When ‘my’ plans don’t work out

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Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7……(then) …. whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV

An alert from American Airlines interrupted my lunch last week as I was checking email.  Something to the effect that bad weather might disrupt our travel plans two days later, on the Friday. The airline offered to change our plans at no cost.

The possibility of weather problems had not crossed my mind.  Immediately Satan suggested all sorts of bad scenarios meant to distract me.  We were flying to Charlottesville, Virginia to care for grandkids so their parents could visit El Paso to look at houses.  This weather event would affect their flights as well.

Recognizing that I was beginning to fear the worst, I forced myself to go on the counter-attack. I reminded myself that:

  • The Lord has these trips already planned out.
  • He has stockpiled provisions we will need.
  • His plans are always best.

Satan stepped up the momentum.  But I strengthened my resolve, asking the Lord for supernatural help to fight back.  What came to mind was the promise that if I resist the devil’s suggestions about our future, he will flee. 

I kept up my trifecta of truth.  I declared out loud:  I can’t stop these lying images from entering my imagination, but I will immediately respond with what I know to be true. 

And so, I waged war.

I had to continue resisting Satan’s lying thoughts longer than I anticipated.  When we got to the airport last Friday, weather turned out not to be the problem.  But there were others.

The flight had a mechanical issue.  We deplaned and waited in line to consult with the gate agent about connecting flights. He booked us on a flight out of Charlotte, North Carolina for an airport 75 minutes away from our destination.  Presumably, we could Uber from there to Anne and Wes’ house. But by the time we landed in Charlotte, that flight had been cancelled.

By grace, we had already thought of renting a car in Charlotte.  Sure enough, that turned out to be Plan C. But would there be any rental cars available?  We kept praying.  Sure enough, the Lord’s stockpiled grace included a rental car that we could drop off at the Charlottesville airport the next day.

Knowing our delay, our son and daughter-in-law dropped off the children with a friend and headed to Washington, DC for their flight.  We picked up the kids 6 hours later than our original itinerary. Whew! Finally, we were in the house with the kids and their dog. But God’s grace did not end there.

Wes and Anne’s flight was delayed and they had to spend the night in Houston, Texas.  God’s stockpiled grace for them included a $400 credit with the airline. And Anne, who is 31 weeks pregnant, got to bed earlier than they had planned. They arrived in El Paso the next morning in time to meet the real estate agent. And saved one day’s worth of rental car expenses.

What did I learn?  Like a 2×4 to the head was the realization ‘What a waste of emotional energy, worrying about anything. The weather event evaporated.’

This experience showed me once more that victory over sinful fear and worry comes by means of exercising our trust in our good God who does all things well, though not always the way we would like.

John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote about this very scenario the four of us lived through : (and I paraphrase)Our prevailing over Satan, the flesh and the world is a done deal. It is scripted that we conquer Satan and fear by means of taking God at his word and doing the next thing at hand.’

And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:4 ESV

Do you trust your eyes?

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There’s been a ‘heat’ wave and my leaf is still green!

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Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He is like a tree planted by the waters that sends out its roots toward the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes, and its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year of drought, nor does it cease to produce fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 Berean Study Bible

Are things ‘heating up’ for you? Is trouble brewing?  We’ve just passed through that feast day when families gather, some happily and some reluctantly. Often mixing with those we don’t regularly see except at Thanksgiving can produce sparks that ignite as surely as rubbing two sticks together.

When Jeremiah’s words popped up in my Prayermate app earlier this week I lingered a while connecting God’s words with what Jim, our associate pastor, had emphasized on Sunday. Wrapping up this fall’s Sunday School journey through Paul’s encouraging letters to the Thessalonians, Jim emphasized our absolute need to meditate daily and deeply on Scripture.  His exhortation included imploring us to pray for our pastors and missionaries that they would do the same.  For how can we hope to endure as believers and encourage others in the faith unless we……stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NIV?

Last Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, I saw first-hand the blessing in standing firm, a growing ability due to years of lingering leisurely over God’s word. So, what happened?  Just some ordinary ‘heating up’ right before our families arrived that could easily have thrown me for a loop.  Satan lost this skirmish to manipulate circumstances toward his evil plans.

We had hosted friends for 2 nights the weekend before Thanksgiving and I was tired. I had a day and a half turn-around time to get the house ready, to stock the kitchen and catch up on some tasks foregone during our friends’ visit.

Even when our friends were with us, I continued feeding on God’s word.  Company, cooking and other tasks weren’t going to stand in the way of what I look forward to. I always need time each morning to reset with Jesus.   So, on Tuesday morning, after reminding myself that ‘God’s got this’ and ‘He is my sufficiency’, I set out for Kroger’s, my favorite grocery store, to gather all the food we needed for the eleven of us.  A shortage of baggers, time needed to hunt for one-off items and a plethora of holiday shoppers stretched my normal 45-minute shopping trip to 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Only by grace, could I practice patience, frequently reminding myself that ‘All this serves my eternal good’.  I was even able to rejoice when I maneuvered that overflowing, heavy cart toward my car, for I thanked God that it wasn’t raining! Furthermore, no egg cartons fell off nor did cherry tomatoes make a break-out run from their plastic homes.

The Tampa family was due to pull in between 4 and 5 that afternoon.  After putting everything away, I wanted to get the Coq au Vin prepared and set to ‘warm’ in my Instant pot so I could be free to enjoy these dear ones.  But another probe from Satan materialized. The chicken stuck in the Instant pot and started to burn.

I immediately unplugged the pot and released all the steam that had built up. As I transferred this rich chicken-wine-mushrooms and thyme goodness to a regular pot on the cooktop, I reminded myself, ‘This, too, serves my eternal good’.

In the past, I’ve given in to self-pity many times when situations heated up.  But thanks to the Lord and his word, my leaf remained green.  Rising early to feed the cats and make some coffee, I refocused on Jesus and refreshed myself each morning in God’s word while our families slept to at last 8 am.

A week has passed since Thanksgiving.  Looking back, I can see how God showered so much grace on us, including protecting Gizmo, our kitty escape artist.  I found out later that in the confusion of 4 extra adults and 5 kids, he did manage one time to get out the back door. Somehow, someone succeeded in catching him and returned him to the house. Grace!

This morning, God added a PS to last week’s grace. Our microwave popped, hissed and went on strike, refusing to re-heat my coffee.  My first thought flew right to God and the grace he showed in delaying this microwave failure by one week.  We used that microwave SO much preparing, heating, melting, reheating food and liquid as we feasted all week.  Furthermore, ALL the appliances, the gas fireplace, central heat and the hot water worked perfectly.

What encourages me more than God’s grace is how I see the blessing of this practice of slow meditative Bible reading. Fruit such as confidence in God and his promises, patience and self-control come easier.  I rejoice in God’s goodness.

Spiritual fruit takes a while to show itself

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Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 ESV

I’ve been asking God for a long time to change my heart when it comes to how I view time.  I know full well that it’s an illusion to think of time as ‘mine’. As a Christian, I don’t actually own anything, whether material possessions, talents, the body I inhabit or the hours in a day.  I’ve known that in my head, but I don’t seem to have power over that kind of internal change.  And since God’s word teaches us that he, God, is the one who gives us desires, it seems logical to me to ask him to change my heart.

So, when I noticed a less selfish heart response one day this week, I felt encouraged.  “He’s really doing it; he’s changing my heart!”  But it wasn’t 6 hours later that my cheery demeanor evaporated.  This was the proverbial 2 steps forward – one step back, for the Lord humbled me, showing me how much holy spirit heart surgery remains to be done.

Last week I read the book by James Clear, Atomic Habits.  In an early chapter Clear described how the Chinese bamboo tree grows.  Apparently, if you plant a seed for this species of bamboo, you won’t see any green shoots for about 5 years.  No, your seed hasn’t died.  Growth has been happening steadily, but underground with the solitary focus of developing a foundational root system. It takes years to create a sufficient and extensive root network strong enough to support bamboo stalks that can tower 90 feet and higher.

Here’s what’s fascinating about this kind of bamboo tree.  One day, with no warning and after about five years of invisible but real growth below the surface, a shoot will abruptly appear and shoot up 3 feet in 24 hours!  By the end of a month, your Chinese Bamboo Tree towers 90 feet. Whoa!

Do you see why this plant example might illustrate how our faith grows? Jesus, himself, used the example of a large mustard. I don’t know how long it takes the tiny mustard seed to emerge, but a big tree will need strong and deep roots. 

You might know someone who has heard and received the gospel truth of what Jesus Christ did to save and redeem sinners. But you might not see any ‘fruit’, that evidence of a changed life.  Take heart, if your friend has been sitting under good teaching and/or reading his Bible, the roots have been growing. We humans simply tend to be impatient.  In many endeavors, when we don’t see the results we expect, we easily give up, resignedly concluding, “That didn’t work….I’m no good at…..he’ll never change!”  When all along, we didn’t exercise patience.

Back to my ‘growth’ in heart. The good news this week was when my volunteer shift at the local crisis pregnancy center went almost an hour longer than normal, I found myself unexpectedly NOT impatient.  I had no thought of, “It’s past lunch time, I won’t have enough time to do….” I simply felt pleasure in spending time with this late-to-walk-in gal who needed pregnancy and spiritual counseling.

I high-fived God on the way home.  The afternoon passed quickly with barely 30 minutes for lunch.  We had no food in the house since we had arrived home the previous night from a week out of town.  By the time I put away the groceries, it was practically time to start dinner prep. I started to feel sorry for myself.

When Mike passed through the kitchen, I remarked, “I’m almost finished with all the grocery sorting and storing and I’ve only had a short break all day!”  He remarked, “Are you feeling resentful?”  I wanted to deny that, but explained, “Well….maybe a little, because I’ve been so busy.”  When he explained he picked up on my tone, my pride was hurt.  I HAD been telling God it was not right to feel sorry for myself. After all, I had enjoyed ample time on our trip….but that was my head talking and not my heart.

After asking my husband to pray for my heart, I settled into the realization that God both encouraged me and gently scolded me, all in one day.  He’s still at work on my root system! More growth needed.

Is God sovereign over technology?

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Being taught something, without putting into practice what you have received in theory is futile. All good teachers teach by that principle.  We know what we know, when we can DO something with it. When we first start applying and using ‘book learning’, we will make a lot of mistakes.  That’s why teachers regularly give us homework and evaluate our progress, often by means of unannounced ‘pop’ quizzes.

It’s no surprise, then, that the model teacher, Jesus, fondly employs this same method.

Fully aware of Jesus’ motives and desire for me to grow through his tailored lessons in ‘being holy as God is holy’, I wasn’t initially thrown off guard yesterday when he handed me an unannounced practical exam. I’ve been working very slowly through John Piper’s latest book, Providence. His developed arguments reinforce what Mike and I have known for some years, that nothing occurs in this world that is not designed and sent forth by God.  The Bible explicitly proclaims this truth throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

For example, Isaiah 45:7 is one of many places where the LORD testifies to his purposeful, planned happenings: I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things. ESV

Mike and I are slowly learning to relax and trust God when ‘things don’t go as planned or as hoped’.  That’s why we regularly pray for each other when problems pop up. These days, it seems that many of these unexpected ‘gifts’ are tech issues that suddenly confront us with the potential both to frustrate and rattle us.  God sends them for his good purposes, but Satan uses them, trying his best to cause us to vent, feel anxious, distracted or even angry.

Yesterday, God gave me one such ‘gift’.  Immediately, when a major problem with the raw recording of my latest English without Fear video suddenly occurred, I did not panic. Seldom does a week go by without a few divinely-initiated ‘monkey wrenches’ thrown into the mix.

Since I’m learning to expect problems, I immediately saw and attributed this issue as an opportunity to count on God.  I pictured a smiling God handing me a practice session to see if I really believe what I SAY I believe, that he controls all events in my life.

I talked with him as I worked through one possible fix after another. Nothing helped. 

While I kept trying to fix this issue, my mind played with many thoughts such as:

  • Does God always provide?
  • Can I count on him for this?
  • Is he who he says he is?

I googled the problem and learned that because I had updated the IOS of my MacBook Pro, my video recording software needed an upgrade.  That took time to install. 

Once squared away, a new issue presented itself – the settings! When I recorded a trial video, there was no sound.  I fiddled around, still proclaiming my faith in my sovereign and good Father. Bungling through one change after another, I grew hungry and frustrated.  Yet, I kept practicing patience.  ‘This is from my Father, so he means this for good.  I will NOT let Satan rattle me.’

Time was marching on.  I had a Zoom class to teach at 2 pm, so I temporarily gave up to clean up the kitchen before my class.  Wiping the counters and loading the dishwasher gave Satan the opportunity to heat up the temptation toward self-pity. I could actually imagine myself giving in to a vent: ‘I’ve wasted all this time and I’m still no closer to a solution!’

By grace, I called out to God and told him all the truth I could think of so as NOT to yield to Satan’s whispers. Suddenly, I remembered what I had written in my journal earlier in the morning.  My mom used to say, “For this, I have Jesus.”  I combined that truth with something I heard Kathy Keller share at a conference: “I trust the One who died for me.”

At 2 pm, as my English-language learners entered my Zoom room for our weekly conversation class, I had to leave the entire problem with God.

Ninety minutes later, I ended the Zoom session and checked a text from Graham, our video-content-creator son.  He told me which setting to check in my recording software.  I did and it worked!!! Hallelujah! I texted him and Mike the good news.  God had come through and I had NOT given in to Satan.

‘Well, there’s this week’s blog topic!’ I thought with a smile. Victory in Christ, thanks to his grace.

But God wasn’t finished with me. I woke up this morning and started to edit what had worked perfectly yesterday afternoon.  No sound!!! What?  There’s a Part 2 to this lesson? That DID catch me by surprise.

I had to laugh, though. ‘You must REALLY want me to get this lesson, that from you and through you and to you are all things’ (Romans 11:36).  Nothing happens or fails to happen except by you.  You are the first cause of every event.

What did I do?  I took screen shots of my recording, still in the recording studio software and sent them to Graham and Mike.  Then I had to leave for a doctor’s appointment. Again, I talked to God on my drive to and fro, affirming my complete confidence in his goodness and his plans. And I asked for help.

What happened?  I don’t know.  I couldn’t get the sound to work on what I had successfully recorded yesterday.  So, I did a test video.  There was sound. For the umpteenth time, I recorded my English without Fear episode and it worked. Praise God!

What will happen next time?  He only knows.  But today, I’m rejoicing in his help and in ‘passing the pop quiz of faith’.  Satan, you lost that one.  My God is sufficient.

Our faith and His ‘pop-quizzes’

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If the three most important words in real estate are ‘location, location, location’, then the key three words for the Christian are ‘entrust, entrust, entrust’ all to Jesus.

Remember…(those)… who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 NIV

If we are to ‘copy the faith’ of someone, that means we must be able to notice it. The text above actually makes that point.  The Greek word ‘consider’ means to behold.  What are we to observe? The conduct of believing Christians all the way to their dying end, through their journey toward the final portal into Life.

One’s ‘way of life’ indicates conversation and actions, how these mature believers interacted, how they handled affliction and upsets.

This morning, I read a different translation of 1 Peter 4:12 that compliments these thoughts: ‘When trials come to test you, don’t freak out.’ How clear!

Observing mature Christians who have taught us God’s word, mimicking their faith responses, watching how they think through and make decisions has a corollary. Just as we copy their pattern, that means others are watching us, too.  We aren’t always aware, but they are. 

But that responsibility won’t tax us if we recall our Lord’s assurance of supernatural, divine help promised to sustain us all the way to the end. God’s chesed, that is His steadfast love and mercy, is constant, never changing. Here’s to ‘not freaking out!’

**

As is my Father’s pattern with me, I can count on a ‘pop quiz’ to follow up what I observe in His Word.  Sure enough, He provided the ‘practicum’ just a day later while on our trip out to Seattle to visit Mike’s mom.

When I dread something, I will hand it over to You. Psalm 56:3 (my wording)

I had to repent this morning at ‘pee o’clock’.  Washing my hands, my head flew to the coming day and what I was dreading.  We have planned to treat Mom to a dinner out 3 blocks from her retirement complex.  My fears over the past few days have been: ‘What Uber driver will want to transport us that short of a distance and back?’ and ‘Will the ambiance and food please Mom or will it be too loud and unsatisfying for a 92-year-old?’  

So, as soon as I thought in the dark, “I’ll be glad when today is over”, He convicted me, clearing away the fog of fear.  “Oh, I have a heavenly Father!  I can hand this entire situation over to Him.”  And so, I did and fell back asleep.

Now, further into the day, I keep reminding myself that He has ‘got this’.  The grace we will need is already stockpiled. This event is meant for future praise.

PS: Well, it’s ‘the day after’.  And of course, God’s score card continues to be perfect. Not a single driver balked at the four-block trip.  We arrived on time.  There were ramps for Mom and her walker to use.  We were seated by ourselves in a spacious alcove with a view over Seattle.  Visibility was perfect. Our menu selection pleased Mom and we made it home with no hitch.  Our driver was in his early 80s, seeking always to be productive.  He understood Mom’s needs. 

Father, forgive me yet again for doubting your ability to come through. Thank you for your kindness to us and to Mike’s mom who delighted in being able to view her beloved city from the 14th floor.

Are you the ‘doing’ kind of Christian?

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Do you ever question whether you’re doing ‘enough’ good works as a Christian? I think there is a lot of self-inflicted guilt and shame among believers. We observe some who seem always to be serving in some way. Measuring ourselves against their standard leads us to conclude that we lack dedication, that we might not even be ‘real’ Christians.

Yes, God’s Word teaches that Jesus redeemed us for good works prepared even before God created the universe.  Just what should we be doing?  How do we know?

And speaking of knowing, if we are to have heart-motivation to do any good works, what kind of foundation of knowing do we need?  What will keep us grounded with pure motives (as pure as we can obtain)?

**

(Jesus) gave himself for us ….. to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:14 ESV

My volunteer colleague yearns to ‘do good works’.  Her soft, large heart embraces those unacquainted with real hope. She is drawn to share with many the truth about Jesus’ liberation of those captive to Satan, those estranged from the Father. But her husband doesn’t (yet) share her passionate zeal. He’s not even sure if he is a believer. She mourns this fact. Seeing other believing couples aligned to serve God together pains her.

Listening to her has made me think, “Is sharing the Gospel the only good work? Just what are these ‘good works’ God has prepared for us to do?”  John records the same question and Jesus’ answer.

What must we do, to be doing the works of God? ……… This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. John 6:28-29

My friend, burdened by her husband’s lack of interest in things of God would say, “I DO believe in Him!”  True, but the Greek word believe means to trust, to ‘EN-trust all things to Jesus as Lord’.

It could be that until she actually believes that Jesus ‘has got this – her husband’s soul’, her husband’s heart situation might not change.  Jesus might just think it best FIRST to grow HER unequivocal confidence in Him.

**

May you have the power to grasp……his (Christ’s) love….

…..and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…Ephesians 3:18- 19, NIV

I have an elderly friend whose mind is losing power to grasp more than one thing at a time. Reading and taking in an entire psalm confuses her.

But she can take heart. At this stage of her final journey on ‘earth 1.0’, holding on to one central fact is enough.  What is the one thing she needs to know?

‘Jesus loves me, this I know.’

When I think of grasping one fact, Martha’s sister Mary comes to mind. Jesus praised her for feeding on what was of ‘summa’ importance.

When I struggle to trust God, it’s because I have forgotten what He has already done. Our ancestors, those Goshen Hebrews, neglected to recall God’s wonderous acts as well. God named their failure to remember ‘rebellion’ because seeing, they didn’t recall how good He had been to them.  They didn’t trust Him.

Our fathers in Egypt did not grasp Your wonders or remember Your abundant kindness. Psalm 106:7 Berean Study Bible

Father, give Pat and me as well power to clutch and hold on to your love. May we not forget. Keep us rehearsing daily your deeds.

Tools to fight Covid weariness

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Covid IS wearying.  Now more than ever I come thirsty to my Bible.  Each morning I pray before I read, acknowledging my hunger and the fact that both God and His Word are alive and full of power.  I want to SEE Jesus.  I want to BE corrected.  I want to BE filled.  I want to BE awed.

This week I chose two of my daily mediations that have to do with gratitude and life that energizes. Both helped me combat the fatigue of this ongoing pandemic.

Once again Leah became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She named him Judah, for she said, “Now I will praise the LORD!” Genesis 29:35 NLT

The summer I turned 20, while employed in a little hotel-restaurant in Switzerland, I envisioned my future. Joyfully speaking French all day long, I dreamed of marrying a Swiss, working locally and raising our children to be tri-lingual.

God in His goodness directed me differently, all the while nurturing the desires He originated. I married Mike, lived only 4 more years overseas, but started teaching French and German in Virginia after son # 2 arrived.

Because God kept me on His path, I became a Christian. But like Leah, I revisit my dream from time to time. Not the Swiss husband, but the living overseas.

But in His mercy, the Father has shown me how He has been satisfying my desires.  I DO live immersed in languages, although stateside.

May I keep on seeing and praising the One who knows how best to satisfy His children!

****

The righteous will live by faith. Romans 1:17 NIV

This morning, I lingered and indulged one of my passions.  The phone app Blue Letter Bible provides many Greek and Hebrew meanings and nuances for our English translations.  Boy, was I enriched and strengthened! Here’s what I found.

The ‘righteous’ are those who “are approved or accepted by God”. If you are a believer, you know that Jesus’ life-work and sin payment on the cross imputed to us is the only way a holy God can welcome us.

‘Live’ encompasses much more than biological forces.  “Enjoys real life and vigor, feels fresh and is active.”

Finally, let’s look at the key word – faith. ‘Pistis’ includes depending on the “faithful character of God”.

Do you recall John Bunyan locked up in Doubting Castle? Only when he found the Key of Promise and believed the promises in the Bible, could he insert the key and walk out.  That is a beautiful example of exercising the privilege of being accepted by the Father and relying on all His promises.

Can we be content ALL the time?

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Have you ever looked at and analyzed those ‘Blessed are the….’ in Matthew 5?  You know, that famous hillside occasion when Jesus preached to many?

They seem to promise complete, 100 % satisfaction ONE DAY.  In the future.  Not now.  For instance, Jesus mentions:

  • A future Kingdom
  • Seeing God
  • Acknowledgement as sons of God
  • Mercy
  • Possession of the entire earth
  • Comfort

He teaches that the desperately needy, hurting, sad CAN BE those who GET what they crave.  He calls them ‘blessed’ because, the relief of the need is guaranteed. One day.

Some of the verbs Jesus uses in that discourse mention longings:

  • mourning
  • desiring an inheritance
  • craving mercy
  • wanting persecution to stop
  • needing one’s name to be cleared
  • hoping for peace amidst all current rancor and bitterness

I’ve been thinking about contentment a lot these days.  Lots of ‘my wants’ continue to be BLOCKED.  These desires tend to be short-term longings.  I’d like to see family and friends. I’d like to travel.  I’d REALLY like this time of anxiety-riddle uncertainty to end.

What do I tend to do with my anxious thoughts?  Journal about them, read my Bible and see how God corrects my thinking.  Here’s what happened Friday morning that prompted me to slow down and think:

  • God has given me confidence (faith) that he is who the Bible says he is.
  • Therefore, I start from the presupposition that the Bible is God’s true word to me.  His promises and his characteristics are FACTS.  They won’t go away. They won’t change because of WHO God is PLUS his nature and his commitment to honor his word.  He IS his word.
  • I can’t read the Bible knowing that God is God and NOT do what he tells me.

So, what I wrote in my journal on Friday was that reasoning with faith produces actions, which in turn produce FEELINGS! (I had gotten this from John Piper several years ago)

Then it dawned on me!  I wrote: “The only real and worthwhile category of contentment is BEING CONTENT IN YOU, because OF YOU!”

I sat back, wondering at the simplicity of all this.  If I want permanent contentment, then I need to be glad about EVERY thing God has done for me and ALL that he promises to continue to do unceasingly.

Three gifts immediately flew into my mind:

  • You opened my eyes to KNOW what kind of person I am and who YOU are: Holy God = knowledge and faith
  • Through Jesus’ life and death on my behalf, I now have a permanent relationship of favor WITH you = repentance and forgiveness
  • Your holy, supernatural, perfect spirit is IN me, permanently = matchLESS companion and counselor

Then this morning while thinking about what Jesus promises us, his sisters and brothers, brought this clarity:

  • God created us with real desires and longings
  • They WILL be perfectly fulfilled…… one day!
  • Nothing here on what I call Earth1.0 can ever meet ALL of them or any of them in a satisfying way that leads to contentment

When I brought my thinking to a close (it was time to get ready for church) I summarized in my journal:

“The only way to have genuine contentment right now in this broken, fallen world is to be content with who God is and what awaits me from his hand.  Those without Jesus as their savior and friend have no hope of real or permanent contentment.”

Okay….so with whom can I share these thoughts? Thankfully you! – who spend a few moments scanning or reading these posts.  So my question to you is this: How do you see and seek contentment? Do you keep struggling to BE content or SEEK contentment? Has what makes you content changed over time?

Matt 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 

 

 

Do you cringe when you are asked? “Give us your testimony?”

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Last week I attended a volunteer orientation at our local crisis pregnancy center here in Huntsville. Part of the training to be an intake counselor includes how to share God’s good news, the Gospel, using videos from Evantell.org I like their approach because the focus is not on me, but on God.  It’s about sharing good news of what Christ has done.

However, at last week’s briefing, the CPC director encouraged us to think about our own personal testimony and be prepared to share it.

I tend to feel reluctant when I think about how knowing Jesus has changed me. After all, I still sin, A LOT!  My default supposition is:

  • If I had more faith, I would not worry, fear, envy, vaunt myself.

In other words, Maria is NOT a good example of how Jesus makes a difference in someone’s life.

But then something I read gave me hope that perhaps I CAN articulate how knowing Jesus, how BEING ADOPTED by the Father have made a qualitative difference in my life.

It didn’t take long to come up with a few that make a difference each day:

  • I have faith to trust God, a gift.
  • I am far more content in each day’s circumstances because I understand, I know that God is sovereignly directing every molecule in the universe. This God is good, wise, powerful and loving. Even when His plan for me includes trials and suffering.
  • Knowing what life is all about and the purpose of life greatly stabilizes me.  Understanding the BIG PICTURE in other words.  God tells us in His word that He created all things to glorify Him. We, His image-bearers, though sinners, do this more fully because those He predestined to be saved, to be part of His forever family, spotlight His underserved kindness and mercy.
  • I am forgiven of ALL my sins – past, present, future since Jesus was punished in my place.
  • Jesus’ perfect obedience record, that is His righteousness, has been extended to me guaranteeing free access to God, the Father.
  • I am fully known by God, since He created me.
  • I am greatly and maximally loved.
  • I have a new identity. My past or my current behavior doesn’t define me.
  • I have a life purpose that is GREATER than me, one that includes an assigned role in God’s cosmic drama.  As the director and screencaster He planned the location and  timing of my role, my bit part.  I don’t have to know the details of how it’s all working out, for I already know this Story’s happy ending.
  • I have a future with God that is categorically better than this phase on earth.
  • I have guaranteed constant, on-going access (prayer) to the best Counselor who also provides strength, comfort and fellowship with God’s Holy Spirit.
  • I have God’s Word back to me.  The Bible is about God, written by God and daily tailored to my needs when I read and meditate on it. When He woke me up to His presence, He also birthed my desire to read the Bible. This has never left me, but only grows stronger over the years.
  • I have family members where ever I go – that is fellow believers.
  • I have perfect (sufficient) provision for my daily needs.
  • I have protection and rescue from evil.

This then is my testimony.

When is the appropriate time to share my story, how being in Christ, knowing the Lord makes a daily difference in my life now?  After someone has heard who God is and what He has done through Jesus Christ.

Would I share EVERY item? No, just maybe 1 or 2 that would connect best.  Do I have any favorites? I’d say knowing about God’s providential sovereignty over ALL matter together with knowing the Big Picture and my purpose.  Both of these, fueled by the Bible, are causing me to grow in contentment with His rule over my life.

What about you?  Do you have a testimony?

Isaiah 43:6b-7

Bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the ends of the earth—

everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.

 

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