Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey

1 When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word, 

what a glory he sheds on our way! 

While we do his good will, he abides with us still, 

and with all who will trust and obey. 

Refrain:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way 

to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. 

2 Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, 

but our toil he doth richly repay; 

not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, 

but is blest if we trust and obey. 

3 But we never can prove the delights of his love 

until all on the altar we lay; 

for the favor he shows, 

for the joy he bestows, are for them who will trust and obey.

4 Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet, 

or we’ll walk by his side in the way; 

what he says we will do, where he sends we will go; 

never fear, only trust and obey. 

I remember this hymn well from many years ago. It’s so catchy and such a classic, but the truth is….I wish I would have let its word sink into my brain better back then!

It seems not much pleases God as much as His children trusting Him. Isn’t that why Abraham is often mentioned in the Bible as an example to follow so frequently? Or King David? People that please God have this in common – they chose to trust God. They chose to obey God, not always perfectly of course, but still that choice was made.

N1706P22004CTrusting God pleases Him….so what angers God? Well from the Israelites experience of wandering 40 years in the desert and never being allowed to enter the Promised Land, I’d say it’s testing God – not believing He is powerful enough to do what He says and that He loves us enough to take good care of us as He promises. Our unbelieving hearts that are always going astray….this angers God. (Hebrews 3:10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’)

When we don’t chose to trust God and obey Him, we spiral downward in our pride and stubbornness, in arrogance that we know better. Our hearts become full of sin and hard as a rock toward God. We become unable to hear Him or see Him and if we persist in our sin and foolishness, God may eventually give us over to all the consequences of a life lived without Him. Sure, it may seem we won, we got our way. But really we may lose everything.

Thankfully God often still grabs our attention to bring us back to our senses enough to repent. But then what? Where do we go from there? We either obey God and prosper in His eyes or we don’t obey God and stray from Him again, and again.  I see where He could get really tired of fickle and often unfaithful hearts. I’m so thankful for God’s patience and mercy.

Let’s trust Him today. Wherever we are, easy or hard, straightforward or completely bizarre, joyful or heart-wrenchingly sad and painful, His way is the way to go. There really is no other way that leads to good things. 

Keep our hearts soft today, Lord. Help us trust you no matter what. Help us obey, quickly and humbly.

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God’s Invitation

Will You Accept It?

rsvp“Come, all you who are thirsty,  come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” Isaiah 55:1-2b

The Christian life is one big invitation from God! Of course the biggest and best invitation we can accept is that of God’s salvation! But even after that, God continues to invite us daily to take that next step toward knowing Him better and loving Him more. He invites us into life abundant and free!

I think my parents’ generation took invitations and sticking with our RSVP decisions much more seriously than my generation does. We don’t like standing people up necessarily, but it’s not the taboo it used to be. It seems we can have that same wishy-washy approach with the Almighty God and His invitations to us as well.

I would say I’ve spent most of my life thanking God for His great invitation, responding, “yes I’ll be there” and then ditching Him and hoping He doesn’t notice. Why? Well for lots of reasons, like it’s hard to give Him control. It’s inconvenient to do things His way. His healing is great, but it usually will involve some sort of pain and I hate pain. So, these are true, but don’t have to stop me. But, some things are not true, like I worry that God will be ashamed of me or say, TOO LATE! Maybe He’ll be angry at my lack of progress all these years? Maybe God would be happier if I didn’t show up?

These wrong assumptions of God get in the way quite often I think. We run from Him because we know,  I shouldn’t doubt. I shouldn’t struggle with this or that addiction. I shouldn’t avoid people like the plague because of what happened to me in my past. “Shouldn’t“s really don’t matter. “What is” is what I need to focus on. And “what I want to become.”

God is so good! The changes He will make are ones we will love, if not at the moment, for sure later on. There’s nothing we can confess or admit or talk to Him about that He can’t help us with and help us find peace about. There’s no issue or obsession or hurt that will remain the same as it is tended to by the Master Physician. And Master Counselor. And Amazing Friend.

We have to get to the point that we daily accept God’s plan for this day, no matter what it is. Maybe we even take it one step further and give him free reign to do with us and lives whatever He wants….now that’s when life really becomes an adventure!

Walking with God can be challenging at times. True, it won’t always be easy, but it’s what we were created for! His plans for each of our lives are the best plans for us. Not easiest, not always most pain free, not always the most understandable. But always, absolutely always, the best. We can be transparent with who we are because, let’s face it, we already are transparent to Him. Being honest with God about what we may doubt or struggle with or wish we didn’t fear lifts a weight off of me and puts it on Him, as He desires.

How much of my time have I wasted pretending to be ok? It’s exhausting and leads to nothing good! It’s like refusing to get help for an infected wound. Or like insisting on driving 80 mph in terrible weather. Where that will probably lead is to further pain, injuries and really, possibly even death.

Let’s accept God’s invitation for us today, whatever that may be.

It’s different for each of us, of course. But it’s important that we say YES, LORD!  Is He going to bring healing to an old wound? Or is He pinpointing a bad attitude you never realized was there? Is He inviting you to learn more about His amazing grace? Or maybe He wants you to finally forgive someone that hurt you long ago?

Let’s take that time to sit in the presence of the Almighty and listen to Him, read His Word, ask Him for help. “What are you inviting me to learn or do today, Lord? I trust You. Nothing’s off limits.”

He will change us! He will convict us! He will tend to wounds that we are SO TIRED OF! The healing and peace and freedom He brings is beyond compare. Why would we wait one more day to say, Yes, Lord. Have Your way, Lord. Accept His invitation today and every day!

With God in the Wilderness

DSC00024I’ve made peace with my lack of directional sense in daily life, but I am still terrified of getting lost in the wilderness. Since my family hikes a lot, and the majority of us have a great “inner compass”, I try not to voice my “Are you sure we’re going the right way” comment repeatedly.

My walk with God can seem a lot like hiking in the great outdoors. God is a great hiking companion and He never gets lost, so that’s a plus!

I still have one little problem though…… me!

I’ll be walking along, keeping pace with God and enjoying the day. I’ll be watching Him for His subtle cues to slow down, or take that side path, or stop for a second. Then at some point I just seem to get cocky and start heading the way I want to go. The trail seems well-marked and it’s nice and bright outside. Running feels exhilarating!

So off I run.

Yeah, bad idea, but what can I say. I’m forgetful.

Of course, I end up getting lost eventually. Different trails start veering off this way and that way. It’s getting dark outside, and now I’m confronted with my fear – I’m lost. I panic. God, where are you? I can’t see you! Why did you leave me? Emotions rush in…doubt, fear, anger. God has deserted me. I want to blame Him for this place I’m in… yet it was me that ran off.

God never leaves any of us, of course, but neither does He always immediately come to our rescue. I’m understanding that more and more (after doing this hundreds of times.) He’d like me to learn to stick with Him all of the time. He’s a good parent, and good parents teach their children to make better choices. I’m amazed He is so patient with me, but He is. He corrects me of course, but He doesn’t punish me or load guilt and shame on me.

It is quite difficult though, to have to stand here and wait, feeling lost and alone. I’m hoping I’ll learn the lesson and stop doing this already! I know He’ll come get me in whatever timing and way will help me learn to trust Him more and stop being foolish.

Instead of throwing a big fit (um, yeah, done that before too….) I think about how I can handle the next urge I have to go my own way, or run ahead or just plain stop paying as much attention to Him. Would note cards and reminders help? Permanent tattoos all over myself? Probably the best bet is just to talk to God about those feelings when they occur and know He’ll help me do better.

All the other ideas I can come up with have too many negative consequences. I wouldn’t want an injury to keep from running. I wouldn’t want to stop exploring with God. He isn’t much for me tethering myself to him since it limits much of what we must do crossing the rough terrain. He’s happy to carry me for stretches but I like walking, so that’s not a permanent solution I’ve asked him tons of times for the map and he always says no – he’s the map.

God chooses the pace and we need to match it. It’s really not that complicated! (That’s why it’s hard not to feel very foolish that I continue to encounter this problem.) He is such a good God. He has so much more grace and patience for us than we do for ourselves. He will help us get where we need to go. I look forward to seeing what adventures we will be having, TOGETHER, side by side.

Like Wasps to a Light…

images-1I love nature, but moreso when it is outside of my house. This morning, two wasps were zipping around my kitchen and gave me quite a scare. Before I could decide what to throw at them, they both became obsessed with the kitchen light, and within moments, that was the end of the wasps. The problem was solved without much effort from me. As I watched those wasps, what popped into my head was, “Wow, you’re going to fall for that one?” I did feel bad for them (once they were dead). They gave up so much, their freedom, their wasp families, their wasp things they do. Now they are in the pile of dead bugs in the kitchen light. What a waste.

What “light” might we be obsessing over instead of enjoying our lives as we should?

God has given us so much freedom, as well. We have freedom to explore, purposes to accomplish, adventures to experience. We feel we can give our attention to multiple things, but we can only walk one direction. Will we choose God’s paths and plans, or veer off the path to those other lights? It’s like Gollum’s warning in Lord of the Rings….“This way! Don’t follow the lights!”

Fame?   Wealth?   Power?   Pleasure? What draws us in?

“But, you don’t understand”…is what we say. “My circumstances are different. I really can’t help this situation. And really I deserve it.” We may be complex to ourselves, but we are an open book to God. He knows our hearts, our motives, and our propensity to sin. We aren’t a mystery to Him. He can easily sum us up and I think we’d be surprised how similar our struggles and temptations are.

Jesus, too, was tempted on this earth, and he did remain sinless and therefore can be our substitute, the perfect Lamb of God on which all the Father’s wrath for our sin, was poured. In this sacrifice, our grim future is remedied. An answer was given.

There is a brighter light that attracts us and it is Christ.

Christ far surpasses whatever momentary and partially fulfilling temptations we consider. We run to Him and find forgiveness and satisfaction. We find a new way.

Hebrews 4: 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

I’m not saying it’s easy, it isn’t. It’s a struggle every day to live as God requires. There are lights around us that do capture our attention, but we don’t have to continue staring at them. We choose to look to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness and then ongoing strength and power to live godly lives. He helps blind us to those lesser pursuits and instead focus on living holy and blameless lives as children of God.

Meditation….What Does This Mean to a Christian?

God instructs us many times in the Bible to “meditate” on Him and His Word.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2 

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. Psalm 145:5 

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8 

N1306P44001CSo how do we meditate? The world uses the term meaning to empty our minds and enter new spiritual states. But, meditation in the Bible is focusing purposefully on the Almighty God and His truths. Sure, we want to empty our minds of distraction, and busy-ness. But, the goal is the filling of our minds and hearts WITH GOD. It’s pondering. It’s asking God for wisdom. It’s admitting we don’t know it all but we love the one that does. And meditation can be peaceful, but isn’t always. God’s holy Word is coming in contact with my selfish heart so at times it can be a pretty jarring experience.

1. Meditating is asking the Holy Spirit to further enlighten us about the Word of God and His plan for us.

The Holy Spirit draws us to become Christians, and the same Holy Spirit enables us to understand God’s Word. Why does one person read the Bible and feel it’s the most boring textbook ever while another can’t put it down? The Holy Spirit.

2. Meditating depends more on heart attitude than time.

We hear about spiritual gurus that spend the entire day or week or year meditating. Is that what God requires? Not many of us have any way of doing that!! Whatever time we give to thinking about and praying about God’s Word, I really believe God will honor. But, what is our heart like, that’s the real question? Are we wanting to hear what God has to say? What if it’s difficult? What if it involves us putting our hopes beneath His? What if He prompts us to say no to something we want?

God is absolutely there and full of mercy. He wants us to be honest and real. I can be upset, angry, torn, fearful, or any other emotion, and it all is ok with Him. I can yell. I can cry. God bids us to come as we are and He is completely able to hear us despite our intense emotions.

What I’ve found is never ok with God is

my refusal to face my pride and bitterness.

We can’t fool God. If you’re at a stand-still, and aren’t sure why, that’s a great place to start. Pride comes in so many forms. We need to seek Him with humility and a willingness to obey when He answers.

3. Meditation allows God’s Word to sink down into our hearts and minds. Many Biblical concepts seem simple at first. Common sense, we think. But, God brings our past, future, fears, hopes, emotions into the picture.

But what do I meditate on, you may ask. A good place to start is with what naturally grabs your attention in any way as you read the Bible. Something that seems so very easy, or upsetting, or basically just wrong to you. What ruffles your feathers? What verses do you just love to read? Meditating is done with our minds, but involves our emotions and beliefs.

Here is an example….

II Cor. 5:15 And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.

When I first read this verse I can tell you what popped into my mind was, Wow, that’s harsh. I don’t like hearing that and it feels offensive. It’s my life, why can’t I live it for myself? I can move on or I can continue to meditate on God’s Word.

I realize that I assume I control my life, not God. Sure, I care what God thinks but when my thoughts don’t line up with His, it’s mine I go with. I see that my motives are pretty selfish. God is love and I’m supposed to be wanting to think and act like Him. Am I? God’s truth seeps a bit deeper. I continue to read the verse, pray for God’s wisdom. Read surrounding verses. Look up commentaries other people have made to help them understand it better. I meditate.

Why don’t I want God in control? I’m afraid He will have me do things I don’t want to do. Maybe He’ll take away what I love or make me do something weird or embarrassing. It’s safer for me to be in control. God’s truth seeps a bit deeper. I continue to meditate.

God is good. It is impossible for Him to be anything else. It’s His character. And He is love. He isn’t just loving…He is love. He loved us enough to send His only Son to die for us. He cares deeply for us. He is a good Father that desires to bless His children. Of course, God also disciplines those He loves. He knows what’s best for me and every person. So He knows what things I love that maybe aren’t best for me. So now I’m back to feeling worried again. There’s risk here for sure. More meditating.

God loves me and knows me completely, He knows in the end what is best for me. He knows what will be hard or easy or devastating. I can trust Him.

One thing that makes a lot of difference to me is that I can tell God what I’m thinking and feeling, because He already knows. He can take me voicing my fears about Him, myself, about anything. Ask Him to change your heart and mind and love what He loves. Admit that this area is a horrible struggle but you want to be obedient.

God wants us to have wisdom and He wants us to correctly interpret his words and live by them. He wants us to make good decisions and to forsake ways that are harmful to follow him wholly. But we usually have a long way to go. We aren’t going to get somewhere without taking that first step. A journey starts with one step and so does learning to meditate and hear God. What’s step one…it’s reading God’s Word and asking Him to help me understand it.

God, The Master Builder

When we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord of our lives, we willingly give Him the deed of our lives, our home and property. From that moment on, we can expect Him to be helping us fix up the place, and thankfully He does, because it really needs it!

The house we’ve been building thus far had no great plan behind it. The floor plan is odd, the contents of the place are pretty random and most of it was thrown together haphazardly. Areas have been completely neglected as well.

God gets to work and at first it seems great. He starts cleaning things up, throwing open the curtains, opening windows. Yes, this is going to be good, I think. Can you relate?

But then I notice a dumpster outside. Really? Is that necessary? But yes, there is a lot of junk, so I watch, a little less enthusiastically, as God throws out some nasty items. Perhaps He’s done? But no, some things I actually DO like and use are flying out the window into the dumpster now.

Um, God….those are my things! What are you doing? He points out many are broken and ruined. Some items are just useless. Yeah, I guess that makes sense.

Now He’s starting to sort things into a “keep” pile. Other items continue to fly into the dumpster. “God, no, what are you doing??” I’m trying to keep calm but this is too much!

Do you trust me, He asks. Yes, I trust you. I walk away and pout in the corner.

Now I see construction vehicles pulling up. Not just little Bobcats, but a huge crane with a wrecking ball and all sorts of heavy duty machines. Dread fills my heart. I leave the house before the wrecking ball takes out an entire room. I guess that makes sense…nothing good ever happened in that room, that’s for sure.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there. The whole back porch is smashed to smithereens as well as several other rooms I really liked. I feel the anger building. God, do you really have to do this? This is my house! I liked it as it was!

Do you trust me, He asks. Yes, Lord, I do. But honestly, some doubts are beginning to creep in. I thought God was completely good? He is starting to appear cruel to me. I wander off a ways to cry as I watch my house ripped open and gutted.

At last the vehicles rumble away and I venture back in, hesitantly. What a mess. There’s a small area I can attempt to live in, but at least half of the place is either gone or close to it. I’m angry at God and disappointed. This Christian life is not what I signed up for.

As weeks, months and years go by I start to figure out this relationship with God. He definitely has a plan. Sometimes He shares it, like pointing out the beautiful deck He’s building for us to sit together on and watch the sun set. But other times He does not explain.

I long for this to be done. I get tired of every item and room being reevaluated and possibly discarded or changed. I thought this would have been done years ago.

So where does this leave me? What have I learned? Well. I’ve learned to stop asking when this is going to be done. It seems to be a project spanned over a lifetime. I’m tired of asking and I imagine God may be tired of His usual reply of, when I’m finished.

Secondly, I’ve learned I do have a say in what’s being done and it’s mostly in the area of stopping what God is doing. When I really get upset and get in the way, He won’t force me to move. Sometimes He’ll just move on to another project. Other times He just waits. He is infinitely more patient than I am so I’ve given up outwaiting Him.

I will eventually come back to the realization that His plan is better than mine and apologize for opposing Him. I’ve found He forgives me and doesn’t hold grudges. It’s just hard, you know? I remember being in control and some days I want to be again.

But the third thing I’ve learned is that I do love the things He has changed. Despite my occasional anger and frustration, He has some really amazing ideas. I know for sure He is not cruel, but kind and good. Yet, I’m not privy to every detail. I don’t understand what every room is for.

Last, and most important to me, I’ve learned He really is in this for the long haul. He isn’t going to leave me in a mess of my own making. His plans are for us together and He has wonderful plans for you and Him together as well. He can be trusted with every part of our lives, every plan, every hope, every dream!

Psalm 127:1-4

1Unless the Lord builds the house,

the builders labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

the guards stand watch in vain.

2In vain you rise early

and stay up late,

toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.

The Truth About Self-Image

A Book Review on “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” by Timothy Keller

13579364This is a very small book, so if you have half an hour, just skip my blog and read it!

All of us enter this sinful world on mission to build up our self-worth, our self-image. We are constantly comparing ourselves to one another in hopes of improving our “me resume.” It’s an exhausting and all-consuming way of life.

As Christians, forgiven for our sin, we do not need to continue this pointless endeavor….but most of us do anyway!

Keller says it’s not a problem of countering a high or low self-image, like the world insists. It’s a problem of ego. We are born with a huge ego which keeps me focused on me 24/7. Our ego is basically like a painfully over-inflated organ in our bodies that hurts when it’s too full, hurts when it’s empty, and never is satisfied.

We temporarily satiate our ego by deciding we are MORE than other people. We compare ourselves to others. We constantly judge everyone, including ourselves.

Am I more  _____________ than that person??? (Fill in the blank)

Funny, skinny, muscular, smart, wise, holy, wanted, requested, tall, short, happy, etc. What about my possessions? Are they better than others’ possessions? My job, my spouse, my yard, my book list, my account, my weekend plans, etc.

Sure, one day we may feel happy for a time because we feel we are MORE than others, a success. But the next day it’s a nose dive into despair because I got passed up for that promotion again, or my friend chose to have lunch with someone else, or I wasn’t chosen to head up the serving widows committee, or I look pudgy in this outfit. Today I’m a failure. It’s an ongoing trial we put ourselves in and spend the majority of our energies on.

The truth, says Keller, is that

the trial is over.

Jesus took on God’s wrath for our sin and disobedience. Jesus paid the penalty with His blood so now God can once again look at us and not see creatures of sin and wrath, but see beloved children of God We are covered by the perfect blood of Jesus and therefore are now righteous and accepted. End of story. No need to compare. No need to defend ourselves or justify our actions or spend our lives feeding our egos.

How do we make that transition to a life of freedom?  We get to know God better and we take what He says about us as truth. Keller bases his book on the passage in I Corinthians 3:21 – 4:7. Paul is confronting the believers that are fighting amongst themselves whether it was better to hear the gospel from Paul or Apollos. They are judging, and comparing, tearing one another down. What does it matter, Paul is saying. It’s the Gospel that matters! I Cor. 4:6-7 says, 

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Don’t be puffed up, Paul says. We are all the same in God’s eyes, beloved children. God showers us with gifts as He sees fit. Don’t boast about what you have or are. Every person is what God made him to be, no more, no less. We should be thankful and humble creatures, living a free and joyful life.

It may not be a quick or easy change though. We’ll need to ask God for wisdom in seeing the many areas we are seeking other’s attention and praise in. We’ll need to filter our speech through God’s Word to find where we are wasting precious time and words impressing others or allowing others opinions to matter more than God’s opinion of us.

Keller assures us that the result is a life of freedom and joy, lessening anxiety about others’ opinions, less concern about our old fears of failure and embarrassment. He feels Paul’s life models one of true contentment and power, joy no matter the circumstance.