God is My Safe Place

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Friends, I am excited to share with you something that has been one of the most helpful truths I’ve ever learned: God is my safe place.

This has clicked with me in a new way because I’ve been realizing that one of the things I crave most deeply is safety.  I try to control things around me.  I have this compulsion to create order.  I’m performance oriented, trying to be perfect.

Part of the reason I need safety is because I’m insecure by nature.  But I’ve also discovered that I can trace this need for safety back to the time when I was 16 and my mom got divorced from my stepfather.  It felt like the rug was pulled out from under my feet, and everything was chaotic.  My mother was having a very hard time.  I felt powerless.  Life stunk, and I couldn’t do anything about it.  I was lost in depression.

So I developed protection mechanisms against my fears.  I would try to be perfect and control the world around me so I would not feel vulnerable.  Over the years I’ve grown and I can find much peace and security in God.  But there’s still this lurking fear of chaos, and this knee jerk reverting back to my protection mechanisms.

But now I’ve had this huge light bulb moment.  God is my safe place!  Only he can satisfy my deep craving for security.  Only he can calm my fears.  I can’t tell you how much this is changing my perspective, how much more relaxed I am.

The scripture that is thrilling my heart right now is Ps. 91:2,  “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.”  (NLT)

I am in a bubble of protection, where it’s like I’m in a peaceful field of flowers.

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Where is your safe place on earth?  For me, I think of watching the waves on the beach, or sitting on the wide prairie at my family ranch and listening to the wind blow.

This is what our safe place is like in God, only much, much more so!

Ps 91 goes on to describe how we have safety in God:

He will shelter you with his wings; you will find safety under his wings. His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall.  (v. 4, NET)

For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. (v. 11-12)

We are safe because God is our protector.

Just as a bird shelters its young, God’s warm loving “wings” form a barrier between us and harm.

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It is a true force field!  No evil can reach us unless the Lord allows it.  If you don’t believe this, read the book of Job and see how Satan had to petition God to be able to tempt Job.

God has a divine security system.  He guards what is most precious to him.  Immensely powerful angels are commanded to take care of us.  I don’t know how this works, but they are there.  God doesn’t leave his own vulnerable, at the mercy of evil.  He assigns assets from his incredible resources to take care of them.

We are safe because God is our rescuer!  We don’t have to fear falling prey to chaos.

For he will rescue you from every trap. (v. 3)

Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. (v. 5)

When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. (v. 15)

Here are some of my biggest fears — I fear feeling like things are out of control, I fear that something bad will happen that leads to more of a mess, I fear the downward spiral, I fear making mistakes, and I fear failure.

But it is becoming clear to me that God has my back.  His heart is for me, and when things go wrong, he’s there at my side, helping to work things work out.

More than this, though, I’m seeing that it is bigger than just me crying for help and the Lord answering.  It’s that God has a plan, and I am a part of that plan.  He saved me for a reason and he has a purpose for me. (Eph 2:10)  All through history, God has accomplished his plan, and nothing, I mean nothing, has been able to get in the way of what he intended to do.  The same is true when it comes to me.  I’m so scared, thinking something is going to go wrong, or I’m going to mess things up.  But I am a part of God is doing, and what God is doing is like a solid wall.

Philippians 1:6 says,  “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.”  God is going to get me where I need to go, in spite of disaster, in spite of my weaknesses.  Yes, I need to do my best.  Yes, I must remain vigilant against evil.  But I can be peaceful and assured.

We are safe because we rely completely on him.

If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. v. 9-10

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  v. 14

Isn’t it ironic that we want to be safe, but we keep putting our trust in things that really can’t keep us safe?  We cling to our deeds, our job, our possessions, our relationships, our bank account, our strength, our intellect, our routines.  And, of course, these things aren’t stable.  But when something goes downhill, we hold to them for dear life because they’re tangible and they’ve given us a temporary sense of security in the past.

Until it gets worse, and then we cry out to God, and God’s like, “I want to be your life preserver, but you have to let go of the sinking ship!”

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In order to be safe, we have to jump headlong into something we can’t see, something that feels unsafe.  We have to throw ourselves into God’s arms.

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If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. Luke 17:33

It’s a solid truth, repeated over and over in the Bible.  Life works when we trust completely in God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”  Prov. 3:5-6

“Remain in me and you will bear much fruit.  Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

So I’m developing new protection mechanisms: jumping into God’s arms, envisioning myself being in the tranquil oasis with God, holding to the promises that God will protect and rescue me.

And I feel free.  Free to be myself and work out God’s plan without constantly editing myself and the world around me.

But there’s one more thing.  Something in me protests, “But God doesn’t always keep us safe.  He sometimes allows terrible things to happen.”

That is true.  And my answer is I Corinthians 10:13 — “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

In our hardship, there will always be something we can grasp onto that will help us get through.  It could be finding the perfect scripture, or gleaning an insight, or feeling comfort, or being strengthened, or having a prayer answered at just the right time.

God sometimes keeps us from the bad stuff, and sometimes he doesn’t.  But he will always help us when that bad stuff comes.  We will still be safe, because God is immeasurably faithful, and he has immeasurable resources to bring to bear on our behalf.

My fears are subsiding.  I’m fighting that voice that says, “Things are falling apart.  I hate myself.”

God has set me in a state of security IN HIM.  He is the answer to my deepest desires, and I am tearful with gratitude.

“There is no fear in love.”  I John 4:18b

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We All Need a Net

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Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.  And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

They went out and preached that people should repent.  They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.  Mark 6:1–13

There are a couple of things that I want to discuss about this passage.

First, I am impressed by how much Jesus wanted everyone to have a chance to hear the gospel.  He knew that there would be some who would reject it.  But he wanted them to have the seed planted in their heart.

And the seed is powerful.  But we see here that the seed wasn’t just the spoken message.  It was also the evidence of God’s power, which was seen in healing and demons being cast out.

And today, people can still see the power.  I don’t believe that we generally have the miraculous gift of healing or casting out demons, as the apostles had.  I do believe that people can be healed miraculously through prayer.  But putting that aside for a moment, I want to stress that our lives show the power of God.  We have overcome sins that many others are entangled in.  We are joyful even when it doesn’t make sense.  We love the unlovable.  We serve instead of seeking our own comfort.  These things have a major impact.

You know, back in early February, a woman named Beverly found our church on the Internet.  She was searching for a church that was more than just attending a service and then everyone leaves.  So our web site piqued her interest and she came to visit our service.  She later told us what she was thinking when she saw our church for the first time.  She saw people really living the truth, really caring about one another.  She went out into the parking lot and called her sister, and told her, “I found it!”

For those who are seeking with open hearts, our life is a seed.  Sometimes the seed takes root right away.  Sometimes the seed is buried away, and when adversity comes and reality is exposed, the person remembers the little seed and starts to nurture it.

When we were first married, Ken and I were part of a church where people were wholeheartedly living out the Word.  Then for eight years we went to another church that had many good people, but wasn’t the same.  We became lukewarm.  We got to the point where we were so sad, and so sick of our lives.  We weren’t sharing our faith.  Our marriage was a mess.  We were lonely.  We were caught up in sin.

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Our wedding day

Then we remembered the seed, and  how much we wanted to be all out for God.  We moved to be a part of a church like the one we had been a part of years ago.  And our lives changed in incredible ways.

Being exposed to powerful lives made a huge difference in our lives.   And the point of all this is that Jesus wants everyone to be exposed to this.  He wants people to see others who are living out his word.

Because the second thing I want to discuss is how people are in the grip of Satan.  They may not be demon possessed in the sense that we see in the New Testament, but the devil has a hold on them.  Look at how Acts 10 words it:

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.  Acts 10:37-38

I like the wording, “under the power of the devil,” because it’s more like what is happening today.

II Timothy 2:26 says, that people are in the “trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”  The devil has carefully lays a snare, and people are caught fast.  They find themselves doing things they never thought they’d do.  They want to be different, but they can’t break free.  Life becomes a downward spiral, and they feel mired and lost.

Do you know what is interesting about the Greek word used here for “take them captive?”  It’s the same word that is used in Luke 5 when Jesus tells Peter, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on you will be catching men.”  It’s like people can be caught by either Satan, or by us, as we tell them and show them the good news.

I went to our church’s Bible talk in Columbus this week.  A young woman who has been visiting talked about how she had recently been slacking on the disciplines like reading her Bible, praying, etc.  She confessed that her life had started going down the tubes.  It felt like Satan was hitting her on every side. She shared that she was so grateful that her friends at the Bible talk  had exhorted her to get back to doing what she needed to be doing.  She was feeling so much better, and she said they told her some hard things, but it was was she needed to hear.

The friends helped get this young woman out of the devil’s clutches.  And that’s what we need to be doing.  We need to help people to quit going after the wrong things.  We need to help them get sustenance, instead, from the word, prayer and fellowship.

And it will be all the more powerful if they can see us doing that, and not just hear us talking about it!

This week I found out that a young woman I studied the Bible with who became a Christian but later quit coming to church is going through some very tough challenges. It is very sad because if she had kept coming around, she almost surely could have avoided making the poor choices that caused these tough challenges.  It is heart breaking that her life has become a train wreck.

You see, life is full of challenges, but some messes can be avoided.  Look at what I Timothy 6:10 says:

Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

This verse is talking about leaving God because of the love of money, but the result is the same regardless of why you leave.  Your defenses are gone.  You’re like a sitting duck in a shooting gallery.  And you get pierced with many griefs.

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In closing, I want to tell you a quick story of something I saw on Memorial Day.  Ken and I rode our hybrid bikes to an area at Chewacla State Park where there were large rocks and rapids.  A family was hiking, and their trajectory took them across this treacherous area.  They had four teen and preteen children.  They also had grandma, who looked to be in her mid-60’s, and the mom was holding grandma’s hand the whole way, so grandma wouldn’t stumble.

When the family came to a place where grandma would have to jump from rock to rock across some rushing water, the mom and oldest son took off their shoes, waded into the water, held their arms out and formed a safety net on either side of the passage, so that they would catch grandma if she fell.  The son in law stood on the other side, ready to pull her to safety.

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The rapids to the far right are the ones that grandma had to jump across.

I was very touched.  I thought, “This is what we should be for one another — a safety net.”

We all need a net.  We need our friends to be our safety net, keeping us from falling into Satan’s trap by encouraging us to keep up the spiritual disciplines.

Those in the world need a net.  They need to caught by Christ and not by Satan.  They need to hear the word, see us and our lives, and know that we care.

Jesus needs us to be his net.  I love that thought!  I want to keep people from being pierced by many griefs.  If I can help some to avoid this, it is so worthwhile.

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Let’s Be Pioneers!

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.  Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. (Mark 6:6b-9)

Isn’t it crazy that Jesus sent out his disciples without any food or money!  It’s something that is hard to imitate today.  I can’t imagine going somewhere and not having a way to get myself food, not having a place to sleep, not having something clean to change into.

But that’s how Jesus sent out his disciples to spread the word.  This challenges me.  Why would he do that?  I think the reason has to be because he wanted them to be totally reliant on God.  In order for them to be successful, they would need to totally look to God, and not to their own resources and power.

In one of my last blogs, I talked about how I’ve been envisioning myself taking a road trip with God.  I realized yesterday why picturing this has been so helpful to me.  It’s because when I picture myself on a road trip with God, I’m not longer the sole driver.  I have to take my hands off of the wheel.   Before, it was about my agenda.  I decided the destination and got bent out of shape if anything got in the way of my getting there.  Now, God’s riding with me, and he has power over our journey.  And I trust him, so if there is an obstacle, we deal with it together.

And that is what Jesus was trying to get his disciples to see when he sent them out.  They were taking a trip, they were performing a mission with God.  If Jesus had given them provisions, they might have been tempted to rely on them. In a sense, they would have had their hands on the wheel.

Does this sound far fetched?  Just last night I was talking to a friend who is fasting one day a week.  That is hard!  But she told me it keeps her from getting comfortable, and she knows when she is comfortable, she is dragged down spiritually.

Comfort can keep us from relying on God.  Yesterday, Ken told me about a sermon he heard about the verse, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  Ken said that one reason this message really struck him is that the speaker talked about how we don’t realize what poverty is.  In many parts of the world there are starving emaciated people begging on the street corners.  They are desperate, entirely dependent on whether someone will provide for their next mouthful of food.

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And Jesus says people who are spiritually poor like this are blessed?  Yes!  They are blessed because they are just as needy as the beggars, and when they see their need, they will rely on God.

We all need to realize how much we are beggars, how emaciated we are, how much we need God to fill our needs and take care of our future.  And as I was thinking of my life and the things around me, I began to see how true this is.  I have goals I want to accomplish, people I want to help, but there are so many obstacles in the way.  We want our church to grow, and our satellite ministries to grow, but so much needs to take place for this to happen.  We are going to lose three of our singles, and our singles ministry will need a shot in the arm.  Our Auburn campus ministry has dwindled.   My children have some challenging situations going on.  I have health challenges. I need so much wisdom, and guidance and strength and divine intervention!

I am totally poor in spirit!

When we realize that the goal is being poor in spirit, it makes sense to take away some of our crutches and comforts so we will rely on God more.

Ken and I have been watching this reality series, “Pioneer Quest: A Year in the Real West.” It’s about two couples who live for a year like 1970’s settlers in Canada.  They travel to a remote location in a wagon.  They have to grow crops and break up the ground with horses and an antique plow.  They have to cut down trees and build their own houses with the same tools the settlers used.  They are not allowed to have or  use anything from our modern time.

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This would not be me!  But these couples wanted to get away from the world and return to a more simple life. They recognized the value of giving up comfort.  And they were willing to do this at the price of undergoing great challenges.  And believe me, there were great challenges!

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And do you know what it reminds me of, in a way?  How Ken and I moved to Auburn, to this small church here.  We left our big comfortable church and came down to a place where we would have to work, but we felt that the value of going back to simply and totally serving God would be worth it!  And there have been great challenges, but it has been worth it many times over.

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The ATCC in earlier days.

We’ve been poor in spirit, and we’ve had to rely on God many times.  And each time he has gotten us through, and provided for us.  That fills my heart to overflowing.

Going back to the passage about Jesus sending out the disciples, as I thought about it, it occurred to me that Jesus did give the disciples one thing to take with them.  He gave them a partner.  He didn’t send them out alone.

The same is true for us.  God gives us spiritual partners, people who are there to keep us strong on the journey.  He doesn’t send us out alone.

In The Pioneers, I think that the success of the endeavor was due, more than anything else, to their strong marriages.  They relied on each other.  They laughed when there were hardships.  They helped each other instead of tearing each other down.

We need each other so much to have success in our endeavors.  We need them for strength through the journey.  That’s the way we’re going to make it through.

This past Sunday we had a time of encouragement at the beginning of our worship service.  People shared about someone they appreciate.  One young man who has been visiting church told about how some other young people had fed him dinner, build a friendship with him and really encouraged him.  My friend Antoinette shared how an older couple had reached out to her and had her into their house, and when she talked about how much it meant to her, that touched the woman she was sharing about so much that she started to cry.

And then one of our members in Montgomery, Tre, started to share about me.  I wondered what he could have to say.  But then he started talking about a a working mom in his group who had been going through some challenging times, and how I had gone out to babysit, and been a support to her.  He was so grateful.

That really impacted me.  I think I just do a little serving here and there.  But I see that our acts of service impact others in a huge way.  They help people know that they’re not going through things alone.

So let’s be pioneers for Christ!  Jesus is sending us out.  Let us become poor and needy before God, and rely on him to build our lives and our ministry.  Let us set aside comfort and do the hard work that is worth it!

God will give us what we need, and a good part of that is in one another.

Women's midweek

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God Loves to Give!

Friends I am excited to write to you today. I feel like I have been learning so much!

The verse for today is in Mark 6:1-6:

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?  Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith

This verse really got me to thinking.  At first I didn’t feel like I could relate, but then I was reading Facebook and I saw a post from a good friend who used to be a neighbor of mine.  She has a very sweet teen daughter who used to come over to my house and just talk to me .  That was so endearing, so special.  But anyway, this girl has sickle cell anemia, and my friend posted that her daughter is in the hospital, and asked everyone to please pray for her.

Of course I said I would pray for this sweet young teen. But I realized, when I started to pray, that I was kind of just going through the motions, because I didn’t think that Jesus was going to answer this in a dynamic way.  I have so many individuals I pray for and I’m just praying for them and thinking something good might happen, but not really thinking that Jesus is going to perform a miracle.

And it struck me that I’m just like the people in Jesus’s hometown. I don’t see him as the Son of God. I don’t realize that’s who I’m talking to.

So I decided I’m going to change, and since then I’ve started praying and really thinking about who I’m talking to and what he’s capable of.  And I’ve begun  to see that it’s not so much a problem of not believing that God has the power. Because I do.  The problem is that I’m not sure that God wants to heal people, or that he wants to answer the prayers that I’m praying.  And so this morning when I was praying about this, this verse came to mind: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Acts 20:35)  Jesus said this and I know it is true!  God loves to give.  He shown that all through the Bible. Of course he wants to answer prayer!   Of course he wants to help people!

And even without all that, I should be also looking at the evidence of the miracles all around me.  Last night is the perfect example.  We went out and we celebrated my friend Markeya passing the boards to be a dental hygienist.  How cool is this?  It’s the best story.

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Our dinner for Markeya.

I remember about five years ago when I met Markeya and she told me she had a white board and on it she wrote her goals  and her dreams.  One of those dreams was to be a dental hygienist.  She also dreamed that she would be close to God and get her relationship right with God .  We help that dream come true very quickly.

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Markeya and me.

But she had to work hard to achieve her second dream.  She had to spend the money and go to dental assistant school. And then after she finished the school, she couldn’t find work in her field.  It took about a year but she finally did get a job and she was hired from among many applicants to work in Valley, Alabama.  To do so she had to wake up early every morning, because it was in a different time zone.  After a long time, the authorities at her job said they would sponsor her to go to dental hygienist school.  And Markeya drove up once a month to Birmingham and and took classes and studied.  It was very hard for her to work and then go to school, but now she’s passed her boards and she’s just a few short steps away from being a dental hygienist and achieving her dreams!  It truly is amazing, and I believe 100% that God is behind this miracle.  It shows me that he loves to give good gifts to us .

It’s all about changing our perspective.  Yesterday I was totally struggling with a couple things and I thought, “God, why am I in this situation?” And I was feeling frustrated, until I remembered one thing I learned from this great book called “Soul Work” by Randy Harris.  Harris wrote that he likes to envision that each day he is taking a road trip with God.  I’ve started doing the same thing.  I get up in the morning and say, “God, what shall we do today, where shall we go?”  And then it’s like I have an adventure with God every day.

So when I remembered this, I said, “Okay God, here I am in this situation.  This is like an obstacle we’ve come to on our road trip.  What should I do?”  I said that knowing that he was right there with me, ready to help me, involved in what I was doing.  It wasn’t like I was a victim. It wasn’t like I had to pressured by all of these expectations of what I should do and be.  It helped me take a deep breath and get a different perspective, that I could handle it.

So that brings me to one other thing I want to share with you that’s really help me lately to be more secure and deal with challenges  It’s the verse in John 15 where Jesus says, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” (John 15:5)   This verse has really made a difference to me because I’ve started envisioning myself as a branch that goes out from this strong tree trunk.  My status is as solid as that branch and tree.  I am in Christ.  I’m saved.

Before, I had been feeling somehow like I wasn’t good enough.  Even though I knew I was saved, sometimes I just felt like I wasn’t where I needed to be.  But it really helped me to realize and picture that I am that branch, and I am connected to the tree, and there’s nothing that’s going to change that unless I just conscientiously cut myself off.

So that’s what I want to leave with you today.  Build your faith by remembering that God loves to give.  Build your relationship with God by taking a road trip with him today, and knowing that, together with him, you can deal with whatever comes your way.  Build your security by realizing that you are a branch connected to the firm trunk, which is him.

Now let’s go out and have an adventure!

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God Writes the Best Stories!

Friends, I have missed blogging!!  I have been taking some time to go back to the basics, connect with God and  pray about what he wants me to do.   I am not sure about everything yet, but one thing I know — I want to continue communicating with whoever  would like to listen.

So I’ve been reading through Mark, and here is the scripture I looked at today:

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”  So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.  (Mark 5:21-28)

Actually, I read the whole passage through verse 43, where Jesus heals Jairus’s daughter.  But I don’t want to put the whole thing here, so read it on your own if you like.

But what this passage made me think about is how Jesus got to be a part of other people’s stories, and how we also are often in one another’s stories.  That is what my weekend was about.  Travis graduated from Tuskegee, and it made me feel so nostalgic.  I have so many pictures in my mind of his time here, so many good memories.  It makes my heart overflow.  What a privilege it is to be a part of someone’s story!  How awesome it is when they are a part of yours!  And Travis has very much been a part of the story of our church.  In some ways, he has been our church, because it is he who, through God, really got the Tuskegee ministry going.

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Travis is in red with his eyes closed.  So funny.

So in the passage above, one story Jesus became a part of was that of the synogogue ruler, Jairus, who had a little daughter who was very ill.  Jairus must have been so distraught, going out of his mind with worry.  He was an important man, and that makes it all the more amazing that he could come to Jesus and humble himself in this way, by bowing down before Jesus and pleading with him.  We read about many religious leaders who are too filled with pride to have faith, and Jesus blasts them.  It’s good to see that there are other religious leaders who do get it.  And humility has got to be key, the ability to humble yourself and grovel.

That’s something I am finally learning and working on.  I realized that one of the hardest things for me to sacrifice is my glory.  Even in being a Christian, I can give things up, and feel good about myself because I can tell myself that I am good.  So normal sacrifice doesn’t seem like a sacrifice to me sometimes.  But giving up feeling good about myself, now that is something else!  One thing I’m doing is not letting myself look in the mirror.  Don’t think I’m crazy — this really helps me!  I am loving focusing on God getting the glory, and not me.

But on to other things in the passage.  We know that the daughter of Jairus got healed.  Jesus is in the healing business, and it is so cool.  We think that was back then, but Jesus is still in the healing business.  My friend Jessica shared on Sunday about how she really wanted to have a baby, but she was so fearful that she couldn’t have one, because of her past sins, and other challenges she had.  Then, when she got pregnant, she was fearful that the baby would be healthy, because she had to be on medication.  But she said she held to the scripture in Hebrews 11 where the Bible says that faith is the substance of things not seen.  She couldn’t see her baby, but she believed that this was the baby she had been praying for, and that God would give her just the baby she needed.  And this prayer came true!

Ken with babies

Ken with children, one of which is Josiah, Jessica’s baby.

That is another thing that made me nostalgic this weekend.  It has been so special to be a part of Jessica and Julio’s story, and to see how God has worked in their lives.  Is there anything better?  Sometimes I look at the times when Jesus dropped what he was doing and went to heal someone.  It is so hard for me to change my schedule, I get stuck on my agenda.  But Jesus would just go at the drop of a hat.  Surely part of his motivation was that he loved being a part of the stories that God was writing with people’s lives.

And Jesus responded to faith!  That got him going every time!  How much do I approach Jesus with faith like that?  I mean, the bleeding woman just had to touch his cloak.  He didn’t even interact with her.  That’s how powerful faith is.  Do I believe that?  As I’ve been studying Mark, I am seeing more and more how important it is to WORK to have faith.  I think sometimes we just think we’re going to have it.  We’ve got to make an effort to let the word sink into our hearts.  We’ve got to wrestle with our stuff and decide to believe.

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

That’s all I have time for right now.  But I hope to keep sharing my life and what I’m learning in these quickly written blogs.  Look for more soon. God writes the best stories, and I can’t wait to relate more of them to you!

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The Best Day Ever!

best-day-ever

Yesterday morning, I got up as I usually do, with a feeling of apprehension.  It was like there was like the word “SHOULD” stamped across the day that was to come.

And then I looked at Facebook.  A Facebook friend posted that her son, who is about 8 or 9, gets up every day and says, “Today is the best day ever!”

“Why is it the best day ever?” she asks him.  He answers by naming all of the things he is going to do that day, or that are going to happen.

This really convicted me.  Because I so rarely have that attitude.  Instead I have a heaviness.

So as I thought of this, I had my quiet time.  I was studying the chapter in my “Spiritual Discovery” book about motives and desires.  It asked, “Why do you do the things you do?”  I had to think about that for a bit.  I brainstormed and wrote down three top motivations:  to be productive, to not fail, and to be in control.  Basically,  I want to be secure.  I want to build this safe strong life where I am not vulnerable.

And then it seemed like the Spirit moved me to read about Jesus, and I read Luke 4 with the question in my heart: What was Jesus tempted to desire?

The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.Luke 4:3

Jesus was tempted to try and take care of his own needs, instead of trusting God to meet his needs.

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5

Jesus was tempted to fill his needs with the wrong things.

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.  For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Luke 4:9-11

Jesus was tempted to make something happen so he could be assured of his value to God.

These things really hit home with me.  In a nutshell, Jesus was tempted to satisfy his desires and needs himself, instead of trusting God to meet his needs.  That is what I’ve been struggling with.   I’ve been trying to satisfy my desire to be safe by spinning my wheels all day with productivity and trying to doing what I “should” do, instead of going to God to meet that need.

Seeing that was a breakthrough!  So yesterday, when I started feeling insecure and scared, I went to God and asked him to help me.  The hardest time was the afternoon.  As the day got later, I began to feel a slump in energy and motivation.  Usually this would be a real downer for me because I wouldn’t feel like I could perform the way I needed to.  If I was going to be with people, it would be hard to be giving.  I would just feel blah.  I would have to just keep pushing through somehow.

But this time I prayed, over and over, that God would give me some strength and joy in my heart.  As I was cleaning to get ready for House Church to be at my house, I started to sing spiritual songs.  The next thing I knew, I was feeling energized and excited as I sang.  Ken got home, and I was upbeat and positive.  People streamed in the door for house church, and I joked with them and enjoyed talking with them.  It was great.  I was thankful.

At the end of House Church, Mike closed out the lesson by saying something that was so God.  He said that as we study our Bibles and mature, each day can be the best day, because we see new things about God and this helps us to grow.

I started my day with hearing about each day being the best day, and I ended my day in the same way!

And it was the best day.  I learned something new about God.  I grew.

It wasn’t without struggles.  It didn’t go perfectly.  But I was able to go to God when I was lacking, instead of pumping myself up with thoughts that I SHOULD be able to handle the lack.

And God came through.  I had some great interactions with friends. Good things happened.

But I don’t want it to be about what happened.  Because even though God is giving to me over and over again, and I am soooooo thankful, I don’t want my happiness to depend on that.

I want each day to be the best day because I connect with God as the source. Because I drink the living water.  Because I am wonderfully filled by just being near to God.

Because HE meets my needs in a way I cannot.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. Ps 73:28

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19

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Psalm 35, Part II — God Delights in Our Well-Being!

Ruthless witnesses come forward;

they question me on things I know nothing about.

They repay me evil for good

and leave me like one bereaved.

Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth

and humbled myself with fasting.

When my prayers returned to me unanswered,

I went about mourning

as though for my friend or brother.

I bowed my head in grief

as though weeping for my mother. (v. 11-14)

I am very convicted by David’s heart for others.  When they were sick, he fasted for them, and mourned and wept for them.  Am I practicing this type of love?  My friend lost her job.  Am I fasting and grieving with her?

This passage in Ps. 35 is a good one to encourage all of us to love sacrificially.

  • Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  I John 3:18
  • “I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. Phil 2:20

Psalms 35 goes on —

Rescue me from their ravages,

my precious life from these lions.

I will give you thanks in the great assembly;

among the throngs I will praise you.

It was very important to David that when God answered his prayers, he would thank and praise God publicly.   David said in II Samuel 22:49-50 that he would not only praise God in front of his fellow Jewish believers, but he would praise God in the hearing of the pagan nations.

You exalted me above my foes;

from a violent man you rescued me.

Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;

I will sing the praises of your name

David knew that he needed to praise, so that people would see God through him.

Today, we still need to help people see the glory of God through praise and thanks for how he is personally working in our lives.  In fact, it is our purpose.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  I Peter 2:0

“I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”  Isa 43:20b-21

As we go about our days, let’s tell others the latest story of how God has answered our prayers.  Let’s glorify God more!

Ps. 35 ends with this passage:

May those who delight in my vindication

shout for joy and gladness;

may they always say, “The Lord be exalted,

who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,

your praises all day long.

I love where David says that God delights in the well-being of his servant.  Here are some other translations of that verse:

  • who delights in giving peace to his servant.”
  • he wants his servant to be secure.
  • Who delights in the prosperity of His servant.
  • who delights in the welfare of his servant!

What an amazing God we serve!  His heart’s desire, his great pleasure, is in taking care of us and helping us to do well.  He wants us to be secure, and at peace.  This is a theme throughout the Bible.

  • I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them,  Jer. 32:40
  • If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matt 7:11

May this encourage us.  God loves to work for our good.  When he does, let us praise him publicly.  And let this motivate us to actively work for the good of others, as David did.

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