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When You Love God but Can’t Trust Him

How can you trust God after He has allowed evil and suffering to tear through your life?

My friend Joanna has known pain that I cannot even imagine. She experienced horrific abuse for many years of her childhood. Today, she says that she loves God—and I know that she does—but she wonders how she will ever be able to trust Him.

Perhaps you have wondered the same thing. Perhaps your suffering causes you to feel confused about the goodness of God. If so, then my letter to Joanna is also my letter to you:

Dear friend,

You have experienced incredible pain.

These painful pieces of your journey are like holy ground to me, and I take my shoes off here. I do not speak flippantly to you. 

I do not know the why’s of this evil. There are things in this battle that we do not understand. But I do know this: God will redeem everything that is given to Him. It is certain that this was egregious evil, but it is even more certain that the judgment of God will not fall short or be lacking.

These were awful things, but God will turn them inside out one day. He will satisfy the cry for justice, and He will satisfy your bewilderment. He knows something that we do not know.

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How can God tolerate such incredible evil? I do not know how He can stand it. But I am confident of this: He is more tenderhearted than we are. He is more compassionate than we are. Our protest of evil is nothing compared to His.

Your suffering has exposed enemy territory—territory which God now purposes to overwhelm with His forces of victory. As you declare His ownership of these areas, God will push back the forces of evil and will powerfully advance the Kingdom.

Every hurt is a place for a promise, and ashes are the seeds of great beauty. You have many hurts that you can redeem for promises, and you have ashes that you can bring to Jesus. When ashes are allowed to smolder, they bring destruction and deformity. But overshadowed by the Spirit, those same ashes can be exchanged for beauty and glory.

We can pray, “God, I cannot imagine how You can do anything with this—it is such total devastation and heartbreak. It is death. It is beyond my ability even to speculate how You can transform any bit of this. But as Your covenant partner, I am holding on to Your promises. I do not know how You can create anything beautiful from this, but I am asking You to do that, all the same.”

God’s commitment to justice will include these very things from your life, dear friend—the specific deeds of darkness and the specific acts of evil that you have experienced. God’s desire and power to heal are greater than the deepest wound. He knows how to bring water from rock, and how to make the desert bloom. He knows how to bring life from death.

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God has made immense promises to you. You see no way in which He can keep His promises, but that is okay. He will keep His promises. It will be more glorious than you ever hoped or imagined.

“For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17, HCBS).

God is up to this. That’s how big He is. Marvel at Him. You do not have to know how He can do this. God just wants you to trust that He will do something bigger than you can imagine. He longs to dazzle you.

God promises you this, dear friend: whatever you give to Him, He will transform. The things you suffered will always be evil, but they will lose their power to destroy you. They will lose their power to make you destitute in spirit: God will make you rich.

The enemy “intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20, NIV).

It is easy to see how the enemy intended these things for destruction. But what does God intend? He intends to redeem! 

The LORD God turns curses into blessings for you because He loves you (Deuteronomy 23:5).

It is far too trite to say, “You will learn some good things from this.” That would not be sufficient, would it? There must be more.

This is an evil that we cannot really measure; I know I can’t. It is too much. In the same way, I can’t imagine a “good” that would be good enough to redeem such pain. I can’t imagine a “glory” glorious enough to outweigh that suffering. But God can!

We can trust God because we are convinced that He knows something that we do not.trust God

You do not need to settle for pat answers and trivial assurances. Wait with expectation and confidence for something much greater. God promises something so incredible that it will be more incredible than the pain. We do not know of any such glory, so we are deeply grieved, and we despair of the goodness of God.

But listen: God does know. He does know of a glory that will satisfy your soul. He knows something that will be bigger and deeper, something so GLORIOUS—we do not have big enough words, but something so AWESOME—that it will cause you to fall at His feet and worship Him and adore Him and marvel at Him and love Him like never before.

You will not be disappointed. You will not say, “Lord, this glory—it isn’t enough.” You will say, “Lord, I didn’t know! I could not have imagined this! Yes, Lord, my soul is satisfied!” You will be well satisfied, fully satisfied, completely satisfied. You will never come to the end of your delight in Him.

“The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23, NIV).

For God to do such a thing would be an absolute miracle, wouldn’t it? It would completely amaze us and take our breath away, wouldn’t it?

Just wait.

Love,
Tami

Faith is Like a Fish

Do trials increase our faith?

Have you heard that trials increase our faith? “Trials and troubles … are treadmills for the soul.”[i]

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That certainly may be true. But if trials increase faith, then we should be muscle-bulging spiritual giants and we should be surrounded by people of massive faith. We have no lack of trials, but we often have a lack of faith.

Clearly, it is not trials themselves which develop our faith.

In fact, our problems present as much opportunity to weaken faith as they do to strengthen it. Satan wants to use our trials for his destructive purposes, just as God wants to use our trials for His life-giving purposes. What makes the difference, then?

How can we go through tough times so that we are strengthened instead of shredded?

We can ask ourselves two important questions:

  • Who has our ear?
  • Who has caught our eye?

We always have the choice to listen either to our circumstances or to our God. We always have the choice to focus our gaze either on our circumstances or on our God. One will be a misty fog to us, and the other will be a solid rock.

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If we listen to the enemy speaking to us through our circumstances, we will hear faith-crumbling lies about God. We will hear that He doesn’t care, doesn’t know, or doesn’t have enough power. If we put our eyes on our circumstances, God will seem to be an unreliable vapor to us.

If, however, we listen to God’s voice as we go through trials, we will hear faith-building truth. Not only will we hear about God’s love, wisdom, and power, but we will witness them firsthand.

What does increase our faith?

If faith does not come from trials, from where does it come? The Scriptures explain that faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). As we experience problems in life, we must open the Scriptures and listen to the promises of God. We can then take those promises, throw them down like planks over a ditch, and walk on them.

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Robert Morgan says that we will “never encounter any situation for which God has not provided a precious promise to bear us through it.”[ii]

How is faith like a fish?

Thomas Watson, a Puritan from the seventeenth century, had another great word-picture for this same concept. He said, “Faith lives in a promise, as the fish lives in the water.”[iii]

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If you are going through a trial without living in a promise, then your faith will struggle like a fish out of water!

Ask God for His specific promise for you in the trial you are facing now. Plant your feet in it. Cling to it. Swim in it!

Who has your ear? Your problems, or your God?
Who has caught your eye? Your troubles, or the beauty of Christ?
Let your circumstances be the temporary mist. Let God be your immovable, eternal Rock.

When you focus on God, your trials will serve you. They will strengthen your faith, expand your capacity for joy, and maximize your delight in the glories of Jesus Christ.

Blessings to you,
Tami

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We have been going through The Red Sea Rules on our weekly prayer call. Join us tomorrow (Thursday) for Rule #10 and for an encouraging time of prayer for our marriages and families. Click HERE for more information.

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[i] Robert Morgan. The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-given Strategies for Difficult Times. Nelson. 2001. 96.
[ii] ibid. 102-103.
[iii] ibid. 103.

Knowing Who You Are

If you are trying to build up your value, or if you are working to create a satisfying identity, you can lay those heavy burdens down.

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I listened to my friend recently as she lamented that her sense of identity had seemed to unravel like yarn being pulled from a sweater:

“I  thought I was doing great. I was getting stuff done and feeling rather talented. But lately, I have been feeling completely incompetent. Maybe even worthless.  I’m overwhelmed with demands that I can’t meet. I can’t even keep my closets organized!”

We all need reminders of our true identity and worth. If you feel that a messy closet—or a messy life—is messing with your value, here’s some great truth for you:

Your value is built in.

You are a masterpiece, bearing the fingerprints and signature of God. You are created in His image to reflect His beauty and strength to others. You are created in His image in order to enjoy Him with true delight and pleasure. 

Your identity is not found in your good looks or your talents or your personality or your accomplishments.  If you are in covenant with Christ, then you have the most fantastic identity possible:

“I am His.”

You belong to Christ as His beloved. You are His.

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“I am His.”

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!”
(Isaiah 43:1, HCSB)

You are deeply desired, passionately pursued, forever cherished.

“The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
(Zephaniah 3:17, NIV, NLT)

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You belong to One who knows you—the real you. He knows everything about you; and in the midst of all the knowing, He loves you. He is unfailing in His commitment to you, and He is unwavering in His devotion. He is your intimate friend, your Gentle Shepherd, and your awesomely perfect God.

“My beloved is mine and I am his.”
(Song of Songs 2:16, NIV)

“I am His.”

All the circumstances of your life are just props for this great Love story. Messy closets, difficult relationships, fussy babies, demanding work assignments, physical challenges, financial pressures—all of these are backdrops for living out the truth that you are His beloved.

Made in His image, you can reflect Him in your circumstances. Your goal is no longer to control circumstances or to impress people. God has established your value, and He is the One who controls the details of your life for you. You can focus on being impressed with Him. He is the One who will make your name great (Genesis 12:2), and He is the One who will share His glory with you (2 Thessalonians 2:14, Romans 8:17).

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Deeply and perfectly loved by Him, you can walk through this day with the goal of loving Him back, following His guidance. That might mean cleaning a closet. Or it might mean shoving another stray shoe into that closet and just trying to get the door to close, for now.

But your value is unchanging: you are priceless.

And your identity is solid: you are His.

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Don’t forget to join us as we “Fight on Our Knees” every Thursday, praying for our marriages and families. You can join online or by phone. You will be in “listen only” mode, so don’t hesitate to join us. The call lasts only 15 minutes. Click HERE for more information, or visit the “Prayer Call” page on MannaForMarriage.com.

Also, here is a coupon code (15% off) that you can use on every book on MannaForMarriage: RF2D3P97
Click HERE to visit the book page on MannaForMarriage.com.

Healing Your Hurt

We live in a world of hurt, don’t we?

We are not quite the walking dead, but we are the walking wounded. We know how to feel hurt and how to cause hurt, but who knows how to heal?

Mercifully, “the God of all comfort” specializes in healing. As our tender-hearted Physician, God provides a five-step prescription for handling hurt. These principles are effective in treating our injured hearts, whether the wounds are minor or severe.

The first step is easy:

1. Say, “Ouch!”

Acknowledging pain is a great place to start because saying, “ouch!”  focuses attention on an area that may need treatment.

Just remember to say, “I’m hurting” without throwing any emotional punches yourself!

2. Put your wound in the Light.

As you bring the situation to the Lord, let your heart be fully exposed.

“Everything exposed by the light [of Christ] is made clear,
for what makes everything clear is light.”
Ephesians 5:13-14, HCSB

Talk to God with honesty and openness. He will talk to you with love and wisdom.

“Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him in prayer….”
Lamentations 2:19, NLT

“But for you who fear [the LORD’s] name,
the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.”
Malachi 4:2, NLT

Just as the rays of sunshine penetrate your body with warmth when you lie in the sun, so the soothing “rays” of Christ will penetrate your spirit with healing as you lay your heart open before Him.

3. Allow the antiseptic of His Presence to cover the situation.

Put your eyes on your Lord, knowing that He has put His eyes on your pain. Ask Christ to put His Hands all over the situation, as you take your controlling or punishing hands off.

Take Him up on His incredible offer to “take your hits” and to be your Shield. (See Psalm 18:2, 84:11, and 91:4.) Accept His unbelievable offer to carry the weight of this situation. (See Isaiah 53:4 and Matthew 11:28.)

“But You, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.”
Psalm 3:3, HCSB

When God belongs to you as your God, then your pain belongs to Him as His pain. Every hurt given to Christ is redeemed, for He knows how to use every drop of pain to gain a far-exceeding glory. He knows how to turn the ashes of your pain inside out into the beauty of joy (Isaiah 61:3).

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”
2 Corinthians 4:17, NLT

4. Guard against spiritual infection.

Be vigilant in preventing contamination from your own unhealthy responses, such as fear or anger. The Scriptures urge great caution against the spiritual virus of bitterness, which contaminates and spreads quickly (Hebrews 12:15).

Maintain zero-tolerance for toxic bitterness, vengeance (including the silent treatment), and poisonous self-pity (which is resentment in disguise). 

“See to it … that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Hebrews 12:15, NIV

 5. Apply the potent, soothing promises of Scripture.

God promises to heal our inner wounds through His Word: “He sent His word and healed them” (Psalm 107:20, HCSB). 

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3, NLT

Soak in the healing waters of God’s truth until they seep into the very pores of your spirit.

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hurt

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“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal” (Isaiah 58:8, NLT).

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5 Smooth Pebbles for You

I would like to share five Scriptures that I pray will be an encouragement, refreshment, and strength to you.

When David prepared to meet the fierce giant Goliath, he put five smooth pebbles in his pouch for his slingshot. We need to do the same thing! As we encounter spiritual opposition, our best weapon is the powerful truth of Scripture.

If you would like to print a PDF of these Scriptures, click HERE.

Blessings to you,
Tami

Scriptures Psalm 84:11
Scriptures Psalm 113:3 (photo credit: Mary McKee)


Scriptures Job 42:2

Scriptures Zephaniah 3:17

Scriptures Psalm 138:8

Forgiveness as Resurrection

Jesus was not the first person to be raised from the dead.

forgivenessHis disciples had seen Lazarus walk out of a tomb after being dead for four days. They had seen Jesus lift a dead boy out of his coffin and back into life.

But as amazing as those things were, they did not affect the disciples the way the resurrection of Jesus did. Seeing the resurrected Christ changed His followers dramatically. They became obsessed with the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection  became the basis for their faith and the driving force for their lives.

The resurrection of Christ is absolutely unique in all of history:

Others were raised from the dead, but Jesus Christ raised Himself.[i]

He defeated death from within.

Before He died, Jesus made this startling prediction: “Destroy this temple [that is, my body], and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-22, NIV). Jesus told His disciples, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18, NIV).

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Christ chose to walk into death and then to walk back out, demonstrating a power greater than the power of death. Lazarus and others were given a temporary reprieve from death: they were retrieved from death for a while, but then they died again.

But Christ won more than a postponement; He actually conquered death. He faced it head-on and completely dominated it.

The core of our faith, just like that of the early believers, is the Resurrection of Christ. Death is the fierce power of our sin, but there is a power that is even greater: the purity, the deity, and the love of Christ constitute an absolutely unsurpassed power.

We sometimes fear that forgiving means surrender or passivity. Nothing could be farther from the truth:

Forgiveness is looking evil in the eye, calling it what it is, and then proclaiming victory.

Forgiveness rises taller and stronger than the evil that came against it. It removes the “sting” of evil by removing the harm from the hurt[ii]. It removes the poison of bitterness and the curse of resentment.
forgivenessWhen we are hurt by others, we experience something like a death: there is a kind of grieving, perhaps the ending of a relationship as it had been, and there may even be—as Lazarus’ sister pointed out—a “bad smell” to the whole affair. But forgiveness says, “This is not the end of the story.”

After His crucifixion, the body of Christ was placed in a borrowed tomb, not His own. Similarly, forgiving involves walking into someone else’s evil, not our own. We stand for a moment in the dark “tomb” of someone else’s sin, but then, like Christ, we choose to walk out into the garden, where the Spirit makes all things new.AAM8X0DRXY

This is why Christ-followers must forgive:

Forgiveness is the Resurrection again.

A49952BF7AForgiveness is first the Cross raised as an identifying banner over us. Forgiveness is then the Resurrection, demonstrating the power of the Spirit of God within us. He brings the power to obliterate evil and to transform ashes into beauty.

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When given the opportunity to forgive, we can respond to our debtors with these truths in our hearts:

You hurt me, but I will not hurt you back.

My willingness to forgive you is my willingness for God to forgive me.

When God poured out the riches of His grace to me, He included all the grace that I would need to pass on to you.

I do not seek your punishment. I seek your redemption and your healing.

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How has forgiveness brought Resurrection power into your life?

Blessings to you,
Tami

{Read Part One of this series here: A Spiritual WMD.
Read Part Two here: Forgiveness as Self-Help?
And read Part Three here: Forgiveness: A Power Way to Hold Out the Cross.}

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[i] The Resurrection was an awesome performance of the Trinity, the Son acting in concert with the Father (Galatians 1:1) and the Spirit (Romans 8:11).
[ii] 1 Corinthians 15:55

Forgiveness: A Powerful Way to Hold Out the Cross

Bitterness can destroy us.

We understand that.

But do we understand why? Why does our refusal to forgive cause such serious harm to us?

Unforgiveness deforms us because it is rooted in a lie.

As with all sin, it binds us in spiritual enslavement because bitterness denies the truth that sets us free.

Resentment denies the truth of Deuteronomy 23:5, which says that God turns curses into blessings for us because He loves us.

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It denies the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 and Job 24:2, which assure us that God’s plans for us are good and that they cannot be thwarted.

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Bitterness also denies this startling truth: as forgiven Christ-followers, we do not have the right not to forgive. The liberating truth is that the spiritual work of atonement is finished. Physical consequences may still apply, but spiritual justice has been satisfied.

Bitterness cries out for justice. Forgiveness recognizes that spiritual justice has been served.

Forgiveness is not a matter of deciding not to press charges; it is a matter of recognizing that charges have already been settled. As I recognize that a penalty has already been paid, I can say to the one who has wronged me, “You do not owe me.” Spirit to spirit, there is no debt. Insisting on payment would actually be further injustice.

At the foot of the Cross, I stand next to those who have wronged me, for we are all sinners alike. If the blood flowing down from the pierced body of Christ is insufficient to reach my debtors beside me, then it does not reach me, either, for my sins against God far exceed the sins committed against me.

forgivenessForgiveness is full of power because it is full of truth: it is agreeing with God that the debt has been paid.

Justice has been written with whips and nails across the flesh of Christ. The full wrath of God poured out at Calvary even as red blood poured out.

Forgiveness is not something we choose to do as much as it is something we acknowledge: we recognize that the punishment for every wrong and every evil has been lashed and deeply striped across the back of Jesus.

The choice we must make is not whether or not we will forgive:

The choice we must make is whether or not we will be people of the Cross. If we choose to stand in the shadow of the Cross, then every facet of our lives also comes under that shadow of atonement.

Forgiveness, then, is not an isolated event or an extraordinary choice that we make. It is the air we breathe as believers; it is the rule of the Kingdom. It is the seamless way we live, for the Forgiving God lives within us. To deny forgiveness to someone else is to quench the Spirit within us.

It is not being wronged that disrupts the well-being of our spirits; the festering infection within us is our refusal to forgive. When I struggle to forgive someone, I am not wrestling with the one who wronged me as much as I am wrestling with the God who forgave me. My bitterness is my own rebellion against God.

God forgives us not because He denies our wrong or excuses it. He forgives our evil because He has paid the price for it. In fact, Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Every time we forgive, we are holding out the Cross and saying again, “It is finished.” The paying is finished.

It is the power of the Cross of Christ to move us from a place of punishment to a place of redemption. The work of transformation and restoration remains, but the work of atonement is finished.

forgivenessAs we forgive, we move from seeking punishment to seeking redemption.

Forgiving is the stamp of the Spirit upon our spirit, and it a powerful new proclaiming of the gospel. This “good news” declares that, although evil has been committed, justice has been satisfied. What remains is an invitation to healing and restoration.

Forgiveness says, “Although I have been hurt, I will not hurt you back.”

Forgiveness also says, “I will not feel sorry for myself.” This is possible because we know that God redeems our pain fully. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17, HSCB).

I do not have to deny my pain or someone else’s evil in order to forgive. I do not have to wrestle with my emotions. Instead, I simply lay down the stone that I had wanted to throw in punishment, I walk away from my pity party, and I stand in the shadow of the Cross. And suddenly, I realize that I have forgiven.

The apostle Paul asked his friend Philemon to forgive Onesimus, the slave who had stolen from Philemon. Paul made this remarkable promise to Philemon:

If [Onesimus] has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL! (Philemon 18-19, NLT)

Paul was saying, “You can forgive this debt, Philemon, because I will pay it.” Paul said this because he knew that God had said the same thing to him.

When we are wronged, we can hear God say these very words to us, too. We can forgive our debtors because God has promised to repay us. He will repay what has been taken from us—and even more.

(This is the third in a series on forgiveness.  You can read Part One here: A Spiritual WMD, and you can find Part Two here: Forgiveness as Self-Help? There will be one more section, so stay tuned.)

Blessings to you,
Tami