Archives for posts with tag: trust

start-finish

 There is a difference between a starting line and a finish line. They may actually be the same line, but your goals as you cross it are different.

 Crossing a starting line requires that you completely focus on what is ahead of you. You may get off to a running start or a slow start. Whatever preparation you have made for that particular race must be intentionally applied to the path in front of you. Your energy and focus and effort is on what you are doing.

 Crossing a finish line means that race is over. You can’t go back and change your position in the starting blocks or your strategy for running that race. Whether you triumphantly cross the finish line in first place or just drag yourself to the end of the course, that race is over. You will be judged by what you have just done.

 But what happens if the race you’ve just completed is the preparation for what is to come next? How many of us come to what we decide is the end and stay there? We choose to be defined by our past, rather than allowing it to refine us for our future. I failed; therefore, God can’t use me. People have disappointed me; therefore, I won’t trust again. I’m not perfect or powerful; therefore, God should find someone else. And we set up camp on what we think is the finish line, when God intends us to make a new, different start.

 The mistakes and pain of your past are not an excuse to refuse to run. Refusing to try again is the easiest way to fail and the best way to be defined by your weakness. A good coach will use the mistakes and successes of past races as a teaching tool to run future races more successfully. Sometimes that new start is a brand new adventure based on the lessons we’ve learned in the past. Sometimes that new start looks like the same old race…but we learn to master the course, rather than allow it to defeat us.

 Sometimes all the “lines” look the same from where we stand. How different would the story of our lives be if we allowed God to determine whether we are at the beginning of something new, or at the end of something old? To use our beginnings and our endings to train us to depend on His plan and trust His power, rather than our own? There are some things you need to let go of and put behind you. There are some things you need to work toward and trust God with, even though you can’t foresee success.

 When you sit on the starting blocks, it hinders your ability to begin the next race. Allow your belief in what you do know about God to determine your choices for what you don’t know about your future. Trust that God can take all that is in your past and use it to prepare you for what is to come.

 

promised land 2

What if the “Promised Land” is literally the territory that becomes Israel in the Bible…AND figuratively the blessings of God on the obedience of His people? What if our study of Old Testament history is meant to lead us to deeper understanding of both God’s will for all his people, and God’s will for us individually? I believe God set aside a geographic place, but I also believe God prepares a “promised land” that is unique for each of His children. It may be a geographic place. It may be a relationship or a ministry or a front row seat to see God at work…it was all those for the ancient Hebrews. There are some things that were true about the promised land God gave to his people back then that are also true for each of us as we seek God’s will for us right now.

 We have to separate themselves from what has been and allow God to do a new thing. God required that Abraham leave Ur and that the Hebrews leave Egypt in order to inhabit a different place. They could not have become the people God intended them to be if they had refused to obey God’s instructions. For us, that may not necessarily mean physical relocation, but it will mean that we have to let go of things that keep us bound to the past, or prevent us from seeing new things about ourselves and about God.

 Getting from where we are to the promised land God calls us to is not a magic miracle; it is a journey. There will be times in the wilderness. The journey to possess our promised lands may be fraught with tests and tribulations intended to make us strong enough to overcome the “giants” that already live there. Dwelling in our promised land will require that we trust God more than we fear those who oppose us, that we want what God chooses for us more than we want what we’ve chosen for ourselves.

 Promised lands are not a one-time gift; they have to be defended. Satan is threatened by those who obey God’s call on their lives and inhabit the promised lands God gives them. But when we stand firm in what we know is God’s call on our lives, God fights the battles for us, just as He fought for the ancient Hebrews as they moved forward into Canaan to possess their land.

 God led those ancient peoples each step of the way. They walked across the Red Sea on dry land as they left Egypt; they walked across the Jordan River on dry land as they arrived in their promised land. And in between, they saw some of the most magnificent miracles recorded in the Bible.

 God still leads those who will follow. May we let go of the things that prevent us from knowing the full measure of His blessing on our lives, and may that process let us see His glory and allow us to fully trust Him for our next step forward.

 

What are you so afraid of that it threatens your ability to trust God? It is easy to trust God with things that don’t matter so much. But when we face the big crises, the events that can break our hearts or destroy our dreams, the things that can alter the course of our plans or impact the rest of our lives – those threats often make the size of our fear seem so much bigger than the power of our God. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, death of a loved one, loss of independence, loss of income, threat of physical harm – these are just a few of the things my Sunday School class listed as their biggest fears. How we respond to those big threats indicates what we believe about God.

 Your most powerful testimony will not come from the days where all goes well, when you consistently get your way, when happiness is easy. The strength of your faith is best displayed in how you handle adversity. Anyone can be nice when they are not challenged; God’s power is most evident when we depend on him and show his character and love, rather than default to our own anger, frustration, and fear.

 But the tricky part is to know what God wants us to do because “fight”, “flight” and “trust” are all examples of godly approaches to threat. To Gideon he said, “Go forth in the strength that you have.” (Jud 6:14) When the crowd threatened to throw Jesus over the cliff, Jesus left. (Luke 4:30) When the Hebrews were pinned between drowning in the Red Sea and certain destruction of the Egyptian army, God said, “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Ex 14:4)  

When Elijah heard Jezebel’s threat to kill him, he ran, a day’s journey into a wilderness 100 miles away. There is no evidence he prayed; his “field trip” was apparently his own idea. When he got there, God made sure he was fed and rested, but then God asked, “What are you doing here?” In I Kings 19 God sent a wind, an earthquake, and a fire to the mountain, but Elijah knew that God wasn’t in those. However, when Elijah heard the still small voice, he knew God was speaking.

 How did he know? How did he sort out the events he saw and the events he feared from God’s word? God didn’t change Elijah’s circumstances; he didn’t guarantee protection from Jezebel, and he didn’t reprimand him for his lack of faith in the face of his fear. God just gave him specific instructions for what was to come next.

 What does your obedience to God look like in regard to the things you fear right now? To take an unpopular, difficult stand? To withdraw or run away? To trust him to bring his will? Sincerely ask God to make your path clear, even (and especially) if it’s a path you don’t want to take. Ask him to give you the strength and courage to obey his will, rather than insisting that he adopt your plan. Be quiet enough to hear his still, small voice. Lean in to his presence and his word to see how your current circumstances can become your future testimony. Trust the one who knows the future to lead you forward in obedience.

staff2

When God gave Moses his job description, Moses gave God all sorts of excellent excuses why it was a bad idea. To help Moses have the confidence to move forward, God asked him an incredibly important question, “What is in your hand?”

Moses’ hand held a staff. We don’t know when he acquired his staff. He may have used it as he crossed the desert. He may have found it as he watched the sheep and saw that it would be helpful in navigating rocky terrain, keeping sheep on the path, or for fighting wild animals who attacked the sheep. Did he cut it from a tree because he knew he’d need it? Did God place it on a path, then lead him to it….like a present he wouldn’t really appreciate until he grew up some more? Is this one Moses has used for years, or is it a new one? Did he carve it as he watched the sheep? Had he smoothed it where his hand would grip it?

Because Moses trusted God with what was in his hand, God took it, changed it, and gave it back to him. God used it to give Moses confidence and to get Pharaoh’s attention….in the throne room and to turn the Nile red. Later it will bring victory on the battlefield and water from a rock. God took what Moses had and what he feared, and he challenged Moses to step out of his comfort zone and make a difference. When Moses first clutched that staff that had been a snake, he could not even fathom the ten plagues or the parting of the Red Sea. That staff was both a symbol of what Moses was, and what he would become.

What is in your hand? It may not be your talent or your strength. It may be your weakness or vulnerability. It may be what comes easily or naturally to you, but not to others. It may not seem like much to you, or it may seem like everything you have. It may be the pain of your past meeting the need of someone in your present. It may be the consistency of your testimony in the life of someone who has brought you pain or frustration or someone you don’t even know is watching.

If you can fill in this blank, there is a problem. “I’ll obey as long as he doesn’t ask……” Anything we have: talent, strength, passion – will never reach its full potential until we give it to God. Before God can work through you, he will have to work in you. What does he want from you so that he can take it, change it, and give it back to you with new purpose? Do you need his vision for what it can become or his courage to trust him to use it…for your good and his glory?

 The things that you hold so tightly in your hand and your heart, that are so very, very precious to you – you have no control over them. They are only safe in the hand of God. Release them into God’s hand; let them go, throw them, and see how he changes them, nurtures and grows them in ways you never considered. Surrender them to him – manipulate, worry, obsess over them no more – watch how he transforms what is in your hand into something new that will give you a glimpse of his glory, of his power.

Become Like a Child

Children mattered to Jesus. He made them a priority. Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3) When the disciples tried to keep the children from distracting Jesus so he could talk to the adults, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth; anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15) What did he mean???

The transition from childhood to adulthood includes learning new information that changes behavior. Disobedience brings unpleasant consequences. Not all strangers can be trusted. Some things won’t come easily and will require hard work. Life is not always fair. Always getting what you want is rarely a good thing. Hard work does not always equal success.

But there are some other things that we choose to give up as we grow up, and I wonder if these are some of the things that Christ is referring to in that passage…the things we will get back in heaven. Children find utter joy in the simplest of things – stomping in rain puddles or spinning in circles. They are curious about things adults barely notice – they chase bubbles and are surprised every time they pop. They sample dog food and put food and fingers in places they don’t belong; they take things apart, and their favorite question is “why?”. They are exuberant about things adults take for granted – they can entertain themselves for hours with boxes or find delight in blowing dandelions. They can lose themselves in a song or a story. Children absolutely trust those they love. Children are spontaneous with their songs and their delight. Children are uninhibited by what their peers might think. They still believe in happily ever after and that anything is possible. They laugh easily and sleep deeply. Maybe it’s that kind of focus and single mindedness that Jesus is referring to. Jesus wouldn’t ask us to become like children if he didn’t want the passion and emotions that come with childhood.

Adults make religion complicated. We struggle to believe that the powerful God of the universe unconditionally loves us. We choose trust our imperfect judgment and frailties, and we find ourselves separated from the protection and power of the God who sacrificed his son to save us.

Perhaps what Jesus is asking us is to rediscover the simple trust and unconditional love a child has for a parent he trusts. Perhaps he is asking us to believe that his power in us can achieve anything. Perhaps he is asking us to take delight in the eternal home he is preparing for us, no matter what our current situation looks like. Perhaps he wants you to seek his face and learn to love him as you mature in your understanding of his character. May you rediscover great joy and peaceful rest as you learn to trust the one who utterly loves you.

Complete Trust

Complete trust is rare. Somehow, between childhood and adulthood, we equate less trust with more wisdom. The toddler who jumped from the edge of the pool into his parents’ arms with full conviction that he would be caught becomes skeptical of his parents’ advice by the time he’s a teenager. The young adult who believes she has the power to become anything she wants begins to doubt her capabilities when they are tested by a world that doesn’t have her best interest at heart.

We’ve been betrayed by people who don’t love us, and hurt by those who want to use us for their own gain. We’ve trusted bad advice and shallow perspective and ended up wounded by betrayal and consequences that leave literal and invisible scars. We decide that we can’t trust others, so we begin to trust only ourselves.

This is where the gap between heaven and earth is most stark. The Bible is full of stories where God said “Trust me”. The hero of great battles was asked to conquer a fortified city armed only with trumpets and a cheering squad. A prostitute put her life in the hands of spies who came to destroy her city. (Joshua 2) The farmer who hid from his enemies was asked to lead a few untrained soldiers into battle against a huge, well equipped army. (Judges 6) Nehemiah, a wine taster in the palace of Persia, was asked to construct a wall around the ruined city of Jerusalem under the eyes of men who did not want him to succeed. Elijah set up a competition between Yahweh and Baal, knowing that those who served the loser would die. Each of them chose to trust God, and each of them saw the power of God in their own lives and over their enemies.

God wants us to learn to trust him, and he is patient with us in that process. The best view we have of God is when we chose to believe and obey his power, even when we can’t see a happy ending. The Hebrews who were pinned down between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army saw that God could be trusted to save them. Daniel defied the orders of the Babylonian king learned that God has complete power over our enemies. On Easter morning Christ appeared to heartbroken, confused disciples and showed them that not even death was a threat to them anymore.

How many parents beg their children to trust their love and advice, knowing that the choices their children are making are not going to end well? How many of my “scars” came from trusting the wrong source? How much pain and disappointment could we avoid if we trusted God, rather than the narrow, shallow, self serving advice of those who want power or another book sold?

I want to see God as he is in my world, but that requires that I trust him. Sin is nearly always the easy choice, and trust always looks risky. God does not change. He is the same today as he was in the Old Testament. There are situations in my life right now that I don’t like, that are painful for me to endure. I can try to manipulate them using my limited perspective and feeble efforts, or I can trust the one who says, “Follow Me”, the one who has proved himself faithful over and over, in history and in my life. Only then will I have a front row seat to see heaven invade earth, to bring my good and his glory.

Risk takers make history

Wanted: Banished murderer to face his accusers. Harsh travel conditions. Must have leadership experience and some knowledge of desert snakes. Problem solving skills a plus. Permanent undetermined relocation required.

There is not one advancement in medicine, science, history, art, or any other part of our culture that didn’t start with someone willing to take the risk. Can you imagine Picasso’s art teacher seeing his work for the first time? They tortured Galileo because he thought the world was round. They excommunicated Martin Luther for proclaiming that God wanted a personal relationship with his people. How many people went broke moving to California to pan for gold? How many died trying to settle the west? The men who signed the Declaration of Independence were signing their death warrants if the Colonies had lost the war. How many soldiers have gone to war to prevent tyranny or injustice or corruption?

Were those risks worth it? Ask a Concentration Camp survivor if it would have been better for the Allies to just leave Hitler alone. What if Alexander Graham Bell had feared failing and looking stupid more than he believed in his invention? If the Wright brothers had given up after their first crash? If Henry Ford had abandoned the idea of a personal car because no one really seemed to need it at that point? How many spies have risked their lives to get information that determined the outcome of the battle to the people who would later win it? What difference does it make to us now that those people thought the risk was worth it? One of the most troubling accusations that has been made of our culture is that we are so prideful that we refuse to risk our convenience for anything…and that what separates us from the “Greatest Generation” as Brokaw described them.

The weird thing is we have no clue what is next for us. We expect more of the same and logical transitions, but that is so often not the case. My family visited the World Trade Center on August 17, 2001. We spent one hour in security lines. Guards wanded each of us, went through my purse, and made us walk through a metal detector so they were sure we didn’t have guns or explosives. The people in charge of security for the Towers did everything they could to prevent the attack they expected. The problem was that they weren’t expecting the attack that actually occurred. Satan is not stupid. He is not going to announce his battle plans and give you the chance to get ready before he strikes. He will tempt and attack you in the way you are least expecting, the way you are most vulnerable. What seems so right in our eyes according to our logic and our expectations may be totally unrelated to what is actually in our future. The biggest risk we face is in ignoring the God who knows the future.

What is God calling you to do that you’re afraid to trust him with? What does God want to do through you or in you or for you that you’ve been fighting him on? I believe that if you feel no sense of anticipation or discomfort or fear, you’re not listening to him. God is not about to let you lie dormant. He has big plans for you. Jer 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you’, says the Lord. ‘Plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” But none of those can come to pass if you insist on being your own God and rejecting any course of action that has no risk, that you can’t control. You’ll never see God’s power as clearly as when you finally realize you’re not in control at all.

For you A types who need confirmation, that one was Moses 🙂

Be still and know that I am God. Ps 46:10

 I love the fact that God’s word is new and fresh each morning for whatever circumstances we face.   Yesterday I needed to be reminded that despite the fact that I don’t have control or power, God does.  Today my problem is remembering to be still.  Being still is not easy for me.  My need for resolution and order does not determine God’s timing.  My “good” plans do not trump God’s master plan.  I don’t know what circumstances tomorrow will bring, but I do know that He is God and that he reveals himself in my “stillness” so that I can know him.   May I consistently choose the quiet trust that comes with knowing God, and may I always find the peace of God when I do.  Many thanks to those who have been praying for our family this week.  How grateful I am for each of you.