His divine plan to reconcile His people to Himself.

First we must stop and ponder for ourselves why two cubits and a half? What a strange thing to use only a half instead of a whole number for our God is whole, not lacking in anything so why construct something seemingly lacking? Something in the divine mind turned an irregular measure into regular, as if something will be completed by something in the future.

It is something incomplete and its completion will conclude the redemptive purposes of God. It is yet future, we live with the incomplete measure, and we ourselves are in part being used as the instruments in affecting its completion.

I think Colossians chapter 1, verse 20 gives us insight into this mystery, “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” It is as though the heavenly tabernacle will one day meet with the earthly and become the one everlasting whole. Just as one day our salvation, which is now working itself out, will one day be complete as we worship Him in heaven as He ought to be worshipped. [Philippians 1:6]

[Picture taken from Pinterest via Amanda Siceloff for National Geographic]

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The Power of Forgiveness

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back” (Matthew 18:15, NLT).

The power of forgiveness.

The Bible is pretty clear on forgiving others. With Matthew 18:15-18 as our guidebook, we are shown how to go directly to the person and show them if they have wronged you.

I love how proactive the Bible is on forgiveness.

Maybe it’s because the root of bitterness grows so easily.

I tell you–after Marc and I moved into our new house we quickly realized how challenging our front lawn would prove to be. Those devil grass roots (also known as Bermuda) are tough. They don’t die for just anyone or anything. They need to be sprayed with Round Up numerous times. And you have to wait TWO WEEKS between each spray.

Not to mention we have the pressure of the HOA breathing down our neck.

But isn’t that real life?

We have the pressures of this world and others treating us unfairly. We pray for mercy and grace and yet seem to come up empty. Meanwhile the soil of our hearts grows bitter as we choose unforgiveness.

This week, refuse to allow others to rob you of the joy found in Jesus. Allow the Spirit to help you find and give forgiveness.

Quickly.

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church…I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven” (Matthew 18:15-18, NLT).

But wait there’s more!

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:19-20, NLT).

[Read Two, my devotional post from last week on this very same verse].

I love how God confirms and then expands on the words He’s already planted in our hearts for it is strong enough to save our souls (James 1:21, NLT).

One of the strongest and most powerful lessons I’ve ever learned in Scripture came from that very Scripture in James.

I literally took God at his Word.

And when I did, He healed me.

I’ll never forget the day I couldn’t forgive myself for the lack of skin on my face and feet. I had tried everything. Been to doctors. Even stayed overnight in the hospital a few times. Took cortizone cream. No matter what I did my eczema still refused to cooperate. I couldn’t forgive myself or God for allowing me to suffer. Even though I knew I was doing good I still had to wait. My goodness didn’t, couldn’t, nor could ever guarantee God’s healing.

Like I said earlier, God is sovereign.

It is up to Him to heal.

Or not.

So I waited.

Then one day God told me to act. Quickly. He told me to get rid of all my cortisone creams. This was the only thing saving me and my skin (and my sanity). So I got it all out from underneath my bed (cue the lurking monster music) and put it in a black trash bag and gave it to my mom and told her to dump it in some dumpster and not tell me so there was no way for me to look back!

In an instant my body bag filled with death became the life that I needed.

From that moment on God healed my skin–and got all the credit (and the glory).

Friends, forgiveness is an active and alive process. We cannot lie down and allow the roots to grow underneath us.

Literally.

We have to pull them up and throw them away and move on.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NLT).

Well, what are you waiting for?

Get rid of it already!

There’s power enough to save your soul.

[Photo taken from iStockphoto.com].

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