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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Get Real

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The April 1 devotional from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling[1] includes this eye opening statement:

“But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world.”

That tough for me. Is it for you?

  • I want my desk to be uncluttered. (And it often is, for about 30 minutes on Monday afternoon, after I’ve cleared the stacks from the weekend but not yet acknowledged the new ones awaiting for the coming week.)
  • I want my calendar to be uncluttered—balanced perfectly between work, rest and play, time alone and time with other people. Planning ahead helps, but…
  • I want my home to be uncluttered, except now I have grandchildren, who have put a whole new positive spin on having stuff strewn all over the place.

So, I’ll have to agree with Sarah that an uncluttered world is a fleeting fantasy. We can’t have it. Or if we have it, we can’t keep it. And if we try, we’ll probably lose a great deal of flexibility and joy.

What’s a body to do? If you’ve read this blog before, you already know my answer. Trust the Lord! Our “keep life tidy” leanings stem from a penchant to control. Once we let God be the one in control (the pilot, not the co-pilot, as my husband is quick to remind me) then a messy life can be an adventure.

Speaking of which, my grandson is on the way over to make my house messier, so I’m keeping this one short. Let me know, if you would be so kind, where in your life you have learned to relinquish the fantasy of the uncluttered and enjoy the adventure!

“In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).

[1] Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling. [S.I.]: Thomas Nelson, 2004.

 

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus

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Now and then, when I was a teenager back at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, I was given the honor of turning down the lights in the sanctuary just as the congregation got to the last line of this great hymn. Picture this: The pews are filled at the Sunday night service. It’s dark outside, but bright inside, as the final hymn begins. Then the lights go down just as all in attendance sing, “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” The backlit cross at the front of the church now stands out in stark focus as a hush falls over the room. A little dramatic? Maybe, except that I still see that cross in my mind’s eye and feel that hush in my heart, often just when I’m about to forget about God’s glory and grace.

We can’t dim the lights on the rest of life as easily as I could turn that rheostat back then. Would that we could! Maybe instead, we need to shine greater light on the glory and grace that surrounds us. He is everything. Our full supply. That’s what Helen Lemmel was trying to convey when she penned these lyrics.

O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

Are you, like so many of us, troubled by “the things of earth” today? Is your heavenly vision a bit blurred? Take a breath. Take a moment. Remember whose you are and who He is. Enjoy the right you have as a child of God to fellowship with the Creator of the universe. And let those things that trouble you fade in the light of his glory, with the realization that, while you may not be able to see how right now, his grace is and always will be enough.

What a Mighty God We Serve!

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I used to have quite a collection of cassette tapes. (Remember those?) They made the days of running countless errands (before Amazon!) more entertaining for me and for my kids. I can still hear the perky kids’ tunes in my memory. One of the verses playing in my head this morning is an African folk song possibly recorded first by Hezekiah Walker. It goes like this:

  • What a mighty God we serve!
  • What a mighty God we serve!
  • Angels bow before him.
  • Heaven and earth adore him.
  • What a mighty God we serve!

It’s a good reminder, don’t you think? Sometimes the day ahead of us looks too big, too challenging, and we shrink back a bit as it begins. We need not, because we are facing it with a mighty God!

You know by now that I love the works of Hannah Whitall Smith. In The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, she lists a dozen Bible based reminders of how mighty our God is, how very much he cares about us, and how his might and care affect our daily lives:

  • Not a sparrow falls to the ground outside of his care.
  • The very hairs of our head are numbered.
  • We’re commanded to cease all worry, because our Father cares for us.
  • We’re not to avenge ourselves, because our Father will defend us.
  • We have no reason to fear, for God is on our side.
  • No one can be against us, because he is for us.
  • We lack nothing, because he is our Shepherd.
  • He shuts the mouths of lions, quenches flames, delivers us and rescues us.
  • Kings and rulers come and go according to his will.
  • He rules the wind and waves.
  • He thwarts the plans of nations.
  • He does whatever pleases him in the heavens and on the earth.

I hope you are facing only pleasant things today. But if, like most of us, you will meet challenges before the evening comes, be encouraged. Let your heart cry out before every difficulty, “What a mighty God we serve!”

(And if you’d like to be reminded of that fact by a choir of children’s voices, check out Cedarmont Kids here.)

 

 

Relinquishment and Surprise

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Catherine Marshall wrote about relinquishing our desires through prayer. You can read more about my experience with that prayer here or order her terrific book on prayer here.

Change invariably demands some degree of relinquishment, and so I find myself in another chapter of that challenge. Am I happy to be living in a new city? You bet. Do I question the rather monumental changes Steve and I have made in the last several months? Not at all. But our enemy always seeks to rob us of our joy and of the best God has for us by convincing us to reject the challenge of change. Perhaps that’s the reason he warned Lot and his family not to look back as they fled to the mountains. (Or, for you Star Wars fans, it’s probably why Shmi instructed Anakin with the simple words, “Don’t look back.”)

  • When we cling desperately to the old, we are not free to embrace the new.
  • When we pray with the attitude of a demanding child, we are out of line and rarely at peace.
  • When we relinquish our own agendas, we are able to accept the times when God says “no” or wait” or “this instead.” Then, trusting his grace, we are ready to be delighted by the gifts he gives and the plans he sets out for us.

We can pray in faith and, at the same time, be willing for God in his wisdom to refuse our requests. Then, when God does say yes, that gift is all the sweeter.

Relinquishment to God’s will certainly doesn’t cause us to stop praying. On the contrary, as we become closer to our Lord, every circumstance is wrapped in prayer as we express our needs and look for his provision. There are miracles to be found in the mundane affairs of daily life if we will only watch for them. More about that next week. In the meantime, look forward! Let go of anything you feel the Holy Spirit is asking you to relinquish. And may that choice give you rest!

Time to Be Happy

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When you say “Happy New Year!” do you mean it? I do. I believe in being happy.

  • My favorite book is “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.”
  • My favorite verse is “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3).
  • And my favorite slogan? “Don’t worry. Be happy.” (More about that here.)

I’m not talking about “pie in the sky, life’s a bowl of cherries” happiness, of course. I love these lines from a hymn by John Sammis: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” If we could truly trust God and obey his instructions all the time, I think we would be happy.

Late last year Time Magazine published a special volume called “The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life.”[1] As I read it, I was struck by how many times their reports on the science of happiness lined up with Biblical instruction. And so, over the next few weeks, pulling from Time and God’s Word, I hope to get us started on a happy year.

January is the time when many of us resolve to take better care of ourselves. We start diets, join gyms, and put Post-its on our mirrors to remind us of newly made promises. This verse has me convinced that self-care is ordained by God: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God…  So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).

Time suggests there’s a relationship between happiness and health, due most likely to the tendency of happier people to make healthier choices. This raises a “chicken or the egg” question. Does health lead to happiness, or does happiness promote health? Time asserts that, while our propensity for happiness is 50% inherited and 10% circumstantial, the other 40% is based on choices we make. Why not make the happiest choices whenever possible? Their list of “Healthy Habits for Happiness” include… Wait. Before I get into that, I’d like to ask you to tell me what tops your list of Healthy Habits for Happiness. I’ll tell you what the scientists had to say next week.

[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.