What’s Pulling Your Train?

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The experts say we have to hear something seven times before we really get it. So, here’s a new way to say what I’ve said before: 

When life throws a curveball and doubts begin to erode your joy, it helps to ask ourselves this question: What’s pulling your train? Is it faith, fact, or feeling?

The most common human order is FEELING FIRST! We make our feelings the powerful engine of our emotional train, leaving faith to follow along far behind as the powerless caboose. When that happens, our shifting moods and circumstances crowd out all the good we know to be true.

But God loves us even when the sun isn’t shining! He’s in charge even when the world looks impossibly broken or cruel.

God asks us to reverse the cars on that train. Faith comes first. We trust the God of the universe, the Lord who loves us, based on all he has told us in his Word and all he has revealed to us as we’ve relied on him. Of course, that means we need to learn the facts about him.

Memorization can help. Here’s a good place to start:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Of course, if you’re like me, memorizing Bible verses can be a little tough. Music always helps. So, let me close by asking you to click over to YouTube, where Chris Rice can help you implant that verse and all its promises into your heart and mind.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness sung by Chris Rice

 

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Father Knows Best by Beth Smith

 
photo-1526541588356-01de54d1ea1b candy raw pixel @rawpixel via Unsplash.com

John had been out of work for nearly a year, and times were tough. One day, though, he decided to take his little daughter Sarah out for a rare treat—candy from a convenience store. Sarah, being much smaller than her very tall father, began to look with great delight at the brightly colored, cheap candy displayed on the lower shelves, candy was so cheap it didn’t even qualify as a splurge.

John said, “No, Sarah, look up here. There’s the really good candy. You can choose anything, not just what’s down there.” But, sure of what she wanted, Sarah picked some bright red balls of candy. Loving father that he is, John said, “Sarah, those are sour balls, very sour. I know you, and you won’t like them. Look, here’s a Snickers, a Nestle Crunch bar.” But Sarah would have nothing to do with that. She saw only what was right in front of her, at her own eye level. It wasn’t the best she could have, and was nowhere near what her father wanted to give her.

John told me he was disappointed that his desire to give Sarah something special, something big, went unfulfilled. He went on to say that God used the experience to reveal to him that he, John, often made the same mistake that Sarah did. He was making some poor choices because he could see the situation only at his eye level, while his heavenly Father saw the whole picture. Don’t we all do that?

Our Father sees what’s best for us better than we can. We’re limited by our own “short sightedness.”  Unable to see the top shelf, we choose a lollipop over a king sized Snickers bar.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

Our Father knows what will fulfill us, because he created us. He knows what will really make us happy, better than we know ourselves. We might choose red sourballs because they look good, instead of letting God give us the desires he has created in our hearts. He puts his desires there. Note our part in this scripture:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3-4 NIV).

Do we take away God’s joy in giving to us because we want to do it ourselves, our own way?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT).

What if, today, Jesus asked us the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” We’re human. We’d say we want a job, healing, the return of a wayward child, a house or maybe a new way of life.

Wait. Stop. Think. Jesus knows our needs. We can tell him what we think we need, but then we ought to tell him, “Whatever you think is best. Your will be done.”

We can let God choose for us only if we trust his love and his wisdom, and believe in his power. If we want God’s best, we must let him choose.

 

photo by raw pixel @rawpixel via Unsplash.com

Stop and Start

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Well, he did it again! My growth group leader taught a lesson last week that was so good, I’ve just got to share it with you. So, in the edited words of Jim Harris, I give you “Stop and Start”.

What do we need to do when troubles come?

STOP thinking that God is angry with us. Romans 8:1 tells us there’s no condemnation for us. Our sin was dealt with at the cross.

STOP trying to take control. God is sovereign. He’s in control of the day of our birth, the day of our death and everything in between.

START trusting in God’s ways even when you don’t understand them. (That’s what it means to walk by faith.) Isaiah 55:8 tells us why: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”

START believing God’s promises. You’ll find hundreds of them in the Bible. It’s a fallen world. Life is not fair. Bad things happen. But God promises us good. Joseph waited in an Egyptian prison. Peter slept many nights in prison. Look what happened! God’s people were saved from starvation. Christianity was spread.

God has a reason for every trial or trouble, and he wants us to depend on him!

Even If…

forest-1529055__480 fear pixa 7 9 18I used to struggle with fear. A month or so ago my sister challenged me to put into words the change God has wrought in me. It’s taken awhile for me to find a way to do that, but now I realize the heart of the matter comes from switching just one word for another.

What if?” has become “Even if!”

Recognition of all the hard things life can bring is now enveloped in the realization that I’ll never face any of those things without the surrounding love of our Lord. My fear of what might happen has been overcome by my assurance that, while most of the things my imagination drums up will never occur, even those that do will be managed by my King.

And I am not alone in this understanding.

  • Daniel 3:16-18 tells us, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’”
  • Esther 4:15-16 says, “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’”
  • And in Matthew 26: 39-42, you can read this about Jesus: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’…He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

We’ve all been plagued by imaginary horrors, by the “What if?” that marches across the brain, pushing out peace. I hope you’ll take up the weapon of “Even if!” to join Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and our Lord in defeating the enemy in his fearful ploys, finding the peace that passes understanding once again!

How Faith Comes (by Beth Smith)

ear pixa 5 16 18When times are tough, we may feel as if we’re losing our faith in God. That’s when we need these verses:

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NASB). I’ve heard the Word for sixty years, so why does my faith wax and wane? Well, there’s hearing and there’s hearing .

Proverbs 4:20-23 says, “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ears to my words…Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

What comes out of our hearts? Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34 NIV). We find out what’s in our hearts by noticing what we say. If our hearts are full of God’s words, his truth, then that’s what will come out of our mouths.

What we say is really important. Jesus said we would be both justified and condemned by our words. Good words should come out of our mouths! I remember an old song that said, “You’ve gotta accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative. Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”[1]

Sure, we’re going to have troubles and heartaches. We live in a fallen world. That’s why we need a strong, confident, consistent faith—faith in Almighty God, faith that carries us through anything and everything. We need to use the promises he gives us, and let our faith be activated by his words.

For example, if we’re feeling afraid, we can turn to Psalm 56:11 (NIV), “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” The Bible is full of verses we can rely on when we’re afraid. Once we see and hear the words, and let them into our minds, they begin to guard our hearts. And then, faith is produced.

Faith comes by hearing. That’s a great promise! If we go through a time of doubting, we needn’t worry. Faith comes. It comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

[1] Words and Music by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, 1944.

 

Target Practice (Written a week ago)

 

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As I write this, I’m on a plane headed to Dallas from Vancouver, BC. This sounds delightful, except for the fact that, when I boarded the plane, it was headed to Austin (as in my hometown). Moments before we were due to land, the captain came on the speaker and said, “Folks, you’ve probably noticed how we’ve been flying around in a circle for a while. There’s a bit of bad weather in Austin right now. We can only circle for about 10 more minutes before we’ll have to reroute.” You could almost feel the hopes and prayers flowing through the cabin as we circled, but the scheduled landing was not to be. ‘Same goes for the Fourth of July evening I thought we’d be spending watching fireworks with our grandchildren. Ditto for the good night’s sleep to make up for our very early departure to the airport this morning.

So, now I get to practice what I preach, to trust that all will be well, to exhibit a joyful God-is-in-control attitude as I await further news and instructions. It helps to look at my blessings here:

  • I am NOT in the tight and non-reclining last row, center seat. (‘Did that last month for a short flight that couldn’t have been short enough.)
  • I still have a good bit left in my water bottle and one more snack bar. (Okay, it’s not a snack bar, it’s a packet of instant oatmeal, but that’s better than nothing if we’re stuck in plane for hours. Maybe Steve has a little bit of chocolate left and will be willing to share.)
  • My phone still has juice, so I can read more of the Eugene Peterson book Steve bought for us on Kindle.
  • I followed the nudge to wear very light clothes, which will come in handy if we sit on the tarmac and the a/c goes weak.
  • Steve is with me, and we are safe.

There’s probably even more hidden blessings here. Some I may notice later. Some I may never know about. But I am here. And I am smiling. And I hope my “misfortune” will be, as you read this, a word of encouragement for you today.

(Photo by Nickas Tidbury via Unsplash.com.)