Solid Rock of Love

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It was a very draining weekend– physically and emotionally. I’m struggling to be spiritually insightful this morning. I really just want to sit on my back porch swing and listen to the birds greet the morning sun. My dad’s health is failing. I’m fighting to stay motivated in school and especially to finish my final paper. A friend and spiritual mentor is struggling in her faith. We endured a lot of drama with a loved one yesterday. I had to fold our campus Bible study for lack of participation. Finances are very strained. And I miss my granddaughter. I told God, “I don’t just need you to speak through me this morning – I need you to speak to me.” As I skimmed the Psalms – that’s a great place to go when you’re down – God gently pointed to a verse.

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ Your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought Joy to my soul” (Psalms 94:18-19).

Yes, it feels like I am slipping. So much has been shaken in my life recently – except God’s love. As I lean my weary self against Him, I find strength. He embraces me with His goodness, kindness, and grace and braces me with His never-ending, never-failing, ever-faithful love.

Yes, anxiety has nearly beaten me up lately. I know, I’m supposed to be “anxious for nothing,” but I confess that I’ve been anxious for a lot. But God hasn’t berated me. Instead, He has comforted me through His Word and through dear brothers and sisters in Christ who have reminded me that He is still very much in control of all these things that worry me. And then we got to Facetime with Joy and that did my heart so much good.

Yes, I desperately need God’s love and consolation. I’ll bet you do too. Life gets hard sometimes. God knows that. He cares about what you care about because He cares about you. Beloved, when everything around you is shaking, He is the solid rock of love.

Holy Habits

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I am such a creature of habit. I was scrolling through my Facebook memories and realized that I am wearing the same outfit that I wore exactly one year ago today. It’s like I schedule my clothes – every April 7 I will wear the grey-striped pants and the white shirt with the bright pink flowers. Well, maybe that’s stretching it a bit, but I do have daily routines – alarm goes off – shower – get dressed (better check the calendar first!) – start the coffee – take my medicine – sit down with my coffee and the Bible – write the day’s devotional – more coffee and breakfast – more meds – brush the teeth – put on shoes – then off to work taking the same route every day. I can tell that I operate on automatic pilot most mornings because when something interrupts my routine, my whole day is thrown off. Joy stays with us for part of the week and my routine is wrecked repeatedly as I get her up, fed, dressed, lunch packed, and dropped off with the sitter.
Habits are not bad things in and of themselves. Some habits (like bathing and brushing the teeth) are good. Some not so much, as I have the bad habit of biting my nails. But I’m trying to develop some other habits – holy habits that will benefit my day, and my life, more than my morning routine. Like trusting in the Lord. Delighting in the Lord. Committing my way to the Lord. Being still before the Lord. Waiting patiently for the Lord. Hoping in the Lord. Keeping the way of the Lord. Perhaps you detected a theme there. The Lord needs to be my holy habit. What does that mean? Everything in my life – in my day – should be about the Lord.
All of these are taken from Psalm 37, where David is encouraging himself not to become anxious and fretful because of the evil and wickedness around him, but to trust, delight, commit, be still, wait, hope, and submit to the Lord. That’s good advice for these difficult times, but they are also good daily habits to develop as part of a holy life. When our lives are centered around the Lord He will bless us with His peace. Maybe then I can break the bad habit of biting my nails.

Standing up to the Big Dog

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“They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed’ (Nehemiah 6:9).”

As kids growing up, my oldest brother often tried to intimidate me. His favorite thing to do was tease me until he made me mad and I would start swinging at him. He would put his hand on the top of my head and extend his arm so I was swinging in the air. That just made me madder. I miss my brother greatly, but I don’t miss how he loved to aggravate and intimidate me.

The Israelite captives returned to Jerusalem to find their city in ruins, the Temple destroyed, and the wall that protected their homes a pile of rubble. Nehemiah led the people to restore the wall to the displeasure of their neighbors, who “became angry and greatly incensed [and] ridiculed the Jews” (Nehemiah 4:1, 2).  They said, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed” (Nehemiah 6:9). But the Israelites “prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (4:9) and “rebuilt the wall . . . for the people worked with all their heart” (4:6). They refused to bow to the enemy’s intimidation and they completed the wall in fifty-two days!

You have an enemy. His name is Satan. He hates you because God loves you and has a Kingdom purpose for your life. He will try his best to intimidate you and wear you down so that you will give up and walk. Don’t let him. Like the enemies of the Israelites, your enemy is fighting a losing battle. Satan has no authority where God has called you. The truth is – he’s trying to intimate you because you intimidate him. Paul understood that: “I will stay on . . . because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me” (1 Corinthians 16:9). Beloved, if what you are called to do is so threatening to the enemy that he’s trying to make you quit, then it’s that much more important that you don’t. Keep at it and let God fight for you.

Peace Rules

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We live in a world filled with turmoil. If you need proof, just look to Washington D.C. There is unrest and violence in our nation and even our homes are rocked by discord and anger. Our hearts are filled with anxiety, hate, and fear. Yet, peace is possible in my heart and yours – and it might just cause a ripple of peace in our homes, workplaces, schools, communities, and nation.

Colossians 3:15 tells us to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” The original terminology for “rules” means, to decide, to make the call – you could say we must “let the peace of Christ be the umpire.” My husband used to umpire for Little League baseball, and it was up to him to decide if a pitch was a ball or strike, a hit was fair or foul, or if a player was out or safe. Whatever he decided stood. Coaches argued his calls at times, but his decision was the final word. When the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, we take His determination, through His Word and His Spirit, as the final word on our situation.

He said “Do not worry . . . your Father knows what you need” (Matthew 6:25-34), so we rest our anxious hearts and trust in His faithfulness. He said, “Rejoice and be glad” when you face persecution Matthew 5:11-12), so we receive the suffering of Christ with Joy. He said “Love your neighbor” (Matthew 22:39), and your enemy (Matthew 5:44), so we let the love of God love through us (1 John 4:19). He said “Ask, seek, knock,” and then trust Him to give (Matthew 7:7-11) and so we present our petitions and wait for His answer.  He said, “turn the other cheek, give more than is asked of you, and go the extra mile” (Matt. 5: 38-42), and so we set aside our “rights” and take up the humble nature of a servant (Phil 2:6-8). He said, “I will love you with an everlasting love” (Psalm 103:17), and so we take Him at His Word.

When the peace of Christ rules and reigns in your heart and mine, there is peace on the inside and peace on the outside that affects our homes, our nations, and our world. Beloved, will you let the peace of Christ be the rule in your heart?

On God’s Side

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Like the rest of the world, this year has been rough for me. Sometimes life happens that way, one problem piled on top of another. The question now becomes, how will I react to it? I’ll be honest and say I haven’t always been the paragon of faith I hoped to be. At first, I got upset, even got angry, then I settled into a spirit of discouragement.  Of course, I prayed – sort of. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I whined. “God just look at this – what am I going to do? I can’t take this anymore!” And yes, I am the one who writes constantly about having faith and trusting God in our difficulties. Sometimes it’s had to take your own advice.

Recently, as I whined and cried to God, a verse come to mind (see that’s why we need to be students of the Bible). 2 Chronicles 20:12: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” Immediately the question came to my heart, “Child, where are your eyes?” My eyes have been on me, on my problems, on my fears, and what I have to do to fix the situation. They certainly haven’t been on God. All through the Bible, when difficult times came to God’s people, the difference between victory and defeat came down to whether the people were looking at their enemy or their God. David is the perfect example. Goliath was harassing the army of Israel, “When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear” (1 Sam 24). When David saw him, the shepherd-boy advanced with his sling and five stone and declared, “I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty!” (v. 45). The others saw the giant and ran away from him. David kept his eyes on God and ran with the Lord.  Who do you think won that battle?

Looking back at 2 Chronicles 20, the Lord’s answer to Jehoshaphat’s prayer comes in verse 20—“have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld.” Beloved our only hope in these difficult days – whatever they may be – is to turn our eyes from the things that worry us and turn them to God who cares for and is able to help us. God’s never lost a fight. You’re on the side of victory.

Sweet Dreams

Because her mommy occasionally works the late, late shift, our granddaughter sleeps on a little bed in our room. She is getting much more accustomed to it than I. She rarely wakes up during the night. I, however, barely sleep.  I am so concerned that I will not hear her if she does wake up that I can’t relax and allow myself to sleep. What if she needs me? What if she slips out of her little toddler bed and wanders around the house? What if she has a nightmare? What if . . . what if . . . what if?  I know Someone else who doesn’t sleep at night, but not because He’s worried.  The Bible says that “[The Lord] who watches over you will not slumber . . . (Psalm 121:3). The obvious reason that God does not sleep is that He never tires. He is boundless energy and keeps the universe spinning.  But the biggest reason the Lord does not slumber nor sleep is that He has nothing to worry about. He is the sovereign Lord over heaven and earth. He commands the sun, moon, and stars. He has established His plan for all the ages and nothing can thwart His purposes. He has no fear. He has no uncertainty. He has complete and perfect control of all things.

Which begs the question: Why am I awake and worried?  If God is on His throne at every hour of every day, what will ever get past Him? What will He miss? Nothing. Not. One. Thing. Which begs another question: Do I trust Him? Do I trust Him with the unsettling political climate? Do I trust Him with the frustrations I face? Do I trust Him when I can’t see what’s around the corner? Do I trust Him to care for the most precious thing in all the world to me?  Is Joy safe under His watchful eye? The answers are yes and yes and yes and yes and yes and yes.

Beloved, what will you ever face that escapes God’s notice? What can ever be bigger than Him or out of His realm of control? Then lay your head down on the soft pillow of His love and sleep well tonight. Your Heavenly Father is wide awake and standing watch.

The Whiner

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Sometimes I can be a real whiner. A complainer. A kvetch. You know the kind – when you ask them, “How are you?” they tell you. Everything. And it casts such a dismal cloud over you. I’ve lost some friends over the years because I was such a heavy weight to bear. I’m trying to stem the avalanche of bellyaching that comes out of my mouth. I don’t want to burden others with my burdens. But sometimes you just need to vent. As much as I vent, I should own an HVAC company.

Yesterday my heart was so heavy I just couldn’t bear up under the weight of it. I cried and prayed.  And whined. I told the Lord I just couldn’t take it anymore. And He just listened. He didn’t agree that my situation was a disaster. He didn’t berate me for my lack of faith. He didn’t chide me for being such a burden to Him. He just let me rant and cry. How thankful I am for His wonderful patience with me. I’m grateful that He doesn’t cringe when He sees me coming. I’m grateful that he doesn’t roll His eyes at the grating sound of my voice. I’m grateful that He doesn’t wish I would quit my griping and let Him get back to running the universe. I’m grateful that He doesn’t tell me to “suck it up, buttercup!” I’m grateful that He listens with His heart as well as His ears. And I am grateful that He takes my burdens and carries the weight of them on His shoulders.

That’s the promise He made in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened [I’m there Lord], and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The image was familiar to His agricultural audience. It was of a stronger ox yoked with a weaker ox as a working team. The stronger ox bore the bulk of the burden.

Is your burden too heavy for you to bear? Jesus has His shoulder under your load. He’s helping you carry your burden. In truth, Beloved, He’s carrying you.

When There’s No Way Out

“Lord, I just don’t know what to do.”

“This is a no-win situation.”

“I don’t see any way out of this chaos God.”

Ever said anything like that?  I know I have, and quite recently too. Life has a way of pushing us into overwhelming situations. We look to the left and there is no escape. A glance to the right shows no way out. What can you and I do in times like these?

I have a verse (you knew I did, didn’t you) that I turn to when there’s no visible solution.  It is in 2 Chronicles 20 and it comes amid fierce and frightening warfare.  The report comes to King Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you. . . .” (v. 2). Jehoshaphat didn’t rally his own army in response – he did something wiser: “Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord” (v. 3), and he called the people to fast.  Then he stood before God at the temple and prayed. He reminded himself and all the people that God was their ruler with “power and might in [His] hand” (v. 5-6) and that He had promised to protect and defend them. He presented the situation to God: we are under attack and are powerless against our enemy. Then Jehoshaphat made a declaration that I have turned to again and again and again:

“O our God, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (v. 12).

That’s the answer: put it out before Him and keep your eyes on the Lord. Oh, I know that sounds simple, but it’s so hard to do when chaos reigns and we face impossible situations. But it’s the best advice you’ll ever hear.  It’s where I am right now. I can either drive myself crazy with worry and frustration, or I can keep my eyes on the Lord and watch for Him to work on my behalf. He sure came through for the people of Judah. The prophet told the king, “The battle is not yours, but God’s” (v. 15). And God wiped out the enemy as the people sang and praised Him. They never had to lift a sword.

That’s the God I need over my impossible situation.

Do you have a hard thing with no way out, Beloved? Tell God about it, then keep your eyes on Him and you will witness the power and might of the Lord.

Drowning in a Desert

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“This is what the Lord says – He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters” (v. 16); “I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (v. 19).

Some days it feels like I am both drowning and wandering through a desert.  I know, you can’t drown in a desert, but let me explain.  My emotions seem like an overflowing river, thoughts rushing this way and that, pulling me under and threatening to take my very breath.  For a split second, I come up for air – “I believe!”  In the next the waves crash over my head again – “But I am afraid!”  God promises to make a way – a path through the waters of fearful thoughts and discouragement that threaten to drown me.  He promises dry ground to cross over to the other side.

Yet I am also in the desert where nothing grows and all seems lost – walking through a season of drought.  Health issues.  Grief.  Family tension.  Responsibilities that shouldn’t be mine.  Financial struggles.  Too much to do and not enough time to do it. They beat down like the scorching sun as I wander looking for an oasis.  God promises to make a way here too – to provide streams in this wasteland.  Mind you not to drown me like the sea, but to refresh and restore me.

Our Father meets our needs for rescue and refreshing.  He gives us dry ground and cool springs.  He never fails to notice us wherever we are – even when we’re in two places at once.  Oh, my drowning, wandering friend – let me throw you a lifeline of hope.  You don’t have to fear because God hears you, He is with you, He fights for you, He will never leave nor forsake you, and He promises to help you.  He knows where you are right now, and He knows what you need right here.  And He will make a way where there seems to be no way.

Trust Me

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

The disciples were anxious because the Lord had told them, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. Where I am going you cannot come.” (John 13:33).  Peter, speaking what everyone was thinking, wanted to know where He was going and why they could not accompany Him (John 13:36, 37).

Jesus understood their fears.  That is why He offered them words of comfort and assurance.  Notice, though, that He did not say, “Now don’t you worry, everything is going to turn out fine – just wait and see.”  He didn’t even tell them, “It’s okay – see this is all part of my plan.”  No, the answer Jesus gave them was:

“Trust in God.  Trust also in me” (John 14:1b).

He did not soothe their frazzled minds with the common words of assurance.  He was their assurance.  They just needed to remember . . .

They had walked with Him for three years.  They had heard His words, experienced His love, seen His power over the storm and in the storm, felt His hands pouring water on their dusty feet.  They knew that He was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).  They knew He was their friend (John 15:15).

“Trust in me.”

Beloved, Jesus knows you are afraid and weary.  He knows that you can’t see past this moment – this grief, this shock, this heartache, this very hard season.  He knows you cannot envision the road ahead and you don’t know what will happen.  He knows your anxious heart and He says to you,

“Trust in me.”

Trust in the words He has said – “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you” (Isaiah 41:10).  “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Trust in His love.  Trust in His faithfulness.  Trust in His promise.  Trust in the One who gave His life to redeem you from your sins.  Trust in the One who rose from the dead to give you eternal life.

Trust in Jesus – there is no greater assurance.