the hard work of faith

Faith is hard work.leap-of-faith

Now standing alone, that statement flys in the face of Grace, or at least seems to. But we are living this out day by day ourselves & especially with our neighbors. Faith is SO active. Faith is choosing daily, hourly, moment by moment to believe, to trust, to obey when everything you see and feel and are experiencing is telling you the opposite.

Faith is not easy…believing in what you cannot see in this world is not easy. And belief for more, for Abundant Life, for forgiveness, for peace, for joy, for provision, for hope, is being attacked at every turn.

I’ve believed in God since I was born (I think!) 🙂 I made the choice of faith in Jesus when I was 16. That’s going to be 20 (!) years ago come this Saturday…whoa. It was life-changing then & it continues to be life-changing now. And yet with so many years of ‘faith’ under my belt, it still doesn’t come naturally or easily. Yes I am rooted in faith more than 20 years ago, but the every day pull from my circumstances and especially the thoughts in my mind keep this faith muscle working over time it feels like!

That verse from Ephesians from my previous post talks about our fight being not against flesh & blood but against the spiritual forces. I feel this acutely! The lies that creep into my mind and begin to control my actions and my priorities. I can’t imagine the battle that must be waged within my brothers & sisters here in this neighborhood for whom this faith is so new and raw and vulnerable! They have so many lies that they have believed for so long…breaking these chains and choosing to believe Truth instead is hard, hard work.

We are committed to walking this journey with our friends & so thankful we serve a God who gives a million chances, who never gives up, who honors our teeny tiny steps of faith!! Faith is hard work…but the rewards are unbelievable! Please, Jesus, fill us with faith!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:1,6

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‘Little’ Miracles

Are any miracles really ‘little’?

We’ve been walking alongside a family here in our community who have decades of baggage, generations of brokenness. This past month it has felt like the fires have been stoked beneath them, as in we’ve been fighting fires daily and they have been going from crises to crises. We look at the situation from a spiritual perspective, that there is a war going on for them as they seek to have faith in Jesus and live for Him.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12

We have been fasting and praying for breakthrough and today I believe we experienced it! The eldest daughter in this family has been caring for her nephew the past 4 years as well as working odd cleaning jobs through a temp agency. She has never had a job other than casual work here and there, but is reliable, dependable and faithful. I’ve committed to walk with her through the process of applying for jobs and its only been a few weeks, but its a hard slough.

Back in December she went to apply at a local fast food restaurant where her brother has worked for over a year. When she handed in her application, the manager took a look at her hand, saw the flower tattoo on it, and told her immediately she wouldn’t be considered for a job there. They have a no visible tattoo policy – and even though hers is tasteful, they were not budging.

Last week her brother came to her to say that there was a job for her at this restaurant, she only needed to come in & apply and she would have the job. So on Tuesday morning I went with her to the restaurant and I helped her fill out the application again. She handed it in and was told to come in the next day to fill out the employment paperwork. Sounded great! No mention of the tattoo, no concerns…flower tatto

So I came in with her the next day (today) to be told that she was going to be interviewed by the same manager who had told her no because of the tattoo 2 months ago. And we had to wait about an hour before he would be ready. See when she filled out the application yesterday we had to read some of their policies, one being that they do NOT allow visible tattoos. The whole 10 minutes she was talking with this manager I sat there thinking, how is this going to work? Surely he’s going to take one look at her hand again and send her away. This is going to be one more knock to the family’s hope. And honestly, I didn’t even find the faith to believe God to make a way this time…I was thinking in my head about where we should go next to apply for jobs again.

And then it happens – she walks over, shows me the paper, says she’s got the job! Still unbelieving, I say but he didn’t see your tattoo? He did, she said, but he said it was ok this time, that it wasn’t offensive so don’t worry about it…! Miracle. Little in the scheme of things, but miracle all the same! I’m floored, truly, and repentant that I didn’t believe in God for more. I’ve been asking Him for more for this family for quite a while and have felt knocked down myself in defeat a few times. But as we’ve been proclaiming to them, I have to remind myself too today, that He is a Good, Good Father who has the best for us, all in His timing.

Thank the God of miracles with us today for providing and showing us His Glory in a seemingly impossible situation!

Poverty and a lack of choice

Reading my friend Aaron Smith’s book ‘Thriving in the City’ has helped me to process some things that I have been struggling with in the last few months on our church planting journey. These same things are causing tension for our neighbours as they try to move forward in their faith journey.

In Aaron’s words, a healthy way of understanding urban poverty is to see it as a distortion of God’s original design. It is one of the negative effects of the fall of humanity. This is not meant to disparage the poor themselves. Yes the urban poor have their fair share of sins but the existence of urban poor communities is an indictment of all society. Urban neighbourhoods are not beyond redemption.

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We by the worlds standards are wealthy people. We have many choices available to us that are simply not available to our neighbours. The local schools are under resourced and overwhelmed with behaviour issues, violence in schools, family breakdown, drugs and other issues. Its not easy to prepare kids for college. Teenagers have to work to support their families, to get the bills paid each month. We know some teenagers who work 5 evenings a week after school. Crime is sometimes an easy way out. Some people choose to smoke because it helps to keep them calm and helps with hunger, it’s cheaper than buying food. Processed and fast foods are cheap and readily available. Sometimes homes are not even recognised by the city because the landlord won’t make efforts to meet local building codes. Homes can be at risk of being destroyed. Its very difficult to get out of the cycle of short term thinking, going from one crisis to the next, if you think your house might be knocked down.

I am learning that the only response to these types of issues is to humbly offer emotional and practical support to help people make better but more difficult choices, and by joining with them sometimes to make more choices available. Also prayer and fasting – a lot of interceding. It’s easy to rush to judgement, to become impatient with people. It’s hard to persevere and go back to the same people and keep believing something different for them, especially when they have disappointed you by making another poor choice. This type of transformation takes time but our neighbourhood is not beyond redemption.