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Faith Imagined

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Faith Imagined

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

July 10, 2011

Pruning Shears & Living Space

Allowing God to expose and extract sin is one of the most difficult yet rewarding procedures of the Christian life. I have found that this process is especially painful when the sin is deeply rooted in selfishness, pride and entitlement. The hardest sin for God to pull from me is the sin that I wasn't even aware I had. God would take hold of the ugly weed, and I'd wallow in a mire of denial, pity and shock. A spiritual tug-of-war would commence, and I'd struggle with allowing the sharp (but quick) pruning of God's hand.

The most recent weed uprooting took place just a few weeks ago. A situation compressed with just the right elements brought to the forefront an incognito, tightly fastened and fully entitled sin of mine. This particular sin only shows up when the atmosphere is drenched with my supposed suffering and misfortune, and I find myself working in defense mode. Instead of claiming my rights and holding onto my justifications this time, God brought me to my knees with reality. No matter where the division of blame lie, I had to claim the sin that sat in my corner.

I wanted to focus on all the other ingredients of the mess, but God sifted through the bowl and handed me my portion of blame. BLAH! I yelled to God, Why must I be the only one to claim responsibility? Why must I be the only one to humble myself? Why must I be the only one committed to Your correction? (None of those statements are true, but that is exactly how I felt at the time).

Finally, I prayed for God to help me, and I took that weed out and laid it at the cross. Instantly, I was filled with the most amazing peace and satisfaction, and I felt righteous before the eyes of my Creator. God's healing and love covered me, and the presence of the Holy Spirit filled me even more. The entire process from the time I started feeling the pressure of God's hand to the actual removal of my entrenched sin only took a single evening, but it was a miserable journey that, thankfully, ended in a pool of grace.

I used to wonder what it meant to be filled and led by the Holy Spirit, but now I know. The Spirit of God dwells only in the parts of our hearts that have been surrendered to Him. The more sin that God is able to extract, the more places the Holy Spirit can fill. A person who is filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit is a person who has had a lot of sin pulled. When God exposes the dark parts of our hearts, He's trying to secure more living space for His Spirit. So now when I feel God's pruning shears coming, I can be ready with the knowledge that the painful procedure will be over soon, and the tender area will be generously soaked in God's healing peace and presence.

"Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise" (Proverbs 15.31 NIV).

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July 3, 2011

Hope's Toll

Forsaken in my circumstance
Left idle on the floor
Jumped to another second chance
That ended like before

But my God is faithful
His love steadfast
My trust outweighs the hurt
And Hope will last

Doubt dares to distort my vision
Fear yearns to tear my strength
Hold the noose of indecision
Like a snake at arm’s length

But my God is faithful
His love steadfast
My trust outweighs the hurt
And Hope will last

Let go of my understanding
Patient heart on Your throne
My desires cease demanding
Loyalty I have sown

How my God is faithful
His love steadfast
My trust outweighs the hurt
And Hope will last

Peace seeps into tight constriction
Joy sings a freedom song
Christ bestows a benediction
Embracing all my wrong

My faith saves my steps
God’s love heals the soul
Trust outweighs my hurt
And Hope takes her toll

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June 27, 2011

Insecure Water

Lately, I've been talking about Jesus and faith to people who know very little about Christianity. They live in the deserts where Living Water is scarce. I try to relate to them and honor their strengths. I humble myself and learn from their expertise, but I do drop little nuggets of truth into our conversations.

However, I feel clumsy. I try to communicate the amazing attributes of God and illustrate my personal relationship with Him, but it seems that my words get muddied up in the desert sand. There is a well-spring of pure Living Water in me, but once it pours out of my lips and life, I have no control over its movement and purity. I watch as the Living Water gets tainted and misunderstood as it travels through the minds and lives of people who don't recognize and respond to it. I wonder if I'm not communicating effectively enough.

I prayed about sharing my faith this morning with God. I told Him about my insecurity because I don't feel like I'm doing a good job. If I could express the beauty of the Living Water more effectively, others would see what I see and drink deeply from its healing properties; instead they mock my words and refuse to taste from the drink I offer them.

I opened the Bible and God gave me Ezekiel 47. In these verses, Ezekiel is taken to the Temple, and he watches as water pours from its doors. The water flows from the Temple through the desert and into the Dead Sea. I imagined as the pure water from the Temple gathered debris, sand and dirt along its path. When it finally gets to the Dead Sea, the water is probably undrinkable. The Dead Sea itself is already so ruined that it cannot provide an environment to sustain life.

To my eyes, it seems that the Living Water has no hope. The purity that once existed has entered into the heart of the Dead Sea where life cannot exist. But a miracle happens. The water is healed!

"Then he said to me, These waters pour out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah (the Jordan Valley) and on into the Dead Sea. And when they shall enter into the sea [the sea of putrid waters], the waters shall be healed and made fresh" (Ezekiel 47.8 AMP).

God taught me something amazing! I am His temple, and His Living Water pours from me into the desert. Once the water flows from me, I have to trust that God is in control of its movements. Because of God's grace, He allows His Son, Jesus, to gather the sins of humanity, so He can reach into our dead hearts with His love. Once He is able to penetrate our spirit, a miracle occurs: we are healed!

The Living Water brings to life what was dead, and an environment for growth begins! Therefore, I can't worry about what happens when I speak truth, I just need to continue to pour forth the Living Water living inside my temple and trust God with the rest.

"And wherever the double river shall go, every living creature which swarms shall live. And there shall be a very great number of fish, because these waters go there that [the waters of the sea] may be healed and made fresh; and everything shall live wherever the river goes" (Ezekiel 47.9 AMP).

"And on the banks of the river on both its sides, there shall grow all kinds of trees for food; their leaf shall not fade nor shall their fruit fail [to meet the demand]. Each tree shall bring forth new fruit every month, [these supernatural qualities being] because their waters came from out of the sanctuary. And their fruit shall be for food and their leaves for healing" (Ezekiel 47.12 AMP).

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June 19, 2011


In the Bible humans are compared to vessels (Roman 9.19-24). We are each beautifully made by the potter, and we all have unique purposes based on our design. However, a vessel's main function is to be filled. God created us to be overflowing with His glory and to pour that glory onto the nations. We can not be filled with God's glory unless we have the righteousness of Jesus covering us. God is 100% perfect, and He does not commune with anything imperfect. Without Jesus' sacrifice for our sins, we stand flawed and separated from God.

Because of God's grace and our faith, we are miraculously found perfect in God's eyes when we profess our sins, ask for God's forgiveness and receive Jesus in our hearts; and the Holy Spirit can fill us. Even so, God will not force His presence into a Christian's life. We have free-will and we can deny the inpouring of the Holy Spirit and keep parts of our heart away from Him. Many Christians refuse God's leading, and they ignorantly believe that they stand alone. They think that they are neutral and that they direct themselves. What they don't realize is that this is exactly what the Enemy wants them to believe.

We never stand alone. We are vessels; and if we are not filled with the Spirit of God, we will be filled by the spirit of the Enemy. There are two spiritual waves influencing the physical world, and we will be pulled by the surge of good or evil. There is no third option. I believe Christians who are saved by grace but not led by the Holy Spirit do more damage to the Kingdom of God than people who are not redeemed. We point our fingers at non-believers and accuse them for living in darkness, yet it is the Christian who has light and chooses to walk in darkness that causes the most confusion.

"God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice truth. But if we walk in light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1.5-7 NIV).

The Enemy wants to fill the righteous vessels. He plans carefully to knock our lights into sin. He wants to prove that he is strong, so he leads us to believe that our vessels can remain empty. Secretly, though, the Enemy begins to fill us with his ugliness; and before we know it, we are lost in a black hole of compromise and sin. The world watches us fall, while mocking our faith and our God.

I pray every day for God to fill me with His Spirit. I know I am a vessel, and I know the Enemy would like nothing better than to fill me. This knowledge gives me a holy fear. I am not blind to the Enemy's schemes. I know that if I'm not yoked to Jesus that I will be yoked by another who wants to deceive, hurt and destroy me. The world can offer me all its beautifully painted delicacies of sin, but I'm not falling for it. I will stand firm in the promises of God.

"Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!"
- Psalm 141.3-4 NIV

God is faithful. As Christians, our souls are secure in heaven because of Jesus' righteousness covering us. But, God also gives us free-will. We must choose to yoke ourselves with Jesus every day (Matthew 11.29). Only then can we be guided into God's best for our lives. Otherwise, we become puppets for the father of all lies (John 8.39-47). There is a purpose for our existence on this earth, and we need to "be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10.16). Only then can we achieve our predetermined victories in Christ.

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June 14, 2011

Bartimaeus's Gumption

Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, heard that Jesus was arriving. A crowd surrounded Jesus, so Bartimaeus yelled, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many of the people Jesus healed were brought to Him by friends, but not Bartimaeus. Instead of helping him, the crowd told him to be quiet.

But Bartimaeus did not let his blindness and the lack of help stop him from calling out to Jesus. He couldn't see, but he could yell. So he yelled even louder, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" The title "Son of David" alludes to the Messiah: "Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root" (Isaiah 11:1 NLT). Bartimaeus knew that the Messiah was in his presence, and he was determined to reach Him.

Jesus picked Bartimaeus's voice out from the crowd and called him over. Bartimaeus threw aside his coat (probably the most expensive thing he owned), jumped up and ran to Jesus. Jesus asked him what he wanted, and Bartimaeus said, "My rabbi, I want to see!" Instantly, Bartimaeus was healed, and he followed Jesus (Mark 10.46-52).

My husband read me this story a few nights ago, and I couldn't help but feel encouraged. Bartimaeus didn't have sight, but he had a voice and he used it. When no one would see for him and lead him to Christ, he used the resources at his disposal. Bartimaeus's voice might not have sounded the best, but he used it with power and determination. He focused all His energy on Jesus and found himself at the foot of love, mercy and grace.

My weakness is my voice. I have nodules on my vocals cords, so I'm not supposed to yell, sing or talk too much. However, I have three young kids, and I find myself losing my voice a lot. I have to tell my oldest son--who happens to ask a lot of questions--that I have to take a break from talking because my throat hurts. I can't sing at church, I can't holler when I'm excited and I can't read out loud to my kids or talk on the phone very long. I have to be careful to conserve my voice because I don't have much of it to spare.

Since I can't use my physical voice to call out to Jesus, I write. My writing may not be the best, but I will use it to reach Jesus. I will not let the negative jeers of the crowd cause me to give up. Jesus tells me to come to Him, and I let go of all my desires so that I can run to the foot of His love, mercy and grace. I know He'll give me a voice to call attention to Him, and I will use it to give praise to His name and glory to God.

What giftings do you have that can call attention to Jesus? How can you use your strengths to overcome your weaknesses? How does God use your weaknesses to show His glory?

"They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination" (Nehemiah 6.9 NLT).

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June 8, 2011

Internet Cafe: The Lead Vocalist

I met her at the first writers’ group that I held at my house about five years ago. She was an amazing woman of God surrounded by grace and humility. She dedicated her heart to writing devotionals for my ministry and several months later, God called her to be the Women’s Minister at my church. I was honored and blessed to be under her leadership.

Along with being a writer, women’s minister and church staff member, she also sang onstage with our church band. I would watch her sing and become irritated. I couldn’t hear my friend’s voice! She would only sing back-up, and I, not being musically inclined, couldn’t distinguish her from the others. I told her my frustrations about not being able to hear her, but she was content to use her voice to support the lead vocalist.

One Sunday morning my friend wasn’t singing, and I finally heard it: her voice was missing! Although I couldn’t discern her voice, I could definitely tell when it was absent.

I saw her the following week and exclaimed, “I heard it!”

“What?” She asked.

“The lack of your voice!” I yelled excitedly.

She looked at me for a moment puzzled, but then she smiled with understanding. In a small way, I finally felt like I could appreciate her singing talent.

This past Sunday morning, God had a very special gift in store for me. After five years, I finally heard my friend’s voice. She sang lead vocals, and I bawled. All my makeup was off my face before the pastor even said one word. I listened to my friend sing, and I thanked God for the amazing ways He shows Himself to me. What a beautiful sight she was singing for her mighty God! Her voice is forever imprinted on my heart.

As I reflect on that morning, I know that many people have trouble hearing God’s voice. They recognize when it’s missing, but they have never heard Him speak so powerfully that there was no doubt the words were from God. I once struggled with hearing God’s voice, and I worried whether or not I was listening to the wrong one.

But something changed. I now hear God’s voice loud and clear. He speaks to me through the Bible, the Holy Spirit and other Christians. He engulfs me with His presence, and He whispers to my spirit. What’s different? Why has it become so easy to distinguish His voice? The answer is simple. When I put God center stage, He became the Lead Vocalist singing into my life. All that I am stays focused on God, and I’ve learned to discern His voice.

“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our
understanding” (Job 37.5 NIV).

You can also read this article at the Internet Cafe!

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June 6, 2011

Take Root & Write Magazine

I'm honored to be featured on the June 2011 issue of Take Root and Write Magazine. This month's magazine is all about parenting! I hope you enjoy my article about growing in Christ and learning how to be the mother God has called me to be!

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