God, I don’t feel you near

Faith is a journey. As much as I hate little cliché sayings, this one is 100% true. Faith in Christ isn’t something you experience once and put on the shelf. Your faith isn’t something that you talk about in the past tense, “oh that time when I had faith…”. Faith is present, and it’s alive- it’s what makes us come alive.

At times I forget this little fact, and when I do, my life becomes very exhausting. I become very anxious “Why does He feel so far away?”. I become ungrateful, “If I was somewhere else, doing something different, with different people, then He would be closer.” I blame my surroundings for my “lack” of faith, when- although a big factor, my surroundings cannot take away my faith.

If faith is a journey, we could compare it to a road trip, right? We get in the car all excited- we have everything we perceive we could need. We’ve got the snacks and map, we have our friends, we have music, fuel, excitement, and we’re filled with passion and vision “This trip is going to be awesome!” We yell out that “This is about the journey, not the destination!” It starts off great- we know where we are as we are leaving our own driveways. We know our town, so we don’t even really need the map to direct us. The tank is full, the snacks are fresh, we are happy!

Somewhere along the line though, we get lost. We take the wrong turn and end up off the map. In our mind, we may as well be in the middle of India, that’s how lost we are. But what’s generally the first thing you do when you’re lost? If you’re not a man, you pick up the map or jump to Google maps to find out where you are, so that you know where to go. You find your way again, and then you head out, knowing that getting lost a little is all part of the journey. Sometimes you learn the most about your friends and your surroundings by being a bit lost, even though no one really tries to get lost.

How similar is your faith, then? If your faith is like a road trip, there will be times when you feel empty and frustrated. You’ll feel sick of the people around you, you’ll feel like you took a few too many wrong turns, and you’ll definitely feel far from God. When you don’t see Him beside you, it’s easy to think He’s not there. But just like in your car, just because you can’t see the coast doesn’t mean you won’t at some point. You know you’re on the way, and sometimes you need to keep going because the map says you’re on the right road, whether you feel like it’s right or not.

Long story short, faith is hard. Trusting in Someone you can’t see can be difficult, and following Someone who wants to teach you how to be wise and make wise choices is harder than following a handbook or rules. There are many times where I feel far from God, but like those cheesy, cliché church signs say, “When you feel far from God, take a guess- who moved?” And it’s always me. I like to spin it and say “But I don’t feel Him, so He must be far.” But can I have faith, even if I don’t feel Him? Is “feeling Him near” a requirement for my faith? Because really, how much strength does your faith need if you always feel Him? When you think of a baby learning to walk, you may as well be 10 meters away if you’re not holding their hands, even if you’re 10 centimetres in front of them. Are we the same way? If we don’t feel Him, then He’s not there?

I’ve been encouraged by John 10:14 since being home. I too have been having those feelings (that everyone gets), but He’s taught me in the past (in the “easier” seasons), that His word is absolute truth, and when I don’t “feel” Him, I can know that His word never fails. Jesus has just finished one of His famous parables, and of course, not many understood. (He did this on purpose, by the way, but that’s a different story.) So He’s explaining Himself, and says something beautiful. Context: you and I are sheep. We’re the ones who lay down our lives to follow our shepherd. If you’re not ok with this, you need to take that up with Him.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me.”

Someone who created me, who knows me. He knows me when I don’t even know myself- I’m sure you know the days.

Back to faith, and then we’re all done. If you check out 2 Peter 1, there’s a sweet little verse (5) that says to “supplement your faith”.  Add to your faith. Wait- game changer! This faith, which you and I have been given ( 2 Pet. 1:1) by God, can be added to. With what, do you ask? Well, let me tell you. Good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love. Looking at all of that at once seems overwhelming, but start with your faith. Start in the beginning, and ask Him “God, what can I work on today?”

And I’ll leave with reminding you that satan hates when we believe truth. He is the master of lies, that is his nature. So if you’re like me and love to kick satan when he’s down, start declaring truth, even if you don’t feel it. Declare that “God is near” (Psalm 145:18). God has a plan for all of this (Romans 8:28), even if we mess it up a lot. You are His sheep- you know Him and He knows you (John 10:14).

He came to give you life, and life to the fullest, yes. And sometimes that includes a bit of challenge. Are you up for it?

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With Strength that is not my own, Sam

 

P.S- A Bonus for you:

 

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Philippians

ihavelearned

 

I just finished Philippians. I’ve been taking it one chapter a week, asking God “What does this look like for my team? What lessons are for me in this?” Ask and you shall receive, He said, and I’ve seen the lessons popping out at me ever since. For your sake I will keep it to a minimum, just highlighting a few from each chapter, but I’d like to encourage you to take this on for yourself. Pick a book and ask Him to speak about it, about what was going on when it was written, and what it means for you today. So here we go!

Chapter 1: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  Phil.1:6 

This was a big one for me, as I look towards leading this team (with my beautiful Anna, of course). First of all- God is the one who began the good work among the Philippians, not Paul. Even though Paul was doing the “dirty work” of discipleship, God is the one who begins it, and therefore: He is faithful to complete it. God isn’t someone who does things halfway. If we only learn a lesson halfway, it’s because we didn’t push through to the other side, not because God deserted us in the process.

Another major point I took from this verse is something that I gleamed from my own outreach to Papua New Guinea in 2011. Paul was separated from the Philippians, he isn’t able to be with the people who bring him great joy because of his suffering for Christ. That means that he was shepherding them for a time and then had to leave before he saw their transformation completed. What does that mean for me? For our team? Well #1 it means that the students, as well as me, will be learning lessons that may not be fully understood while we are together. The learning process will continue after the outreach, and I may not be around to see it. Will I be ok with that? And for us as a team, we will see issues that we won’t like. We’ll see corrupt orphanages, street children, a devalued nation and it will break us. There’s no way we’ll be able to “fix” it all in 11 short weeks. Will we be strong enough to walk away, after pouring out our hearts, even if we don’t see the change?

Chapter 2: “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Phil 2:2

Unity is something our team is striving for, yet isn’t something that can be forced. Unity comes when we are honest with each other, when we repent together, when we lay down our desires and hopes for this trip, and we come together and ask God for His heart, His vision, and His plans for us. Unity comes when we work together to pursue God, because all good things come from Him. Paul is pleased when the people work together, pursuing love together, being Christ-like together. Our team will have a lot going on, but we will be together, and that is one of the most important things.

“Though He (Jesus)  was God, He didn’t think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave.” vs. 6&7

This one hit me. Big black letters are scribbled in my journal, simply saying “Sam, lower yourself.” I am here to serve- serve Him, serve my team, and serve Togo. Sometimes I catch myself thinking I deserve a special acknowledgement, I mean “I always serve…” but that’s my job. Do you congratulate your washing machine when it washes your clothes? No- because that’s it’s job. My job is to serve, and if Jesus Christ, our LORD, could lower Himself to a person who couldn’t even control His own bladder (an infant), I need to lower myself. I need to serve my team, and treat them with love and respect and admiration. Samantha Nicole- get over yourself.

Chapter 3“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!” Phil. 3:10-11

I want to know the mighty power!! Yes Lord! Pick me! I want to see miracles, I want to see you raise the dead. I want, I want, I want. But do I want the suffering that goes with it? I’m reminded here to be wise with my prayers- I want to see miracles, but I never finish the verse. Am I as eager to suffer as I am to see His glory? This was definitely one that I had to double check with my spirit, because to be frank, I’m a selfish person. What do you think about this?

Chapter 4: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” Phil. 4:11

This one especially makes me stop and think, mainly because I don’t think much about this verse until my “rights” have been exposed as “privileges.” Will I be ok in 3 weeks when I don’t have internet in the palm of my hand, when I can’t text my mum real quick, or send her a photo of those sweet babies immediately after I take it? Will I be ok when I have to sleep under a mosquito net, or when all we have to eat is starch and water? Will I be content when I have to hand wash my clothes and limit my shower times? What about when my team gets on my nerves, or we’re short on cash, or our transportation is uncomfortable and my head hurts? Will I be content?

Will I be content when “all I have” is Christ? When all the comforts of this life are stripped, and what’s left is my mess of a heart and what little knowledge I have of Him? Will I be content? Would you?

It’s my prayer that by the end of this school, by the time we land back here in Kona on September 14th, that I will have learned even just a sliver of this, to be content no matter what. Whether I have mum’s home cooking, my single bed, no shower, shelter from the rain, my family, my team or no one at all- I hope to be content. Pray with me?

With Strength that’s not my own, Sam

Kicking fear in the face

My day

 

I sat at the cafe. I sat and just breathed it all in. All that He’s done to get me here, all the lessons He’s taught me along the way. I prayed under my breath of thankfulness for the way that He works, the way He gently takes my hand and encourages me to take another step. He’s so good to me.

Today I laid out my fears on paper. And with each fear I had, I asked Him to reveal the connecting unbelief. I fear being alone, because sometimes I don’t believe He is enough for me. I fear going to the “wrong” country on outreach because I don’t always believe I can hear Him speaking properly. I fear missing out on opportunities because I don’t believe His plans are always as good as I’d think they are.

Fear.

Unbelief.

1 John 4:18- Such love has no fear, because perfect love casts out fear.

1 John 4:8- But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 

Perfect love casts out fear. God is perfect love. God casts out fear.

John 10:10- The thief comes to seek, kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

You and I are not bound by fear, we laid that down when we realized that this life has one purpose, and that is to glorify Jesus in every single action we make. I wrote my fears out and God clearly showed me where I was believing lies from Satan, which gave me the perfect chance to stand against Satan and take my royal authority back. I will not make decisions based out of fear, but based on the solid words of my Saviour.

So go. Cast out that fear, because you have perfect love living inside you. Do you feel that in your bones?

Serving God

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

As good as it gets

Hey there friend. I’m so sorry for my lack of “blog etiquette”. I’ve been more then silent lately, for a few reasons, some good, some not so good- but I will continue to be here. I will continue to speak when I’m called to, and continue to pursue this beautiful heart of Jesus. Just recently I was reading through Colossians, and something really awesome stood out to me, so perhaps I’ll share it with you and you can soar with it!

“We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.”  Colossians 1.3-5

I just love that our faith in Christ and our love for all God’s people grows because of the hope that we have. And looking back on the month of May, I needed a lot of hope, and God is always faithful to provide. (Just a short sermon for today) 🙂 I’ve been dwelling in this peaceful place with God recently and am enjoying the beauty of limited words. He is so good to me.

I’ve also been doing a lot of preparation for my next step back into missions. I’ve been having a tough time explaining to people that I will indeed be a full time missionary even though I won’t be in a third world country at all times. So, seeing this as an issue, I’ve been taking some time to look into different ministries I’ll be involved in, and I am blown away. My heart is overflowing with excitement for my job, passion for God’s people, and sadness for the injustice and lies that Satan continues to throw at God’s beloved. With each discovery I’m making, my heart is growing, and God is confirming over and over my decision to just jump into this full time. Most recently I’ve been in the process of writing a support letter (oh yes, the dreaded finance questions), and I’ve actually been very excited about this! At the beginning of this journey, God promised that my support would come from very unexpected sources, so I’ve been eager to send out my letters and see who desires to partner with me! The letter is just about finished, I need to add a photo or two (oh the photographer in me), and then I’ll be doing a whole lot of stamping and address searching! If you’d like a letter, even just to know more details of what exactly I’ll be doing, email me at shine121photography@gmail.com

I do believe this may be the shortest blog post I’ve written yet! This is alarming- I wonder what I may have to say in the next one? 🙂

Thank you so much for being patient. And thank you for being here with me. I’ve gone through a bit of “Where do I even belong anymore?” lately, and it is so encouraging to know that you reading this do not expect me anywhere, as long as we can sit on opposite sides of the screen and love on each other. Be blessed!

I’m in love with Jesus. Just saying.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

Order Up

It’s funny how God catches our attention sometimes. As you may know, I just returned from a short, yet blessed, 3 day trip to Pennsylvania. I was there catching up with a few friends that I met in Australia… and it was exactly what my heart needed. Being a social trip, I didn’t intend wholly on doing much outreach, but those Americans have a way of sneaking Jesus into you before breakfast, at least, the Americans I know 🙂 So as it was, we were out the door by 7, headed off to a Bible study in the E-Town public high school. Seeing as the speaker was also our host, I tried especially hard to pay attention, but based on his topic, I didn’t really need to try.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant, read the menu, smiled, and then walked out feeling satisfied? Probably not. Sounds like a ridiculous idea, doesn’t it? We know what we want, we order it, and we gladly receive our meal. How many times do we do that with God and His Word? God knows what we need. He knows the desires of our hearts, yet we sit and look at what He’s offering, then turn around and walk away. What do you want? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do for God? Order up! God has so much available for you,  such amazing plans, but we reject them simply by not asking.

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong- you want what will give you pleasure.”              James 4v1-3

You don’t have what you want because you don’t ask for it. Sounds like the story of my life. God’s put option after option in front of me, and I’ve looked at each of them and said “That could work, but first I want to…”  I think its about time that stops. Slowly I’ve come to realize that I need to go. I’ve had confirmations all over the place, from people near and far. And setting down my own plans has taken longer than I’ve expected, but has happened nonetheless. I’ve come to realize that if the things I want are from God, then He’ll make them work in my life somehow.

In light of all the thankfulness we are expressing in this season of Christmas, I want to encourage you to ask God for direction for your life. No matter if you’re deciding where you’re going to school next year, or what to do with your family situation, God wants to be part of it. And when you find yourself frustrated, wondering why God’s holding back on you, go recheck and make sure you’ve been asking Him for the right things.

I’ve gone through a bit of YWAM home-sickness lately. Funny, about this time last year I was dreading hopping on that plane. Too much was happening here with my family, the realness of my trip was hitting home, and I easily could have emailed Ben to tell him “no dice, I’m out.” It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like if I actually did that. My heart would still be asking those same old questions. My walk with God wouldn’t have grown, my view of God would be even smaller than it is now. And even though I don’t know exactly what my task is, I do know what my goal is. My goal, and yours included, is to dig. Dig into the heart of God to find your purpose. Not to find your own purpose and ask Him to bless you in it, but to ask HIM first. This is part of my New Years resolution, so you’ll most likely be reading a lot about this in my blogs to come.

On another note, small plans are coming together concerning my grand return to YWAM! Times, locations and school details are yet to come, but know this: you are involved! I’ve got photography fund raisers, support letters drafted, graphic designers warming up, and some delicious dinner party ideas formulating in my mind. I’m embarking- again- on an adventure, and want you there with me. My blogs will eventually be much more informative concerning what I’m doing, rather than what I’m dreaming of. So if you’d like, there’s this nifty little button you can press that says “follow”.. press it, I dare you. It’ll send you an email when I write so you’ll be informed on what’s going on!

Thanks again for reading. We’ve almost made it a full year and 36 posts! I’m excited to see where the next year brings us.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

At the end of it all, I wanna be in your arms

Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord! Lord! will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in Heaven will enter. *On judgement day many will say to me, “Lord! Lord! We prophesied IN YOUR NAME and cast out demons IN YOUR NAME and performed many miracles IN YOUR NAME.” But I will reply, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU. Get away from me, you who break God’s law.”  

Matthew 7v12-23

It breaks my heart and instills this immense sense of urgency to KNOW God. Not to speak AT Him, or to do things primarily in His name, but to know HIM. To enlist His wisdom in hard situations, decisions and plans. To take His command to love seriously, and to wake up each day asking “What will you teach me today?” (even though sometimes the answers scare me)

Maybe it’s out of fear. Fear of hell? Maybe. Fear of all this “hard work” I’ve (kind of) been doing, going to waste. I mostly think it’s fear of a life without God. No God= no love. No God= no purpose. And seeing that God IS life, no God= no life. All my “good deeds” are pointless if I don’t KNOW Him. And what a beautiful picture that is.

We serve a God who wants you to know Him more than He wants your actions. Imagine going to those gates and instead of hearing Him say “You didn’t donate enough, you lied too much, and you didn’t serve others enough, you may not enter.” He says, “You lived a great life. You  improved the lives of many! You’re one of my most self-sacrificing creations, always loving and including others. You tied my name to it all, but I don’t remember ever hearing from you. I’ve wanted to know you completely for so long, but you never returned to me. I gave you any opportunity I could think of, but you ignored every one of them. I’m sorry to say it, but I don’t know you. And since whoever is not for me is against me, I’m pained to say there is another spot for you somewhere else.”

It sounds awful, it really does. But think of the opposite conversation He could have with you.. “You had a rough go down there! I could see that you were being attacked from all sides, and my most favourite part of our story is when you called on me for help. You didn’t know if I was real, but you asked for me, specifically, and did I ever take delight in helping you, my beloved. And from that moment, you invited me in, you wanted me there with you. Yes, you had your moments, you still struggled with some things, but you knew where your strength was coming from to get through it. And when you spoke to others about me, oh, I was so proud. You could confidently tell them about me, and you were so right, too! And how? Because you knew me. And although there were things you couldn’t understand about me, you still sang my name. And now, my most beloved Child, you may know me completely.”

That verse has always scared me, but for good reasons. To spend my entire life doing what I think are good things, only to walk up to Jesus and hear Him say “I don’t know you, get away from me.” For a long time it didn’t make sense. How could a good, loving God say that to His child? I guess it just puts it into perspective how much He desires a relationship with us above our good deeds.

 I guess we as humans are the same way, interestingly enough. I personally don’t know anyone who has a best friend that they never speak to. We can bump into someone that we used to know and catch up on old times, old memories, old..old..old. But if we don’t maintain those relationships, that’s all it stays.. old. God’s got a fresh new page for us just waiting to be devoured every single morning, but it’s up to us to turn the pages. The good thing about God though, is that even as forgetful and lazy and unmotivated as we get, He’s still there, totally ready to work with us. My cry to you is to turn the page today. Now. Don’t let yourself get to the gate, and have an ever loving God stare blankly at you saying “I never knew you”. Empty. Ah, makes me feel so empty.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam