Tag Archive: life


Enduring Faith

Job-lg

Have you ever felt like the thing you don’t want to do is the thing God is drawing you to? For me, that was the Book of Job.

Years ago when I first started to read Job, I didn’t get very far. To be specific, I didn’t get past the beginning when God tells Satan he can test Job. I didn’t like that part. At all. So, I stopped reading.

And then over the years, there were times I felt drawn to Job. I underlined a verse or two, read a chapter here and there…and I started to see Job’s enduring faith in the midst of the unrelenting storm.

I saw his strength and faithfulness to God when his wife urged Job to curse God for all that was happening to him. Job refused.

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. Job 2:9-10 NIV

Not only was Job losing everything, but Satan was wearing him down, using his own wife to convince him to blame God.

I often wonder if I could stand up under the pressure like Job did.

Sometimes we get the opportunity to find out…

This past year has tested me in various ways. Exhausting I-can’t-do-this-anymore ways. And sometimes I want to tell God I quit. I quit trying to keep up with everything in life. I quit trying to love others when that’s the last thing I feel at the time. I quit trying to stay faithful to Him.

But when God leads us somewhere, it’s for a reason. One night I realized why, despite my protests and digging in my heels, He led me to Job.

Because I was being worn down…to the point of thinking that if I quit being faithful to God, the enemy would let up.

But God intervened, as He often does. At the moment I was thinking of quitting, I remembered Job and how he was tested—and how he didn’t quit.

I imagine Job felt frustrated and angry, maybe worn-out tired. He complained, he cried out to God, and he questioned his suffering.

And then God showed up. Not to condemn Job, but to remind him of His omnipotence.

Job learned that suffering is indeed a part of life…but God was there with him.

Just like He was there with me that night.

Life is hard. But God is with us through the good days—and the bad—giving us strength when we have none…cheering us on when we’re worn down and the enemy is prowling…refining us for His purpose.

Through it all, Job endured. So will I. And so will you.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

[This post can also be read in its entirety at Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith / Photo credit: Stock Photo: Worship at Sunset]

Advertisements

Exploring God’s Word

Jer. 29.13

When I was a kid, I remember receiving a new Bible in Sunday school class. We promptly put paper dust covers on them for protection and learned how to look up a verse. I never, ever wrote in my Bible—I’m pretty sure that was a rule—a rule that was deeply ingrained in me. I know this because it was painful when a few years ago I decided it was time to start making notes and underlining verses in my Bible.

What’s taught to us is hard to overcome because I had to restrain myself when I watched my daughter highlight a page in her brand new Bible. I may have quietly hyperventilated, but I wasn’t going to squash her excitement. She was in her Bible, highlighting as she read—and she was reading more than a few verses. She read one book after another and told me why she chose each one, and which one was next.                                                                                                

She was exploring God’s word and sharing with me the verses that captured her attention. My heart swelled, and at the same time…I wish I had been like that at her age.

I wish I had been encouraged to read and ask questions, but I think times are different now.

There are more translations of the Bible, each speaking just a little differently to give new understanding of God’s word. More people are asking questions instead of taking a back seat in their faith. And there are good conversations happening, with people discussing what faith means in their lives. In these conversations, I feel better prepared and more eager to be involved when I’m focused on making my faith part of my everyday life.

I don’t want to stop at someone telling me what I should know. I want to see it for myself and go deeper. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe my pastors or doubt everything explained to me—it means I want more.

I need to know how God’s word is relevant in my life today, and having someone tell me that it is isn’t enough. I have to make that connection myself because that’s when it becomes real. And that’s what I can share with others—God’s work in my life.

I’m speaking for myself here, and not trying to say what you do or don’t do is wrong. This is me and my desire for more of Him.

But, I will encourage you…

If you want to ask questions—don’t be afraid to ask.

If you want to know more—keep looking.

If you want to go deeper into God’s word—keep reading. I’m constantly amazed at how He will give new meaning to verses I’ve heard all my life, but never quite understood what they meant for me.

And there is always more to explore…because we can never fully understand the depth of His love for us.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: Bible

 

 

What Do You Hold Most Valuable?

Philippians 3.8

What do you consider valuable in your life?

Is it objects or possessions? These may be the first things that come to mind because we are used to thinking of things in terms of monetary value. A new flat screen television is more valuable than an old black and white one.

Or maybe you value time—where you would rather spend your time, or how much time spent earning something you really wanted.

Whether we realize it or not, we place value on people, things, and ways of life, and those values may change over time.

As a new mother, I valued sleep over staying up late to watch a movie. While more recently, I’ve realized spending time hanging out with my family is more valuable to me than spending time online.

Over time, and as our lives change, we realize certain things hold greater or lesser importance to us than they may have before.

For Paul, his values changed when he came to know Christ.

Known then as Saul, he was zealous for the Jewish law. Born straight from the lineage of the tribe of Benjamin, and circumcised at eight days old, he counted himself as righteous because he obeyed the law without fault. (Philippians 3:5-6)

And then…Saul met Jesus and his life was changed forever. He realized his value for upholding every aspect of the Jewish law paled in comparison to knowing Christ as his personal Savior.

Knowing Jesus changed him, and in turn, his values (and his name) changed.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Philippians 3:7-11 NLT

That’s what Christ does—He transforms us.

As our faith grows, our values change…because knowing Jesus changes us—from the inside out.

Walking with Jesus changes our hearts. It changes what we see as important. And it changes what we don’t want to live without.

How have your values changed as your faith has grown and as you’ve gone through different life stages?

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

What’s Your One Focus?

One Focus - GD

It’s that time of year when we tend to take stock of our lives. We look back at the year, and we look forward with changes in mind.

Changes we write as resolutions.

Changes that often don’t make it past January 31.

What if we skip the list of things we want to start or stop doing, and instead have a focus for the year?

One focus. Something to think and pray about throughout the year.

It might be one area God wants you to pay attention to, or one word that will shape your year. Maybe it’s one Scripture verse you want your life to reflect.

Whatever it might be, one focus is easier to remember than a list of resolutions, and it’s less frustrating because you have the entire year to ponder your focus.

If you get to February 1 and realize you haven’t been working on your resolutions, it leads to discouragement, possibly feeling like the year is already off to a failing start. But, with one focus, you can be thinking about it before it’s time for action. In fact, you might not be able to stop thinking about it, even if you’re not sure what to do with it.

How do you decide on one focus for the year? For me, I pray about it, asking God what He wants to show me, or what I need to learn. And then, I wait, and I listen.

One year, I questioned the word I felt God giving me. When I dismissed it, He gave it to me again. And again. After a few weeks, I realized He wasn’t going to let it go and I better get used to the word. Obviously, I would be in for a year of learning something, even though I didn’t know what it was yet.

This year, He’s given me two words. (Sorry, I’m not telling what they are yet.) At first, I thought it was just something going through my own thoughts. But the next day, those two words were more firmly on my mind and I realized God was answering my question of what He wanted me to focus on.

And that focus scared me a little. Well, maybe it was more than a little. I prayed about it, thinking I could still be wrong. But, no, He only gave me those two words.

Here’s the thing…if your focus doesn’t scare you a little, it’s probably not the right focus. After all, the purpose of this is personal growth and change, right? And that’s scary.

But…it can also be kind of exciting. My two words aren’t causing me to squirm anymore. I’ve accepted that this is my focus, and I’m anticipating God will be challenging me in some new ways this year.

So, are you ready to consider one focus for 2014?

For more information, you may want to Google “One Word 2014,” but be ready for more links than you probably want to explore. To narrow it down, here are two resources on the One Focus topic worth visiting:

Oneword365.com

Myoneword.org

If you are looking at one focus this year, whether it’s a word, phrase, Scripture verse, or something else, will you share it in the comment section? Let’s encourage each other this year.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Small Steps to Big Growth

Last week, we talked about transformational growth—the changes God wants to make in us as we walk through the Land Between. This transformational growth is God’s work, but there is something needed from us.

Our willingness.

We need to be willing to see God’s work in us through the struggles and trials in life. If we’re not willing, He won’t force the issue. But when we’re willing and open to His work in us…a whole new perspective on life becomes ours.

Transformational growth requires small changes. It starts with incremental growth.

God is asking Will you trust Me? If we answer yes, then are we willing to take intentional steps toward growing in faith?

Incremental growth starts with…

Praying for those who hurt us instead of trying to get back at them.

Practicing forgiveness when we’d rather stay angry.

Trusting God with a situation instead of trying to make it happen on our own.

Trusting God with our finances…being good stewards with what God has blessed us with, and stepping out in faith when giving back to God.

Resisting the urge to complain, choosing to praise and thank God instead.

Choosing God’s path instead of what looks and feels good at the moment.

Acknowledging when we see God at work, giving Him the credit and glory, even when tempted to take the credit ourselves.

Being in God’s Word, starting with a schedule, if necessary, and sticking with it until spending time with God feels natural.

Learning Scripture…equipping ourselves with His Word to strengthen and nourish us.

As we take small steps toward growth, we see God moving in our lives and we learn to trust Him more and more. This incremental growth not only keeps us moving forward, but produces in us the desire to keep going.

Step-by-step, God is bringing us to a place of complete trust in Him. We’ve seen Him work in our lives, and we know He will continue, because despite what we see at the moment, we know God sees the big picture—He knows the plans He has for us.

We find that our willingness to let God make changes in us has led to transformational growth. Growth we didn’t realize was happening until we stood on the other side of the Land Between—stronger in our faith, and with a deeper trust in God.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

The Other Side

License: Public Domain

The Land Between is a time of uncertainty—what used to be normal has changed, and what the future will be is unknown. But eventually, whether it’s sooner or later, we reach the other side of the Land Between. Life has settled down and feels stable again, and we can look back at what we’ve gone through.

Now, consider this…

When you look back from the other side of the Land Between, what do you see?

Is your relationship with God stronger than it was before? Maybe you look back and see where He was walking along side you the entire time. Despite the grief and emotional pain, you know without a doubt God never left you.

Or, maybe you realize that somewhere along the way, you stopped turning to God. You remember only the negative experience and are still grumbling about it.

The Land Between is a perfect time for transformational growth to occur, and one of two things will happen—we move toward God or away from Him.

How we respond to difficult circumstances gives us a visual of which way we’re moving.

When life gets hard (illness, death, unemployment, financial setbacks, separation and divorce, unexplained depression, or something else), we cry out to God, knowing won’t leave us. We look for Him at every twist and turn, and let Him walk us through this time.

This reaction enables us to grow closer to God, experiencing His presence and provision in ways we’ve never seen before.

But sometimes, we put up a wall, withdrawing from family and friends…and God. Although He never leaves us, we choose to turn away from Him, refusing to let Him in. Worse yet, we might blame God for the trial we’re going through.

Reacting this way puts everything on our own shoulders and isolates us from the very One who can support and help us.

What do you see when you look back from the edge of the other side? Now, look to the future.

From your experience in the Land Between, what to you see ahead of you?

If you’ve grown closer to God, you’ve seen Him like you’ve never seen Him before. Your faith and trust in Him are stronger than ever, and you know when the next storm in life starts to brew He’ll be right there beside you, guiding you through it.

If you’ve pulled away from God, you might look to the future and dread knowing another trial will come your way. You might feel like the only one you can depend on is yourself…and that didn’t go so well the last time.

If you find yourself on the path leading away from God, know that it’s never too late to turn back to Him. There is growth in realizing where you strayed, and knowing you don’t want it to happen again when the next struggle comes.

As you look back on your journey in the Land Between, what do you see? And how does it help you as you move into the future?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Emotional Meltdowns

The Land Between…life has been interrupted. What was normal is gone, and the future is unclear. Even in our grief, we must adjust to a time of transition and uncertainty.

We grieve over death, but we also experience sorrow and regret when there is a loss of a relationship (breakup or divorce), an unwanted change in lifestyle (loss of finances or home), or a change in family structure (child grows up and moves away).

Even when we know the change is coming, we grieve for the past. But there can also be regret over what might never be.

We may feel sadness or anger when what we hoped for in life doesn’t appear to be in God’s plans, and our dreams go unfulfilled…especially if we thought the dream was God’s plan.

Frustrated, discouraged, maybe even feeling lost in life, we have complaints and questions for God.

God, I thought this was Your plan for my life. Now what?!?

Really, God? One more thing?!? I can’t take any it more!

I’m barely staying afloat here, God. Where are You?!?

I miss ______. Why did You have to take ______ (him/her/it) away?

After a while, we are emotionally drained with nothing left to give.

Emotional meltdowns are not new to God. He knows there is only so much we can deal with—especially if we’re trying to cope all on our own.

Moses had reached his limit with leading the Israelites and listening to them complain against God over the manna He had provided.

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6

With nothing of himself left to give, Moses cried out to God.

He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” Numbers 11:11-15

Don’t miss the difference in their complaints. The Israelites complained against God, discontent over what He had provided for them. While Moses, in distress, bared his heart and complained to God, in need of His comfort and help.

There is also a big difference in how God responded. The Israelites continued to make God angry with their complaints. But, for Moses, God responded by helping him.

The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you.  I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone. Numbers 11:16-17

God knew what Moses was capable of and how much he could handle. He didn’t get angry because Moses was worn out and emotionally exhausted. He had mercy on Moses and lifted a share of the burden.

He wants to do this for us, as well. He invites us to let the walls down and come to Him—with open, honest hearts and emotional meltdowns—where He will lift us up and give us rest.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

The invitation has been extended. How will you respond?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Our Land Between

This is the Land Between—where life is not as it once was, where the future is in question. – Jeff Manion, The Land Between

We, as Gloria Dei, find ourselves in the Land Between…a time of transition between senior pastors. It’s not a desolate land, but an uncomfortable one…a time of change and wondering what the future will look like.

Maybe you’ve experienced your own personal Land Between…or maybe you’re in one now.

Whether it’s sudden, or you knew it was coming, life is not as it once was, and the future is in question.

“We’re moving.”

“Honey, I lost my job.”

“Mom, I’m in trouble.”

“I want a divorce.”

“The cancer has spread.”

Life has been interrupted. And, for a brief time, or maybe forever, what was normal is now gone.

The Land Between is unfamiliar, unwelcome, and unpleasant.

And…

It’s a time for growth—a time for God to work in our hearts.

You see, God has a purpose in the Land Between. It is a time for us to see Him more clearly through His provision and protection. It’s an opportunity for our faith to grow in ways that can only happen through times of trials and transition.

The Land Between isn’t time we would ask for, but when we look back, we can see God’s work.

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.

After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert.By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:17-18, 20-21

If I’d been an Israelite escaping from Egypt, my vote would have been for the shortest and fastest route possible! But God had a reason for not using the shortest road—and it was for their own good.

I wonder how many times I’ve missed seeing God’s hand at work in my life because I was too focused on looking for a quicker way through the transition—a direct way to the end result.

On a shorter route, the Israelites probably wouldn’t have needed the Lord to guide them. But going the longer way, they saw God lead them—night and day. In other words, God stayed with the Israelites 24/7. He went before them and walked beside them, guiding and protecting.

Where is God in our Land Between?

He is right here—with our congregation and with each of us individually. He is going before us, guiding us and preparing the way. He’s walking beside us, ready to listen, and to comfort us when we’re hurting and in distress. And He is with us providing and protecting.

I wouldn’t ask for our Land Between, but I know God has a purpose for it. He has a plan for you, for me, and for our congregation.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Obedience is Success

For the past two weeks, we’ve been talking about being on mission—stepping out of our comfort zones and sharing our Christian faith with others when the opportunity presents itself.

So, how do you know if you are successful or not?

When we share our faith with others, we hope for a successful end goal of healing, coming to faith, beating the addiction, or the like. But we may never know how it turns out.

I think God looks at success differently…or maybe, not at all.

God gives us opportunities to join Him in His Kingdom work, but He doesn’t leave us to work on our own. Instead, He says He will be with us. So, success is not about us, it’s about Him.

God doesn’t call us to be successful.

He calls us to be obedient.

When God calls, we have two choices. We can either step out in faith and follow His lead, or we can do nothing and ignore the opportunity.

Which will you choose?

Jeremiah chose to follow God.

The Lord gave me this message: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

 “O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”

The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth! Jeremiah 1:4-9 NLT

Did you notice Jeremiah’s excuse?

 “O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”

Don’t we often sound the same?

I can’t talk about Jesus. I’m too…inexperienced…unqualified…shy…afraid of saying the wrong thing.

But God has an answer for our excuses.

I will be with you and I will help you. I will give you the words to speak.

And then He says, Go!

Go outside of your comfort zone.

Go from self-reliance to God-reliance.

Go where He sends you. Right here. Right now.

God had a plan for Jeremiah, and He has plans for us.

God calls us to be obedient.

And when we are obedient to Him, we are successful.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Right Where You Are

Being on mission is the paradigm shift of a lifetime. The greatest adventure is to hear the invitation and respond. The greatest tragedy is to ignore our calling and go on living life as usual. – Britt Merrick, Godspeed

Two words used to bother me…witnessing and missional.

“Witnessing” made me envision standing on street corners and knocking on doors, neither of which I’m comfortable with.

And worse, it made me flash back to the guy yelling on the college campus, telling me where I was going before 8:00 in the morning. (Note to college campus yellers: Confrontational does not invite people to listen to you or care what you have to say. I’m just saying.)

Missional is a newer term, and when I first started hearing it, “being missional” sounded like witnessing. So, I didn’t like it.

But I see these two words differently now, and they no longer invoke an instant “no way” from me.

To witness means to tell your personal story as you know it—what God has done in your life.

To be missional is to have the freedom to interact with others and tell your story when given the opportunity.

Right where you are.

Throughout the Bible, God has worked through people, not independently of them. I believe this is still the case today. I can identify times in my life when my faith grew exponentially and it was through certain people God had brought into my life at that time.

Knowing God invites us into His Kingdom work can be intimidating. But there are three thoughts that have changed intimidating to exciting for me.

Only God can change hearts. We can plant the seed, but change is God’s work, not ours. We may have the privilege of seeing someone’s heart changed, or we may never know. But God knows, and that’s what matters.

Only God can save. It’s not our job to save someone, and that takes the pressure off. If we think we have to make sure someone is saved, then it becomes about us, not God. And it’s not about us at all. It’s all about God.

There’s not just one way to share your faith with others. God created each of us to be unique, with different strengths and talents. Going to the homeless shelter may not be for everyone, but it is someone’s gift. Hosting the block party may come naturally for many, but not for all. Some may feel comfortable speaking to one…or to many. But there is not just one way to share your faith.

How do you feel about God inviting you into His mission?

Interacting with others when you see the opportunity may be far outside of your comfort zone. God tends to do that, you know—just when you feel comfortable, He stretches you a little more, or in a different way.

God has a plan for you, and if He’s moving you, it’s time for action.

Right here. Right now. With Him.

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 
Summers in Cercadillo

Just another WordPress.com site

iChristian

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12

Hardwired

faith seeking wonder

A "Literal" approach to God's word

If Jesus meant something else, he would have said something else.

Follow The GLS

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

TimSchraeder.com

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

the Pangea Blog

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Seth Godin's Blog on marketing, tribes and respect

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Michael K. Reynolds

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Re:Sourceful

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Rachel Held Evans - blog

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Steven Furtick Ministries

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Jon Acuff

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

14 Clicks

Leading ordinary people to an extraordinary life in Christ.

Eyes Wide Open

Looking Up and Living in God's Truth and Love

Maybe Real Natives

Adventures from Denver

Theology, Culture, America

A topnotch WordPress.com site

Chief of the least

Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief....

Of Dust & Kings

Empowering Faith. Transforming Culture.