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Faith Imagined: August 2009

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

August 26, 2009

God-Given Fantasies

God loves you, ladies, and He wants to fulfill the innermost fantasies of your heart. He doesn't want you to simply be content with "just good enough"; He wants to knock your socks off with a purpose that you would never dare dream.

Don't believe me? I will show you. God many times weaves His promises into the stories of His Word. Listen to this following story and find that hidden promise. Let the truth sink into your heart and know that there is a God who is in love with you, and He wants to bless you beyond what you could ever imagine! Don't miss this promise - claim it!!! Read the following verses quickly and be on the look out for God's promise 2 Kings 4:8-37.

When Elisha asked the Shunammite woman how God could bless her, she said, "Nothing. I'm secure and satisfied in my family." She had been serving God by taking care of God's prophet, Elisha, and God wanted to fulfill the dreams of her heart. But her view of her life was so small, and she never dared to believe that there was more for her.

But there was a dream in her heart; and when Elisha told her it would come true, she shirked back and cried, "O my master, O Holy Man, don't play games with me, teasing me with such fantasies!"

Before we go on, ladies, expose that dream in your heart. If someone were to tell you it would come true, would it make you cry out, "Don't play games with me!" If yes, then that is the dream! That is how God wants to bless you!!! But there is a beautiful process that accompanies that dream. God always has a process because He is more concerned with us than our dreams.

The process seems cruel in today's world because we're so used to having everything right now. But, the process will strengthen you so you can hold the dream; otherwise, it would crush you! I think most women don't achieve their dreams because they resist the process. Don't resist, ladies. Humble yourself to God's teaching, and you will surely be blessed (Proverbs 29:23).

Elisha told the woman that she would have a son. She couldn't believe it; but the following year, her fantasy was born! Has your fantasy been born? Or is it still in the womb tucked deep within your soul? Many times our fantasy is so large that when it is born, we don't recognize it. The fantasy is still in infancy form and it takes A LOT of care and work. But keep working at it. Your fantasy will grow and mature and, hopefully, become an integral part of the Kingdom of God!

But, something happened to the Shunammite woman's dream. It died! Do you feel like your dream has died? Are you mad at God that He would give you this dream only so you could witness its death! Are you telling God that you never even asked for the dream in the first place?!

Do you believe God can resurrect it? Of course, God is the God of redemption, new life and second chances!

What did the woman do after her dream died? She went straight to Elisha, the man of God. She ignored everyone else's help. She knew only God could help her. She ran to the man of God and "threw herself at his feet and held tightly to him." Ladies, throw yourself at God's feet and cling tightly to Him. Let Him know that you love Him more than that dream. Let Him know that He is your one and only true love and everything else means nothing compared to Him. When your heart belongs to Him, He will bless you without limits (Matthew 6:33).

How did God resurrect the Shunammite woman's dream? He sent Elisha to get "into bed with the boy [dream] and covered him with his body, mouth on mouth, eyes on eyes, hands on hands. As he was stretched out over him like that, the boy's body became warm."

Align your dream with God. Lay one on the other until they become one thing. Once you completely attach your dream to God, your life will be like a holy rocket. You will shoot across this world, burning everything in your wake with the fire of Christ. God will set you a part and bless you if you put Him first (Deuteronomy 28:1).

Don't settle for "good enough!" Grab hold of God, claim this promise in His Word and get ready for one amazing ride! You are the daughter of the Most High. Do not take that lightly. He died for you! Don't make a mockery of His sacrifice by being mediocre. He wants you to be His holy baroness to this dark world. He wants you to be special! He wants people to notice you! He knows that you will shine His glory and give all glory back up to Him. So shine, ladies! Claim your dream!

"Father, God, You are giving me the fantasies of my heart! Help me to align them with Your plan and to cling tightly to You!"

What is your dream? Where are you at in the process? How can you align yourself with God in order to accomplish your purpose?

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August 24, 2009

The God/Oprah Analogy

Creation is a part of life. It seems everyone has a desire to create. Our founding-fathers created the United States of America. Oprah created the Oprah show. And women and men across the world create families. We all want to create something, whether it be a fun evening out, a beautiful scrapbook, an awesome business proposal or an A on a paper. We are destined to create things!

But why is it that when Christians say that God created the world that people seem to get all uptight? Who else created the world, aliens? Doesn't it take just as much faith to believe in aliens as it does God? If aliens created our world, then who the created them? More aliens?

Whether you believe in aliens or not is not the point. The point is that this thing we call life had to be created by someone who was not created - someone who has always been.

So why can't we just accept the fact that an eternal Creator exist? Is it easier to believe that God created all things or that all things were created out of nothing, were created by no one and were created for no reason?

But, you might ask, "This world is so messed up! Why would God create this crazy world filled with a bunch of imperfect people who are constantly hurting each other? And why do I need Jesus? What is the whole crucifixion thing about, anyhow?"

The answer to these questions are in the Bible -- the most produced, most bought and most read book of all time. However, I have mulled over what I've learned and tried to come up with a way to explain Jesus in a way that may make sense to people unfamiliar with the Bible. I call it the God/Oprah Analogy.

Oprah Winfrey created the Oprah Winfrey Show. No doubt she created the show because she feels that she has something beneficial to impart to her audience. So in order to create a successful show, she had to organize a system of production and create rules for everyone to follow. Along with these rules are repercussions if the rules are broken. Without repercussions, the rules would not be taken seriously. The system, the rules and the repercussions are all necessary if the show is going to be successful. Without them there would be complete chaos and no one would learn anything. The show would be an absolute dud!

Now the system is in place, rules have been created and repercussion have been established. Why she created the system the way she did, we'll never know. Why she chose the rules she did, we'll never know that either. But we must trust that she had her reasons; and if we keep questioning them, we'll never enjoy the show because we're too busy complaining about it.

Finally, the show is ready to go! All Oprah needs is an audience. The audience is very important to her. The audience is why she created the entire show in the first place. If there were no audience, there would be no show!

The audience arrives at the show. They sit down in their seats and the production team goes over every detail of what to expect. They explain the system and emphasize the rules. They also clearly lay out the repercussions if the rules are not obeyed. They explain that if the rules are broken, the show can not be a success. If the rules are broken, people can get hurt. If the rules are broken, Oprah will not be able to fully bless her audience.

What are the repercussion of not obeying the rules, you might ask? Well, there is only one -- you get kicked off the show. If you yell at Oprah while the cameras are running, steal someone's seat next to you, throw pennies at the person in front of you or run naked up and down the aisles, better believe it, you will get escorted off the show and off the premises. But, as you have already guessed, the audience members are not perfect, and they break the rules.

Oprah knew this would happen. She allowed the audience into their seats knowing full well that they have the choice to obey or not. If she didn't allow them this free-will, what would be the point? If she dictated everything they did, everything they thought and everything they said, why would she need the show? The audience might as well have been created in the image of a chair or camera or microphone. What makes this audience different than any other of Oprah's creations is that they have a choice. That is why free-will is so special, but it also comes with a price.

What is the price of free-will? The audience breaks the rules. They mock Oprah, hurt each other and reek havoc in the show. But what is Oprah to do? She loves the audience. She has so much to teach them and give them. She has a special plan for each member of the audience that will make The Oprah Winfrey Show amazing! But they are not obeying the rules she set up in order to make the show a success. They are tearing the show apart bit by bit. Worse of all, they are throwing their fists at Oprah, criticizing her efforts.

"We hate you!" they scream.

"You don't exist!" they yell.

Oprah wonders how the audience could possibly assert she doesn't exist when, in fact, it is her show -- her idea, her design, her creation. A special gift she made for the very audience that rejects her.

What does Oprah do now? The show is in complete chaos. Sure, there are a few audience members who appreciate her and acknowledge her, but they too have broken the rules. The entire audience has broken at least one rule, and according to the repercussions she made for those who disobeyed, she would have to kick everyone off the show. But she loves them so much. How could she kick them off? But if she doesn't enforce the rules, the entire show will be a disaster.

What the audience doesn't know, however, is that Oprah anticipated this before the show was ever created. She knew the audience would fall short of perfection, and she had an idea. She leaked hints about her plan to a few of the audience members, and like the game telephone, the idea passed around from ear to ear changing ever so slightly with every whisper.

The time finally came for her idea to be executed. Oprah gets up from her chair, walks down from her stage, enters the audience stands and takes her seat among other audience members. While she sits in her tiny seat, she demonstrates to everyone how the perfect audience member should live. She proves with her own life that there is a way to live a blameless life. She shows love and mercy to the audience members around her and chooses a handful of disciples to spread her love after she is gone.

But where is she going? Is she going back on stage to her big, cushy seat? Nope. She allows the audience members to hurt her, blame her and drag her off stage. The audience kicks off the only perfect person that ever lived, a person who never broke any of the rules. They kick her off for obeying the rules that they could never obey. And she allows them to do this. Why? Because she figured out how to uphold her rules and keep her audience. She took the punishment for their sins.

In order to keep her audience, Oprah does the most beautiful act of love ever! She kicks herself off of her own show. Three days later, however, she arrives back on her big, cushy seat and her glory is once again restored. The audience members are still not perfect, but at least now they have an example of how to live. Moreover, they never have to leave the show because Oprah took the repercussions of their disobedience. But in order to claim Oprah's sacrifice for them, they have to acknowledge the sacrifice and accept it as their own.

And the show goes on! Many audience members stay the entire length of the show, but they are unable to look past their tiny row of seats. Others, however, see past their seats and to the stage where Oprah is. Oprah is able to guide them, bless them and love them even though the chaos continues around them. They know that the Oprah Show is only a pilot, preparing the way for the perfect show to come.

And that is the end of the God/Oprah Analogy. This analogy is obviously not perfect. Oprah is not God. She is an imperfect human like all of us. But there is a God who created this life and that God wants to bless you through the chaos.

Hopefully, this example will make the entire God/Jesus thing a little easier to understand. If you would like to understand more, I pray that you read the Bible and start talking to God. God didn't just leave us on this earth alone. He gave us a guidebook (Bible), He gave us the Holy Spirit to teach us and He gave us Jesus to save us and to be our example. It is very simple and so wonderful!

Jesus is the only way we can reach God through this messed up world. God sent only one person to our world to guide us and to die for us. Accepting Jesus into your heart doesn't make all of your problems go away, but Jesus can give you healing, peace and joy if you let Him. All you have to do is say this prayer:

"God, I don't quite understand this whole God/Jesus thing, but I know I'm missing something in this life. I'm not a perfect person. I've made many mistakes that I'm ashamed of, but I want to make things right. Thank You for taking punishment for my sins. I accept your sacrifice, and I will no longer hold on to the guilt of my mistakes. Come into my heart, Jesus, and show me how to form an intimate relationship with God. You have something special for me in this life. I want to fulfill the purpose You created me for. I pray this in Jesus' name, Amen."

If you prayed this prayer and have faith that your words are true, congratulations! You are a Christian. You will not understand everything right away, but I would suggest that you read the Bible, get involved in a Bible-based church, find another Christian who can help you and ask God to give you some additional Christian resources to guide you.

If you are already a Christian, please continue to put your relationship with Jesus first. Make time to talk with Him and study His Word; otherwise, you are lost in this crazy world without a map or a guide. You can also send this post to friends that you would like to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This post isn't perfect, but God uses our imperfections to accomplish His perfect will.

*Special author's note: I used the example of Oprah not because I support her, but because this is what I would say to her in order for her to understand that there is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ. Whatever feelings you have about her are not important. What is important is that you love her. If you don't believe me, read Luke 6:27-36.

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August 12, 2009


Boy Lessons - Part 3

I take all three of my kids to the gym with me. My baby girl is 5 months, so I cart her around in her stroller. My two boys stay close to me as we walk through the parking lot to the sidewalk that leads to the gym's Kids' Club. My boys know to stay close to me in the parking lot because the cars scare them and they sense the danger. Once we get to the sidewalk, however, it's a free-for-all, and they run ahead of me.

When we first began this walk, I would urge them to stay close. My heart raced because drivers are constantly cruising down the street looking for parking, and one of my boys could easily take a few steps off of the sidewalk and get hit. Also, the boys would get to the Kids' Club so fast that they would have to wait for me to catch up. They couldn't enter in without me, so they just stood there anxiously crying for me to hurry.

One particularly nerve-wracking morning, they ran ahead of me again. I kept yelling for them to wait, but my voice was getting blown away with the wind. I remember thinking that if they would only walk with me, I could protect them and enjoy their presence. I could chat with them, ask them questions and tell them how awesome they each are. Also, if they stayed with me, they wouldn't be anxiously waiting for me at the entrance. There would be absolutely no lag time, and they would arrive at the entrance and immediately walk in.

As I tried to push the stroller faster toward the Kids' Club where my boys were waiting, God gave me an image of me constantly moving ahead of Him. In that moment, I understood what God had been telling me for years. I realized that whenever I get a glimpse of where God is leading me, I take off running. I run from His protection and from His presence.

I did this exact thing with the Granola Bar Devotional Ministry. God directed me towards doing this ministry and, zip, I took off. I was so busy editing, marketing and writing that I didn't have much time to spend with Him. I was so consumed with trying to make this ministry successful, that I didn't enjoy the process of starting a ministry. It was a lot of work, and I made a lot of mistakes. I had to change a lot of things and do a lot of things over.

I look back and recognize that I wasted a lot of time and energy and endured needless heartache and frustration. If I would have clung to God during the entire process, I would not have made so many mistakes, I would have enjoyed myself more and I would have established this ministry in His perfect timing. Instead of making a straight shot, I made a bunch of zig-zags, u-turns and complete stops and start overs. I wasted my time running and then crying out to God to hurry up! I could have skipped all the chaos if I would have just abided (to stay) in Him.

Abiding is so important. Abiding is why we were created. Abiding is our joy. Abiding is our protection. Abiding is everything. Ministry is just a side note and nothing more. When we make a ministry more important than God, we have seriously failed. Our purpose is to love God and to allow Him to love us. Anything else in this life is simply a manifestation of His divine love.

So now when God shows me the "sidewalk," I don't run off; instead, I stay close to Him. Life is so short, and God has a specific design and plan for me. I don't want to miss it or mess it up. I wasted a lot of time not abiding in Him, and I do not want to make the same reckless mistake. If I would simply abide in Him, I would fulfill my God-given purpose and enjoy life in the process.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it
abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me" (John 15.4 NASB).

Here is a photo of my boys staying close to me. Isn't abiding a beautiful thing?!

Boy Lessons - Part 2: Invincible in Love

Boy Lessons - Part 1: Get Out the Way

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August 11, 2009

Invincible in Love

Boy Lessons - Part 2

Above is the a snapshot of my oldest boy, Isaac. My friend and I took our two oldest boys (both 5 years old) to an outdoor concert. They were both excited to go to an "adult concert," and my friend and I were excited to hang out and listen to music. There were a lot of kids at the concert (every kid got in free with an adult ticket), and most of the kids were playing in the grass by the stage.

There were kids of all ages, but our two boys were probably one of the youngest playing. I loved watching my boy play. He is in gymnastics, so he was doing lots of cartwheels, jumps and somersaults. Many times Isaac would run up to one of the other kids and ask him to watch him do a cartwheel, and the boy would either ignore him, watch and laugh at him or just laugh and walk away.

I had to analyze my feelings about Isaac's rejections. Of course, the mother in me wanted to give a lecture to all the boys, letting them know just how special my boy is. However, I realized that life is full of rejection. The world will always reject us, especially when we let our Jesus shine through us.

I watched Isaac to see if he was getting upset, but he never did. Whenever a boy would ignore him or laugh at him, he would just walk up to me and give me a hug or a kiss. He would allow me to love on him a little bit, and then he was ready to go try his hand at playing with the big boys again.

As I watched Isaac smiling and enjoying himself even after being laughed at and ignored, God gave me a little of His beautiful insight. God showed me that if I am continuously seeking Him and finding security in Him, I would never care what the world thought of me. If I daily allowed God to fill my heart to overflowing with His mercy and love, I would never feel depressed, insecure, unloved, vulnerable, deserted, ugly, ashamed or stupid. I wouldn't have those negative feelings because my feeling-capacity would be completely occupied with feeling loved!

The reason God wants us to put Him first in every aspect of our life is because He is the ONLY one who will NEVER reject us. Everyone -- EVERYONE -- will reject us sooner or later. God asks us to put Him first not for His benefit, but for our benefit. When we learn to put God first, we have the ability to be Invincible in His love. And the only way we can love Him more than anything is by continuously seeking Him, talking to Him, listening to Him, reading about Him, etc.

Like any relationship, it takes time to forge intimacy. But God is such a gentleman. He waits on us. He never pushes us. And He always seeks us out even though we constantly reject Him. And if we are still completely lost on how to love Him; all we have to do is pray and ask God to help us, and He most definitely will! God only asks for our obedience; He will do the rest.

Therefore, whenever those negative feelings start creeping back, it is my cue to draw closer to God. I can find strength in Him, so I will be ready to play with the "big boys" again!

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song" (Psalm 28.7).

Boy Lessons - Part 1: Get Out the Way
Boy Lessons - Part 3: Abiding

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August 10, 2009

Get Out the Way!

Boy Lessons - Part 1

Above is the very discontented face of my middle child and second boy, Levi. He is not happy at all. On this day we just finished dropping off his older brother, Isaac, at VBS. Levi kept yelling, "Turn around, Mamma! Turn around!" He did not want to be without his older brother.

I decided that this small separation (3 hours) would be good for both kids, so I went on with my day like usual. I never realized how crazy those few hours would be without my oldest child!

Levi did not know how to behave without his brother. He was like a little ship without a map. Even though Levi has a lot of energy, I've never had too many discipline problems with him. He always seems to toe the line pretty well. I never realized that the reason for this was that he has an older brother to direct him. With out his brother, Levi was lost!

I took Levi to the store, and the boy would not listen to me. He was running around like a spastic chicken! One of the store attendants even had to tell him to climb down from the shelving. I was trying to look at curtains, and the little stinker was up on a shelf in 10 seconds flat. Half the time spent at the store was looking for Levi and the other half was spent running after him. It was exhausting, especially with a 5 month old baby girl strapped into a Bjorn on my chest.

When I finally got both kids into the car, I sat in the driver's seat for a moment to cool down. "What the heck was that all about, God?" I thought.

I felt God urging me to see something, so I tried to focus on the experience. Then I remembered a friend talking about how she wished her husband was the spiritual leader of the home instead of her. I remember thinking during that conversation that my friend was so aggressive about her beliefs that it would be hard for anyone to lead her.

Then I felt God say, "Sometimes you must get out of the way!"

Many times we want our husbands, kids, siblings, parents, friends, etc. to be spiritual leaders, but they don't because they are so used to us directing them. Why should they hone their spiritual leadership skills when they know we'll just do everything for them? Sometimes the best thing we can do for the ones we love is Get Out the Way!

And, yes, they may flounder a bit, just like my son, Levi, did at the store; but eventually they'll get it. Many times we are not patient with the ones we love. We don't allow them to make mistakes, and we eventually pull the reigns back from them. But we can't do that! We must allow them to find their stride, just like we had to find ours!

So who do you need to Get Out the Way for in your life? Pray for God to help you, especially if you are a perfectionist, type-A personality. God will help you empower those around you to be the spiritual leaders they were designed to be. Don't hinder them by doing it all for them. Be hopeful that God is a better leader and teacher than you!

"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Romans 5.5).
Boy Lessons - Part 2: Invincible in Love
Boy Lessons - Part 3: Abiding

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August 4, 2009

Just a Slight Turn

Why is it that women plan so much. God asks us to take a step of faith, and for some reason we plan an entire journey to go along with that one tiny step.

I've been very confused lately. God asked me to take a step of faith over a year ago, and I've mapped out my entire life in the direction of this step. Lately, however, I haven't had any clarity. The time is up for me to take the next several steps in the journey that I planned out, but God is not directing me in that path. I feel lost in a train station full of tracks that lead in different directions.

Finally, I begged God to help me. I told God that He had put me on a journey but has stopped leading me. And God told me, "I never told you to go on this journey. I simply asked you to take a step in that direction. I have another journey for you that is far better than what you could ever plan, so why don't you just give up planning your life altogether."

I was so excited because -- truth be told -- I was never very thrilled about the journey I had planned for myself. In fact, I hated the journey, but I just kept telling myself, "If God wants me there, then my happiness will be there too." But, no matter how much faith I had, I just couldn't find joy in the situation. God hadn't chosen that direction for me; of course, I couldn't find joy!

Now I am so pumped about the future. I have realized that there is absolutely NO WAY I could ever plan my life as well as the Master Planner. He has so many wonderful things in store for me and my family, and nothing I could imagine could ever come close. I am going to try very hard not to plan. I've learned that just because God has me take a step in one direction, it doesn't mean I know the rest of the journey. I know nothing compared to God. How could my extremely limited viewpoint ever plan further than one day?

I am so relieved that I don't have to plan. God has something so cool prepared for me, and I don't want to mess it all up! I just want to rest in the Lord and trust that He will guide each day's steps, which will eventually unfold into an AWESOME God-designed journey! Thank You, Lord, for teaching me to abide in You. Free me from the plans that weigh down my life and muck up my brain!

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that
prevails. -Proverbs 19.21

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