Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Lessons from Seminary

I am so blessed to be in seminary! I am more sure than ever that this is where I’m supposed to be right now. I was so nervous, and frankly I had a bad attitude about some of the classes I’m required to take for my degree. I’m interested in the academic study, and wasn’t looking forward at all to classes like “Spiritual Life” or “Evangelism.”

I had my first Spiritual Life class last night, and I’m happy to say I’m a convert. I LOVED it. It promises to offer so much spiritual growth. True, it’s not an academic class, but as my professor wisely pointed out, there is little merit in gaining academic knowledge if the heart and soul are getting left behind. Throughout the two-hour meeting I could just feel the Holy Spirit working in my heart, changing my perspective. What great joy! My evangelism class is tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it now. I just have a completely differnt attitude.

Coffee Love

My professor, Bruce Fong, is also a dean at the Houston campus of DTS. More importantly, he is a man with an obvious heart for the Lord. He imparted so much wisdom in two hours–and half of that time was spent going over the syllabus!–that I could probably write three different blog posts based on the insights gained through him in one class. I feel so blessed to be in this class, and before yesterday I was absolutely dreading it and expecting it to be a waste of time. Amazing how God can change a heart and attitude so quickly!

One of the things he talked about was the importance of asking for things in Jesus’ name. Jesus says,

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14).

But what does it mean to ask for something in Jesus name? There are plenty of things I’ve asked for that I haven’t gotten in the end. And I always add, “In Jesus’ name I pray” at the end of my prayers. I had never thought that I may be missing a key element.

What Dr. Fong said last night is that we are good at asking for things, but not as good as asking in Jesus’ name, in his character, in line with who he is and his goals for us, as one who walks closely with him. As my professor said, if we ask for something because we want it for ourselves, we aren’t asking in Jesus’ name. But if we can become like Jesus in our prayers, we will see our prayers answered out of his divine power (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Wow.

To ask in the name of Jessus, I need to grow more in my relationship with him. I need to seek to know what he wants and what his goals are for me and for my life. And then I can be confident that what I ask will be given to me.

I am glad to have this new insight to guide me and help me grow in my prayer life and in my relationship with my Lord. And I am feeling confident that he will answer my request that I might grow deeper roots in my faith this semester. Praise the Lord!

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What Can Separate Us?

I will place enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

I’m going to try not to get too theologically deep with this one, but I have been thinking about this verse quite a bit lately. In context, this is part of the curse on the serpent following the first sin. The crafty serpent convinces Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the process he displays all of his evil wiles and powers of deception. Eve eats the fruit and passes it along to her husband, who appears to have been standing passively by and waiting for her to make a decision. He follows along (first peer pressure?) and before you know it, God’s good and perfect creation falls to sin.

For satan, this seems like a battle won. In the war of God vs. lucifer, it looks like God: 0, lucifer: 1. He has deceived God’s image-bearers, leading to the first death and to the end of innocence.

All three persons are found guilty before God: Adam for eating the fruit he knew he shouldn’t have eaten, Eve for doing the same and, really, for choosing to listen to satan over God, and the serpent, the “craftiest” of all of the beasts, for pushing them to sin. All three will be penalized. Adam will henceforth have to work to draw forth sustenance from the ground. Eve will suffer pain in childbearing. And the serpent? He will crawl on his belly in the dirt. Oh, and one more thing: God “will place enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

Most people understand this verse not just as a general statement about the relationship between people and snakes. It is called the protoevangelium, or “first gospel,” and refers to God’s plan of redemption for man. And satan fails to realize that he has just set himself up for ultimate destruction.

From the beginning, satan has worked to try to separate people from God. And from the beginning, God has had a plan to redeem us from our sins. The ultimate offspring from the woman is Jesus. While the serpent will attempt to strike a blow at him, the injuries satan can cause are minor compared to the final destruction God has promised the devil.

I find I’m moved by the idea that God would allow satan even a minor jab at Jesus. And I think the injury satan ultimately inflicts is in Jesus’ death on the cross. But this is not really the fatal blow it appears to be, for Jesus rises again, triumphant in the defeat of all sin (of death). But satan? His doom is coming. He has already lost, though maybe he doesn’t see it yet.

And when I think about how this applies to my life, I wonder if things like infertility, uncertainty, difficult circumstances and challenges, and all of the things that seem like the worst.thing.ever are the equivalent of satan striking at our heels. He hasn’t given up, though his mission has proven futile.

What has happened in my life when satan gets his jabs in? Infertility has undeniably strengthened my relationship with God. Uncertain circumstances have provided me the opportunity to see how God is working in my life. Challenges with doctors, insurance plans, and unexpected bills have given me chances to turn to God, laying my burdens in his hands and learning to trust that he will take care of these things.

Does it sting? Sometimes it hurts more than I can believe or express.

Is the pain lasting? Will it defeat me? I know that it isn’t. I know that it can’t.

Could these jabs from satan draw me away from my Father? Nope.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Satan loses, my friends. In fact, he’s lost already. Nothing can separate me–not infertility, not heartache, not loss–from the love of God. Praise the Lord!


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David Asked, “How Long O Lord?”

Months ago I introduced what I planned to make my first blog series. And then I never even wrote the first article in the series. Oops. So for that, “This is my first blog series. We’ll see how it goes” comment in the intro article, we can go ahead and conclude that it didn’t go well. It didn’t go at all. 

But I didn’t forget it. And this time I’m doing it right. I hope.

The crux of that introductory post was that being called to do something doesn’t mean it will be easy. I find this idea comforting as we deal with infertility. When we first received our diagnosis, I questioned my calling. Am I not supposed to be a mother?

Today, I will say I don’t know what I am called to be. But I do know I desire to be a mother. And I do know that simply facing hardship along the way does not indicate that I am not supposed to have children of my own. I know that’s true, because there are plenty of people in the Bible who are clearly called to do specific things but face great difficulty getting to their objectives. For the next several Mondays, I’ll be writing about some of these biblical people and the challenges they faced on the way to becoming who God called them to be.

I’m starting this series with David. I chose to begin with David for a few reasons:

  • His calling is indisputable. As the anointed (read: chosen) king of Israel, there can be no doubt that God fully intended for David to be king.
  • His hardship is indisputable. David spent years of his life hiding from King Saul (who wanted to kill him). He was apart from his family. He had to spend time living among his enemies. And he documented his hardship in the Psalms, so we can be sure that David wasn’t hanging out in those caves thinking, “Yeah—this is the life.
  • It’s difficult to find meaning in his hardship. Sometimes we face difficulties in life that the perspective of time helps us see were for our good. We can look back at what we’ve been through and see that it was good that things didn’t go the way we wanted when we wanted. We can see that we’ve grown from certain hardships. Or we can see that the path we ended up taking because of a challenge was a better path, the path we were supposed to take.
    But sometimes we can’t see why things happened the way they did. We may not know the value or reason for such hardships until we get a chance to ask God himself. When we look at the hardships David endured, it’s not like we can say, “Good thing he spent all those years of his life suffering and on the run from King Saul. Because of that hardship he was a better king.” Maybe he was better for it. The fact is, we don’t know.
    It is nice to have the Psalms, to see how we can cry out to God when we are in agony—so that’s a benefit to us of David’s hardship. But who knows how David saw his hardship or what he learned from it. Did he ever look back and take delight in his most dire circumstances and how they shaped him? Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t.
  • David is rewarded for his faithfulness. Despite facing such challenging circumstances, David continues to trust God and to serve God throughout his life. He doesn’t turn against God when his circumstances are difficult or unbearable. And he speaks honestly to God about what he is feeling. He sets an example for us. He is a sinner, and he suffers for it. But he also finds forgiveness in God’s mercy. He has a heart after God’s own heart. And it is through David’s line that God chooses to bring the Messiah. Jesus is the ultimate king from the line of David. And David is honored by having a place in Christ’s lineage. 

This is an aside, but I think it applies as we try to discern God’s calling in our lives: When David volunteered to fight Goliath, he was a young boy. King Saul initially tells him he is too young to fight. After Saul finally consents in I Samuel 17:37, “Then Saul gave David his own armor–a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. ‘I can’t go in these,’ he protested to Saul. ‘I’m not used to them.’ So David took them off again.” (I Samuel 17:38-39) You see, we can’t wear someone else’s armor. We can’t try to be like someone else. We are who God created and called us to be. Trying to be someone else will only wear us down or wear us out, as David would have been as a boy in a man’s armor. To triumph in the battles we face, we have to be true to who we are.

I could go into great detail about how—and how long—David suffered, but I don’t think that’s necessary (for more on David’s life, see I and II Samuel and many of the Psalms). But David’s Psalms of suffering serve as examples to us to help us voice our pain and desperation to God when we face hardships of many kinds. I leave you with Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

~~~

For the second episode in this series, on Moses, click here.


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Life Isn’t Always Easy

Several months ago a woman in my small group made an interesting comment. Essentially, she said that before she was a Christian her life had been difficult but now that she is a Christian everything is going smoothly for her. She talked about how she had been trying to convince her mother to start following Christ so her life would be simpler and she would have fewer problems.

I guess there is a small nugget of truth in that, as there is in many false teachings that are easy to believe. After all, Jesus says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

We have the ability to cast our cares and our burdens on Jesus. And the lightening that follows can truly change a life. I have been praying for some time that Christ would help me carry the burden of infertility, and I have recently written of the peace I have today that I believe is completely from God. But that peace doesn’t change my circumstances. It affects my attitude and my daily posture, but it isn’t a complete solution to my problem. I still long to be a mother.

I would submit that this view seems fine until something goes wrong. Different people have different tolerances for what that means. But if you believe that as long as you love the Lord things will go smoothly for you, what must you think as soon as the road becomes bumpy and difficult to travel? If the first premise is correct, then what follows from hardship?

Someone failed. Maybe you failed to love God enough. What follows is a quick slide into a works-based salvation, where your right standing with God is dependent on your own actions. And what we will find if right standing is dependent on us is that we are not good enough for God. We cannot be good enough for God.

Alternatively, maybe God has failed to provide for you. Maybe you question whether the Word is true when it says that God will “work all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Maybe you start to wonder if God has abandoned you or left your side. Maybe you doubt his leadership in your life or his ability to bless you.

If you believe your Christian walk includes a promise that everything will go smoothly all the time, something’s got to give when hardship finds you. And hardship will probably find you. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).

There are two main directions hardship can push us: away from God or closer to him. In hardship, we can choose to put our faith in a God who sees the whole picture and knows the whole plan. We can choose to trust him completely even when our difficulty and pain doesn’t make sense to us. We can choose to believe him despite the difficulty inherent in our circumstance.

Or we can choose to give up on him. We can decide we don’t trust him. We can feel betrayed, like we have been taken where we didn’t want to go and put in places we didn’t think we’d be in despite, or perhaps even because of, God. We can decide God is not bigger than our problems. Or that he doesn’t actually care. Or that he’s not actually present in our lives.

And if you start with the premise that Christian faith makes life easy, you’re setting yourself up to fall into that second category. You believe, even if you don’t articulate it, that when you face hardship, someone must have failed. And if God fails you, is it worth it to believe in him? And if you’ve failed God, can you ever dig yourself out of the hole you’re in?

If you thought the Christian walk would be an easy one and you’re finding it’s not—take heart. God is working all things—even bad things—for our good. He promises to do that. But he does not promise that life will be easy. That’s not in the book. And it’s okay to be upset about what we don’t understand. It’s okay to cry out to the Lord. He’s a big God. He can take it.

Not only that, but he knows your pain. He cares about you. He loves you. And he is always there for you.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8


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Serving the Lord Best

From my Bible study this morning:

“I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” (I Corinthians 7: 32-35)

This is Paul talking. I was reading it and wondering a few things that aren’t relevant to this post (such as, is this a message that applies today or was Paul speaking in the context of persecution or something?). I am so very happy to be married (and married to my wonderful DH–who I wouldn’t trade for anything), so I have always kind of glossed over this part. And Paul states clearly that the notion not to marry is not a commandment, just something that might make things better or simpler for the believers. And, as we see in this passage, not marrying might free a person to better serve the Lord.

I think there is truth in this for the married person as well as the unmarried person. I am sure I have distractions in my life that prevent me from serving God as well as I could. As a Christ-follower, I should strive to eliminate these distractions where I can. Is TV keeping me from serving God? I can turn it off. Am I so caught up in a flurry of activities I don’t have time to get in the Word? I should cut things out. And so on.

That doesn’t extend to my husband–and I don’t think he’s a distraction in my service to God. He’s there to help spur me on and encourage me to serve the Lord according to my calling. And I hope I am able to encourage him in the same way.

But maybe it can frame where I am now. As I continue to wait for children, are there ways I can serve God that will be more difficult or “impossible” when I do have children?

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of ways infertility has caused me to look at things like health/nutrition in a new way, which should make me a better parent. But I’m also beginning to consider how God might use me now, while I’m waiting.

I’ve talked about going to seminary for a long time. It’s something I feel called to at least apply for, but I’ve been putting it off. I envisioned going to seminary someday in the far off future. Definitely after we had kids. And I think I figured if I put it off long enough I wouldn’t end up going. I was okay with that.

Lately it has been made clear to me that I need to apply to seminary and I need to do it soon. So no more excuses. If I have this time of childlessness and waiting, I need to use it for God’s glory. Wednesday I’m going to talk to my pastor about the process and see if he will be able to write me a recommendation. The application isn’t due until April, and a lot can change between now and then, but I’m doing what I need to do. This is one way to serve the Lord best in the situation I’m in. A way to be fruitful in my year of fruitfulness, even without multiplying.


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Sharing in His Sufferings

“But whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3: 7-11

So I’ve been meditating some on what it means to take joy in suffering lately. I guess that came up in my last post and then hit me again as I was doing my Bible study in Philippians 3 this week. The verses that really caught me are 3:10-11, though I provide 7-11 for some extra context here. Paul has just finished talking about why he was about the most qualified person for salvation that ever could be–by worldly, Jewish standards anyway. He has perfect lineage, “a Hebrew among Hebrews.” As a Pharisee, he knows the law forward and backward. He had great zeal for his beliefs–which he credits as the motivation behind his persecution of Christians before meeting the Lord on the way to Damascus. He is as righteous and by the book as any man could have been before Christ. But he says, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

None of those credentials is worth anything to him in light of Christ. And none of those things could have saved him.

There are things I rely on in daily life all the time when I should rely on Christ. And things I feel so heartbroken that I am missing. But I was reminded recently that while “children are a blessing from God,” they are not the ultimate blessing. That is salvation.

That doesn’t change the fact that infertility means pain and difficulty and suffering for so many of us, myself included. I haven’t really suffered in this life outside of this, and I have found it difficult to become accustomed to it. I don’t like suffering. I don’t want it. I want nothing to do with it.

But then, that puts me a bit out of line, doesn’t it?

Paul talks about sharing in the sufferings of Christ not just as a worthwhile thing, but as something he desires. Wow.

This verse (verse 10) really hits home when considering how to have joy in our sufferings. We can rejoice in our difficult circumstances because in some small way our challenges allow us to take part, albeit to a lesser degree, in the sufferings of Christ. I believe this is so even when the things we suffer are not outwardly related to our faith or profession thereof. That is, even when our sufferings are not brought about by persecution.

In this sense, I should rejoice in infertility, even if all I could ever gain from it is that I will have shared in some small part in the sufferings of Christ.

I need to remember that to attain resurrection from the dead is worth it at any cost. Even the cost of my ability to bear children. That is so difficult for me to wrap my mind around. But if that is not true, what do I believe?

I think if I had read what I am writing here a few months ago I would have thought two things. First, that this writer is a bit off balance (which, let’s face it, is a completely valid concern even now), and second, that this writer has no concept of what I am going through and clearly cannot understand my pain.

But God is working on me. He is changing my heart and changing my perspective. If you think this is crazy, I don’t blame you. But this. This is what I am thinking. And this is true: My pain is worth rejoicing over if it means I am getting closer to Christ and growing more Christ like. 

And in that way, infertility is a discipline, making me better than I could make myself. And God, who knows all things, is growing me and doing what is best for me, as he has promised to do. Even when I don’t understand it.

I don’t have to enjoy it.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

But I do need to rejoice in what suffering really means for me. The building of a Christ-like character within me. And that’s an investment in eternity.