Archive for October, 2008

The horses are prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.
           Proverbs 21:31

I’m a planner. I love planning. It brings me a sense of peace. It brings order and structure to chaos. Although many would see planning as something restrictive – something that boxes them in, I have come to understand that planning is a form of creativity. In creation, God brought order to chaos. The earth was “without form, and void” (Gen 1:2). That describes many projects before a planner steps in. Anyway, I used to believe that I had no creativity. Now I recognize that creativity comes in many forms, and my ability to bring order to chaotic projects is a form of creativity. And I feel better about myself!

Strange, I suppose, how I feel better about myself because I now believe I have creativity. I’m not sure why that is and should probably do some inner searching to figure it out…but that’s a blog for another time I suppose.

Today’s blog is about preparing horses for battle. Planning is a lot like that. To mix a few metaphors, planning is getting all our ducks in a row, it’s lining up the troops. It’s laying out an efficient and strategic way of getting the job done. Like I said, I love doing that. The  challenge that’s hard for me to resist is the challenge of bringing order out of chaos.

Maybe you’re like me. If you’re not, you probably know someone who is (perhaps the person you’re married to!)…Now you have insight into our wierdness.

To Those of You Who are Like Me
Let me strongly encourage you to remember that God is honored by our planning, but only when the planning is done with the full faith and trust that victory belongs to the Lord. We prepare our horses for battle, but victory belongs to the Lord. The trap that Satan will set for us is that we subtly begin to believe that our well-established plans are sacred and that they have won the victory. At that point, friend, your strength has become your besetting sin. To avoid this, let me encourage you to develop the strong, consistant habit of acknowledging Him in all your ways (Proverbs 3:5-6) – always pause to pray before, during and after planning. You need to do this not only to allow God to direct your planning, but to remind yourself that you need God to direct your planning.

Let me also encourage you to not take your plans (and yourself) so seriously. Practice flexibility. Yes, you probably developed the best plan, but sometimes following someone else’s plan is more important. There are more important things than attacking a project in the most efficient manner possible. Sometimes making someone else know how important they are to the team is more important. Sometimes giving someone else the experience of leading is more important. Sometimes just playing well with others is more important. Be flexible. Don’t let your plan become your idol.

To Those of You Who Know Someone Like Me
What a treasure you’ve found! 🙂 Help us become the people God wants us to be. When you see us placing too much importance on/in our plans, gently remind us that victory belongs to the Lord. I used the word “gently” for two reasons: (1) Depending on your personality, just a little planning on our part might look to you like I’m trusting in my plans when in reality I’m just using the gift God has given me – don’t crush my spirit by accusing me of not trusting God everytime I use my gifts. (2) If I really have fallen into Satan’s trap of trusting myself or my plans instead of God, you are uncovering my sin. No one wants that to be broadcast to the world. Be gentle with me. Trust that the Holy Spirit will convict me of my sin.

Praise God! Victory is always His!

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As you read through both the Old Testament and the New Testament, you will find the writers repeatedly reminding their readers about what God has done for them. For example, I recently read through the book of Joshua.In chapters 23 and 24 he gives his final exhortation to the people and farewell address. It’s a long narrative, reminding the Israelites first of their history with God (chapter 23) and then of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites since the time of Abraham (chapter 24). At the conclusion of this long reminder, Joshua challenges the people for a commitment to “honor the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly.” (24:14) They agree. He ends the discussion with a visual aid: “As a reminder of their agreement, he [Joshua] took a huge stone and rolled it beneath the oak tree beside the Tabernacle of the LORD.” (24:25b)

Do you purposefully remind yourself of the things the Lord has done for you? Do you know enough of your family’s spiritual history that you are able to remind yourself of the things God has done in for your ancestors that has impact on your life? You can use these memories to encourage yourself, as Joshua encouraged the Israelites, and as opportunities to recommit yourself to loving and serving God. Like Joshua, you can create a visual that reminds you of the goodness of God and your commitment to Him.

I find these reminders especially helpful when I am tempted to be discouraged or to sin. I can remember what God has done in the past for me and it encourages me to trust Him with my present and my future. I can remember what He has done in the past and it encourages me to remain faithful to Him.

Let’s get practical – how could you do this? There are lots of ways to approach your “rememberings.”

  • Journaling is my favorite – when I am discouraged or otherwise out-of-sorts during my devotions, I often re-read entries from my journal. It’s always surprising to me how much I forget about my life and what I experienced in the past. Re-reading my journal reassures me that God met in those times and He will meet me again.
  • If you’re not much of a writer, you can still be a “list maker” – start a “God’s Blessings” list and develop the habit of daily or weekly adding to your list.
  • Are you a scrapbooker? Create a spiritual scrapbook. I would love to have a spiritual scrapbook, commemorating all the wonderful things God has done in my life, but it doesn’t work for me. Journaling works for me. Scrapbooking is too much like work for me, so it never happens.
  • Create a digital scrapbook – if you’re not into the cut and paste approach, create a digital scrapbook. Scan in photos or other images, add your “God’s Blessing” list to it and a few journal-like entries and you’ve got a wonderful memory aid.
  • Collect things that serve as visual reminders of God’s goodness. The Israelites were always collecting and piling up rocks to remind themselves of the things God had done for them. God says in Genesis 9 that He put the rainbow in the sky as a reminder to Himself of His covenant with the Israelites. Wow! Surely God doesn’t need a reminder, but it’s pretty cool that He made one anyway! I have a variety of paintings, knick-knacks, photos and other memorabilia around our house that remind me of God’s faithfulness to me. (I even have the screws & plates from when I shattered my elbow – they remind me of how God healed me well beyond any doctor’s expectation.)
  • Create traditions that remind you of God’s goodness. The holidays will be upon us soon. If you don’t already have a “God has been good to us” tradition in your family, start one. Perhaps your conversation around the Thanksgiving table will be about God’s goodness to your family. Perhaps a Christmas Eve family devotional will be extended to include a time of remembrance. (Add some Christmas cookies & milk to make it a celebration!)
  • Be purposeful in creating times of remembrance in your family. For example, I own a small business and at least once a year we have a full day prayer meeting that all employees are invited to. The first hour of that day is spent listing the blessings God has shown to our business and employees. Everyone participates as we write the blessings on a large poster-board. Do something like this with your family! Perhaps quarterly or as a part of birthday, anniversary or other life-event celebrations, gather the family together and list all the blessings that God has shown your family.

I have often asked people which characteristic of God means the most to them. Most people will say His love, and I sure can’t argue with that, but the characteristic I value the most is His faithfulness. I know I can always rely on Him. His Word promises it, but even more than that, the history I have with Him demonstrates it.

May I encourage you to do two things?

  1. The next time you find yourself spiraling toward discouragement, stop and play the “Do you remember…?” game with the Lord.
  2. Begin some personal and family traditions that remember God’s goodness to you and your family. Doing so will create a rich history that I am certain will not only impact you and your family in the present, but also well into the future. I am guessing that most of you didn’t have these kinds of activities in your childhood. Imagine the memories you would have if you had! Make it so for your children. And remember, it’s never too late to start, even if your children are grown and married.

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5    Trust in the LORD with all your heart
     and lean not on your own understanding;
6    in all your ways acknowledge him,
     and he will direct your paths.
               Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust, Lean, Acknowledge, Direct

When we trust God, leaning not on our own wisdom, but instead acknowledging him – seeking His wisdom, we can be confident that He will direct us into paths that are a perfect for us. What a great thing! I can rest in knowing this. I can quit my striving and my worrying when I am confident of this…Can’t I? Then why is it still so hard sometimes? Why am I still tempted to worry and/or take things into my own hands?

How Do I Really Trust God?

First let me tell you that it’s possible. I come from a long line of worriers. Within my family, worrying is something like a badge of honor. Somehow, worrying about someone seems to be a primary way that we show someone we care about them. When I first met my husband he affectionately called me his wart – which was short for worry wart. It didn’t take long before I decided I wanted a better nickname! So I began to intentionally work on trusting God instead of worrying. It has worked. Many years later, I am no longer Phil’s wart. Every now and then he’ll catch me slipping into patterns of worry and he’ll use the nickname, but it doesn’t happen very often any more. And trust me. Life is so much better when we forgo the worrying.

I saw a sign once that said “Worry is an incredible waste of the imagination.” I thought that was wonderful – because it’s so true. Worry uses the imagination to conjure up all the negative things that could possible happen in a given situation. Wouldn’t you rather use that imagination to think about all the positive things that could come out of a given situation? I would! So I’m going to give you a couple of steps I’ve followed, and continue to follow, that enables me to put feet on the verse we’ve been studying.

  1. The first step in trusting God is to decide to trust God. This isn’t rocket science! At some point, we have to decide that God is trustworthy, based on His Word and His character and His past history with us. We have to come to the point where we don’t just say we believe Him, but we actually act like we believe Him. He says He’ll direct us. Let’s trust Him to do so. That means every time there is doubt creeping into our thoughts, we decide again that we will trust God and we stop letting our imagination go to all the negative possibilities.I remember leading a missions trip a few years ago. My dear aunt was a part of the trip. We were out of the country for ten days, and finally were back on US soil. We had just gotten on the plane that would take us home. I was sitting next to my aunt and she was looking out the window. Sometimes ignorance is bliss! My aunt saw that they did not load our luggage on the plane. The brought the luggage cart to the plane, loaded some of it, then took it away. Our luggage was still on the cart they drove away. She became anxious and told me about it. My response was born more out of tiredness than wisdom, but it proved to have wisdom in it. I simply said “Well, you can worry about that if you want to. I’m going to enjoy the flight home.” The wisdom is that we can choose to worry about things if we want to. Most of those things will work themselves out on their. We made it home. Some of us didn’t get our luggage until the next day. Not a big deal. And the truth is that most of what we worry about really isn’t a big deal. You’ve heard the phrase “don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff to God.” So at some point, you just have to decide that you will trust God and not worry.
  2. Get to know God better. I’ve found that we trust most those we know the best. So get to know Him better than you know anybody else. You’ll learn how He has been faithful to others in the situation you’re facing. Your eyes will be opened to how He has been faithful to you in the past. You’ll even see how He has met your needs when things spun out of control in the past. God is the One who holds your future in His hands. Period. Not you, not your spouse, not your children, not your parents, not your boss, not your friends, not your pastor, not your counselor, not your job, not your hobby, not the money in your bank account, not your connections in the community, not anything that you might be tempted to depend on. God holds you and He holds your future in His hands. So get to know Him. Join a Bible study, attend church regularly, read your Bible and pray for longer periods of time one or two days a week, read other Christian books. I find that reading Christian biographies really teach me a lot about how God works and how faithful He has been throughout time.What he’s done before He’ll do again. What He’s done for anyone He can do for you. You’ve made a decision to trust God. The ability to trust Him comes through faith. Faith is increased by pursuing God consistently.

If you struggle with trusting God, choose just one situation today and decide to trust Him in that situation. Don’t try to trust Him for every need you have right now – it will be too much for you and you will undoubtedly fail to trust Him in one of those areas. Then you’ll forget all the situations you trusted Him in and you’ll feel like you’ve failed. I don’t want to set you up for failure. I want you to experience what trusting God feels like. How it is different from the way you’ve been living. So start small. Find that one situation, commit to taking that matter to God in prayer and trusting Him to reveal what, if any, action you should take. Then rest. Be confident in Him. Know He’ll answer, so you don’t have to figure out what to do in the meantime. When you’re tempted to worry remind yourself of His faithfulness and thank Him for the answer that is on the way. When you’re still tempted to worry, spend some time getting to know Him better. God is up to something in your life! He wants you to trust Him for that thing you’re most worried about.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.
      Proverbs 3:5-6

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5    Trust in the LORD with all your heart
     and lean not on your own understanding;
6    in all your ways acknowledge him,
     and he will direct your paths
                 Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust, Lean, Acknowledge
Trust God. Lean on Him, not your own understanding. He is trustworthy. Seek Him for wisdom. He gives it generously to those who ask. He knows the big picture. You don’t. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your paths.

“He Will Direct Our Paths”
Your translation of the Bible might say “He will make your paths straight.” The word that’s translated “direct” or “straight” really means both things (and an exciting third thing we’ll see in a minute).

He will direct our paths – We can have confidence that God will give us direction. He will put people in our paths that make the action we should take clear, or He will whisper into our spirit which choice is the right choice for now, or He will highlight a verse of Scripture that makes it clear which direction we should take. He will direct our paths.

He will make our paths straight – He will also straighten out the path, making it smoother, avoiding some of the obstacles that we would run headlong into. He will keep our meandering, “wandering in the wilderness” to a minimum – when we trust God and acknowledge Him in all our ways, we’ll only wander when God has a purpose for it. I like that. Wandering with a purpose!

He will find the “well fitted” path – The word translated “direct” or “straight” also means “well fitted.” I love this! God will direct each of us to the path that is well fitted to us – the one that fits us like a glove. One of the ways the word is used in the Old Testament is in the discussion of the building of the Solomon’s Temple. There is a discussion of carved pieces of wood that are overlaid with gold. When gold is overlaid on wood, it is perfectly molded to the wood. The word “overlaid” is the same word as used in Proverbs 3:6. That’s pretty exciting to me. God is going to lead me in the paths that are perfectly molded to fit me, the one that best matches my talents and temperament and passions. He knows those things better than I do because He created me in my mother’s womb. He knew me before the world was formed. The path He will lead me in will be the best fit possible – and that will be incredibly satisfying.

And He’s just waiting for me to rely on Him for guidance. He is eager to lead me into those perfect places, even joyful watching me take those steps that demonstrate my trust of Him.

There’s one more blog in this series – the practicals of putting it all in action. Watch for the next blog.

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5    Trust in the LORD with all your heart
     and lean not on your own understanding;
6    in all your ways acknowledge him,
     and he will direct your paths
                      Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust Him, and Not Your Own Understanding
God is trustworthy. Our own understanding is not always so. He is the Creator who knows the big picture. We are the created who see our small part. Trusting Him with all our heart and not leaning on our own understanding is not only biblical, it’s logical.

But how do we go from trusting him and not leaning on our own knowledge of a situation to actually knowing what to do? That’s where the next verse comes in.

“In All Your Ways Acknowledge Him”
I am immediately struck by the word “all” in this verse. In ALL my ways I’m to acknowledge Him…not just the beginning of my ways, or the middle of my ways, or the end of my ways after I’ve likely messed things up. No, I’m to trust Him throughout the entire process.

In addition, I’m to acknowledge Him in all that I do, not just those things that I feel like I need His help on. I don’t know about you, but I am most prone to forget to acknowledge God in all my ways when I’m doing something that I’ve done before. I don’t think it consciously, but my attitude becomes one of “This is a no brainer – I just have to do this, this, and this…” and then I start working on it.

Warren Wiersbe talks about this. He says that “we may think our own wisdom is sufficient, but it is not. We need the wisdom of God…Even the most devout among us become atheistic in this regard…we put our common sense on the throne and then attach God’s name to it. We do lean to our own understanding instead of trusting God with all our hearts.”  (Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the Old Testament)

He essentially says we act like atheists – those who don’t even believe God exists – when we trust on our own understanding instead of acknowledging God and leaning on His wisdom.

God promises wisdom to those who ask for it. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.” (James 1:5) God says he will give wisdom generously. And He doesn’t “find fault” with us for asking – I believe He actually takes delight in us asking for wisdom, as any other parent does when his or her child asks for their wisdom.

The word “acknowledge” doesn’t mean what it means in contemporary society. It’s much more than the nod of the head, a handshake, or a raising of the eyebrows in recognition. It’s even more than a “welcome” hug. The root of the word is “know” – it means “know the Lord” – “in all your ways, know the Lord” so that His ways can become your ways. In the second blog of this series, I stressed the need to get to know God better because we are most likely to trust someone when we know him or her better.

God is the One outside creation – He knows the beginning from the end. He knows what unexpected difficulties there are along the way. He can navigate around them. Acknowledge Him in all that you do so that He can lead you around those unexpected difficulties. More about that in the next blog…see you then.

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5    Trust in the LORD with all your heart
     and lean not on your own understanding;
6    in all your ways acknowledge him,
     and he will direct your paths
                     Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart”
“There is no panic in trust” Bertha Munro said. Trusting God means a panic-free life. I like that. But in order to be able to trust Him, I need to get to know Him better, and then I actually need to make the decision to give my situations to Him – I need to actually trust Him.  These thoughts were the subject of the first two blogs in this series.

Today, we switch gears a little to find that the action of trusting God has a partner. That partner is not leaning on your own understanding.

“Do Not Lean on Your Own Understanding”
The word “lean” means to support yourself – so don’t support yourself with your own understanding. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your own understanding. God has given us intelligence and reasoning for a purpose – he wants us to use them. But He doesn’t want us to “lean” on them. He wants us to lean on Him.

Have you ever broken a leg or ankle or foot? You probably used a pair of crutches for while. You leaned on them and they supported you. Let it be the same with God. Lean on Him and let Him support you. Don’t support yourself with your own understanding.

In America we don’t like the word “crutch” – we admire independence. But independence is inconsistent with Christian maturity. As we mature as Christians, we learn to rely on, to support ourselves with, to trust God, not our own understanding.

If Noah had leaned on his own understanding, he wouldn’t have survived the flood. It had never rained before God told Noah to build a boat. The land had been watered from underground streams. When God told Noah He was going to cover the entire earth with a flood, He was telling Noah that He was going to do something He had never done before. Relying on his own understanding would have been disastrous for Noah. He couldn’t possible have had full understanding of the situation. The same is always true with us. We never know the whole picture. But God does.

In my last blog, I wrote that “God IS the most trustworthy person in all of creation.” That’s true. Let me change the emphasis for this lesson: God is the most trustworthy person IN all of creation. Yet, what’s even more important for this lesson, is that God is the most trustworthy person OUTSIDE of all creation. God knows it all. We don’t. If Noah had relied upon his own understanding, He would have drowned with the rest of the earth. Instead, he trusted in the One who created the earth and so when God said “build an ark”, he began to build an ark.

Notice that Noah’s trust of God lead to an action – he built the ark. Action demonstrates the trust we have. Trust isn’t trust if we don’t act upon it. Stay tuned for more on that in the next blog.

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5    Trust in the LORD with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
6    in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will direct your paths
                    Proverbs 3:5-6

“There is no panic in trust” was our theme yesterday. It’s a good theme! No matter what our need is, God is capable and has the resources to meet that need. He is El-Shaddai, the God Who is Sufficient for the Needs of His People.

But knowing that and owning or apprehending it can be two very different things. Trust can be a difficult thing to “manufacture” if it’s not there already. How can we trust the Lord if we don’t trust Him already? Let me offer three suggestions.

Get to Know God Better

May I first suggest that we get to know God better? We trust the most those we know the best. I’ve known my husband for thirty years – I trust him implicitly. I’ve known my best friend for a dozen or so years. I trust her a lot. I know my neighbor down the street…well, just in passing. I mean no offense to her, but I don’t trust her very much. She may be the most trustworthy person on the planet, but I don’t know her well enough to trust her. God IS the most trustworthy person in all of creation. Yet if you don’t know Him, you probably don’t trust Him.

Get to know Him. Read about Him and how He protected, lead and provided for the Israelites and the New Testament Christians. Talk to others who know Him and ask how He has been faithful to meet their needs. Pray, not just with a laundry list of your needs, but with times of listening and just “being” with God. You can’t trust someone you don’t know. Get to know Him.

Decide to Trust Him

We’ll never trust God in an area in our lives until we decide to trust Him with that area. Yes, this sounds pretty bonehead, but it’s quite true. Often I find that when I am worrying over an issue, it’s something I’ve never actually made a decision to give to God. I’ve never said “Lord, I trust you with ________________.” Instead, I’ve just worried the issue. Or I’ve made a half-hearted commitment to trust Him, saying “Lord, will you take this?” and then just twenty minutes later when I don’t see a change saying (subconsciously if not consciously) “I better help God out by taking this issue back and doing something about it.”

A friend had a great illustration that helps with this. It’s based on 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” For you non-fishermen, casting is throwing your fishing line into the water. In some kinds of fishing, you cast your line into the water with an overhand throwing type motion. Then you sit and watch it, waiting for the fish to take the bait and jiggle the line. In other kinds of fishing you continually cast your line, then reel it back in, cast it out and reel it back in. The movement of the line catches the attention of the fish and the jump on it. When we trust God, we cast our line (worries) out into the water…and then we cut the line. Don’t reel them back in. Don’t even sit there watching the line for any movement. Cut the line and walk away from it.

The sign language sign for trust is to grab the air in front of you with both hands and pull it to your chest. That means trust. Notice the difference between casting your worries – throwing them away from you – and trusting God – capturing Him and bringing Him close. We are to throw our worries to God and hold Him close.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” It is possible. It is worth pursuing. Do it today. Pick one area and decide to trust Him. I am fully confident that He will prove Himself to be trustworthy.

In my next blog, we’ll learn about the partner to trusting God…see you then!

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5    Trust in the LORD with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
6    in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will direct your paths.
                               Proverbs 3:5-6

There has been much happening over the past couple of weeks that might tempt us to fear. Stock market and financial institutions failing. Embassy and hotel bombings aimed at US interests. These events can make it feel like the world as we know it is falling apart around us. I bet there are some situations in your personal life that tempt you to fear as well. Perhaps your marriage is on rocky ground or someone you love is going through a health crisis. Maybe you have a big decision to make.

If any of those things are impacting your life, this verse is for you! Over the next few days, we’re going to look at each phrase of the verse. It’s a well known Scripture, but you’ll find that there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Let’s get started.

“There is No Panic in Trust”
I love what Bertha Munro said: “There is no panic in trust.” It can be easy for us to fall into a panic in our hearts and spirits. We wrack our brain to try to figure out what we should do to “fix” the situation. And when we can’t come up with something, our brain triggers a panic response. Unless we know that it’s not our responsibility to fix the situation. When we know that someone else who is capable and has all the necessary resources is handling it, that panic response doesn’t kick in.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say the company you work for has just decided to have a huge anniversary celebration next month. It’ll be a great time, with music, games and celebrations. For those who don’t like such frivolity, they want to include a quieter jazz room where people can mingle or just sit and visit with friends. Sounds great…except that planning hasn’t started because the decision to have the party was just made…A location has been reserved for three weeks from today. Trust me, if you’re the person assigned to plan the party, you’ll be tempted to panic! If you’re one of the people who simply gets to attend the party and enjoy the food, dancing and socializing, you’re looking forward to it. No panic required because you’re not responsible for making the event happen.

When we entrust our lives to the Lord, it isn’t our responsibility to make things happen – God has already said “don’t worry, I’ll handle it.” That doesn’t mean we don’t have responsibility to live diligent lives of work and servanthood, but it does mean we trust God to provide the necessary resources and enable us to accomplish the things He’ll direct us.

But my 401K is dwindling…Trust Me. I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I am Jehovah-Jireh, your Provider.

But the doctor says my test results…Trust Me. I knit you together in your mother’s womb. I am Jehovah-Raphe, the Lord who heals.

But I’m lost and it’s dark all around me and I don’t know which way to go…Trust Me. I will lead you in the way you should go. I am Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord your shepherd.

But I’m scared…Trust me. I am Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord your Peace.

But I am unworthy, how can you…Trust me. No, you are not worthy, but I have made you worthy. I am Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord your righteousness. I am also Jehovah-Mekaddishkem, the Lord your Sanctifier. I have set you apart for a purpose.

Trust me. I am El-Shaddai, the God Who is Sufficient for the Needs of His People. Trust me and you become my people.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart.” Make a decision today to trust God with that situation that has you most likely to panic. Let His peace will replace your panic.

Tune in tomorrow for more about what it means to trust God and how to do it.

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Yesterday I blogged about how our dog, Sweetie, “presents” herself to my husband, Phil, several times a day looking for love and attention.

On the first Sunday of every month, Phil & I conduct a church service for the residents of a nursing home. We always take Sweetie with us. We officially proclaim it to be “Bring Your Dog to Church Sunday.” The residents love it.

Today, while Phil was leading the singing of some familiar hymns, Sweetie got up from lying near my chair and sat in front of me, looking up at me expectantly. I thought “Isn’t she cute, presenting herself for attention.”

A few minutes, Phil read one of the Scripture readings, Philippians 4:4-9. Verse struck me:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Present your requests to God. God wants me to be very much like Sweetie – coming frequently into His presence, sharing affection with Him, letting Him shower me with love, or even having Him show me the right way to do things. Yes, this verse is about bringing our requests to Him, but we can’t present our requests to Him without first presenting ourselves to Him.

I guess now I have two things to work on this week…paying more attention to Phil and frequently “presenting” myself to the Lord for fellowship and to express my needs. Are you up for joining me in the challenge?

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My husband loves our dog! He loves me too, but sometimes I have to admit to being jealous of our four-legged, furry “child!” Sometimes I sit in my chair and hear my husband begin to talk “sweet talk” to the dog and I feel jealous. He’s telling her what a good dog she is, and he’s paying attention to her and asking her what she needs and wants. As he’s fixing a snack he’s telling her what he’s doing, “involving” her in his daily tasks.

And then it hits me…Sweetie (our dog) “presents” herself to her dog dad several times a day, looking up expectantly at him, wagging her tail, essentially saying “I’m here. I’m cute. I want your attention. Come play with me.” How often do I do that? How often do I put everything I’m doing down, go over to my husband and ask for a kiss and hug?

I try to always stop what I’m doing and kiss him when he leaves the house. Anything could happen out there and I want to be sure I’ve kissed him goodbye. I want my love for him to be something that helps him get through the stresses of the day, rather than an argument or distance in our marriage add to problems he’ll face while he’s out.

Those are good things, but the dog reminds me that I’m lax at home. Sometimes, especially when life gets busy (and when doesn’t it), we hardly talk throughout the day or even in the evening. Sweetie, on the other hand, lifts her head (from her nap), “smiles” and wags her tail. When he sits down, she will get up and go over to be petted and hear him talk to her. Sometimes I stop what I’m doing to greet him…if I’m not concentrating on what I’m doing.

I think it’s time for me to take some lessons from my dog. How about you? Do you pay enough attention to your spouse during the day? I have no doubt that it would be a good thing. Give it a try! I’m going to.

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