Trusting (oy)

1 Kings 18:36-37  36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.

How many times have you prayed that prayer or something similar? How much do we think that if God followed our will (like Elijah prayed), we could be such a great testimony to His Word! When the truth is: it’s not about your will. Thy will be done (Matthew 6:10). Not My will be done. I’ve often thought I knew how a situation should go; and prayed that if God made it so- how many people would know it was a “God-thing”. But, that’s not His Will. Truth is; regardless of our prayers; our pleading that He grant us this ‘one thing’ to “prove Him” to others; we’re really wanting Him to prove Him to us. 

And let’s reverse it: how many times does God ‘pray’ to me to ‘just do this one thing’ to show others His Word? And how many times do we listen? It comes back to: If we don’t do what God wants—then why should He do what we want? Do you answer Him as often as you think He should answer you?  I know I don’t.  Why aren’t you?  I know mine is mostly fear; fear that He doesn’t actually know better, or have control over the situation; because typically His ‘ideas’ aren’t something I grasp as ‘possible’. “When you try to figure out [(questioning, doubting, etc.)] the future [(according to His Will)], you are grasping at things that are [His].” (Jesus Calling, February 26 devotion) Your reasoning, understanding, contemplating - whatever you want to call it- (let’s call a spade a spade: worrying) are all acts of doubt= lack of trust/faith. 

Where’s our trust in Him? Where’s our faith that He knows best?  He tells us what; He doesn’t have to tell us why. Deuteronomy 29:29 “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.” What aren’t you obeying that He has revealed to you? Why aren’t you? Do you lack the ‘Passion’? How can you lack the ‘Passion’ when Jesus Christ’s Passion for you doesn’t lack?

So again, why can’t we trust Him? Why do we think that to do what His will is for us, we need to know what it is first? Obviously, we need some instructions; we can’t fly by the seat of our pants the whole time (though, sometimes, that flying is pure trusting). God does tell us His plan; in increments. He whispers a direction in the wind. He shows us confirmation in a song, or a verse, or through a friend. He leaves us hints to follow—only we’re too oblivious to notice them most of the time. He drops bread crumbs, but we’re too busy looking around. He writes it in the sky, yet we never look up. He puts it on paper, but we never open the Book. He places it in our hearts, but we won’t tear down the wall.

He speaks so clearly to us at times, but we can’t hear over the noise of the world. We ask Him for direction, but don’t stop long enough to wait for Him to answer. We’re so busy expecting Him to be at our beckon call that we’re not at His. And it is His call. It is His Will be done, not our own. (Matthew 6:10, Matthew 26:39)

Maybe the next time we call out to Him for guidance, we should stop and wait for His direction. Because He has a direction for us (Psalms 32:8); He never leaves us lost. He never leaves us alone. He is with us, always. (Deuteronomy 31:6) And He loves us unconditionally. (Romans 5:8)

Step out on faith! Quit worrying about where the time, money, and/or energy will come from to make it happen. Release the worry, and embrace the passion! Besides, what are you really worrying about?  Do you really think He won’t guide you along the way? Psalm 32:8: “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”  

Not Alone

There is no cute picture to grab your attention today.  No funny or pithy story to pique your interest.  I just don't have it in me.  All I can give you is a truth: life is hard.  Some weeks are harder than others and some live lives that are perpetually more difficult than others.

I will be the first to say that I am blessed.  I have a house to live in, I am able to stay at home and care for my husband and children, we have more than we need and God had provided for us over and over again.  I KNOW this, but today I am just not feeling it.  Ever have day(s) like that?

My AC on our family van went out.  No biggie as we have been without it before and will probably be without it again.  Then a bearing on the AC unit froze up rendering our primary transportation down for the least until parts come in and the weather cooperates so that my mechanic (aka my husband) can fix it.  Still, not a huge problem, as it means I can focus on lesson plans for the upcoming year and relaxing with the kids.

Then, my computer up and died in the middle of working on a project.  Out of nowhere the motherboard fried and a few of the things I was working on had not yet been backed up.  One of those files was a necessity for a training I was to lead this week.  So, I had to postpone it, order a hard drive case and hope that I could pull my files from it.  Again, not the end of the world, but my stress level increased.

Next, a family member that I dearly love who is battling addiction relapsed.  She was in a treatment program and while out on a day pass made the wrong choice.  I spoke to her the night that it happened (I had suspicions but she denied them) and was heartbroken at the pain I heard in her voice, the desperation and the loneliness.  I was helpless to do more than pray and offer encouragement to her.  The next day she admitted what she had done and confessed to staff in the program.  Her consequences are a major setback and while justified, I am concerned for her, both mentally and spiritually.  (Please pray for her!)

And finally I received some unsettling news about a spiritual battle that another family member is facing.  And when this person needed me(for an unrelated matter), I was unable to assist due to our lack of transportation.   I was helpless to help and now, I have reached the end of me.  All of these are beyond my control.  I can not change the situations.  I can not make things better. And that is difficult for me.

And yet, perhaps this is exactly where God wants me.  At the end of my rope unable to see where the bottom is.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness...
~2 Corinthians 12:9
 This verse was written by Paul, the man who wrote 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament.  He is a man that understands trials.  He was beaten, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, and persecuted after he gave up his life as a respected pharisee.  (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)  Paul speaks of his own difficulties in life, and in the verse preceding this he admits that he requested three times that God remove "a thorn" from him. We are never told what this thorn is, but it is obviously something that Paul found very difficult.  And yet God tells him no. 

God's grace is sufficient for us; His power made perfect in our weakness.  One of the commentaries I read states that, "troubles are sent to us to teach us to pray."  They are used to draw us closer to Him.  I have no control over what is going on right now, but He does.  That doesn't mean that He will swoop down and instantly affect the changes I would love to see.  Sometimes, out of His love for us, His answer must be, "no." 

No, He will not force my loved ones to turn to Him for help, for strength.  He may not relieve the stress I am currently feeling in my life right now.  But that is okay.  You see, I can pour out my heart to Him, tell Him that I am struggling, that I am worried, that I am concerned, that I am uncomfortable.  I can talk with Him....and He can comfort me.  He can remind me that I am not the one in control.  He can remind me that I must rely on Him for everything from the breath in my lungs to the care of my loved ones.  And while I may never understand why these things are happening, I can trust that He has a plan; I can trust Him.  And that is what I choose to do. 

It isn't an easy choice, and some days it can be the hardest thing in the world to do.  But I KNOW that it is the right choice.  I know that His heart breaks with mine to see my loved ones struggle and hurt.  I know that while He desires a happy ending as much as I do, He loves us to much to force us into submission.  I trust that He continues to organize situations to help us find the good path, His path and that like a GPS, He can recalibrate when we go off course.  So I choose to trust in the One who CAN do something.

So maybe there is a picture in this for us, for me.  A reminder that we (I) do not walk this path alone and that it is absolutely okay to be weak, because He truly is strong enough for us to lean on!

Do It Anyway

Can I be real for a moment? Beware—I’m talking gut-wrenching honest… Some days I just don’t want to live this ‘Christian’ life. [Gasp!] [It’s ‘okay’ (relatively speaking)—Jesus isn’t surprised to ‘hear’ that—He knows… (and He’s working on me)]

Let me explain. There are some days that I get tired of having to watch what I say, what I do, what I think about; and people—I get so tired of people— I don’t want to watch my mouth when someone cuts me in line, or on the road; I don’t want to be nice when I’m exhausted and hungry; I don’t want to have to love someone when they are being unlovable… and I certainly don’t want to have to always make the right choice over my choice. Some days that voice of conviction (the Holy Spirit) (John 16:7-8) inside of me that snaps my mouth shut before an inappropriate word flies, or keeps my hands on the wheel instead making a rude gesture—some days that voice grates on my nerves.

I look around and see all these other people that don’t have to live under that conviction, and they seem happy. They get a satisfaction in spewing a bunch of hateful words at someone—saying what they want and what they mean. They are immediately gratified when they can gesture at a non-courteous driver. They don’t care about the people they pass by on the street and are fine for it. But are they? (Proverbs 18:1, Romans 2:8, Galatians 5: 19-21, 2 Timothy 3:1-3) They may seem happy and okay and full of life—but what life? Life in this world isn’t really life…

The truth is, Jesus had moments where He didn’t want to do things, either. In Matthew 14, Jesus found out His friend (John The Baptist) died and He wanted to go away, but the people kept coming, so He stayed and continued to minister to them. In the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46) Jesus prayed for God to take away what He was about to face (the Cross), but then followed it up with ‘Father Your Will Be Done’. Are you catching that? It’s okay to not want to do these things…but, do them anyway. (Matthew 20:28)

This world and our life in it, are not about us. Contrary to what we think and what the world around us tells us—we don’t matter all that much. What does matter is how we serve Jesus by serving the people around us. And yes, that means keeping my mouth closed, my hands on the wheel, and my ‘hangriness’ non-existent. All for the love of God. You don’t want to go to church? Do it anyway. You don’t want to cook a meal for a sick neighbor? Do it anyway. You don’t want to help a friend move? Do it anyway. Do you get the picture? It’s not about our wants; it’s about Jesus—plain and simple. What if Jesus sat down in the Garden and said ‘You know what? I’m tired of these people. They don’t deserve my Sacrifice. I’m God and I don’t have to do this…’ and then He didn’t die on the Cross? Where would we be then?

We’ve got to put our selfish desires aside and follow Jesus. (Luke 9:23, Romans 13:14, Philippians 2:3) It may be exhausting, grueling, hurtful, hard…but we’ve got to just suck it up and do it. If not, then truly nothing in this life will matter. (James 4:17) It’s all about the ever after—and that’s it. (Galatians 6:9)

Feelings are temporary. Gratification in this world is brief. But Jesus is eternal. So regardless of the fact that you don’t feel like obeying His Word, living this life for Him—do it anyway. (James 1:22)

In THIS is love....

It was an errand day for us.  That means several stops and more time in the car than we usually spend on any given day.  So my grand-daughter and my 7 year old were buckled in the back seat and my teen was in the navigator position for the trip.  Every time we came to a stoplight the 20 month old grand-daughter yelled out, "GO!  GO! GO NOW!" and the 7 year old began to giggle.  What in the world?

As we exited the interstate and came to the light I watched it turn yellow with one car ahead of me.  The baby was grouchy and hungry by this time and the 7 year old needed a bathroom break and we were SOOO close to our destination.... until the car in front hit their breaks and chose to stop for the yellow light rather than proceed through.  "Seriously?!  Go!" I called out.  And a light bulb went off!

Oh my gosh!  It was me, my grand-daughter was imitating me, and my daughter not only recognized it but thought it was funny.  What kind of example was I setting?  This certainly wasn't behavior I wanted them displaying, nor was it behavior I wanted to be displaying.  It wasn't love.

1 John 4 tells us that we ought to love one another.  Sounds like a wonderful suggestion doesn't it?  One we should all strive to follow.  But when you read this in context, it becomes so much more than a suggestion....
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. ~1 John 4:7
First John makes a point of reminding us where love comes from-God.  It is impossible to truly love without first knowing and surrendering to Him.  The love that is talked about in this verse is the same love that God feels for Jesus and that Jesus feels for us.  It is the love that caused Jesus to sacrifice Himself to pay for all of our wrongs.  It is a full, all-consuming complete love.  

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~1 John 4:8
Love is a symptom of knowing God.  If someone doesn't love, John says he doesn't know God.  Cut and dry, can't put it any plainer than that.  Now before you start questioning your relationship with God, remember that we all fall short.  It doesn't say, "anyone who does not love EVERYONE doesn't know God," or "anyone who does not love ALL THE TIME does not know God."  We are still being perfected.  But if you find that you are less loving and more grumpy, hateful, and unloving then maybe you should take a few minutes and re-evaluate your relationship with Him.  
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. ~1 John 4:9
 God sets the example for us in what love really is - a willingness to sacrifice self for someone else.   He doesn't ask us to do more than He has done already.  And for most of us, He won't even ask for that much.  Few are ever called to sacrifice their own life for another.  We are more likely to be asked to sacrifice some personal time (like waiting at a yellow light rather than pushing on through!), perhaps some money (and what would it hurt to make a cup of coffee at home rather than stop at Starbucks this week so that we can give a little more), or maybe to open our eyes a little wider so that we recognize the opportunities to love those around us.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. ~1 John 4:10
See what I mean about God setting the example for us?
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ~1 John 4:11

This is a statement of both trust and truth.  If God loves us enough to send Jesus to die as propitiation for all we have done wrong (and He did - Jesus' life and His death are historical facts) then we ought to love one another.  Do you trust that Jesus' purpose in His life and death was an atoning sacrifice (that is what propitiation means)?  If you do, then the truth of the matter is that you ought to love one another.  Kind of changes they way you view that word, ought, doesn't it?
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. ~1 John 4:12
 Here is where it gets real.  We can't see God, no one ever has, but we can show Him to others through our actions.  We can love one another for Him.  And over time we display more and more godly, true love and less of the shadow of love that the world is accustomed to.  Not only will this help us personally to see Him in our own lives, but it helps others to see Him as well.  And isn't that what we want, to see and feel Him in our own lives and to share Him with others?

All I can say is that I have a way to go in having God's love perfected in me, but fortunately I have a patient Father who is carefully shaping and molding me.  He isn't done with me yet, and He isn't done with you either.  So keep pressing forward to the goal (Philippians 3:14) and start loving one another in both word and deed.  You never know who is watching, but I know the message I want them to see:  Jesus loves you!  How about you?
An interesting side note - the word love appears in 1 John twenty-three (23) times.  Only two other books of the Bible talk about love this much and they are Psalms (which was written to focus our thoughts on praise and adoration towards God) and Song of Solomon (which is about love-Solomon for his wife and God's love for us).