This is dedicated with prayer to those in Moore, Oklahoma as well as all those whose “soul feels crushed.”
I had been struggling with a recent decision of mine. I had to choose between 2 things. In my heart I felt that God had led me to one particular choice so I felt that I was doing what He wanted. In fact, when I expressed my second-guessing, someone involved encouraged me by saying “you need to believe that you did exactly what you were supposed to do.”
But the decision I made wasn’t what I really wanted or even what I thought (in the back of my mind) would be the FINAL outcome. So…..even though I had peace about my decision, I still kinda second-guessed myself. Had I really heard God correctly? Unfortunately, I tend to do that a lot….but less than I did.
I just prayed that He would sort it out according to His Plan….what He really wanted. That doors He wanted closed would be closed and doors He wanted opened would be opened. And of course, that’s exactly what He did.
I could be wrong, but I have an idea why it happened that way. But in any case, this is just another step in the journey of trusting God…..even if it makes no sense at the time and even if I don’t have faith in myself. I just need faith in the Faithful One.
I’m sure what I just wrote makes absolutely no sense to you with all its ambiguity and vagueness! But that’s OK…..just wanted to acknowledge His Power and that HE is control. Always. Hallelujah for that!
“In my heart and my soul, Lord I give You control. Consume me from the inside out.”
Those words are easy to say but harder to REALLY mean them. There have been many, many, many, many times that I’ve prayed this with all my heart as I sang them. I really do DESIRE this but have to admit that I always struggle with the C-Word – CONTROL! Constantly, constantly, constantly.
The hardest part of being on the worship team is sometimes feeling like a hypocrite as I sing certain words. It all comes back to “feelings” for me. I am such an emotional person. I don’t always “feel” the way I think I should or the way I have in the past. Although I realize that the Faith Walk is about obedience and surrendering and trusting, etc., there have been so many times that I have “felt” the Spirit, “felt” EMOTIONAL, etc. and when I don’t “feel” something, I feel (oooops….see? Can’t get away from it!) that I’m not close to the Lord or that I’m doing something wrong or not in His will, etc. That I’m not DOING enough…not reading my Bible enough, not studying hard enough, not praying enough, not being DEVOTED enough.
So I sing this with faith. Faith that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it. He can transform me from the inside out and will as long I continue to have faith and trust. It’s not up to me. It’s not due to my work or my emotions. It’s all about Him. It’s about His Grace, His Light, His Glory. It’s about worshipping Him even when I don’t “feel” it simply because He is worth of praise.
I have to confess that I was feeling a little discouraged last night after the Pastoral Search Committee met. We have been meeting for months, reading profiles, listening to sermons,interviewing, developing questions, praying and talking. I was second-guessing and worried about our candidates and what our church needs at this point, our vision/direction and who might be the senior pastor that will be our partner in getting there.
I should have known better. I needed a little reminder that we’re just His tools – that’s He’s in control. As usual, God’s timing is impeccable and on target and speaks to my heart right where I need it!!!
Our Life Group is reading through the Bible, and I was reading 1 Chronicles 28:20 this morning when David is turning over the throne and the building of the temple to Solomon:
David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.”
Another email devotional that I wanted to share with you. It’s right where I am right now……
By Mike DeVries
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13
We live in an instant society, don’t we? It seems that we can get anything we want, how we want it, when we want it. A few weeks back, I was looking at upgrading a bit of our backyard landscaping, so I decided to head over to Home Depot to see what I could find. Now mind you, I’m not very good at gardening. I seem to have quite a knack for killing anything living and green. Perhaps you know what this is like as well.
As I entered Home Depot and asked someone for help, I was directed to the outside patio where I was met with a myriad of foliage options, all full-grown and ready to plant. I found an employee who was willing to help. I asked, “Not that I’m ready for this, but where are all the seeds? Do you still carry those?”
“Sure. But no one really uses them anymore. Too much work.”
It seems we live in a society where we want the instant result, off-the-shelf, and ready to go – but rarely are we willing to personally put in the effort required for the results we desire. We want the destination; we just don’t want the journey.
Oddly, we approach our faith in much the same manner. We want wholeness now. We want freedom now. We want peace now. Somehow we’ve bought into a myth that says once we embrace life in Jesus, it’s over – mission accomplished, we’ve reached the finish line. But what if embracing life in Jesus is just the start of the journey? What if, rather than crossing the finish line, all we’ve done is take a step across the starting line? This is what I needed to hear right now! Although I already know it, there are times when I just can’t SEE any progress and get frustrated and discouraged by it. I think “What am I doing wrong? Why am I not a ‘better Christ-follower’? Why am I not doing great things for the Lord? Why am I not fulfilling my purpose and call? Where’s my faith?”
This is the experience of the people in the scriptures. Faith wasn’t about having all the right answers, or arriving at some final destination, but was about being in process. It was about interacting with the present and living God, always growing in their understanding of this God. That is why Paul writes what he does in Philippians 2:12-13.
He tells the followers of Jesus that just as they had done in the past, so they should “continue to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” In other words, don’t think you’ve arrived, but continue to wrestle with what it looks like to live this salvation kind of life in the here and now. He tells them to do this with “fear and trembling,” or with a sense of awe and importance, because to live this way is to expand the dream God has for this world – His good purpose for all things. This is the best explanation of that verse I’ve ever heard….speaks right to me. I always wonder what that means….”“continue to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” WRESTLING…I say again WRESTLING…. with what it looks like to live this salvation kind of life in the here and now. Yeah, that part I’m pretty good at….Now to continue to submit and allow Him to continue to work IN me and THROUGH me and to remember this is a journey….
So, as you journey this week, approach your faith as a work in progress, asking yourself the question, “What might it look like for me to live the good news in the here and now?”
How might your life change if you could admit that you were in process – on a journey – rather than already at the destination? What areas are you currently in process with?
This is the reflection I wrote for yesterday’s sermon. Now I just need to COMPLETELY take it heart and follow it.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself lying cushioned by a velvety green blanket of grass under a sky painted the most perfect shade of blue, with the occasional white cloud billowing by. Feel the soft, gentle breeze lightly brushing against your skin. Hear the tranquil murmuring of a nearby brook as it caresses the rocks. Lazily watch the path of a butterfly as it floats along its path. Empty your mind of everything except the pleasure and experience of this moment right now. Be refreshed.
That is the mental image I always have of the first verses in Psalm 23: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” (NIV) Do you long to experience that? I DO!
We are on this quest to DO. To ACCOMPLISH. To be EFFICIENT, ACTIVE, DILIGENT and INDUSTRIOUS. On our vacations or days off, we feel the need to fill them with activities, to be productive, even if they are fun activities. If we slow down or try to relax, we may feel guilty because we are “wasting time.” I think we’re being lied to by an enemy that doesn’t want us to be refreshed. Are you BUSY? Being Under Satan’s Yoke?
Why did God include “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy” in the Ten Commandments? As a burden or another rule to follow? Or did He give us a gift? A precious gift of restoration. A time to come to Him and allow Him to refresh us with His Living Water. Do you know that deep satisfying feeling as you drink ice-cold water when you’re parched with thirst? We feel replenished, freshened, rejuvenated, revitalized. That’s how it should feel if we let Him quench our soul-thirst. If we allow Him to refresh us.
He knew our tendency was to STRIVE and try to do it on our own! Re-read those verses in Psalm 23. He MAKES me lie down, He LEADS, and THEN He REFRESHES. So this needed and vital Sabbath rest is partially about “unplugging” from our physical work because we are tired. And tired disciples are ineffective disciples. But it’s also about “unplugging” from striving on our own. It’s about “unplugging” from whatever is taking us away from those green pastures and quiet waters. It’s about “unplugging” from the world’s pull on us. It’s about “unplugging” from the lie that we have to DO because if we don’t, then it won’t get done. It’s about relinquishing our control and allowing Him to do His work in us and through us. It’s about being still and quiet and listening to the One who loves us. It’s about “plugging” into the One who can do all things. Even restore and refresh us. And then we are able to find rest in His promises.
I participated in Ash Wednesday for the very first time last week. It was the first time for many of us at our church since we do not normally follow “high church” liturgical traditions. However, over the past few years, I have really come to respect, and in fact, VALUE some of these traditions and rituals in a way I never thought I would. There’s something about them that “sets the stage” for a more sacred space, a re-alignment of your heart and posture of worship that I’m finding more and more appealing.
Growing up, I had the viewpoint of God as the judgmental, vengeful Almighty who was trying to catch me in the act of doing something wrong so He could punish me. That I was going to hell if I didn’t shape up. If I wasn’t “good.” And of course, I never could measure up. So for many years, I figured He wasn’t a God I wanted anything to do with. It’s taken me quite a while to start feeling the “friendship” aspect of Jesus. The friendship that someone has defined as “knowing the heart of another and sharing one’s heart with another.”
I want that closeness to develop and grow deeper and deeper. I most definitely want My trust in Him to grow so much that I AUTOMATICALLY confide in Him and understand so completely and confidently His “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” that I do not worry or fear any longer. I want to know His Heart more. I want Him to share His Heart with me more and more.
But the danger is being too casual in this relationship. To ignore or forget His sovereignty. To not be in AWE of who He is.
That’s where I seem to need some of these traditions and rituals. After reading through Leviticus about the exacting measurements for the tabernacle and rituals pertaining to offerings and festivals, I felt I needed to define a sacred space for my morning devotions. I have a special corner in my living room where I’ve placed meaningful items as reminders, much as the Old Testament patriarchs piled up stones as markers to remember what the Lord did. I’ve gotten in the habit of lighting a candle, too.
I started this post pondering ashes.
It seems I’ve have taken off down a path that I hadn’t originally intended, but since ashes denote purification, among other things, I guess it’s not entirely off-base.
Ash-pondering to continue next time….
Such a great devotional from the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young:
Follow Me one step at a time. That is all I require of you. In fact, that is the only way to move through this space/time world. You see huge mountains looming, and you start wondering how you’re going to scale those heights. Meanwhile, because you’re not looking where you’re going, you stumble on the easy path where I am leading you now. As I help you get back on your feet, you tell Me how worried you are about the cliffs up ahead. But you don’t know what will happen today, much less tomorrow. Our path may take an abrupt turn, leading you away from those mountains. There may be an easier way up the mountains than is visible from this distance. If I do lead you up the cliffs, I will equip you thoroughly for that strenuous climb. I will even give My angels charge over you, to preserve you in all your ways.
Keep your mind on the present journey, enjoying My Presence. Walk by faith, not by sight, trusting Me to open up the way before you.
Psalm 18:29; Psalm 91:11-12 (AMP); 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
That passage has been sent to me several different times, several different ways over the past couple of months…..especially verse 18….and I’ve quoted it to a friend of mine that I really felt need to hear it. Along with Psalm 147:3 and Isaiah 61:1.
Maybe I need to back up a little.
A few years ago, a friend of mine persuaded a small group of women to read the book Listening Prayer: My Sheep Hear My Voice by Dave and Linda Olson, which outlined a very new concept to me. To talk to Jesus and actually expect Him to answer in a very real way. Imagine that! In fact, this book addressed learning how to listen to Him in our daily lives, a DIALOGUE rather than a monologue, and even emotional healing through listening. We actually had a couple of listening sessions with some of these women, but for a variety of reasons, didn’t pursue it for long. (Maybe the enemy had something to do with that?)
Somewhere along the line, I picked up the book Victory over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ by Neil Anderson that “emphasizes the importance of believing and internalizing the cardinal truths of Scripture as a base from which to renew the mind and fend off Satan’s relentless attempt to convince us that we are less than Christ empowers us to be” ….but never read it. And last year sometime, I had found a free Kindle book on Amazon called A Guide for Listening and Inner-Healing Prayer: Meeting God in the Broken Places by Rusty Rustenbach….I skimmed through a couple of chapters and thought “It would be good to work through this book” and put it aside.
As Psalm 34:17-18 kept popping up, I remembered that a print that I bought from an artist Jonathan Rogers (check out more of his artwork and his statement), who came to our church years ago to talk and exhibit his work, had the reference Psalm 34:18 on it! When I originally saw the print, I was just totally drawn to the image. All these things started to come together. I suggested to the friend mentioned above, that I would be willing to go through a “listening prayer session/sessions” with her, as outlined in the books…so we did one. I felt it was pretty awesome, and I believe she did, too. So we have more sessions in mind.
My next step is a little mini-retreat for myself. Time to delve more into this PERSONALLY….know I have some broken places that need binding up and the healing touch of Jesus’ love so that His love can pour out to others. Learning to Be is still a journey.
For Christmas, my mother gave me a beautiful little leather devotional book with my name stamped in the leather – Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. So far, it’s confirming what I believe Jesus IS CALLING me to this year. Well, actually what’s He’s been calling me to for quite a while, but it seems to be more urgent, more focused….His timing + my readiness + my willingness = what He wants from me. Let me quote some sentences of what I’ve read so far this year (written in the First Person of Jesus….hence the book’s name Jesus Calling):
I realize that there is nothing really new about any of those statements. But believe me, there are tons of GC’s in there for me. Including a Bible passage in the book that has come into my little world many times over the past month or two that I will be addressing later.
Two or three years ago, there was a popular secular song that had, unfortunately, a VERY catchy little tune with lyrics that certainly didn’t jibe with my beliefs. I didn’t even listen that much to radio stations that would play it, but it was everywhere….including my head! One night, as I lay awake with this song playing over and over in my head, like It’s a Small World After All (you’ll probably be cursing my name for the next couple of days HA!), I prayed “Please take this song out of my head. Give me a new song….”
Immediately, “Don’t Get Comfortable” by Brandon Heath came to me and I started singing it in my mind. I was floored when I “sang” the words “this is your new song. ”
I’m reminded of this song this year. I really do feel that I am being called out of my comfort zone into a new adventure. A new path that I referred to in my previous post. I’m “standing on the edge” like Brandon sings. The lyrics “So afraid. But you don’t have to be afraid, even if you make mistakes” so speaks to my thoughts, my feelings. Even “Can you feel the call of love. Is it moving you to be a child of God, of love?”
So much in my head right now….