Trust Happens

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Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” – Anonymous proverb

One day I was fussing around trying to get everything done, worrying about this and that – just restless, I guess. I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge: “Don’t you have something you want to thank Me for?” Of course I did. I stopped my whirlwind and gave Him thanks for several things that came immediately to mind. As soon as I did, I felt my spirit move from restless to restful. It was amazing.

So what really happened? God’s reminder to thank Him was not for His benefit, it was for mine. A gratefulness pause made me realize all that God does for me every day and how much He must love me to remind me of that even when I was “toiling and spinning” like the biblical lilies of the field. Recognizing His character, His faithfulness, and His consistent drawing of me to Himself helped me to trust Him even in the middle of what felt like chaos.

Trusting is not an act of the will. Rather, it is an emotion that grows out of a confident relationship with God as we discover that He loves, protects, teaches, and rescues us – and has been doing it for years. Even brief moments of remembering His never-failing consistency nurtures the emotion of trust in my spirit. Over time, I am finding that trust is more often my first response to struggle instead of my second, third, or fourth.

Maybe we need to stop telling ourselves to trust God and, instead, start realizing who He is and what He does for us. As we make gratefulness a habit, trust happens. Understanding that has made a big difference for me. It can for you, too. Don’t you have something to thank Him for right now?

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” – Jeremiah 17:7

 

Running to Jesus

I will run past everything to be united with You.” (anonymous prayer)

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When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry or fear. As long as you are running, you’re safe.” ― Francis Chan

What do we need to run past today? The troubling email? A distressing medical appointment? A wayward child? A financial stress? A needy friend? A demanding boss? It’s not that we won’t deal with any of those things, but we need to connect with Jesus first.

Picture a long passageway. As you move along it, there are problems or people calling for your attention – just a moment of time, just a short side road. But you know that Jesus is at the end of this path, waiting patiently for you to come to Him. See Him? Now run! Run to Him, past everything that calls to you, past the problems, anxieties, demands of life. Run to Him to be loved, forgiven, nurtured, and directed. Then turn around and attend to all these things one-by-one as He walks beside you.

Sometimes it’s not that what we do is wrong, it’s just that we too often do it without Jesus, without direction, without connecting first to the only One who can make a real difference in each situation we face. Let’s run to Jesus. Sitting quietly in His presence is the most important thing we have to do today. Really, it is.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1, Amplified Bible)

God’s Surprises

I retired once after a long and interesting business career. A few years after that retirement, I was invited to go back to work to help shape an online education program for training students in Bible, ministry, and Christian leadership.

“God give me hills to climb and strength for climbing.” – Arthur Guiterman

After a few energetic years in that role, I sensed that God was ready for me to hand over the leadership to someone else. I stepped away, but with mixed emotions. I had given three years of focused commitment to a particular ministry and it was no longer mine to lead. Now what?

Then I read about Jesus and His disciples. Many had left their livelihoods, homes, and families to follow Him. They put all their trust in Him and His plan for the world in which they lived. They gave him three years of focused commitment. Then He was killed and everything changed. Now what?

I can imagine reading their minds that Friday night: “After all this, I guess my life will just go back to ‘normal’. That’s going to be hard after the events of the past few years.” They would have had that right. How do you go back to “normal” after three amazing years with Jesus? What a surprise awaited them on Sunday morning – they had not counted on resurrection. They had no idea what their new “normal” would now mean!

My own post-career ‘I guess my life will just go back to normal’ thoughts were there, too, but God’s loud and clear message to me was this: “Don’t ever presume you know what your life will be like. There is always a new normal on the horizon. I have plans that include surprises – like resurrection!”

Isn’t that exciting? As we go through today, let’s live in anticipation of God’s surprises. He is not finished with us yet!

“. . . I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.” – Habakkuk 1:5

When I am Afraid

I am afraid sometimes, actually more times than I like to admit. When I am willing to look for help for my fear, I often find the psalms provide comfort and direction. Psalm 16 is one of my favorites.

Psalm 16:1a: Keep me safe, O God . . .

The first part of this verse helps me to slow down and identify my specific fear. What do I want to be kept safe from?

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. – Psalm 23:4 NLT

Accident?
Physical pain?
Emotional stress?
Failure?
Mistakes?
Sin?
Evil powers?

Once I identify the fear I am dealing with, I can pray specifically for the protection I need. The fears that most often surface for me relate to things I can’t control. When I know I don’t have influence over what may be about to happen, fear can strike to my core.

Psalm 16:1b: . . . for in You I take refuge.

Refuge in God means I trust Him to take care of me. It means I give up control to Him. He is my safe place. He protects me even from myself, my weaknesses, flaws, and lack of judgment, as well as from other people’s mistakes or intentions. As I surrender my will and my specifically identified fear to Him, room is created in my soul for peace to seep in. Little by little, by the power of the Holy Spirit, peace conquers fear and I am at rest.

Until next time, that is. Then we do it again. But God is never impatient with my call to Him for help and my desire to take refuge in Him. He just seems pleased that I am learning to trust Him when I am afraid. He is ready to welcome you to His safe place, too. Just ask Him.

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” – Frederick Buechner

Hanging Around the Holy

I didn’t know holiness was catching, did you? But maybe, in some way, it is.

“Holiness, not happiness, is the chief end of man.” – Oswald Chambers

In Exodus, God gives Moses detailed instructions for building the Tabernacle and all its furnishings and utensils. In 29:37 God says that whatever touches the consecrated altar will be holy. Then in 30:29, He says the same thing about the anointed furnishings and utensils, “ . . . whatever touches them will be holy.”

What things today seem to be holy in God’s eyes?

  • His church
  • Christian friendships
  • His Word
  • Prayer
  • Confession
  • Spiritual reading
  • Worship
  • Songs, hymns, and spiritual songs
  • Nature/creation

These are the kinds of things that are probably comparable to the altar in the Old Testament in terms of conveying holiness. The sacrifice on the altar granted forgiveness, but the proximity to holy things and holy people gave the growth in relationship to almighty God.

Do we want to be holy? Close to God? Knowing His mind and heart? Receiving His gifts? First, we claim forgiveness through Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice on the altar of the cross. Then, I think we need to hang around the holy. As we do, we find that we breathe it, we catch it, we grow in it, and we want more of it.

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Night School

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“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” – Psalm 63:5-8

When I was in college, I had a Christian professor who told us that when she went to bed at night, she prayed God would use the nighttime hours to speak to her. I thought that was a little “far out” at the time, but was intrigued because it seemed efficient –seriously! Over time, though, I realized that nighttime may be the only time when I have relinquished control of my brain. Maybe, it is the best time for God to be able to talk to me without my interference. Then I began to find Bible verses showing that God wants to relate to us even while we are in bed, sleeping or awake.

So, I have learned to fall asleep with a Bible verse, a prayer, or a hymn in my mind. That way, I feel I am leaving my subconscious self open to the Spirit of God as I rest. Then I say something like this to God: “I pray that my heart will be so fully yielded to You and my mind so saturated in Your Word that the nighttime processing will be instructive. I never want to be outside of Your teaching, correction, guidance, wisdom – even while my body sleeps”.

And, He answers that prayer. How?
• Sometimes I wake up with a solution to a problem that seemed unsolvable the night before.
• Or I will remember a dream that seems to give me direction or comfort.
• Or I will have a Bible verse come to mind that was just what I needed to hear.
• Or I simply feel His loving presence with me as I sleep.

You may want to ask Him to speak to you in the nighttime hours, too. He might just be waiting for your invitation.

“I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” (Psalm 16:7)

Stressed or Blessed?

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“A perfect faith would lift us absolutely above fear.” – George MacDonald

The question haunted me: How could I say I was living a life of faith when I was anxious so much of the time?  I began to ask God to deliver me from worry and grow my faith in His character and His Word. As He answers my request, here is what I am learning:

Listen first.
Before I pray, I listen to God in order to try to understand His will in the matter I am concerned about. Then I pray a prayer that, to the best of my ability, is in keeping with His will. Partnering with God this way engenders faith.

Pray boldly.
I try to ask honestly and boldly for what I need from God and what I have discerned He wants to give me. No more wimpy prayers.

• Testify confidently.
When God answers my prayers, I share the good news with others. My faith nurtures theirs and their faith nurtures mine.

• Respond thankfully.
Whether my faith is big or small, I commit to giving God the all the credit and praise for what He does.

• Persevere patiently. 
My faith is growing, but I have far to go.  So, I remain committed to following God’s faith-building plan and am thrilled with every evidence of progress.

And, here’s the good news: I am finding that worry and faith cannot exist in my mind at the same time. If I worry, faith disappears. If I exercise faith, worry flees. I get to choose which of the two I want to live with. By God’s grace, I am learning to choose faith and my life is changing gradually from anxious to peaceful. Yours can, too. Ask Him to help you grow your faith in Him. That is a prayer He is eager to answer!

“So not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)