Category Archives: Faith

Fighting Godzilla

fighting godzilla

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”  Mark 7:14-15, 20-23

Recently I had the great idea that I would try to wean myself off my menopause hormone therapy.  Ack!  What was I thinking? I know I’m going to have to come off of it at some point, but doing so was miserable.   I started feeling listless and unmotivated.  I found myself experiencing depression, paranoia, insecurity, low self-esteem, fear and negativity.

It would have been easy to blame all of this on my med change.  And in a way, that’s true.  But what is also true is that the new chemical imbalance was a catalyst to bring out what was already in my heart.

Jesus said something radical in the passage above.  He said it doesn’t matter how good our life looks.  What matters is what is in our heart.  Because if there is bad gunk in there, it will come out at some point or another.  It will affect us and others.

I had this moment of clarity a couple of Sundays ago.  Ken and I were driving to church, and I was picking at my husband.  (Don’t we always struggle with something on a Sunday morning?)  But this time, instead of taking the niggling issue to its conclusion, I stopped and looked at my heart.

If my heart was like a pool of water, I could see that the water was brackish, slimy with bitterness, anger and fear.  I saw that the thing I was talking to my husband about wasn’t really the problem at all.  The problem was my fear.  I was afraid that my husband’s actions would trigger a downward spiral.

And I saw more clearly than ever that this fear is the theme of my life.  I fear so much that one bad thing is going to lead to another.  Chaos will win, and I will be powerless to stop life from going down the drain.  I hate that feeling. (I know,  I’ve blogged about this before.  But I keep grappling with it.)

So my solution is to be like the Dutch boy who keeps his finger in the dike.

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I’ve got to stop every leak to make sure chaos can’t get in.  I work very hard at making sure everything goes right.  I try to be a good wife, mom and Christian.

But keeping my finger in the dike never really gets rid of the fear, the fear that is so huge, so solid, that all my years of Bible study have only chipped away at it, not done away with it.

It’s like a Godzilla Fear!

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It’s like a Terminator Emotion.   Remember those movies and how they kept trying to kill the bad Terminator, but it kept coming back?

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That is what my fear can be like.

Probably a lot of us have Godzilla Terminator Emotions — anger, bitterness, hurt, or insecurities  — feelings that we think we’ve gotten under control, but reemerge in the pressure cooker of life, and then loom so big and real that we act out of them instead of our faith and convictions.

And this is the stuff Jesus says defiles us, that we need to clean out of our inner selves.  But how?  It seems impossible!

Here are a few things I’m learning that are helpful.  (And also, let me be sure and say here that emotions themselves aren’t necessarily bad.  But they can come from sinful thinking, and lead to sin.)

Find the root. I do a lot of yard work. One of the most frustrating parts of it is dealing with the vines and small trees that grow out of my bushes.

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Sure, I can snip at them when I trim the bushes and my yard will look nice for a while, but they’ll be back, fouling my nice landscape!  The only real way to get rid of these “weeds” is to go under the bush, find the root, and pull it out.

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The same thing is true with our heart.  We need to go under the surface, find out what’s really bothering us, and deal with that.   In gardening, pushing through stubborn branches and digging in the dirt is unpleasant.  So is digging through our emotional baggage.   But we’re not going to be able to get rid of it if we don’t see clearly what the problem is.

There are effective tools in helping us with this.  I recommend reading a book like “Spiritual Discovery,” and having someone to talk with (even a professional) to help you process.

Look for the shoots.  In the passage above, Jesus listed a whole number of nasty things that can come out of our heart.  It reminds me that sin doesn’t just sit there passively.  It propagates more sin

There are weeds in my yard that have a root system.  I can pull out one weed, but others still pop up because the weed has sent out shoots into the soil.

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The two sprigs in front are connected weeds.  I’ve tried to get rid of these things a thousand times!

In my life, I see how my root of fear leads to other sins popping up – faithlessness, self-hatred, and the big one, PRIDE.  Pride shows up when I think I have to fix the world to keep the chaos out.  It’s up to ME.

So trying to get rid of sin can be like nightmare weeding!  Is there hope?  I have found that what is most effective is to not only seek to take out the sin, but to replace the sin with something good.  In my yard, Ken and I took out this huge oleander plant that was getting out of control.  Once it was gone, the other nice plants in my landscaping thrived, and I put a knockout rose in the empty space that also took off.  (Okay, the rose bush is kind of obscured in the picture.)

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So here is what we can put in our heart that will really help us:

A more total dependence on God!

I recently read this great book, “No Place to Hide.

It was written by W. Lee Warren, a neurosurgeon and admitted control freak who was a military doctor in the Gulf War.  He talked about a pivotal moment in his life when he was out in the open and bombs began to rain down:  “During that attack, huddled against a concrete wall in nothing but a running outfit, it became laughingly obvious to me that even my own survival was utterly out of my control.“

It was then that Warren finally let go of control, finally let go of fear.  When he did, he said, “The mental clarity that resulted was stunning to me, and the list of things I could not control played across my mind like movie credits rolling up the screen. . . And then, at the end of the list of all the things I couldn’t do, I finally understood the one thing I could do:  have faith that whatever God intended to do would be best for me and for my kids.”

In the end, what we really need is the Big Guy with the Big Guns.  We need to give EVERYTHING to him, every bit of control, every worry, every insecurity, every failing, every hurt.  Ultimately, the most effective thing we CAN do is have faith.

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  John 6:29

Having faith takes work.

Last week I watched a Ted Talk that was utterly compelling.  It was given by a Colombian woman, Ingrid Betancourt, who was kidnapped by rebels and held captive in the jungle for six years.

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She talked about how much faith helped her get through this terrible time.   She said, “Faith isn’t rational or emotional. Faith is an exercise of the will. It’s the discipline of the will. It’s what allows us to transform everything that we are — our weaknesses, our frailties, into strength, into power. It’s truly a transformation. It’s what gives us the strength to stand up in the face of fear look above it, and see beyond it.”

Wow.  I want that kind of faith.  But, as Betancourt said, I’m going to have to exercise my will to build it.

So that is what I’ve been doing, having “faith workouts.”  Every time the emotions start to rise, I start doing “reps,” telling myself over and over what I believe.   Here are a few of the truths I repeat:

  1. God loves me incredibly.  Romans 5:8, Matt. 18:12-14
  2. God is merciful and compassionate.  Lam. 3:22-23, Titus 3:5
  3. God is a provider.  Phil. 4:19, Gen. 22:14
  4. God is good.  I Chron 16:34, Ex 33:19
  5. God is perfect in all of his ways. Ps 18:30
  6. God is my father.  Matt. 6:9
  7. God is faithful.  II Thes 3:3, I Cor. 1:9
  8. God will fight for me.  Ex 14:14
  9. God will mature me.  Phil. 1:6
  10. God wants to give me good gifts, and all things.  Luke 11:13, Rom. 8:32
  11. That I can approach the throne with confidence.  Heb 4:16
  12. That my name is written in heaven. Luke 10:20, Heb 12:23, Phil 4:3
  13. That there is hope. Rom 5:5
  14. That Jesus is willing.  Matt. 8:3
  15. That my prayers will be answered.  Mark 11:24

This is just a starting point.  Let’s all think of many more truth exercises.

I’m still fighting my Godzilla Terminator Emotions.  But I have to tell myself that the good thing about this is that they reveal what is in my heart.  They help me see the “roots” and the “shoots.”  I am beginning to see, too, the dysfunctional patterns they cause in me, like my efforts to control everything.

All of this brings me on my knees before God, and that is the best place to be. More than ever, I know that I need to keep putting things into HIS hands, doing this a thousand times a day with every concern and upsetting feeling.  My efforts have to be put into having faith, not control.

And faith feels good.  It is purifying and healing my heart.  And that is the goal.

 

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Filed under Faith, Having the Right Heart, Mark

Faith Like a Snowplow

Travel anxiety

Travel anxiety

Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and [Jesus] was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.  Mark 6:47-50a

Okay, here is a passage about fear.  The disciples were alone in the dark, getting blasted by wind.  Then they thought they saw a ghost and totally freaked out.

How easily we give into fear.  I found myself experiencing a lot of anxiety when I went on my trip. With the fatigue, the scramble of being in different places, and carrying a backpack instead of a purse,  I was so afraid I would lose something.  I constantly checked to be sure I had my wallet, phone, camera and meds.  I’d wake up in the morning and not see my thyroid pills and worry that I left them at the last hotel.  I’d sit in the car and feel my mood plunge because I couldn’t remember packing my camera.  I actually did leave my phone at my dad’s motel, but we were able to retrieve it.

Here are some places I went.

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Also, on my trip, I was also afraid of not feeling well.  I felt uneasy because my root canal was still achy and my toe was hurting.  Would they get worse?  What about other maladies I suffer from?  Would they act up?  I packed my backpack with every kind of cure for physical ailments — teas, pills and even my Nettie Pot!

Can you relate?  What makes you fearful or anxious? What are your props to keep you feeling secure?

Of course, it’s not wrong for me to keep up with my stuff, or to make sure I’m prepared.  But it is wrong to be ruled by my insecurities.  Let’s keep reading:

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.  Mark 6:50b-52

Fear comes from having a hard heart.  We don’t understand about the “loaves,” the ways God has provided for us in the midst of scarcity.  And so we gather our own “loaves” and clutch them tightly.

On Sunday, we visited our sister church in Albuquerque and two of the campus guys did a lesson on Matthew 6.  One talked about verse 25, where Jesus told his disciples not to worry.  The campus guy’s point was, “The mind wanders to what the heart wants.”  In other words, our worries reveal what’s most important to us.

Yikes! That means that what’s important to me is feeling in control, having everything in place.

Instead, what should be important is focusing on God.  If I could just realize that he is what I really need to keep with me, much more than my phone or my emergency kit!

So this trip I started aggressively using my shield of faith.  I would picture myself wielding it, pushing forward in hope and pushing away all of my fears, worries and uneasy feelings.

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But after awhile, I decided I needed a bigger shield.  I needed something more like the snowplow of faith!

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The snowplow of faith is the knowledge that God is a loving faithful father who is with us, even when we can’t see it.

It’s the acceptance that we may have to go through that thing we fear, but when we do, God’s grace is sufficient and he will provide at the right time.

It’s crucifying the temptation to worry, be afraid or give into dejection. (Gal 2:20, 5:24)

How easily we give into fear.  The disciples in the boat freaked out because they felt vulnerable and defenseless.  I feel the same way without my stuff. (Lol — first world problems. I do have bigger fears I struggle with too.)

But then I keep thinking of Joshua and Caleb.  They were the only ones who made it into the Promise Land because they were the only ones whose faith was bigger than their fears.  They had faith like a snowplow!

Let’s fight to have the same kind of faith to make it to the Promise Land as well.

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Psalm 54 – Self Reliant or God Reliant?

Appreciating Psalm 54 is all about knowing what was happening when it was written.  The notes for the psalm explain that it was written, “When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us?’”

So we have to read about David’s encounter with the Ziphites.  This story is in the last part of I Samuel 23, but we can get an even better picture of what’s going on by reading the whole exciting chapter!  I know, I know.  You’re short on time.  I’ll summarize it for you.

David at this point is with a group of about 600 men who have thrown in their lot with him.  They are playing a deadly game of hide and seek with Saul and his army.  And then David hears that the Philistines are raiding one of the Jewish border towns, Keilah,and stealing their grain.

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Man from Kielah entreating David to help.

David has such an awesome heart.  He wants to take his band of men and rescue the people of Kielah.  But his guys are like, “What?  We’re quaking in our boots because Saul’s army is breathing down our necks, and you want to take on the whole Philistine army?”  So David consults the Lord, twice, and the Lord assures him that he will totally win.

Thus they engage in a skirmish with the Philistines.  David’s forces pound them and free the town of Kileah. Yay!

Of course, just as his men feared, this puts David on Saul’s radar.  Saul’s rubbing his hands together with glee, thinking, “Ha!  I have David in a walled in city now.  Now I can finally get him!”

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Walled in city

Saul sends his army in that direction.  David realizes Saul is coming, and knows this will put the people of Kielah in a dicey situation.  Will they stand with him, or give him over to their king?  He asks the Lord, and the Lord lets him know it’s time to cut and run.  So David and his men manage to slip away before Saul’s army arrives.  They hightail it to the hill country of Ziph.

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The hills of Ziph — a pretty hostile environment!

Foiled, Saul’s army keeps looking for David to no avail, because God is helping David out.  But then the residents of Ziph betray David, and clue Saul in to David’s location.  Armed with this new information, Saul closes in on David.  He’s on one side of the mountain and David’s on the other.  It seems like it’s all over.  David will finally be captured.  And then, just in the nick of time, Saul gets an urgent message that he has to go fight the Philistines.  So he and his army exit the area.  Whew!

Here’s the first half of the psalm David wrote when he was going through all of this:

Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!

Defend me with your might.

Listen to my prayer, O God.

Pay attention to my plea.

For strangers are attacking me;

violent people are trying to kill me.

They care nothing for God.

Can’t you just pictures the situation from what David says here?  He’s like, “Please help me, God.  And I’m going to need you to bring the big guns because I’m in this barren desert place, and it’s not just Saul and his army who are after me, now the local bad guys, who don’t even know me, are against me!”

Psalms 54 goes on:

Surely God is my help;

the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Let evil recoil on those who slander me;

in your faithfulness destroy them.

I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;

I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good.

You have delivered me from all my troubles,

and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes

Notice how proactive David believes God will be.  God is the one who will help him, defend him, deliver him, sustain him, and destroy the enemy.  Not once does David ask God for the ability to do these things himself.  He believes God will do them.

In the end David says his eyes have looked in triumph on his foes. He could have been remembering past victories given by God.  But I like to think David wrote this at the end of the present story.  I envision his scouts coming and reporting, “We can’t figure it out, but Saul’s army is headed the other way.  They’re leaving.”

David does a fist pump. “Yes! Praise God!” And he turns and shouts to the hills, as if the people of Ziph can hear him, “Hey, chumps.  You thought you were going to mess with me, but you were messing with the Lord!  You picked the wrong side!”

It’s fun to think about, but whatever happened, we know that David gave God the total glory.   He attributed victory to the Lord, and exalted him.

So here are four things we can take away from this story and psalm:

Pray before taking action.  When we’re making decisions about which way to go, we need to remember to first pray about it and ask God for guidance.

Be God reliant, not self reliant.  David didn’t depend on his own wisdom or power.  He put all his eggs in God’s basket.  God was his resource for guidance.  God was his strategy.  God was his weapon. God was his solution.

Let not the wise boast of their wisdom

or the strong boast of their strength

or the rich boast of their riches,

but let the one who boasts boast about this:

that they have the understanding to know me. . . (Jeremiah 9:23-24a)

Deliverance often comes when things seem at their worst. David wasn’t rescued until the 11th hour.   It’s often the same for us.  I was just thinking over my life, and remembering some of the most encouraging ways God acted.  Some of the greatest things from God came on the heels of my greatest times of trial.

I have an illustration I want to share.  Last year we had some tremendous blessings in our church, but there were also some challenging times.  In the fall, several of our members who were dear friends and hard workers moved away or quit coming.  And then another church started meeting at the same hotel where we had been meeting for the past eight years.  We were happy to share our space.  But this church took up the common areas, and played loud music that invaded our services.  Loud bass was vibrating while we were trying to take communion.

It was a low point.  We saw the writing on the wall — we would have to find a new place to meet.  We prayed that we could somehow find a location that would be cheap, close to the interstate, and amenable to us bringing food for fellowships. This was a tall order!

And then, out of the blue, our women’s leader, Marge, was getting a rental car and happened to see the VFW building next door.  “I wonder if we could rent that?”  she said to  herself.  It took a lot of tracking down to find the right person to talk to, but when we did, they said they were looking for renters!

So two weeks ago we had our first service in our new location, and we loved it!

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It was warm and homey.  We had coffee and snacks as we fellowshipped.   What had seemed like a setback had turned into a new start.  Our hearts were full of gratitude to God.

And that brings me to my last point about Psalms 54 —

Give total glory to God.  When things work out, let David be our inspiration.  Let’s break out into wholehearted praise!  How can we give the credit to anyone or anything but the Lord?  It is God who gives us the victory. He will continue to do so, as we completely rely on him.  And when he does, we will lift up his name with thanksgiving.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  II Cor 2:14a

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Ps 142 – God Knows My Path

The next psalm in the series of psalms in chronological order is Ps. 142.  Just like Psalm 57, it was written when David was hiding away from his enemies in a cave.

The big feeling I get out of this psalm is that David was feeling pretty trapped.

In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. . .

rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.

Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.

David knew if he stepped out of the cave, his adversaries were poised to capture or kill him.

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He felt overwhelmed, cornered, confined, like there was no place to turn.

Sound familiar?  I can certainly relate.  Sometimes I don’t like the situation I’m in, but I can’t see a way out.  I can’t see a good option.  It feels horrible.  I cry out to God, “How could you put me here?”

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But David also says this one thing in verse 3 that is so heart lifting:

When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!

I did a little Hebrew word study of this phrase.  First, it reads, “my spirit faints.”  Some translations word this as “When I was overwhelmed.”  It definitely carries a feeling of being weak and powerless, of wanting to give up because the odds seem so great.

Next, it says that God knows the way.  The word for “know” here is “yada.”  Yada is more than just a head knowledge.  Yada is knowing by experience.  You can look at a map and say you “know” the way.  But once you drive it over and over again, you “yada” the way.  You can “know” someone if you’ve met them.  But if you’ve spent a lot of time together, you “yada” them.

Finally, the verse says God knows the way.  To me, this isn’t just like God knows our path.  It’s like God knows our Path with a capital “p,” his route for us.

Putting this all together, it’s like God has a course marked out for us that he’s intimately familiar with, because he’s designed each turn and ascent.  It’s also like God knows us through and through, and custom made this course just for us.

So it gives me a lot of comfort to think that when I am overwhelmed and feel like there’s no good way to turn, I’m actually in the place God put me.  I’m on a road to somewhere good, I just can’t see it.  It’s scary, but it’s not scary to God.  He knows exactly where he’s taking me.

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God guides us, kind of like we would guide a blind person.

I’ve been listening to a series of messages by John Lusk on “Increase Our Faith.”  He talks about how we all come to points in our life when the way forward seems impossible.  At that point, we can either compromise our convictions or pray, as Jesus’s disciples did, “Increase our faith!”

Prayer bridges the gap between impossible and possible.  It puts our hand in God’s hand, so he can show us the way he has planned for us.

You know, Psalms 142 is one of the psalms that is actually named in the notes as a prayer. In the whole thing, David is telling God that he feels trapped, but he believes God knows the way forward.  And we know now that God did take David forward to use him in great ways.  The Messianic line was established through him.

God knows the way forward for us as well.  He has dreams for us.  He has plans and designs because he formed us.  He knows us inside and out, and knows how to use us in great ways.

We just need to hold tightly to him and say, “My spirit is faint within me, but you know my path!”

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Psalm 57 — Finding Refuge

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me . . .

This is how Psalm 57 starts, which is the next psalm in the  series I’m writing on the Psalms in chronological order.  Psalm 57 was written by David when he was holed up a cave, hiding from Saul’s soldiers.

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I imagine it was real downer to be there, stuck in the dark, cut off from the world.

So as David started praying to God there, what did he pray first? Did he catalog all the ways that God should work?  No, he begged, “Have mercy on me.” He wanted this so much, he said it twice.

This challenges me!  I’ve been going nonstop since before Thanksgiving.  I have a backlog of unprocessed emotional baggage; feelings screaming for attention.  I want to whine and fill God’s ear with requests.

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But instead, what I need to do is get on my knees, put my face to the ground and remember who I am before the Lord.  The only real thing I can ask for is mercy.

Let this illustration burn into me, the one Jesus gave about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to pray:

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Luke 18:13-14

I am such a Pharisee!!  It’s so much about me.  I am so preoccupied with trying to  do the right thing so I can feel good about myself.  More than that, I am so focused on praying for what I think should happen.  I exude pride, not humility.

David goes on to write, “for in you I take refuge,” And then says, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

Oh, this is what my heart craves, a refuge.  But even though I know that it can be found in God, it doesn’t click.  So I’m trying to understand how David could so completely and confidently find a safe place in God.

And as I meditate on it,  I’m realizing that David wasn’t just seeing God as a haven.  He was putting his trust in the God who had a solid history of always protecting and caring for his people. Look at this passage in Deuteronomy 32 and how it describes God’s actions towards the Israelite nation:

He (God) found him (Israel) out in the wilderness,
        in an empty, windswept wasteland.
    He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him,
        guarding him as the apple of his eye.
    He was like an eagle hovering over its nest,
        overshadowing its young,
    Then spreading its wings, lifting them into the air,
        teaching them to fly.
    God alone led him;
        there was not a foreign god in sight.
    God lifted him onto the hilltops,
        so he could feast on the crops in the fields.
    He fed him honey from the rock,
        oil from granite crags . .

God is like a bird that shelters its young. That bird would also be committed to feeding its young and fiercely protecting them.

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So David knew that God felt a loving responsibility and obligation toward him.  He knew God would be there for him.  THAT is how he took refuge in God.

And that is how I can take refuge in God as well.  By learning to believe that God is faithful to me.

As the psalm goes on, it helps me to realize this.  Here is what David says next.  I’m listing several translations of this verse:

I call upon the God Most High; to the God who completes what he began in me. ISV

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. NLT

I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me. NIV

I will cry to God Most High, To God who accomplishes all things for me.  ASV

No matter which translation is correct, they all say that God would act on David’s behalf.  I love this thought.  God’s not going to just sit in heaven.  He’s going to get up and do something for his people.

What really helps my heart is knowing that it is God who is doing the work, not me.  When I work, I make a mess of things. How wonderful it is that I can come to God and know that he WILL work his good purpose in spite of my mucking about!

It reminds me of this verse:  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Phil. 1:6

But the thing is, for God to work, I have to first humble myself, as David did.  I have to stop thinking I know how things should be done.

I have to vacate my own refuge, my own way of trying to control and make the world safe, and make God my refuge in every way.

It’s sort of like the story of the three pigs.  I need to leave my house of sticks and go to the house of bricks!

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I tend to be overwhelmed.  I think about all that’s going wrong, all that needs to change, all that needs to be done.  On one hand, I come up with plans to fix it, and on the other, I despair because my efforts seem to have bungled things.

How much I need peace!  The irony is that I need a refuge because I haven’t made God my refuge.

When will I learn that true peace comes from humility, not performance?  It comes from surrender, emptying myself before God, and having faith that he will work.

“And that is what we should seek for — to go on our faces before God until our hearts learn to believe that the everlasting God Himself will come in to turn out what is wrong, to conquer what is evil, and to work what is well-pleasing in His blessed sight.”  (Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender)

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Thoughts on Ps 59 and Faith

I am trying to imagine how hard it must have been for David when Saul started trying to kill him.  Here was the king he was serving and doing everything for.  He led armies into battle and won great victories for Saul. He became best friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan.  He married Saul’s daughter, Michal.  Everything was going wonderfully.

But then Saul got eaten up with fear and jealousy.

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul.

Saul became convinced that David was a threat to his family continuing on the throne:

“They have credited David with tens of thousands,” [Saul] thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” I Sam 18:8

So Saul sought to have David killed.

Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning.  I Sam 19:11

 Michal helped David escape and David started living a life of being on the run.

It is at this time that David wrotes Psalm 59.  His words describe well what he felt:

Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me.

Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood.

See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.

How tough it must have been to have his own countrymen turn against him.  There must have been soldiers seeking him that David knew personally.  It must have felt like such a betrayal.  This was the king he had pledged to serve.  This was his father in law.  He had done nothing wrong.  Yet the king ordered his men to find David and put him to death.

Look at the wording David used — attacking me, after my blood, lie in wait for me, conspire against me.  He felt like he was under a constant mortal threat.

And he felt like the world had gone topsy-turvy.  One minute he was leading men into battle and living in the palace.   The next he was a fugitive.

But here is what David said at the end of the Psalm, after all his ranting and complaining:

But I will sing of your strength,

in the morning I will sing of your love;

for you are my fortress,

my refuge in times of trouble.

You are my strength, I sing praise to you;

you, God, are my fortress,

my God on whom I can rely.  (Ps 59:16-17)

David sang of God.  He sang because he knew God loved him.  He sang because he knew God would protect him.

In the end, David lived by faith.  It was faith that helped him survive and face the perils of the day.

And the same is true for me.  I can relate to David’s life at this time in a way.  God hasn’t acted in the way I thought he would.  I’ve given my life to serve him.  Yet I’m not in the place I thought I would be.  I feel cynical and jaded.

So, just like it was with David, it is only faith that will get me through.

 I love how Romans 1 talks about faith:  This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

Whatever I accomplish in my life, will be accomplished, from start to finish, by faith.  Let me start living that way today!

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God Can Work with Your Faith!

In my last blog about Learning to Love the Old Testament, I talked about the story of Adam and Eve.  I wish I could discuss every story in the Old Testament.  But for the purpose of this series, so that we can get an overview of the Old Testament, I am going to stick with a few of the major stories in chronological order.

So that means that I need to fill in the gaps.

After they were cast out of the Garden, Adam and Eve had children.  Their children had children, and so on, and the earth populated.  But as mankind proliferated in number, evil also proliferated.  The whole world was corrupt.  This made God totally bummed out.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.  The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.  Genesis 6:5-6

atrocities

This picture of the effects of war illustrates that wickedness is still rampant today.

God had such great dreams for mankind.  His heart’s desire was to be close to the people he had created.  But they had sinned in the Garden, and their sin continued to multiply.

So God decided the best way to deal with this was to wipe the slate clean and start anew.  He would bring a flood over the earth which would wash away the crooked generation.  He would preserve one person whom he found to be upright, along with this man’s family.  This man was Noah.  Under God’s direction, Noah built an ark, a ship that would survive the flood and, in a sense, save mankind, along with other living creatures.

noah1

Noah was one man who would obey God.

The future would be built on of the descendants of a man who respected God and lived right.

This theme is continued over and over in the Bible.  God finds someone who follows him with all their heart.  God builds his future upon this person.

Ten generations after Noah, we find the most famous example of this in the story of his descendant, Abraham.  It makes my heart thrill to see how God found one man with faith, one man who would obey him.  What God did with Abraham laid the foundation for so much of what we know today.  It became the bedrock of three major world religions.  It changed the world.  It ultimately paved the way for us to be saved.

So I want to encourage you to read the story of Abram, later called Abraham,  in Genesis 12-25.  It is such a monumental tale.  Read it and then let’s talk about five totally cool things we can learn from it.

. . .

Okay, if you’re up to speed on Abraham, here’s the first cool thing we can learn:

1. God can work with your faith. 

It was flat out amazing that Abraham had the faith he had.  You see, Abraham didn’t have the written word, as we do, or as Jews who lived after Moses did, to teach him about God.  I’m sure his forefathers passed down some type of knowledge and belief.  But we also know that Abraham’s father worshiped other gods.  (Joshua 24:2)  We know that Abraham lived among heathen nations.

So where did his iconic faith come from?

It came from God speaking to him.  “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

But it had to also come from Abraham’s decision to listen to God.   Something about God must have resonated as truth with Abraham.  And he nurtured this spark in his heart as the one thing that was most important.  He believed that the God who spoke to him was THE GOD, awesome and mighty, and must therefore be revered.

And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith. Genesis 15:6

Abraham listened to God, and up and left his country and his people.  Because God said so, he put his hope in the impossible, that he would have a son. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations…”  (Romans 4:18)   Because God asked it of him, he was willing to sacrifice what was dearest to him, his son.

The bottom line is that Abraham’s spark of faith became a catalyst in his life.

catalyst

We probably all feel that spark in our heart at one time or another.  But how often do we act on it?  How often do we decide it is the most important thing?  How often are we willing to change our life?

Yet the thing is, we actually can grab onto the spark and take a scary step of faith with it, just as Abraham did.  It’s not a Herculean task of brute strength that is beyond us.  It’s doesn’t even require great faith.  It just requires enough to take the first step.

And if reading about Abraham is not enough to help us take the first step, God gives us example after example of heroes of faith — Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon,  Ruth, David, Jehoshaphat, Ezra, Peter, Paul, Phillip.  The list goes on and on.

The Bible is a book about ordinary people who find a kernel of faith, act on it, and are used by God for great purposes.

And that is what makes the Bible so remarkable.  God doesn’t forge his will through people who, of themselves, have amazing talents and powers.  He builds his kingdom on something as mundane as belief —  something each one of us can have.  Each one of us can, like Abraham, go against the grain of our surroundings and circumstances and choose to believe.   Jesus stated this loud and clear, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.’”  Luke 17:6

mustard-seed1

If Abraham could have faith, we can too.  And if we have faith, God can use us in a powerful way.

Let’s pray.

Father God, thank you for the example of Abraham. His faith is so inspiring.  I want to have faith like he did, but it’s so hard!  Help me to have faith in this area:________________________.

Father, I do believe, help me to overcome my unbelief!   I pray you can do something with my little spark of faith.  Help me to step out today, holding your hand, and going in the direction you would have me go, as Abraham did.   Help me to not freak out at the sacrifice or scary thing you may ask of me. 

Help me to hope against all hope!   I’ve lost hope in this area:____________________. 

Father, I’m excited at the way you can use me.  I’m on board, let’s go!  May your will be done through me.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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