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!

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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.)

I Don’t Know! (and Pie!)

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Warning: Bragging grandmother ahead.

Nick’s verbal skills are exploding, but sometimes he’s still a little hard to understand. A couple of weeks ago, he said “Mon hee hee!” over and over. Steve and I remained baffled. Eventually he gave up and said “Pie!” (Which means crustless pumpkin pie, which is now a staple in this Nana’s fridge.) Later in the afternoon, we gave him what our family affectionately calls a “Monkey Cookie,” (recipe below) which he happily took, saying “Mon hee hee!”

Okay. We got it.

Just a make-you-smile story? Maybe, but here’s what I pull from it. Hallelujah!! God always understands what we’re saying! He may not give us what we’re asking for, but he likes that we ask, and he ALWAYS understands. He just knows better. ‘Wish I never forgot that during the more disappointing moments of life.

Second Story:

There is a phrase, though, that Nick articulates with perfect clarity. Hands up by his chin, in an adorable semi-soprano voice, he says, “I don’t know!” Because it’s so cute, we look for ways to get him to say it again. (Sorry, bragging. I warned you.)

Second takeaway: Why are we adults so slow to say “I don’t know.” Why do we have to argue the gray areas of life? In matters of theology, should we expect to know very much about the way God chooses to work? And as to more worldly subjects, do we always have to take a hard stand and dig in our heels? Might we benefit from realizing the limits of our own intelligence and information, acknowledging the tiny chance that those on the other side of our proverbial fence could have a few valid points?

One of our family rules, framed in print for emphasis, was “Don’t argue when it doesn’t matter.” Perhaps another way to phrase that could be, “Be willing to say ‘I don’t know!’”

So today I’m asking myself, and you as my readers, to remember your own intellectual weakness and revel in the omniscience of our Lord. Not a bad combination! Have a great week, and feel free to share your responses!

 

Monkey Cookies

  • ½ c. raisins                                                               1 cup oatmeal
  • ½ c. chopped dates                                                  ½ cup flour
  • 1 medium – size ripe banana (mashed)              1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ c. water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

 

Combine raisins, dates, bananas, peanut butter, water, egg, and vanilla in mixing bowl. Beat until blended. Add oatmeal, flour, and baking soda. Mix to blend thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, flatten slightly. Bake @ 350° for about 10 min. until browned on underside. Store in airtight container. Makes about 40 cookies.

 

What’s in Your Cup?

teacup pixa 5 16 18Last Saturday I went to a ladies’ tea at church. My church. Do you know what a big deal it is feel at home in a church here already? A quarter century at NorthWest Bible Church was a tough act to follow. (Stop doing the math. I’m older, but not old yet!)

My friend Lea Castillo gave the devotional Saturday. I loved it and asked her to allow me to turn her notes into a blog. She kindly agreed, so all you read today comes from her heart and her story.

Do you have a cup of tea (or coffee, or…) by your side as you’re reading this? I hope so, but if not, just conjure one up in your imagination. Now look inside.

Is it half full? Half empty? Maybe it’s nearly dry or overflowing. You’ve already heard that familiar lesson before about perspective and positive attitude, so let’s take a look at your cup in a different light…

Your cup of tea is enough.

Today, whatever God provides you will be enough. You may be clueless as to what’s heading your way, but our Lord knows, and he will always provide what you need to live this day.

Sadly, we do this awful thing, you and I. We oh-so-often evaluate our “enoughness.” We ask ourselves, are we

  • good looking enough?
  • strong enough?
  • smart enough?

Then we evaluate the sufficiency of our situation, wondering if we have enough

  • money.
  • time.
  • opportunity.

One morning, when I finally had a chance to sleep late, my “not enoughs” badgered me into an unwelcome consciousness. I was losing my battle for peace and rest when, to make matters worse, a bunch of birds started making a racket outside my window. They just wouldn’t stop. And then, they spoke to me. Okay, not exactly, but God used them to get my attention and to remind me of this verse:

Look at the birds in the sky. They do not plant seeds. They do not gather grain. They do not put grain into a building to keep. Yet your Father in heaven feeds them! Are you not more important than the birds?(Matthew 6:26 NLV).

That’s when divine logic kicked in:

  • The birds always have enough.
  • I’m more important to God than the birds.
  • So I will always have enough!

And with God’s enoughness, I can face anything that life brings. On some days, the “tea in my cup” may not be as sweet as I’d like. It might not taste the way I was expecting, but God is still giving me enough.

We who question our enoughness are in great spiritual company. Even Moses did it. God’s answer?

“I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you'” (Exodus 3:13-14, NIV).

Our Lord is with us! The next time your cup looks empty, remember:

God always fills it—fills you—with enough, because he is enough.