Archive for April, 2014

14“So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone.

15But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT)

What a crazy, crazy few weeks it’s been. Phil and I found ourselves in the middle of commitments at work that were a combination of poorly made agreements on my part and life just being life…only on steroids for some reason. All leading up to a seemingly hard deadline of a trip to visit my niece on the birth of her first child.

Well, I’m on the plane to visit that niece now. A day late and still without the deadline met (technically the due date is still about 5 days away, but with me gone, it’s not going to get met). Phil remains at home diligently making progress and I’ve had to explain missing a deadline to the customer. In the meantime, both Phil and I have been working crazy hours and sleeping little for the past three weeks.

It was all coming to a head yesterday as I tried to do some project planning with Phil. I kept using the wrong phrases when referring to different elements of the project. A few sentences in, I looked at him a bit discouraged and said “I’m sorry. I’m going crazy.”

His answer was simple and profound. “Well don’t. Going crazy is totally optional.”

What?

“Going crazy is totally optional!”

It is, you know! Every day, in every situation, we choose how to respond. We choose love or hate. We choose compassion or turning a blind eye. We choose anxiety or trust. Going crazy is optional – we can choose to trust God instead.

Phil went on to point out to me that “going crazy” is really another form of worry. Ugh! And I thought I’d gotten so good at not worrying!

13When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.
Luke 4:13 (NLT)

Yep, the enemy had simply left me for a while – until the next opportunity came – the next time I was overworked and overtired. (It’s easy to give up worrying when life is going according to plan and I’ve been practicing so it’s becoming easy not to worry when faced with the “normal” level of things not going according to plans.) I’ve also gotten better at recognizing the signs of worry, enabling me to choose trust instead of worry. So I guess it only makes sense that the enemy would change his disguise and come at me looking like “craziness” (i.e., chaos) instead of worry.

But as Phil pointed out, “going crazy is totally optional!”

So I began to choose peace. I continued to work diligently but I added faith into the mix – I chose to trust God to enable me to complete the tasks or give me grace with clients. Or find me a new clients or a new job if this project causes me to lose all my current ones! After all – all provision comes from His hands and He promises to provide. I don’t want to limit Him by lacking faith that He will provide or by prescribing how He should do it.

You know what! It works! Yes, sometimes I have to remind myself every few minutes to grab ahold of faith instead of craziness. But when I do, I find that the peace of God settle around me. And I find that the need for those faith refreshers stretches from every moment to every few minutes…to every half hour…to every hour…to …

Friends, going crazy is totally optional! Will you join me in choosing peace? Will you join me in choosing to trust God? It is a wonderful way to live – and it honors God more than you think.

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We all face challenges – some small and some not-so-small. This morning I was praying through my prayer list and I finally came to my name. I took half a pause and then I guess the cry of my heart came out. “Lord, I’m trying so hard,” was my moaning prayer. Almost immediately, I heard His answer in my spirit – “Quit trying! Today, just be with Me.”

How peaceful that response was. How restful it was – and is. Just hearing it lifts a burden from my shoulders and my heart. Ahhhh.

There are some areas in my life in which I’m trying to be more like Christ than I’ve been in the past. I know that trying to be more like Christ honors and pleases God. I also know that there is a thin line that can be crossed when we are no longer pursuing God with our whole heart but are striving in our own strength. I guess I had crossed that line without realizing it.

God is so gracious and compassionate. The moment I went to Him with a heart-felt plea for help, He reached out and lifted me up. Yes, that’s what my prayer was – “Lord, I’m trying so hard” really meant “I’m tired and I don’t think I can do this. Will You help me?”

Friends, are you in a place like me? A place where life isn’t bad, but there are areas in which you’ve started working too hard to achieve what God has for you? If that describes you, hear the word of the Lord today – “Quit trying! Today, just be with Me.”

Notice that God is not saying “Give up.” I don’t even sense Him saying “Stop all your efforts. I’ll supernaturally transform you so that you don’t have to work at obedience and kindness and righteousness and all those other things I want you to be.” It means quit trying and enter into training – quit striving, enjoy God and persistently pursue those things that He puts before you.

Going into training is a conscious decision to slowly, persistently move toward the goal of winning or overcoming. In several of his letters, the Apostle Paul uses the analogy of running a race. Marathon runners don’t walk out their front door one day and run the marathon. They train, slowly increasing the distance they can run. They try different things to improve their distance and speed. Sometimes they rest between exertions and other times they push beyond what they think they can do.

We often approach spiritual growth more like stepping out the front door and trying to run the marathon. That’s a prescription for failure. That’s just “trying” to do it. The better approach is to enter training. In what area is God wanting you to become more like Christ? Identify that area and then set up a training plan. Try some different things to help you overcome your weak areas. Rest in Him when you don’t make as much progress as you’d like. Make an extra effort sometimes to push through to the next level.

Quit trying. Enjoy God! Enter training.

And while you do those things, stay in the Word and in study and fellowship with other believers. Last Wednesday evening our Bible Study group studied Galatians 5.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

We had a long discussion about how it can be so easy to fall into the wrong pattern of thinking that what we do makes us acceptable to God. It does not. Faith is what pleases God. Trusting in Christ is what makes us acceptable to God. In all honesty, I didn’t feel like our study had any significant impact on me at the time. But God used it to soften my heart and open my hearing so that when He was ready to speak, I would be ready to hear and respond. God’s lesson for me today – “Quit trying!” is directly related to the discussion we had on Wednesday night.

So, friends, make Bible study with friends a part of your training program. It is the vehicle He’ll often use to speak to you and/or prepare your heart to hear His voice.

God wants us to become more like Christ every day, but He doesn’t want us to become a slave again to the demands of religious expectations and traditions. (I’m a big fan of traditions – I’m not suggesting you abandon them – just don’t become enslaved to them. Don’t depend on them to make you acceptable to God. Remember, only faith makes you acceptable to God.)

Quit trying. Just enjoy God and continue your training.

 

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