Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Trust in the Lord and Do Good

When my third-grader was three-years old, she had one memory verse to learn each month at her preschool. For some reason, she latched onto the verse from October. For the remainder of the school year, if you asked her what her memory verse was, she would always quote this same verse ---"Trust in the Lord and do good" (Psalm 37:7 NIV). (If you click on the link, you can get the full effect and hear it in her sweet little three-year-old voice.)

This verse has obviously had my attention for awhile, but now it will be code for the wise message contained in the entire psalm, which is a word of wisdom for all of us who struggle with fear, doubt, worry, or frustration over the actions of others.

In reflecting on the wise counsel of this psalm, I wrote out my own paraphrase of Psalm 37:
Stop getting all worked up and in a panic because of people who do evil. They amount to nothing and soon they will disappear. Instead, trust the Lord. Do what He says and follow His ways. Enjoy life where He has planted you. Enjoy resting in His presence. Know in your heart that He loves you and He wants what is best for you. Trust Him that He will provide for you. Follow His leading and His ability to enable you to have a right relationship with Him. Know that if you have been wronged, He will vindicate you in a way that all will see. 
Wait patiently in stillness and in silence in His presence. Stop worrying about whether the enemy will succeed or if they will get what is coming to them. Let go of all your anger and frustration over what they have done, and leave vengeance to God. Soon the wicked will be gone and those who seek the Lord will all live together in peace.
God is well aware of the actions of the wicked. He knows their hearts, and He will not let wickedness and injustice go unpunished. In fact, the very weapons they try to use to attack God's people will come back on them instead. 
Don't worry --God holds us, His children, in His hand where He can protect us. He has plans for us and no one can thwart His plans. He will not forsake us or desert us. He will care for us and bless us. The Lord knows that we struggle, but He loves His children who seek to follow Him. He holds us by the hand and helps us up when we stumble. He will not abandon us to failure. God is faithful and can be trusted to keep His promises.
Even when we only speak words of wisdom and justice, the wicked will still try to attack, but the Lord will protect us. The wicked cannot condemn us because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  
Life may become difficult. The situation may look dismal, but God has a plan. Wait for that plan. Be patient. Remain obedient to Him. There is a bright future for all of us who follow the Lord. The wicked have no such future because there is absolutely no hope apart from God. He is our anchor, our source of security and hope. He can be relied upon, especially in the midst of a trial or storm. Take refuge in Him. Stay close to Him. He will deliver.
This psalm about control. Who or what am I going to allow to control me: fear, anger, anxiety, worry, frustration, wicked people who are destined for destruction? Or the Lord, who is faithful, merciful, and Father and Creator who loves me, protects me, leads me and guides me, helps me and provides for me?

"Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name" (Psalm 86:11 NIV). And may I always "Trust in the Lord and do good."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

You Can't Make Me!

Have you ever heard a kid tell their parent “you can’t make me”? Maybe you’ve seen a toddler throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, and when the parent tells the kid that they need to stop screaming, the kid yells back,  “You can’t make me!” Has God ever told you to do something, and instead of obeying, you essentially told Him, “You can’t make me”?

This week I was re-reading over a very familiar passage of Scripture, and my attention was drawn to one particular phrase. Here are the first four verses. I’m sure you’re familiar with them:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing.He makes me to lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-4 NIV) 
Look at the second line again. He makes me to lie down. The Hebrew verb here is in the active voice – this means that the subject of the sentence (in this case, the Lord) is one who performs the action, and the object (in this case, “me”) is the one being acted upon. The psalmist is not lying down of his own accord; the Lord acted upon him to make him lie down.

Sometimes the Lord has to make us lie down. Maybe we’re headed in the wrong direction and He wants us to realize our need to repent, to stop and turn around. Or maybe we are doing what He has called us to do, but we have neglected to take time to rest and abide in Him.

How can Jesus make me lie down? He may remove things from my life that are distracting me. He may use any number of circumstances in my life to make me stop, slow down, and look to Him. Like the frustrated parent of the screaming toddler in the grocery store, His instructions are for our own good. Look again at these four verses at all He does for us:
  • He supplies our needs.
  • He gives us rest when we need it most.
  • He gives us refreshment when we’re depleted.
  • He guides us along the paths He wants us to travel – paths that will give Him the most glory and honor.

He does so much for us, but probably the most comforting thought in this psalm is that even when we’re walking through great trials…even when we have no idea where we’re going or how we’re going to get there…even when we can’t see where the next step is…there is no reason to fear. He is still there and He is walking right beside us, guiding us. This should give us great comfort and take away all our fears.

This is not to say that I have mastered walking through dark valleys without fear. However, when I am tempted to be consumed with fear, maybe that is when Jesus makes me lie down and rest so that He can renew and refresh me. Jesus says His sheep listen to His voice (John 10:16). I need to be quick to listen to His voice and obey whenever He guides me onto a new path just like I need to be quick to listen and obey whenever He says it is time to rest. And may I never be guilty of screaming at Him “you can’t make me,” because He can, and He will.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

If You Say Go...

I have only a few weeks left of being a Texan. The moving truck will be at our front door to load everything for Colorado two weeks from today. I'm still trying to process the fact that we are moving to Colorado. What is this going to look like? How is God going to use me there?

I was archiving some of my church website blog posts from the past few years and I found this one written thirteen months ago. These questions were asked a year ago, but they are even more pertinent today and I am obviously still working through some of them. The blog has been discontinued on the church website, so I will occasionally re-post blogs that are applicable, including this one which was originally posted on September 5, 2013.

Last Sunday, we sang a song together in which we told the Lord: 'If you say go, we will go. If you say wait, we will wait. If you say step out on the water, and they say it can't be done, we'll fix our eyes on you and we will come.'
This beautiful song written by Diane Thiel is one of those songs that is much easier sung than done. It brings up questions in my mind and maybe to yours as well:
  • What if God asks me to go somewhere I don't want to go? Do I trust that He would not send me somewhere that is not ultimately for my own good and for His glory?
  • What if I think I'm ready to go, but He tells me to wait? Do I trust Him enough to keep pursuing Him and His instructions, knowing He'll say go when He thinks I'm ready?
  • What if I don't hear Him telling me anything --either to go or to wait? Do I make it a priority to spend time with Him, to ask Him for directions, and to listen for instructions?
  • What if He asks me to do what seems to me to be impossible? If it seems easy and within my own grasp, will it require any faith for me to accomplish it? Unless it seems impossible, how will I ever learn to depend on His power and His strength?
The line that says 'if you say step out on the water' reminds me of the narrative in Matthew 14:22-33 of Peter's experience walking on the water. Re-reading through this passage helps me see so many areas to pray for in regards to being able to live out the words of this song. 
Let us pray for:
  • eyes to see Jesus right in front of us, and to see what He is doing.
  • boldness to ask Jesus to call us to action, to do what He does and to be like He is
  • ears to hear His call and His invitation
  • the strength required to step out in obedient faith even when it seems impossible
  • an undivided heart that focuses solely on Jesus, not the surrounding wind and waves
  • the humility and wisdom needed to cry out to Jesus when we do fall
  • a spirit of worship, to truly fall at His feet in awe of who He is

       ...all so that we may be able to sing:
'If you say go, we will go. 
If you say wait, we will wait.
If you say step out on the water, and they say it can't be done
We'll fix our eyes on You and we will come.'

Monday, October 6, 2014

Reclaiming the Mission

Everyone loves new beginnings, fresh starts, and clean slates. They are a chance to move on and try to forget rough endings and slammed doors. Our attitudes and actions following those rough endings and slammed doors determines the quality and direction of that fresh start --- and whether we continue on the mission God has given us or we give up and go home. We can react to rough endings and slammed doors in one of two ways: we may become so completely discouraged and disillusioned that we quit pursuing the mission God has called us to, or we can run to Jesus for renewed strength to continue the mission He gave us.

Jesus holds all authority, and He is in control of which doors close and which ones open (Rev 3:7). A closed door is not necessarily a “no;” it is more likely a “not here” or a “not now.” It may provide us an opportunity to step back and reminded of who we are and what God has called us to be and to do for Him. “Reclaim the Mission” is a song I wrote earlier this year that speaks to this process. It begins with...

“Some days I forget who I am, that I’m part of a greater plan…”

Who am I? In her most recent Living Proof Live conference, Beth Moore reminds women who they are in God like this (it’s available on her blog):

            I am a woman (*or man) of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ
            Loved, pursued, and chosen, equipped with words of life
            Clothed in strength and dignity, commissioned here and now
            Gifted by the Spirit, forgiven and unbound

This is who I am…even when doors slam in my face…even when Satan attacks my identity…even when I’m under friendly fire from other believers. This is who I am. This is who you are if you are a follower of Jesus.

“I know there’s something more I’ve been created for.
There’s a job to do, I’m on a mission.”

We are all created for a purpose, and this purpose was not thrown together last minute. God planned it long ago. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Eph 2:10 NLT).

“When the world diverts me from You, and Despair tells me ‘what’s the use?’…”

Why are we so easily distracted? Why do we listen to those debilitating, discouraging voices more than we listen to God or to those people whom He has placed in our lives to walk beside us and encourage us in our relationship with Him? Don’t listen to Despair. Allow Jesus to give you “a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair” (Is 61:3 NLT).

“May I never fail to see who You’ve called me to be.
Keep my eyes on You and on the mission.”

This should be our prayer: that we keep our eyes focused, not on the closed door and ended possibilities or on those intent on discouraging and distracting us, but focused on the Lord and what He has called us to do. “I raise my eyes to fix my gaze on You, for Your throne resides in the heavens. Just as the eyes of servants closely watch the hand of their masters, just as a maid carefully observes the slightest gesture of her mistress, in the same way we look to You, Eternal One, waiting for our God to pour out His mercy upon us.” (Ps 123:1-2 VOI).

If you have recently experienced a slammed door, a rough ending, or are in need of confirmation from the Lord as to who you are, what He has created you to be, and what He has called you to do, try singing this prayer with me:

“Lord, remind me what is true, rekindle love for You
Renew my strength, refocus my vision
Re-set my heart aflame to glorify Your name
Redirect my path; Lord, may we reclaim the mission.”