The Hope To Which You Are Called

As I prayed this morning for someone I love, the Spirit reminded me of a phrase in Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:18: “the hope to which you are called.”

I understood the Spirit was pointing to the specific plans He has for this person (and for each of His children) — plans I prayed would be revealed to my beloved, so they could know what God wants to do with and for them, and therefore, what to let their heart hope for! Discouragement had come knocking, and I went to prayer determined to help them overcome it. Nothing overcomes discouragement so completely as a settled hope in the plans our Faithful Father has for us. My beloved needs to know; we all need to know.

Think of these words again: the HOPE to which we are CALLED.

We need to know what the Lord wants each of us to believe and have hope in concerning our life as it rests in His hands. I do not believe we are asked to hope in just some vague idea of goodness from God towards us. God has unique plans and a calling for each of His children. Perceiving, knowing, and understanding what the Lord wants us to hope in becomes a great anchor for our faith. As the Lord has said,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

We need to know what the Lord is calling us to hope in when doubts come. We need a settled faith in what God is planning for us when life becomes disappointing. We need confidence in the personal words God has whispered to our spirit, when the enemy comes nagging with his words of discouragement and accusation.

Towards this end, we need to ask, “Lord, what would you have me put my hope in?” Insofar as He is willing, we can know and perceive God’s plans for us, and we should. I believe with all my heart that God is not trying to hide these things from us; that he wants us to seek, to know, and understand, so we may believe, agree and rest in them. In fact, Scriptures I have come across over the years have convinced me that God is really pleased when we seek to know and engage with him like this, because it stirs faith in us, and God loves few things so much as seeing that His child BELIEVES Him. (Think of how much faith excited Jesus when he saw it in people.)

I leave you to soak in the full prayer of the Apostle Paul:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”  (Ephesians 18-19a, NIV)

Resting Between His Shoulders

It’s 6 a.m., and I have settled into a chair near the wide open back door where I can feel the coastal breezes waft in, and hear the first bird songs of the morning. As usual, I have my creamy tea in hand. After greeting the Lord with “Good morning,” I ask, “What do you want us to do today, Lord?” The answer comes, 

“Rest in my love.”

Tears of relief and joy well up. Relief, because I realize I am a little on the weary side this morning. I don’t know how much I need to rest with Him until I hear the words. Joy, because this is the God who saved me and with whom I share life. 

I lean back, and the words of Moses bubble up to the surface of my mind: “The one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” This is part of the blessing/destiny Moses spoke over the tribe of Benjamin — the youngest of Israel’s sons, the baby of the family, who forever in my mind and theology represents the child of God. The greater blessing says, “The beloved of the Lord rests secure in Him, for He shields him all day long. And the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12)

I know these words by heart, having claimed them as my own heritage, in faith. And in response to this faith — that the Lord loves it when we lean against Him in childlike faith and presumption of His tender love for us — the Lord has invited me to rest anew in His love. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this invitation. 

How did I come to faith in this way of being with the Lord? These words, among many others in Scripture, which the Holy Spirit has woven together in my heart over years of seeking to know this God. It is like a garment I wear now, made seamless by Jesus’ invitation, “Come to me, all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…” together with His admonition, “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom like a little child will never enter it.” 

The kingdom of God is many marvelous things, and I’m sure I’ve only discovered a fraction of them. But I am quite sure that chief among them is resting between God’s shoulders, enjoying His love, in the un-self-conscious faith of a child who is convinced Daddy loves her.


The topic of being childlike with God, and being established in His love, is a major theme of Tonia’s book, “They Will All Know Me,”
available on Amazon.com and in the Shammah Book Store.

A Season for Writing

My heart is very full these days of the topic I am currently writing about — knowing God. The longer I know my Lord, know other Christians, and observe the way this world goes, the more certain I am that knowing God is the key to everything. It is His plan to heal, Father, and teach His children; it is how his Kingdom will be established. Knowing God is the highest joy we have on earth, and the means by which every Bible promise is fulfilled. It is the only way to ensure we end up with abundant life instead of lifeless religion.

I have tasted the Lord in wondrous, flawed, challenging and satisfying ways since He won my heart in 1979. Experiencing His goodness in daily life IS my joy, my strength, my rest, my wisdom, my hope and my inspiration to keep trying when I fail. I could never come up with those things on my own; they come with HIM. Jesus said it like this in John 17:3: “This is eternal life: knowing the Father.” Neither he nor the other New Testament writers ever spoke of this life beginning only after death. Eternal life begins for the believer the moment he or she joins to the Lord.

Everything that we could pack into a definition of abundant and eternal life — satisfaction of heart, nourishing relationship, the wisdom and power to fulfill our potential — flows out of knowing God. Everything written beyond the Gospels reveals that we were not given faith to just believe IN God, we were given faith in order to live our lives as a response to His very presence — Emmanuel, God with us. faith-signFaith is required if we are to enjoy the rest Jesus told us to seek in Him. Faith is necessary to hear personal words of comfort from the Father of all comfort in our grief. Faith is essential if we are to co-labor with the Father as Jesus did, believing that we can know what the Father is doing and do it with him. Faith is absolutely necessary to approach God in true childlikeness, believing it really is His pleasure to give the kingdom to his children, that we are really accepted by Him. The purpose of faith is believing that our constant companion, the Holy Spirit, is directing our hearts and revealing God’s thoughts to us as often as we turn our attention to Him. Millions believe in God and in His son, and are taught all about God; too few actually extend that faith to getting to know the God who lives right in them.

The book I am writing will explain how our salvation is actually a covenant that calls us to know God and promises he will make that possible. I will also weave together stories of my experiences of knowing God with the Scriptures which first gave me hope in such a life. The Bible consistently validates that this life is both a privilege and a calling from God. In fact, to “live worthy of the calling” means we must act upon what God is truly offering, not shrink back in fear. The Biblical writers assure us that God delights in the one who comes boldly, who seeks to know and taste of God; and is not pleased with the one who is timid, fearful or otherwise makes excuses about it all being too hard.

Certainly there is a tension to be maintained in knowing God, between the reverence due our Creator King, and the childlike intimacy the Father invites us to enjoy. My personal experience is that ultimately I walk with God more fruitfully and even more reverently when I presume upon the invitation to intimacy. How can that be? I think that is due to the fact that only in truly tasting of God — experiencing his invisible but very real presence — will your love, reverence and passion to obey naturally increase, in a way that you own it, you don’t have to be forced or talked into it. Instead of a command you must make yourself do, true fear and worship of the Lord comes naturally. To know Him is to love Him. Certainly we honor God when we worship him as an act of determination and devotion, yet the kind of worshippers the Father values the most are those who worship in spirit and in truth, as a genuine and irrepressible response to what they have seen and know. Thus the exhortation, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Every day I encounter people who shrink back from knowing God out of fear that they are unworthy, not good enough, not surrendered enough; who believe they must achieve a certain level of maturity before hoping that God will walk and talk with them. Yet I find quite the opposite to be true: as I relax into hanging out with God as I would a friend, brother and father, I find myself becoming more of what I am called to be. I am taught. I learn right timing, when I otherwise may not understand whether it is a time to embrace, or to refrain from embracing.

It is the relationship that brings us to maturity, not the other way around. I’m on a mission to convince people of this, to come against the lie which the devil has fostered, that believers have to earn God’s favor, his voice, his presence, before they can know God in such ways this side of heaven. Yes, there are requirements, and He has made sure we can meet them all, through His grace, His Spirit, His goodness.

This book will be entitled “They Will All Know Me,” and is to be book three of the ScribeLife Series the Lord has instructed me to write. (The first two books in the series are “Rooted & Established In Love” and our co-authored book “Can I Really Hear God?”) There will be three more books in the series following this one, including one on “Spirit Life” (how to walk with the Holy Spirit), and one on our Lord’s command to “love others as I have loved you.”

I covet your prayers for this work. I believe with all my heart that the world needs to learn these things. I write to join the chorus of voices out there who are singing the same tune, because so many people are still captive, still timid, and still reaching for satisfaction from the world because they don’t realize how very much God can truly satisfy them. I am not qualified to write of these things because I live it perfectly, but because I have tested what I teach in my own daily life for thirty years. I have come to know this amazing God who keeps leaping over all my flaws and weaknesses to love me with all His heart, and I want others to know Him as they can.

In fact, don’t wait for the book, just get on that right now. The Spirit will show you how; it’s His favorite thing!

Living By Faith

Based on what we see and hear at our counseling table, it seems that many Bible-reading, church-going people do not really live by faith. Yes, they clearly believe IN Christ; but their habitual behavior reveals that they do not live by faith in Emmanuel, the Christ who dwells with them.

One who genuinely believes they are living life in the very presence of God will adjust their behavior accordingly. The flip side of that truth is that person who repeatedly gives way to behavior that is unChristlike, particularly in a marriage, is revealing that one of two things is going on: either they have no faith that God is with them, and is a personal witness to their behavior; or they DO know it, and have no fear of God. Either one is the equivalent of not living by faith. For God does say he is present with us, and he even knows our thoughts.

God does not ask us to earn His presence; it is a gift of the new covenant in Christ. But he does ask us to “live worthy” of this awesome gift. Living worthy is not about being perfect, it is about living like you really believe it, and adjusting yourself accordingly. To really live by faith is to adjust your behavior and your very thoughts to what is pleasing to Emmanuel, God With You.

You didn’t earn God’s choice to live with you, and you can’t make Him go away. If you sin, you sin in His presence. If you have permission to keep doing what you do, then you love yourself (and your choices) more than you love him. Once when God was addressing David’s sin with Bathsheba, God described it this way: “You despised me.” (2 Samuel 12) He made it most personal. It wasn’t just that David sinned; he behaved in a way that said to God, “I don’t love you; you don’t matter to me.”

Please use your faith to live a life worthy of God’s love and gift of himself to you. Please love him with your choices and your very thoughts. Then it can be said that you are a person who lives by faith.

 

Lord, increase our faith!

When the disciples cried out to the Lord in this way, was it because they hadn’t been able to heal someone or drive out a tormenting spirit? No…. it was because he had just told them that forgiveness should be continually extended to those who ask, even if you’ve been repeatedly sinned against by the same person in one day!

“If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17: 3-5)

Matthew tells us that Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22) Jesus wasn’t literally putting a number on forgiveness, but saying, in their Jewish way, “do it until perfection or completely,” i.e., “as often as it is required of you.”

So why the cry for more faith? And for faith in what, or who? The answer reveals the truth about every instance calling for forgiveness: that for the Christian, the greater issue is between us and the Lord who commands us to forgive, and who, in fact, tells us that we will not be forgiven or blessed by him if we refuse forgiveness.

Here are the matters for which we all need faith, if we are to forgive freely and often for sins committed against us large and small:

Do I believe God when he says he loves justice, and will bring it to every situation, whether I get to know it or not?

Do I believe God when he says I cannot be forgiven by Him until I also forgive others?

Do I believe that the Holy Spirit can enable me by his power to carry forgiveness out, if I make the decision?

Forgiveness is a great act of faith: faith in the goodness of God, faith in the faithfulness of God, faith in the justice of God, faith in the words of God. Our choices about forgiveness always pass through the filter (in our souls) of what we believe about God. Lord, increase our faith!

A Believer’s Prayer

Lord, I know you are with me. I have your promise…in how many ways? “Emmanuel, God with us…”  “I am with you always….”

In faith I cannot doubt you are with me, but in fact it is too easy to ignore your gentle and quiet presence. You are with me when I awake, and when I lay down to sleep at night. You are with me when I’m wrestling with a problem, and when I’m walking the dog. You are with me when I laugh, when I cry, when I yell, and when I hurt. From the moment I believed in you, and knew you died for me, and gratefully asked you to live in my heart, you have been with me. You are with me when I ignore you; every time, all the time. In covenant faithfulness, you cannot, and will not, leave me. Ever.

Lord, hear my prayer: help me, dear Father, precious Lord, and Holy Spirit, to live and think as one who genuinely believes in your presence. Help me to not take you for granted today; help me to break the habit of ignoring you. I want to live every day enjoying your gracious kindness and the comfort of your faithful strength. Above all, I want to live in a way that makes you glad you live in me and sacrificed all so we could share this life..