Archive for the “Trusting God” Category

“[Quit] worrying about the outcome, just honoring the process.”

That’s what Jeff Goins suggests we ought to be doing – not worrying about the outcome but honoring the process. He penned this statement in a blog about writing. (You can find it here.)

The statement didn’t speak to me so much about writing as about living for the Lord. And it was a confirmation of what God has been speaking to me about my own life lately.

A few weeks ago as I was thinking about changes I might like to make in my life in 2014. A single thought came to mind…a particular pattern that I’ve developed lately that is driving me crazy. Some time in 2013 – I’m not sure exactly when – I started angsting over decisions, even minor ones. I’ve fallen into the habit of pouring over the same facts again and again before making a decision.

That smacks of fear or lack of trust in God.

I don’t want those qualities to define me.

So in thinking about what changes I’d like to make, it became clear that my focus should be…not angsting over decisions – trusting God through the process and with the outcome. When faced with any decision – big or small – I want to look at the factors that play into it, pray, consider the factors one more time, then make a decision. Period. Decision made. I’ll pray again, telling God my intent and asking Him to make it clear to me if I should make a different choice or take a different approach. But unless He gives me a clear indication otherwise, I’m going to trust that God is leading the decision-making process and the results rest with Him (which they do, anyway, of course).

Enter Jeff Goin’s statement. I got my attention because it goes beyond my new anti-angsting policy. It also speaks of how we’re to live our lives.

“[Quit] worrying about the outcome, just honoring the process.”

As pursuers of God, lovers of God and committed disciples, there will be many times when making the right choice also means some kind of hardship for us. That hardship might be as minor as losing a bit sleep or as significant as losing your job or an important relationship. When faced with those decisions, I often close my eyes and repeat this mantra:

“Do the right thing and leave the results to God.”

Then I let it go. If I find myself worrying the issue, I go back to my mantra.

The right thing is the choice that is consistent with God’s Word and His ways. Find that and do it. Then leave the results to God.

You see, God cannot bless us when we make choices that go against His Word. The only “blessing” we can receive from such a decision is any earthly benefit that might come from it…and earthly benefits have a way of disappearing when not under the blessing of God. When we do the right thing, however He will bless those right choices.

“Do the right thing and leave the results to God.”

“[Quit] worrying about the outcome, just honoring the process.”

Do what is right as a sacrifice to the LORD and trust the LORD.
Psalm 4:5 (NCV)

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Woman Reflecting by the WaterThis afternoon I was reading about the many tensions that exist in planning a typical worship service — competing values and goals that those of us sitting in the pews are happily ignorant about. Tensions like planning for both a personal and a corporate worship experience, honoring the heritage of the past while still meeting the needs of the present, and balancing the teaching of objective truth with every believer’s need for a subjective experience of God are just a few of the challenges that make planning any service much more difficult than most of us realize.

As I pondered these issues, I began to think about the Christian life in general. As we begin to walk with the Lord, we become aware of how short we fall of the glory of God. Walking a little further, we begin to get a glimpse of who He wants us to be and how He might want to use us. Even further down the path, that glimpse comes into sharper focus until at some point we have a picture with some definition to it. We can see that He wants to shape us and mold us into an image of His Son that is still uniquely us.

But we’re not there yet. So we begin to live our life in the dynamic tension of being one person while we’re becoming another person; of seeing both the present and the future and remaining both “content” and “discontent” with the present while we look and work toward the future. That tension can cause guilt and frustration or excitement and joy.

Sometimes I get so excited about the person God is slowly changing me into. That person is so very much better than the person I am today. And yet, I can also see that the person I am today is at least a little better than the one I was ten years ago. And she’s definitely much better than the person I was twenty years ago! The difference between living my life in guilt and frustration or excitement and joy is a result of which of these three “people” I’m focusing on.

Focusing on the person I am today generally leads to a discontented Sandy. I periodically say to Phil “If I were really a good daughter, I’d _________________” (I can fill in the blank with any of a number of things that I’m apt to feel guilty about not doing for my parents). That’s focusing on the incomplete person I am today. And that person isn’t doing all those hundreds of things I sometimes think I “should” be doing. That person is tired, frustrated and guilty. She is just one step away from being ashamed and defeated. That person doesn’t see God at work in her life; she just sees her life as it is here and now – falling far short of the glory of God.

Focusing on the person I was twenty years ago can lead to either totally inappropriate shame or the very dangerous emotion of pride. I’m not the person I was ten or twenty years ago, so it isn’t appropriate for me to be burdened with guilt for my shortcomings in the past. God has already changed me. My sins of the past are forgiven. If I compare my “twenty-years-ago self” to my current self, however, I might easily exaggerate my improvements in my mind and say “Wow, look how much better I am today.” I pray that when that happens, the Holy Spirit reminds me loudly and clearly that “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18)

The best place to be is focusing on the person God is changing me into. When my focus is on that person, I have hope. I have excitement in my life, because I can begin to see how He is using even my failures to move me closer to becoming that person. When my focus is on that person, life is more fun because I can enjoy the process of growing. I can view my maturation process as an adventure with God instead of Him pounding me into shape. It is this view that actually transfers my focus from myself to God and His work in me.

I’m not denying that life is difficult at times; in fact, I’m going through one of those “difficult seasons” now. Aging parents and increasing responsibilities can be a heavy load at times. But I can see, and others have told me that they can see, how God is using this to soften some of my sharp edges. And that is good, because the person God is molding me to be (and has shown me glimpses of) needs softer edges. So we’re working on softer edges right now. Next week (month, year?) we might be working on something else. I don’t know. I’m just along for the adventure! And the joy. And the relationship with Him.

Perhaps this is some of what Paul was feeling when he wrote to the Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

Of course the ultimate prize is Christ Himself. Along the way, though, there are many preliminary rounds with prizes to the winners. Prizes like softer edges and the wonderful adventure of becoming the person God already sees. What a God we serve! Let’s serve Him well in 2014.

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After a couple years of “practicing,” I began blogging in earnest on March 30, 2008. (My first blog is here. My March 30, 2008 blog is here.) That’s nearly six years ago. During those 269 weeks, there have only been 8 weeks when I didn’t post a blog. Why? Because it’s important to me to fulfill the call that God has on my life, and I believe that call includes blogging regularly. It doesn’t matter whether ten or ten thousand people are reading my blog. What matters is that I’m faithful and obedient. I’m not posting for the sake of posting. I’m posting because God has laid something on my heart and I’m a teacher, writer and speaker, so, like Jeremiah, if I don’t share it feels like “fire in my bones.”

Why do I tell you this today? Because it’s been seventeen days since my last blog. This is the longest I’ve gone without posting. Over the past month we have had extraordinarily short deadlines at work and other unexpected activities that simply left absolutely no time for writing and posting blogs. It’s been a pretty chaotic time and even when I’ve had the time to write blogs, I didn’t have time to post them.

The cool thing is that during the past couple of weeks, I have been very aware of my neglect of Apprehending Grace and totally at peace with it. I have a pretty strong sense of “ought to” that I regularly have to push away from. Over the past few weeks, God has taken care of that for me. So getting back into the swing of things, I thought I’d reflect on that peace and how it happened.

Things I Did Right

  • During this time, I very purposefully looked at my schedule each morning and asked God to identify the top priorities for the day. I’d pray, review my To Do list, pray again, then write numbers next to the tasks indicating their priority. I took time to do this no matter how busy we were. Each day I’d have “AppGrace blog” on the list. Each day it either didn’t get a number next to it, or the number was so low I never got to it. Because I had started the day asking God to put things in priority, I was able to sleep in peace each evening. I knew I was working as hard as I could, so if it didn’t get done, then it wasn’t God’s priority for my day.
  • Throughout the day I was intentional about pausing to breath in God’s presence when I moved from project to project. It was my “presence of God pause” – I’d take a deep breath and concentrate for a few seconds on God’s goodness. I was reconnecting with God’s presence in the midst of the chaos around me.
  • When tempted to complain about our season of busyness, I repeatedly spoke of the good things associated with this season. (Most notably that God was using it to supply our needs in a year when business has been very slow.)
  • I purposefully prayed each evening thanking God for His goodness and faithfulness. At bedtime God’s peace would try to slip away as all that was left undone would try to flood my mind. I kept that from happening by praying – sometimes aloud to keep the enemy at bay.
  • Each morning, no matter how tired I was, I thanked God for the day ahead.
  • I read God’s Word each morning. I didn’t always read as much as I typically would, but I read something.
  • I didn’t overdo it. Sometimes it felt like I was about to cross over that fine line of doing all we can and not overdoing it, but I was always able to pull back. I took a lunch break and dinner break each day. When I couldn’t work anymore, I quit. No matter how much was left on the To Do list. Not overdoing it is one way we show that we trust God. Pushing ourselves too hard is evidence that we’re relying on ourselves too much. I even had folks come help me clean my house twice during the past few weeks. (Special thanks to Linda who recognized the need and offered before I even asked.) Resting says that I trust God to enable me to accomplish what needs to be done in the time I have available or He’ll give me grace with clients for the work that isn’t accomplished. (Or He won’t give me grace with those clients, but He’ll provide for my needs in some other way. I’m OK with that option, too.)

Things I Did Wrong

  • One morning (very near the end of the busy time) I realized that I was putting my makeup on like a wild woman! My hands were moving so fast dabbing at the powder (with more force than necessary) that it was actually adding to my stress. When I realized it, I stopped and purposefully slowed my movements. It made a huge difference in my stress level. I realized that I was adding to my stress by acting as if I were under stress. I didn’t need to be under stress. I was experiencing God’s peace, yet I was still letting my mind and body register stress. In other words, I truly had peace about what wasn’t getting done, but during the day I was allowing myself to feel stressed about all I needed to do. I’m not sure that makes sense but it was my experience. What I found was that the moment I relaxed my movements, I felt less stress and greater peace. I have a tendency to move too quickly when I’m stressed. All that does is increase our stress. It really doesn’t help us get things done more quickly. More often than not it causes us to drop things or spill things or make mistakes. At least that’s my experience.
  • I didn’t do any of the things I did right as consistently as I’d like. I forgot to pause between tasks to breath in God’s presence, I did complain, and I didn’t ask for help as much as I could have. There’s always room for improvement.
  • Exercise and healthy eating fell by the wayside. Ugh. Time to recover the good habits I’ve lost over the past 2 months.

God’s peace is a wonderful thing. He promises that He will keep us in “perfect peace” when our mind is steadfast on Him (Isaiah 26:3). I wouldn’t say that the peace I experience was “perfect peace” – it slipped at times. But then, my focus wasn’t always on the Lord, either. But I experienced much more of it than I usually do. Thank You Lord! Sometimes we really do see ourselves making progress!

It feels really good to be back in my routine. I’m looking forward to more writing. And enjoying the short time left before Christmas. Merry Christmas, friends. Enjoy God this season! Despite my busyness, I sure have been. More about that in my next blog!

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As I read through Jeremiah 17 a few weeks ago, this passage stopped me in my tracks:

4“The wonderful possession I have reserved for you will slip from your hands. I will tell your enemies to take you as captives to a foreign land. For my anger blazes like a fire that will burn forever.” 5This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD. 6They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.
Jeremiah 17:4-6 (NLT)

It’s not one of those verses that make you feel all warm and fuzzy. It’s not one of those verses you hang on to when things get tough. Nevertheless, it’s the Word of God – God-breathed “is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” 2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT). This would fall into the category of correcting us when we’re wrong. We need that sometimes. At least I do. I’m assuming you do, too.

As soon as I finished this paragraph, the Holy Spirit posed a question to me: “Who do you think you are that you can participate in the promises of God without also being subject to His judgment?” We stress the promises of God, but we turn our backs on the discipleship that Jesus calls us to. Discipleship requires obedience and discipline.

Verse 5 makes a strong statement “Cursed are those who put their trust in human effort.” Cursed. That’s a strong word. Think back to (or take a 60 second side trip to go read) Deuteronomy 28, the chapter of blessings and curses. There’s a long list of blessings that accompany obedience. There’s an even longer list of curses that follow those who are disobedient.

We put ourselves in that cursed category when we put our trust in human effort. Be sure you get that sentence down – we put ourselves in the cursed category when we put our trust in human effort. Remember, it is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. We move ourselves out of position to receive it.

In what ways are we trusting in human effort? In the times we live, I believe the most significant way we rely on human strength is when we set our own agendas and determine how we will use our time, money and talents. When we make these decisions on our own, it’s the equivalent of saying “I don’t have time to ask God how He wants me to spend my time.” Or put more bluntly, “I don’t have for the Lord.” Whether it’s not having enough time to worship, read, pray or serve, it all adds up to the same thing – we’re trusting in our own efforts or the efforts of others instead of subordinating our to do list to God’s priorities. We are trusting in mere humans.

As I considered this, I began to think about how much time I spend with God. Let me share with you the calculations I did. There are 168 hours in a week. Let’s say I spend 2 hours on Sunday morning and half an hour each day with God – that would be 5.5 hours each week. (Now in all honesty, I’m being a little generous because I don’t always spend 2 hours at church on Sunday morning and it’s not all that unusual for me to spend less than half an hour in morning devotions.) But if that were my pattern, I would be spending 5.5 hours with God each week. That’s less that 3.3% of my week! If your pattern is like mine, you spend less than 3.3% of your week with God!

Now you may say “but I pray throughout the day.” OK. But be honest with yourself and with God. How much time, really, are you in fellowship with God? My guess is that if you added up all the time throughout the day that you are praying – talking and listening – you’d have another half hour or so each day. So when we add that in, we’re up to spending about 5.5% of our week with God.

Do I really think God is honored by that? No, I don’t. What do you think?

Another important question to ask is “Do I really believe that God will bless that person?”

Out of His goodness, He will bless that person. But not in all the fullness and richness of blessings He offers.

Both the Old Testament Israelites and the New Testament Church lived in community that centered around God and His presence and His commands. Today, our lives center around our jobs and our families and our hobbies with God attached on the side. Most of our lives don’t reflect God as the central focus.

What did the passage say? Verse 4 said “The wonderful possession He has reserved for us slips through our fingers.” And verse 6: “We live lives that are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. We live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.”

If you feel like that, perhaps it’s because you’re only giving God 3.5 or 5.5% of your time.

Friends, it’s not my intention or desire to bring condemnation on you. That’s not God’s desire either. It might, however, be His desire to bring conviction. If we want to see revival in our lives and in our land, it’s time to up our game. It’s time to pursue God more wholeheartedly.

I wrote most of this blog about three weeks ago. In the past week, I’ve read a letter and a blog from two very different sources – but they were on the same topic: The need for the church to feel a sense of urgency about our mission. I didn’t go looking for these articles. One came in a regular newsletter I get from a missionary. Another came through a Christian ministry group I belong to on LinkedIn.

Church, it’s time to set aside some of the good things in our lives for that which is better. I love the story of Mary and Martha. Scripture says that Mary chose the “better” part. Martha wasn’t choosing a bad thing, she just wasn’t choosing the better thing. She wasn’t choosing to spend her time with Jesus.

We can’t give more to God unless we specifically set aside those things that aren’t the better part – that is, sitting at Jesus’ feet. We can’t give more to God unless we specifically and purposefully schedule times throughout the week to be with Him and to serve Him. Pause to look at your calendar. When during the coming week can you sit at Jesus’ feet? Write it in ink on your calendar. Make it a “#1 priority” in your electronic calendar. Do whatever it takes to choose the better part.

Turning Our Hearts Away From God
There was another phrase in verse 5 that caught my attention: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.”

Friends, the very act of relying on human strength turns our hearts away from the Lord. The two go together. One thing I’m learning is that there are actions that have the direct result of pulling us away from God. Worry is one of those things. We can’t hold on to faith when we are worried because worry is like a force that pulls the suction cups of faith loose from the hope to which it’s attached.

Trusting in ourself or others is like that as well. It has the direct result of pulling us away from the Lord. As your worry rises, your faith falls. As your trust in yourself rises, your trust in God falls.

You can make a conscious decision to turn your heart from the Lord, but what I think happens more often is that our hearts are turned from the Lord as a byproduct of placing our trust in what we can do on our own.

And that leaves us no hope for the future. There is no hope because we have put ourselves under a curse.

Curses or Blessings
In Deuteronomy 28, God identifies the blessings for those who follow God’s ways and then describes the curses for those who disobey. Jeremiah 17 follows the opposite pattern. We’ve just looked at the curses for those who trust in human effort instead of God. God’s prophecy to the Israelites balances them out those curses starting in verse 7.

7“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. 8They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)

This is a familiar passage that many people love: I’m guessing the earlier verses have been passed over by most of us. I love verse 8. I want to have roots that reach deep into the water. I don’t want to be bothered by my environment. I’d rather produce good fruit than be a stunted shrub. The key is trusting in God – putting all our hope and confidence in Him, not in our own effort.

It is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. His desire is to bless us. When we trust Him, we put ourselves in the place of receiving His blessing, His Kingdom. God has been encouraging me and I want to encourage all of us to give more of your day to God, to give more of your week to Him. Challenge yourself this week – start with just a week – and this afternoon look at your calendar and carve out an evening or a morning to spend a longer period of time with God.

Don’t put yourself under a curse by relying on your own strength. Put yourself in a position to receive God’s tremendous blessings.

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2Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:2-4 (NLT)

It seems to me that a study of joy would take us through a study of suffering. I haven’t done such a study so I can’t say that definitively, but the two seem to be intermingled frequently in the New Testament.  In this passage, James writes that “when troubles come” – because they surely will – “consider it an opportunity for great joy!” Anyone who preaches that life after Christ will be free from troubles is not preaching true to Scripture. Don’t listen to such preachers. They are not honestly and accurately delivering the Word of God.

When trouble comes, we to consider it an opportunity for great joy! That amazes me a bit. If you were to ask me “what opportunities for great joy are you seeing in the coming months?” my answer wouldn’t include the troubles I see on the horizon. (Obviously, I haven’t internalized and “owned” this teaching yet.)

By the way, that’s a great question to ask yourself periodically – “what is coming in the months ahead that will bring me great joy?” It’s also a great question to ask others. It helps to refocus us from the troubles of the moment to the blessings of God. But I digress.

My answer to the question would tend toward the more natural – I expect business to improve, I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I am participating in a mother-daughter pageant with my mom in a couple of weeks, I am looking forward to just being with my husband and hoping for some special time with him, I am expecting to learn some new skills in the next two months. All those things have the potential of bringing me great joy.

You didn’t find in my list the challenges I see in the coming months. But James tells us that those challenges are opportunities for great joy! Imagine how different my outlook would be if I considered those opportunities I listed and the challenges I anticipate as opportunities for great joy! How much better my outlook for the future would be!

Faith Requires Energy
Verse three tells me that the challenges I anticipate in the next few months have the potential for increasing my endurance. Endurance increases as we increase our ability to maintain a higher level of energy. So whether running longer or standing in faith longer, we’re building endurance. Faith requires energy! It is not a passive thing. It requires actively engaging our faith muscle. And challenges increase our ability to do that. It increases our endurance.

I am not a marathon runner, but I have some friends who are. As they train, it is hard work, but they are so joyful when they have reached the finish line of their marathon. Exhausted, yes. But joyful at the accomplishment. How much more joyful can we be when we remain standing after battles that have challenged our faith? Yes, the training is hard, and yes, the battle is exhausting. But the victory in Jesus is sweet and precious and joyful!

So Let Your Faith Grow!
The phrase that stopped me in this passage this morning was “So let it grow.” I tried to keep reading, but I couldn’t. “Let it grow” Scripture says. Don’t do anything to hinder the growth of your faith or to limit the increase in your ability to endure. Hang on to faith and let it grow.

What might we do to hinder the process. Well, worry is the first thing that comes to my mind. When I worry, I am not increasing my faith muscle. I am increasing my ability to distrust God. I am feeding the thing inside me that believes that satan will win and God will not be my Savior and Redeemer and Protector and Giver of Life. I am feeding my unbelief. How can my faith grow in that environment?

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me”
John 14:1 (NIV)

Wow! Two blogs on the same subject in two days! I guess God is trying to get my attention. Or perhaps yours! I thought I had gotten over my tendency to worry. Perhaps I’ve fallen into old habits. Perhaps at an underlying level I am stewing (aka worrying) over things I shouldn’t.

“Let your faith muscle grow”, God is saying. He’s got a good reason for saying it:

4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:4 (NLT)

As I grow in faith, as my ability to faithfully endure the challenges of life, I am made more perfect and complete in Christ. That’s the place I want to be.

This week, my personal assignment is to settle into God regularly throughout the day, enabling His peace and wisdom to be the place I live. More about that in upcoming blogs! For today, let your faith grow!

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1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
John 14:1-3 (NIV)

During the Passover meal, Jesus said some very disturbing things. He was going to be betrayed. He was going away and the disciples could not go with him. His disciples would deny him. I can’t imagine what was going through the disciples minds. In his next words, Jesus reassures them.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus says. “Trust in God; trust also in me.” There is so much in those words. First, Jesus is reassuring them. He is calming what must undoubtedly be their increasing anxiety. He reminds them that they do trust in God and they can also trust in Jesus. But I like the first sentence because it is a definitive statement – “DO NOT LET your hearts be troubled” (emphasis mine).

Don’t go there. Instead, choose faith. If Jesus has given this command, it means we have a choice. I can choose worry or I can choose faith.

I read a bumper sticker once that said “worry is a terrible waste of an imagination.” How true! When we are worrying, it’s because we’re choosing to imagine all the bad things that can happen. And when we allow ourselves to go down those roads of imagination, we are making a choice not to trust God. We are making a choice to believe that satan will win.

Is God trustworthy? Of course He is. How do we know that?

We know because He’s proven it. God loves us so much, he sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins so that we could spend eternity with Him (John 3:16).

Scripture says that God has give us everything we need for life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It doesn’t say some things, it says EVERYTHING.

So, DO NOT LET your hearts be troubled, friends. Trust in God; trust also in Jesus.

You know, trust comes from the heart – it doesn’t come from the head. It comes from the heart. Get to know God’s heart, don’t just learn things about Him.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

This translation says “many rooms.” The King James translation says “many mansions.” Jesus isn’t preparing a shack in the slums for us. It’s not a motel room somewhere. It’s a mansion. But the kind of house isn’t the important part. What’s important is the second part of the verse and the verse that follows.

I am going there to prepare a place for you Jesus said. Jesus Himself is building the house. And it is a house made just for you. It is being custom built for you by the One who knows you better than you know yourself.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

I love this verse. If He goes to prepare a place for us – well, He just said that He was going to do just that, so we can trust that He is – so if (when) He does, He will come back and take me to be with Him. Hallelujah! He has promised to return for me – and not just to return, but to return to take me to be with Him. And my very favorite part of the verse is the last phrase – so that we might also be where He is.

The New Living Translation translates the last half of the verse like this: “so that you will always be with me where I am.” Do you hear Jesus’ longing for us to be with Him? He is our bridegroom and He longs for His bride to be with Him. God the Father will fulfill the longing of His Son. A day will come when Jesus returns specifically to take His bride to their wedding.

I can’t wait. But while I do, I do so knowing that He longs for that day as much or more than I do. And He’s the One who is Faithful and True. And He’s the One who both commands and reassures us to not let our hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in Jesus.

I choose to trust. And when worries come, I will say in the words of Jesus, “Get behind me, satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23, NIV) And I’ll follow it up with “My Jesus loves me beyond measure and He is building a mansion for me. When the time is right, He’s returning to take me to be with him. Forever. So be gone satan. I want no part of you.”

I choose to trust. How about you?

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Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Luke 5:5 (NIV)

That was a key verse in our Pastor’s message a few weeks ago. At least it was the key verse for me. I was struck by the phrase “Because the Lord says so, I will do it.” Doesn’t matter if I want to or not. Doesn’t matter if it’s morning and I’ve worked all night and I’m exhausted…or in my case, it’s evening and I’ve worked all day and I’m exhausted. Doesn’t matter if I’m discouraged because I’ve worked all day and haven’t made any money.

“Because the Lord says so, I will do it.”

Those were the situations Peter was in when he spoke those words. Peter, the professional fisherman, had fished all night – and he hadn’t caught anything. Jesus, this carpenter, came along and suggested he throw out his nets again. Peter could have had many responses, not the least of which was offense that this carpenter had the audacity to tell him how to do what he’d been doing all his life. But he doesn’t take that attitude. He calls Jesus “Master.” Then he explains the obvious (because he’s not sitting there cleaning fish, he’s sitting there repairing his nets) – that he worked all night and didn’t catch any fish. Put yourself in Peter’s sandals – he’s tired, he’s frustrated and he’s not getting paid for anything he did last night. Still, his attitude is respectful, humble and obedient. “Because you say so, I will do it.”

Are you ready to be obedient when you hear God’s voice? I sure want to be. I know I have a predisposition toward it – my spirit and heart want to say “yes!” For me the challenge is more likely to be hearing God’s voice than saying “yes.” Because I can get caught up in what I’m doing and forget to listen. In order for me to be able to say as Peter did “Because you say so, Lord…” I have to listen – I have to hear God’s voice.

A few days after our pastor preached about Peter’s obedience, Phil and I were listening to Pandora in our office. As we were working, this reggae song came on and a couple of minutes into it, I began to understand the words. The key phrase was “Listening for your voice!”

Take a listen to Christafari’s song Listening. I’ve included the lyrics after the song.

 

 

LISTENING by Christafari (I Kings 19: 11-12)
Lyrics from elyrics (modified by listening to the song)

So it seems sometimes that I grow weary (Isa. 40: 29)
and that the world around will overtake me.
And all the things I pray just seem to float away
as I stand alone and dream of you.

Listening – For your light to shine the way through the darkest night (II Cor. 4: 6).
Listening – For comfort and love to feel all right (Ps. 119: 50-52, 76)

Chorus: So I’m listening for Your voice to softly call my name.
I’m listening for Your voice to help me on my way.
Yes I am listening for Your voice I long to hear You say
“My child I’ve come and here I’ll stay.”

It is the still small voice the man listens for,
sometimes He shouts more time He whispers.
(2X)

For there are times in life I feel quite empty,
and there are times when nothing will prevent me
from striving day to day trying
to find a way to a love I can only find in You, ya you.

Listening – In moments, when I find it hard to hear you.
Listening – I find the solution in your Word.

Chorus

I want you to listen the tear from my eye well shines and glistens.
God’s Word is sweet as honey and it heals as medicine (Ps. 119: 103, 107: 20)
It soothes my soul what the pastor says to do (Heb. 13: 17)
[He also speaks] Through your brothers and sisters and the mind of Christ in you. (I Cor. 2: 16)
So I want you to listen and to listen cleanly.
With God’s all seeing eyes you will see clearly
that your day to day life it is just prophecy; to be fulfilled by God Almighty. (Deut. 30: 20)

Chorus

~~~~~~

Somehow I think the voice Christafari’s listening for sounds a whole lot different from the voice I’m listening for! But it’s the same God. Each of us hears God’s voice differently, but the key is listening. Because sometimes He SHOUTS, but more time he whispers. So we have to be actively listening. Being aware that He wants to speak and listening for His voice.

And then when we hear His voice, saying as Peter did “because You say so, I will do it.”

Ezekiel responded much as Peter did when He heard God’s instructions. In Ezekiel’s case, God gave him some pretty wild instructions. But because it was God who said so, Zek obeyed. Tomorrow we’ll look at Ezekiel listening to God’s voice and speaking it into reality. Stay tuned.

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How many choices do you make in a day? Since this is a blog about making choices, I began to wonder that. I did what every connected person does – I googled it. How many choices do people make a day? I found answers that varied from 612 to 35,000. Of course, none of the sites I went to had any documentation to back up their definitively provided answers. One interesting study had scientists following CEOs around for a week. They learned that about 50% of the decisions they made in a week were made in 9 minutes or less.

Great choices…tragic choices…made throughout the seasons of our lives… and most of them made in 9 minutes or less.

2 Chronicles, Chapters 14 and 15 tell the story of the life of King Asa. I was struck by the choices King Asa made and how they changed throughout his life.

The year is 911 BC – 911 years before Christ was born. The nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms – the northern kingdom called Judah and the southern kingdom still called Israel. In Judah, King Abijah died and his son Asa became king. As we look at Asa’s life we’ll see that while he was King of Judah and he lived a long time ago, the pattern of his life could be the pattern of any of our lives. The choices he faced were different from the choices we face, and yet they were very much the same. There are lessons to learn from Asa, both in what he did well – that is, the great choices he made, and in his failures – that is, the tragic choices he made. So let’s begin:

1When Abijah died, he was buried in the City of David. Then his son Asa became the next king. There was peace in the land for ten years. 2Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the LORD his God. 3He removed the foreign altars and the pagan shrines. He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. 4He challenged the people of Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his law and his commands. 5Asa also removed the pagan shrines, as well as the incense altars from every one of Judah’s towns. So Asa’s kingdom enjoyed a period of peace.
2 Chronicles 14:1-5 (NLT)

What was the first statement made about Asa after he became king in that passage? “Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord.” Asa made choices that were pleasing to God. What were those choices?

Scripture says that God gave Asa ten years of peace and during that time, he tore down foreign altars and pagan shrines and he exhorted, he challenged the people to seek the Lord. Asa rebuilt the spiritual foundations of the city. The best choice we can always make is to tear down idols in our lives and build up our spiritual foundations – to seek God regularly, to obey his law and his commandments.

So Asa started his Kingship by making great choices, let’s see what happened next.

6During those peaceful years, [Asa] was able to build up the fortified towns throughout Judah. No one tried to make war against him at this time, for the LORD was giving him rest from his enemies. 7Asa told the people of Judah, “Let us build towns and fortify them with walls, towers, gates, and bars. The land is still ours because we sought the LORD our God, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they went ahead with these projects and brought them to completion.
2 Chronicles 14:6-7 (NLT)

King Asa made more great choices. He first rebuilt the spiritual foundations of Judah, then went on to rebuild the physical foundations of the cities, fortifying the walls, towers and gates of the city.

While doing so, he didn’t do it with an attitude of “look how great we are – look at what we’re building!” No, he acknowledged that “the land is still ours because we sought the Lord our God and he has given us peace on every side.”

King Asa made the choice to live in humility – to acknowledge that every good and perfect gift comes from God. He also occupied the time well. He prepared himself and his people during times of peace for times of war that would undoubtedly come. The next verse talks about the great army and weapons he had.

King Asa had an army of 300,000 warriors from the tribe of Judah, armed with large shields and spears. He also had an army of 280,000 warriors from the tribe of Benjamin, armed with small shields and bows. Both armies were composed of well-trained fighting men.
2 Chronicles 14:8 (NLT)

We can learn from Asa’s great choices. During times of peace, we’re to keep busy. We’re not to become complacent or comfortable, but we’re to shore up our defenses, first spiritually – clean house by removing worship of worldly things. It’s easy for the worldly to creep in when things are going well. So when things are going well, we need to make wise choices and clean house spiritually first, then prepare for the battles God has before us. King Asa didn’t spend his afternoons relaxing in his King’s gardens. He spent them preparing himself and his people.

Well, peace didn’t last forever. Let’s continue to read:

9Once an Ethiopian named Zerah attacked Judah with an army of 1,000,000 men and 300 chariots. They advanced to the town of Mareshah, 10so Asa deployed his armies for battle in the valley north of Mareshah.
2 Chronicles 14:9-10 (NLT)

Just as a reminder – Asa had about 680,000 troops armed with shields and swords and he was facing an army of a million men and 300 chariots. Asa’s time of peace was gone. What did he do? Verse 10 said he deployed his troops for battle. Verse 11 continues Asa’s actions:

Then Asa cried out to the LORD his God, “O LORD, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde. O LORD, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!”
2 Chronicles 14:11 (NLT)

This is perhaps King Asa’s greatest choice – he gave the impossible battle to the Lord. “Help us, O Lord, for we trust in you alone. You are our God.”

We will also face battles in life. Perhaps not literal battles as King Asa did, but battles none the less. We would do well to follow King Asa’s great example and make the same choice – know that the battles belong to the Lord, step up to the battle, but then we turn the battles over to Him. We show up, but we trust Him for the victory.

Maybe our battle is physical – an illness or injury – we pray “Lord, I’m going to the doctor today, but I trust You to heal me.” Maybe the battle is for our provision or for our children’s provision. So we pray “Lord, I’m going to work today, but I trust You to provide for my needs.”

What was the result of Asa’s battle? Verse 12 tells us:

So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians in the presence of Asa and the army of Judah, and the enemy fled.
2 Chronicles 14:12 (NLT)

We serve a faithful God! When we face battles in life, we can trust Him. He is faithful!

Now I love what happens next. The next few verses give more description of the battle and how the Ethiopians were defeated, then the scene shifts to a prophet named Aazriah. Let’s read…

1Then the Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded, 2and he went out to meet King Asa as he was returning from the battle. “Listen to me, Asa!” he shouted. “Listen, all you people of Judah and Benjamin! The LORD will stay with you as long as you stay with him! Whenever you seek him, you will find him. But if you abandon him, he will abandon you….7But as for you, be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded.”
2 Chronicles 15:1-2, 7 (NLT)

King Asa had just come off a hard battle. Yes, the Lord gave him the victory, but even when we win the battles, we can sometimes get pretty beat up. The Lord knew that Asa needed some encouragement, so He sent someone with a special message for him. A reminder… “Whenever you seek the Lord, you will find Him. But if you abandon him, he will abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded.” God will be found by those who seek Him.

Notice that God sent someone to give Asa the message. Do you make yourself available to be the messenger? I believe God has called all of His children to be encouragers. If we’re following God’s heart, we see through His eyes, and we know that this world is a hurting place full of hurting people. He’s given us the special assignment of being those prophets – being those people who build up the body!

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

And that was the result of the message to Asa. Continuing reading:

8When Asa heard this message from Azariah the prophet, he took courage and removed all the detestable idols from the land of Judah and Benjamin and in the towns he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. And he repaired the altar of the LORD, which stood in front of the entry room of the LORD’s Temple.
2 Chronicles 15:8 (NLT)

Asa had already torn down shrines to false Gods, but now he went even further. He “took courage” and threw away all detestable idols. When we encourage people, it gives them courage to do the right thing.

King Asa continued to exhort the people to follow the Lord, and a few verses later Scripture tells us the results of Asa’s encouragement.

12Then [the people] entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul….14They shouted out their oath of loyalty to the LORD with trumpets blaring and rams’ horns sounding. 15All in Judah were happy about this covenant, for they had entered into it with all their heart. They earnestly sought after God, and they found him. And the LORD gave them rest from their enemies on every side….19So there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign.
2 Chronicles 15:12, 14-15, 19 (NLT)

Asa’s great choices resulted in the people of his Kingdom earnestly seeking the Lord and they led to peace for his kingdom for many years.

One thing to note is that when King Asa made great choices, those choices impacted the people around him. The same is true in our lives. When we make good choices, those around us are positively impacted. When I live my life in a way that pleases God, Phil is impacted by it. My life has more peace and as a result, his life has more peace.

Even more important than that, when I lead a life that pleases God, those around me are encouraged to lead a life that pleases God. Friends, it’s important to put yourself in a place where there are people who love God more than you do! Because being around those people will motivate you to follow God more closely. Make it a priority to (1) be a person who encourages others to follow  hard after Christ and (2) be around others who love God more than you do.

King Asa made some great choices in his life. Unfortunately, that didn’t last through his entire life. Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the tragic choices he made.

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Yes, I’d like to be one who radically trusts God…but my lifestyle doesn’t always reflect that. I have read this blog from ConversionDiary.com several times, and it’s become material for meditation in between readings.

The first habit – “They accept suffering” – is one that caught my attention. As a middle-class American, suffering isn’t high on the list of spiritual disciplines I practice…OK, it doesn’t even make my list. It makes my list of “things I’m trying to avoid.” What a radically different perspective these radical Christians had.

Yet what I see over and over again in people like Brother Yun is that they have crystal clarity on the fact that suffering is not the worst evil — sin is. Yes, they would prefer not to suffer, and do sometimes pray for the relief of suffering. But they prioritize it lower than the rest of us do — they focus far more on not sinning than on not suffering.
http://www.conversiondiary.com/2011/04/7-habits-trust-god.html

Read more about this habit and the other six here.

The 7 Habits of People Who Place Radical Trust in God has identified several habits I need to improve on. How about you?

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We’ve had extraordinarily high expenses this year. Thousands of dollars in car repairs. Unexpected medical bills.

We’ve had extraordinarily low income this year. Being self-employed means fluctuating income, but this year there’s been no fluctuation, it’s been consistently down.

We’ve had extraordinary pulls on our time and lifestyle this year. We’ve had many requirements that have eaten our time and gas money to provide unexpected support. We took a business trip (quite an expensive business trip) and got exceedingly sick essentially losing more than half of the benefit of the trip.

I’m not complaining. For the first five months, I just considered it life. A bit unusual life, perhaps, but life none-the-less. This past month I’ve wondered if there’s an extraordinary spiritual component to it. Are we being targeted by the enemy? I’m not one to blame every bad thing that happens on the enemy working against me. Lots of bad things are simply a result of living in a fallen world and/or my own bad or sinful choices. But when extraordinary things happen, I look to the spiritual realm. Yesterday, when yet another extraordinary expense hit shortly after news of continued low income, I began to more seriously consider a spiritual element. (OK, some would say I’m coming to the party a bit late. That’s probably true.)

But last night I began asking “What’s happening, Lord?” And even more to the point “How should I be responding to these issues, Lord?” I’m already remaining positive, hopeful and trusting. OK, I admit it, worry is beginning to creep in (which, of course, is the antithesis of trusting). Still, I know that I am a blessed woman. An extraordinarily blessed woman.

Well, I don’t have an answer to my questions yet. But this morning’s Scripture came at just the right time. I love serving a “just at the right time” God.

1God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
2So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
Psalm 46:1-3 (NLT)

I am so encouraged.

God is ALWAYS ready to help. Lord, I need your help! Come quickly.

So we won’t fear – I WON’T FEAR – when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.

And then I love the defiant – confidently defiant – tone of verse 3:

Let the oceans roar and foam – because God is my refuge and strength; because MY God is always ready to help.

Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge – because God is my refuge and strength; because MY God is always ready to help.

Lord, help me.

Afterward:
Of course my husband is in the midst of all this with me. Last night was the first time we talked about this year’s occurrences having a spiritual source. This morning he saw that I was a bit off-kilter and we prayed. (I thank and praise God for my husband.)

As I just finished writing this blog – right up to the line “Lord, help me” – he came down from getting ready for the day in our bedroom upstairs. Always quick to share the goodness of God with him, I said “Want to know what my first verses were today?” I then read Psalm 46:1-3 to him.

Then he said “Want to know what my last verses were ? The last thing I heard on TV before I came downstairs was this:

“Don’t you worry about a thing. Cause every little thing is gonna be all right.”

I guess God speaks through Bob Marley, too. (No, I’m not endorsing his life or life message. God speaks through the ungodly.) Yes, every little thing is gonna be all right. Enjoy!

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