Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Confidence is What We Need

My kids like to go swimming like most kids do. They love the slides, the splashing, and the sun. However, they don't really like to go without a life jacket yet. As long as they have their "puddle jumpers" on, they are good to go. They can play all throughout the water park, confident in the life jacket'' ability to keep them safe.

Kids can do it. They can have confidence in a silly piece of foam (or whatever a life jacket is made out of.) So why do we struggle to have confidence in God?

We need someone to hope in, to rely on, and to fully trust. This is human nature. People need each other, but above all, we need God. We have evidence at our disposal that should make us completely confident that God is there for us, that He hears us, that He wants the best for us. This evidence can be found in a couple places.

For one, God's word is full of stories that explain how God came through. It describes miracle after miracle and intervention after intervention. God continuously saved His people; He kept at it until He provided our ultimate savior: Jesus. Yes, the Bible should surely build our confidence in God.

Anybody heard a good old testimony lately? That's right, our own stories of how God worked are confidence builders, for us and for others. We have to keep sharing what God is doing in our lives. This takes God out of the Bible time period and makes Him real. It shows how He moves and helps us normal people, not just these men and women of the Bible whom we now view as heroes of our faith.

So, we have God's word, and we have the testimonies of others. Why is it then that we still doubt God? I hope I'm not alone in this. I have struggled mostly to have confidence in God's plan for my life, which ties into a lack of confidence that God really will answer my prayers.

I don't think I'm alone in this, at least not according to the Bible. In John 11, it describes Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been dead for four days when Jesus arrived at his tomb. He prayed out loud to God before asking Lazarus to come out of the grave. "Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me" (v. 41-42).

Did you catch that? Even the people who witnessed some of Jesus' miracles, and those that were about to witness Lazarus come back to life, lacked confidence in God. Jesus knew this and used that time of mourning as a time of teaching.

It is hard to have confidence in an unseen God sometimes. Because, even though we try to be committed to our devotional and prayer times, sometimes God just chooses to make us wait to hear from Him. He always has a reason for making us wait, but when we're in the waiting, it is just plain hard to keep confident.

What can we do? What can we remember and preach to ourselves when we find we lack confidence?
  • God always hears us. Just as Jesus explains in John 11:41, God always hears our prayers. Hearing and answering is two different things, though, and that is what I think causes us to doubt. Just because we don't see our prayers answered immediately does not mean that God did not hear them.
  • God is always at work. One of my favorite verses that I found while I was in a time of waiting was Zechariah 2:13. "Be silent before the Lord, all humanity, for He is springing into action from His holy dwelling." I love the picture this verse paints. We feel God is not working when we don't see evidence firsthand. But, this verse explains that God is poised and ready to work. He is working. Sometimes we just have to be silent and wait to see it.
  • God has plans for us. Good ones. Most of us have probably heard that God has plans for our lives. Good old Jeremiah 29:11 explains that. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and nor for disaster.'" I found another verse that takes this concept a step further. In Psalm 31:19 the psalmist writes, "How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world." Do you know what this tells me? If we rely on God for our safety, much like a kid relies on a life jacket, we will receive a huge amount of goodness and blessing. These are excellent plans, my friends, God plans. 
Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of the truth. There will always be times we struggle to have confidence in God. Life is never perfect, and we will face trouble; Jesus tells us that. But, we can speak the truth to ourselves. Sometimes we have to say it in our minds until we believe it with our hearts.

I know it's cheesy, but God really is our life jacket. We can have this kind of child-like confidence because we know these three things: God always hears us, God is always and work, and God has good plans for us.

 Linking up with the following inspiring blogs: #intentionalTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #fellowshipFriday, #graceandtruth, #coffeeforyourheart

Thursday, May 21, 2015

But...don't get tired

Can I be honest? I've been annoyed lately. The culprits? My own flesh and blood. Yes, my darling children have been pushing my buttons lately.

Does this happen to anyone else? Is it wrong to admit this?

You know what? God already knows I've been feeling this way, so I do not need to hide my true feelings from Him. So, I guess I'll share with all of you. Maybe we can be encouraged together!

My two kids have been arguing a lot recently. It seems they go in spurts. One week they get along and play wonderfully. Their imagination and creativity just makes me smile and makes my heart swell with love. Then, the next week is full of yelling, fighting, and disagreements. I get so tired of being the referee! It also seems like during these "off" weeks, the kids are more likely to yell at me. Maybe I just notice it more because my energy is already drained from the refereeing.

I'm in one of the "off" weeks right now. It is a struggle not to just go hide in my bathroom all day.

So, if God already knows my feelings, what does He want me to learn from these "off" weeks? I searched the Bible for some answers, and I found something good.

My search brought me to the book of Galatians. Paul wrote this letter to several churches that he had helped start in Galatia. The letter was meant to encourage the believers there. Why did they need encouragement? Well, there was some controversy in Galatia.

There was a disagreement between Gentile believers and Jews and everyone in between. The controversy was: do the new Gentile Christians need to obey the Jewish laws in order to be saved?

The members of the Galatian churches were stressed. Their buttons were being pushed. Their roles were being challenged. They were annoyed.

So how did Paul encourage them? In Galatians 6:9, we find the answer.
"So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up."
The Galatians were encouraged to keep pressing on, to keep converting people in the name of Jesus.

How can we be encouraged by this verse today?

Well, we may be annoyed. We may feel emotionally and physically exhausted.

But, we can't give up. But, we can't quit doing what is good.
Raising my kids to obey me, to get along well with others, and to love the Lord is good. It is my job. Some of you might not have kids that sometimes annoy you. But, I am willing to bet their is someone in your daily life that pushes your buttons. The same applies to you! When we keep doing good, we will get a blessing.
I just needed to hear this today and remember that God is my strength when I am weary. When I keep pressing on and trying my best to do my job well, I will receive blessings when the time is right.
God, help me to keep on going. Give me energy to do good. Help me to count the many blessings I 
have, even if they bug me sometimes. Thank you for the precious gifts of my children. Amen.

(Information about the book of Galatians taken from the Life Application Study Bible, Tyndale, 2004.)
Linking up with #livefreeThursday, and #fellowshipFridays, #GraceandTruth

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Battle: Control vs. Trust

I find myself in a battle. Sometimes it is daily, other times it is weekly. Let me be real, sometimes it is moment by moment.

I've already confessed that I am not good at waiting. Patience is something that God is growing in my heart, that's for sure. One of my friends once said that we should never ask God for patience because He will surely give us some opportunities to practice it! Boy, is that true.

But as we choose to wait for God, as we choose to do our best to be patient, we are faced with this battle. Do we choose the need for control, or do we choose to trust in God?

When we choose to control, what happens? Here are some of the results, that I have found, when I try to control situations that are beyond my abilities.

When I choose control, I...
  • Put a strain on my relationships. My need for control put a lot of tension on my relationship with my husband. I saw him as opposition to my plans; a person whom I couldn't control. I found myself angry at him when I really was just frustrated because I couldn't control his decisions or the situation we were facing.
  • Put unnecessary stress on myself. Some situations are clearly beyond our control. Sometimes, there really is nothing you can do to make a situation better, to help someone out, or to change circumstances. I know I personally wasted a ton of energy trying to find a solution to a problem that was just out of my realm. The answer could not have come from me. I stressed myself out for nothing.
  • Put God below myself. Ouch. This is kind of harsh, but it is true. When I seek control, I am saying I am better, smarter, and more capable than God. I put myself above God when I refuse to let him lead and provide. Control becomes the idol that I seek, and that puts God much lower than he deserves.
But when I choose to trust, I...
  • Experience joy in my relationships. The strain we place on others because of our need for control is gone when we trust God to work things out for us. When we stop manipulating others, we can truly enjoy their gifts and talents and personalities. Trusting God frees us from trying to change others. The strain on my husband and I was gone because I could just enjoy what he brought to our relationship. I no longer saw him as the opposition to my plans because I was trusting God to work out His plans.
  • Experience peace in my heart. When we choose to trust, we relieve ourselves of that self-inflicted stress. God invites us to give all our worries and cares to him because he loves us (1 Peter 5:7). When we decide to trust God and allow him to have his way in our lives, we get peace. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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." When we trust God, we get rest for our souls. Amen!
  • Experience God as King of Kings. We serve a BIG God! Creator of the universe! All-Powerful! Unshakeable! Mighty in Strength! Trusting God puts him where he belongs: as Lord of my life. When God is in his rightful place, I am in mine. I am his child. He takes care of me. I don't need to control things because he is in control. And God, in all of his glory, does a much better job than me anyway!
Even though trusting is sometimes hard, let's choose to do it. God has so much to offer us if we just stop trying to control situations that he is ready and prepared to handle. This is one battle I'm determined to win!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wait, Wait, Wait

Yesterday was Mother's Day, and we were visiting my husband's mom. We had eaten lunch together and were enjoying the time just visiting. Our plan for after this visit was to see a movie. My son knew this. Every ten minutes he asked if it was time to see the movie yet. We all know that kids have a hard time waiting. The whole, "Are we there yet?" question on road trips plays again and again in my mind when I think of waiting. Yep, kids are pretty bad at waiting.

Are adults any better? Am I any better?

No, I don't think so.

I am currently reading the book Restless by Jennie Allen. She must struggle with waiting too, which puts me in pretty good company! Anyway, she says, "I'm beginning to think God's favorite word in the entire universe is wait." I think I agree.

I recently went through a time of waiting on the Lord. Come to think of it, I feel I'm always waiting on the Lord. Is this wrong? I don't think so. God invites us to present Him with all of our burdens and prayer requests. The Bible also says in James that we must expect God to answer us (1:6). Therefore, I think I am always waiting on God for something, even if it's just little like, "please let my kid try new foods!"

There are so many verses in the Bible about waiting on God. I tried a Google search to see how many, but both my computer and my brain were stumped. Let's just say there are a lot of them.

Here's one of my favorites that I think offers encouragement to those of us waiting expectantly on God.
"Wait patiently on the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently on the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)
In this verse, David implores us twice to wait patiently on God. And sandwiched in between the words about waiting is the encouragement to be brave and courageous too. I think being brave and courageous is what it takes to wait well.

When we wait on God, it takes trust. Sometimes, it takes bravery to trust God. It shouldn't, but sometimes it just feels that way. In order to trust, we must let go of our request, problem, situation, whatever it is that we want God to act on. That is scary for people like me who feel calm when we are in control. Trusting is letting go of my need for control and waiting patiently for God to step in. When we first decide to do that, it takes bravery and courage.

But you know what? The next time we take that step of trust, it is easier! God is faithful to answer our prayers, even if we have to wait.

There's another thing about this verse. The other key word is patiently. This was also a hard part for me. I decided, "ok, I'll wait on God," but then I let every one else around me know it. I yammered on about my prayer request. I announced I was waiting on God. I complained about my situation to anyone that would listen. I was trying to wait, but it was not exactly in a patient manner.

In Psalm 37:7 it says, "Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act." We have to be still. The Lord wants to work to answer our prayers in His time. Sometimes we just need to be still and get out of the way. In other words, put Psalm 46:10 into application. "Be still and know that I am God."

So, why might "wait" be God's favorite word? Because God wants nothing more than for us to trust Him. And when we choose to wait on Him, we choose to trust Him. We accept His position as Sovereign King. We let go of our own control, and we give it over to the one who goes before us and behind us. Even though it takes bravery and courage to wait, we do so to receive the blessings and plans of the Lord who loves us unconditionally.

It's a good trade.

Linking up this week with #intentionalTuesdays, #RaRalinkup, #TellHisStory, #coffeeforyourheart, #belovedbrews

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Square Pizza vs. Triangle Pizza

Change. No one likes it. Humans are programmed to like routines and similarity. It starts young. You give a baby a new food, like peas for example, and they are startled by the new taste, texture, and color. Peas are so different than the sweet potatoes they tried last week!

My four year old is also thrown by change. Every kid loves pizza, right? Well, in our area, we have a few options for pizza. One restaurant cuts their pizza into squares while another cuts theirs into the traditional triangle. Don't even get me started on the different types of crust! For awhile, we always ordered the square pizza version. When we threw in the triangles, it was enough for a melt down!

As adults, we sometimes don't react any better than a baby or a toddler. I have seen grown men and women upset because they are faced with a new copy machine. It almost caused a rebellion of sorts. Aren't we supposed to be mature enough to handle change?

What about when God starts poking around in our hearts, prompting a change? How do we react?

We know it is going to happen if we are following Jesus. The Bible tells us in Philippians 1:6, "that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Yep, the work, the change, is going to continue until our lives on earth are over.

So why do we dread it? Why do we resist it? This verse also tells us that the work, the change, is good. Any change that God wants to make in us is for our good.

I have been through a major change in my own heart within the past year or two. It really seemed that God was just picking on me! I was even like, "this is enough change, God!" But looking back, I can see the progress. I can see that the change was for my own betterment. I'm even glad I went through it!

I have found that it is all about my attitude and perspective. If I choose to embrace the change that God is beginning in my heart, I can see His hand at work. If I choose to resist, it seems to take longer. I am unhappier with what is going on. His way is always better than ours. I finally realized that the sooner I accept God's way as better, the quicker and easier the work on my heart is completed. Well, one particular change is complete, that is. God will keep working on me. And for this, I am thankful. I still need work.

I will leave you with a verse to ponder. I'll be honest. I used to dislike this verse. But again, I found freedom and peace when I embraced it! I challenge you to do the same. For just as a mother wants her kids to try new foods, so does the Lord want us to try a new perspective, a new attitude, and therefore, a stronger faith.
"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as my ways are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."

This post joins the following linkups: #livefreeThursday, #FellowshipFriday, and Faith Filled Friday

Monday, May 4, 2015

When a Prayer Warrior Dies

One of the prayer warrior ladies that I described in a previous post just passed away this weekend. She just happened to be the mother of my uncle and the grandma to my cousins. She was old, but her death was still a surprise to the family. I'm praying for God's peace for the family of Rose, something I'm sure she already prayed about for each and every member of her family. She knew that God's peace alone could transcend all understanding, comforting hearts even in the toughest of times.

In light of her passing, I found myself wondering: what happens when a prayer warrior dies? What a huge hole she leaves! I'm sure her family and friends will feel the loss. She carried so many in prayer, so now what will happen?

One thing I do know is that prayers are eternal. We pray to an everlasting, eternal God. His memory is infinite. He has the ability to forget our sins but remember our prayers. He sees the future. He makes a way for us because He goes before us. God is faithful, and He answers prayer.

Many prayers that Rose prayed during her time on this earth were answered. I'm sure she saw many miracles; I'm sure she even prayed for me and my family at some time. I know she gave God the glory for the way He answered the prayers that she prayed.

On the other hand, many prayers that Rose prayed probably have not yet been answered. I'm sure she prayed for souls that did not know Jesus like she did. And if you ever talked to Rose, you left the conversation knowing that she loved Jesus, and she wanted you to love Him too. These souls may still be lost, but God has taken note of these prayers. He is working all things out according to His timing.

The amazing thing now is that Rose gets to see, first hand, how God is moving. She has a front row seat to the majesty and perfection and glory of God. In His presence, all doubts fade. In His presence, there is only peace and joy. Rose is there now, with Him. Of this her family is sure. The prayers she prayed on earth will keep being answered because God is always faithful.

My prayer for this family is that they will have eyes to see how the prayers of their mom and grandma and great grandma are still being answered today and how they will be answered in the future. May the legacy of prayer that Rose left behind build the faith of her family and all her knew her. Amen.

"The Beauty of a Rose"
by Kristen Johnson 

Faith bigger than the mountain she prayed to move
Trust stronger than every doubt she faced
Belief in the only One who saves
Confidence in the God that never fails
Hope in the life that was to come

Words offered with love for you and me
from one knelt humbly before her King
No greater legacy could she leave
But these many prayers that would last forever
The is the beauty of a Rose

"Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart." (Colossians 4:2)
 Linking up this week with #RaRalinkup, #intentionalTuesdaysUnite, #TellHisStory, #coffeeforyourheart