Power dressing by borrowing Christ’s clothes

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And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49 ESV

I lay awake for a long time the other night ‘thinking through’, (i.e., worrying about) Thanksgiving week when all five of our grandchildren and their parents will be with us.  I don’t ‘do grandparenting’ well.  I often feel insecure in my ability to plan activities and engage naturally.

I woke up tired, knowing that I’d be depending on the Lord for energy to serve at the pregnancy center this morning, as well as the day’s other commitments.

After reading the Bible selections for the day, I turned to my Andrew Murray book Abide. The next chapter following where I had left off the previous day dealt with Holy Spirit power.

I began to feel a bit energized as I copied in my journal one of Murray’s meaningful passages: ‘When Jesus strengthens believers, it is not by taking away the sense of feebleness and giving in itself the sense of strength….He actually increases our sense of utter impotence.’

Murray went on to explain that our feebleness and his strength actually co-exist, side by side.

Then this ‘money’ sentence hit me like a glorious two-by-four.  ‘….all our strength is in Christ, laid up and waiting for use.’  Now THAT was worth a sleepless night.  Here is what the Holy Spirit clarified for me.  Of course, I feel helpless, weak, ill-equipped as a grandmother, just as I did when I taught French in the classroom. That is intentional, so that I count on and rejoice in God’s power made available to me. Jesus brims with creativity, energy, joy, and knows perfectly how to engage kids.

Then another coin dropped, that God has intentionally given me some painful experiences that have led me to conclude that I don’t have what it takes to be a fun grandma. (It is given to you both to believe….. and to suffer….. Philippians 1:39). Furthermore, he perfectly timed my sleepless night to prepare me to receive THIS particular Andrew Murray piece about being clothed with God’s power.

Jesus in the Luke passage says we will be CLOTHED with the Father’s promised power.  It’s like a garment, a cloak of strength.  It’s not OUR strength.  We have to trust, count on and rely on the garment of Christ’s power. All by faith in the invisible promise of God.

I might not ever feel okay as a grandmother of young children. I might forever feel like I’m NOT enough so that my grandkids really sense that I enjoy them and that I make them feel cherished.

The good news, the GRAND news, is that God expects me to be enough, to be strong and capable and equipped IN the Lord. (Ephesians 6:10). 

Now, I have a concrete way to picture accessing divine vigor and creative abilities through slipping into Jesus’ power coat. I’m not meant to grandmother on my own. Or do anything, for that matter, in my own Maria strength.  So glad!

Does God answer all our prayers?

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You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2 NIV

This kind of verse can hurt.  We all have those people and situations about whom and for whom we have consistently prayed, often pleading with intensity that the Father would DO something! It could be a spiritual change in heart for a non-believing family member so that he feels compelled to turn to God.  Or maybe a cry for healing or way forward where there seems to be nothing but one obstacle after another.

But sometimes we haven’t even thought to pray, to bring a need before the Lord. Why would that be? In my case, I think Satan has blocked me from seeing that we could add a need to our joint prayers at night.  And it’s not because I entertain a kind of pious-sounding false humility that goes something like this: “Oh, I don’t believe in praying for myself.  That feels selfish. Besides, God’s got bigger fish to fry!” Have you ever heard that from fellow believers?

Let me give you an example of something Mike and I never thought to pray for daily. We’ve been talking about his upcoming planned retirement in a year, if that be God’s will. He loves recording books and doing voice-over work. About three weeks ago, we decided to include in our evening prayers a daily petition for more voice-over work right now.

What do you know!  Last Friday, Jen from ‘His Productions’ contacted Mike with the news that another pastor had selected him from all the other audio samples on the company’s website to voice this pastor’s intros and outros for his planned teachings on the entire Bible.

Boom!  Just like that, more audio work.  That sure encouraged us to keep praying.

Three days later, I heard the good news of another answered prayer. Mike’s mom had been lamenting that her daughter-in-law never seems to want to hop on Zoom during her weekly catch-up call with Mike’s brother, her youngest son.  My mother-in-law was wondering if she had somehow offended this gal.  Mike and I added their relationship to our nightly prayers.

Not 3 weeks after we started praying specifically for Mom and Eve to connect on Zoom, I learned that the Lord had answered our prayer. Mom had been able to chat briefly with her other daughter-in-law on the most recent Zoom call with Steve.

My theory is that God loves to respond quickly to many of our ‘small’ needs in order to encourage us to persevere in prayer, to NOT give up counting on him to handle all those burdens that we off-load in obedience. For sure, we all have been praying for months and years about many situations.  But you know, if you think about all the ‘moving parts’, all the circumstances and timing that God is coordinating, then you can see that arrangements can take time.  There is a ‘fullness of time’ for everything we ask for, whether the answer is as we requested OR whether God changes us so that what we thought would be wise or good and right might not really be.  

I have to remember that Satan strategizes to get me to draw a false conclusion about God, one such as:  ‘Oh, God doesn’t really care….He’s far too busy….you might as well give up…. you don’t want to be disappointed…..maybe you misunderstood the Bible….did God really say?’

Remember the persistent widow parable Jesus used as a teaching point? It’s a ‘how much more’ scenario.  Jesus emphasizes that indeed our loving and righteous Father will respond, unlike that unjust judge who just wanted to get that annoying woman off his back!

Friends, let us not grow weary in praying!  We have a good Father.

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.

Battling to keep walking with the Truth

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Jesus proclaimed: ‘I am ..the Truth’. Aren’t you glad that Truth is a person who takes a very intimate interest in each of us, His brothers and sisters? Without Him, we would never be able to withstand our enemy, that liar who seeks to discourage us by attacking God’s Word.  Our greatest daily, if not hourly, temptation that we must resist is our bent toward doubting God.

In these two reflections, I describe two types of suffering that accompany our difficult calling to believe Jesus.

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Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NASB

I have a sweet friend eager to be with Jesus.  Days dark with death exhaust her. Her son’s marriage is dying and she lives with him and his wife.  Another son’s own son is in jail for murdering a man.  Somber and sobering shadows press in on her.

But the darkness is passing. Her Savior, Jesus, the good Shepherd is walking with her through the dying. She doesn’t dwell there.

King David, too, suffered the death of relationships and dreams.  And King Jesus led him back into the light. David never forgot the comforting presence of this Shepherd.  He felt the guiding, bounding presence of rod and staff, until relief came on the other side. Do you suppose he was able to trust His shepherd, having been one himself?

Joy returned including feasting and fellowship when God restored his rule.  Prophetically and with bracing frankness, he proclaimed that as good as temporary relief can be, what awaited him AND us is permanent joy and love forever.

My friend needs to cling to this truth, as do we.

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Fight the good fight of faith 1 Timothy 6:12 NASB

Mike and I have been rewatching The Lord of the Rings.  So, when I read this chapter today, ‘The Last Battle’ lingered in my mind.

What if you and I woke up daily fully expecting another day of warfare? Isn’t that what Paul is teaching?  Most assuredly, there are many possible conflicts in life, but they are worthless compared to this one.  What is our one major conflict? The fight for our faith.  The ongoing struggle to trust Jesus.

As long as our enemy persists, we must engage in daily war. Satan’s primary objective continues – to cause us to doubt God’s word.

What should Christians expect, then?

In God’s good providence, He plans daily battle training to strengthen us.  Furthermore, we should prepare for enemy skirmishes, probing our resolve.  Occasionally, frontal assaults test us. And some of us will be engaged in a lifetime-long war. Think ‘The Hundred Years War’.

If we go to bed still trusting God, then we can celebrate the victory. Restorative sleep prepares us for another day to fight, divinely equipped.

Let’s love well and enjoy safety

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Since today is Valentine’s Day here in America, let’s focus on God’s command to love one another.  I’ve always known that being well loved is a gift, but this week I saw how practicing love toward others is also a gift. I’m beginning to think that loving others well, something that often includes ‘bearing’ or helping to carry another’s burden, is a kind of protection against one’s own fear and churn.  It’s been said that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. So, to fight fear we need to focus on love.  God’s love for us and ours for others.

My second offering to you today is a slim example of why ‘not worrying’ when we can trust Jesus is such a relief.

May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow….. may He make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy….1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

February is ‘Heart Health Month’. We all know that proper nutrition and lots of cardio benefit our hearts.  But God also has a sure remedy to strengthen our hearts.  That is to practice loving one another each day.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it!  Just how can loving others improve my heart condition?  Because it means copying Jesus’ interactions.

Practicing this love thing can be painful at times.  Especially since the logical place to ‘train’ my heart is with my family.

I don’t have to tell you how challenging that is.  To treat someone the way Jesus would involves humility, patience, gentleness and keeping my mouth shut when tempted to blurt out a barb.

I don’t work in an office anymore, but if my family doesn’t provide enough ‘exercise’, there’s always my church family. 

God’s ‘School of Love’ provides one long continuing education program meant to condition the heart.

February 10

….do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:11 ESV

We don’t have to be ‘preppers’. Mike and I used to live in Western North Carolina. We occasionally heard tales of locals stockpiling food and supplies in case of future invasion or calamity.

Jesus is an anti-prepper. He teaches that when believers are dragged in front of government officials hostile to the gospel, we don’t have to plan what to say.  The Holy Spirit will speak give us the appropriate words.

Then in verse 23 when describing the end times, Jesus again does not counsel packing food or clothes, but simply commands: But be on guard.  The Greek verb ‘blepo’ means ‘to pay attention, to understand the times’.

What a relief to know we don’t have to worry, to be anxious, to make contingency plans!  How would we prepare anyway? Too many eventualities to think about. Jesus presence is enough.

The Spirit’s recent drumbeat – Truth & Trust

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Mike and I have almost reached the end of this year’s journey through the Bible.  Recently it feels as though the Spirit has been exhorting me to embrace ‘Trust and Truth’ toward the close of this year, 2020. Here are two of my daily ‘devotional bites’ that I’ve recently written.

I’m having fun with this self-assigned challenge to put clearly into creative, yet succinct words what Lord is teaching me through His word and daily experiences. We CAN hear from the Living Son, Jesus, through His spirit.

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

…. he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion … Phil 1:6 ESV

Speaking Spanish the other day felt like ‘pulling teeth’.  Tere listened distractedly. Was my straining for words wearing on her? It can be painful when someone is communicating haltingly in another language.

Listening that night, Mike strongly countered my conclusion. Surprised, but grateful, I realized I hadn’t shared this discouragement with Jesus.

The next morning unloading ALL my feelings on paper, I asked Him: ‘What do you think about this? What should I do?’

Silence.

So, I moved on to the day’s Bible reading, knowing He would respond in some way. Sure enough, the Holy Spirit brought the Psalmist’s above exhortation to mind, reminding me that all good desires are God-given. I didn’t seek out Spanish.  God planted that seed in me and birthed a new passion.

And Phil 1:6 seems a logical and reassuring conclusion, don’t you think?

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The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. Psalm 16:5 ESV

If you study people, you can spot what they treasure. Our unrehearsed, spontaneous words provide evidence. How we spend time and money also signal the truth.

The Bible teaches that God has deliberately picked out each of our permanent riches, that is our inheritances. Down to the last detail, such as its purse or container (cup), our Father keeps all safe until the right time.

Observing me, what would you conclude is MY treasure, what I value most? I spend a lot of time taking care of my temporary body: food prep, exercise, medical care, sleep, hair and nail appointments, clothing.  Not to mention time spent on maintaining our interim house!

My prayers tend more to the temporary as well. I am learning, though, to plead more spiritual transformation that short-term needs indicate.

But hearts don’t lie.

Jesus, help me to remember and apply your teaching:  Your heart will always be where your treasure is. Matthew 6:21 CEV

Are you always working? What does that say about your God?

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Ezekiel 20:12 And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the LORD, who had set them apart to be holy.

Last week, as August turned into September, we read God’s words to the Hebrew captives in Babylonia. For the first time, I saw the irony: teaching about Sabbath rest right before the Labor Day weekend.

Here’s a question for you: How would you describe Americans? What 3 adjectives would you use?

If you mention – workaholics, then we’re on the same wave-length. Americans BRAG about working long hours. It’s a virtue to be trumpeted, a boy scout merit badge to be admired by others. In culture at large and IN the church! How did this backward way of viewing life and organizing our seasons come about?

It certainly wasn’t the goal of government, which over decades enacted saner labor laws. NOR did technological innovators foresee work slavery as an unintended consequence. The 40-hour work week and inventions for both home and shop were meant to give us leisure. This slower pace would provide more time to connect and enjoy family, friends and neighbors. Evenings and weekends were margin we needed to rest and re-create. A time to STOP, look upward to God and outward to people. Yet culture did little to change our views of work and rest.Yet culture did little to change our views of work and rest. With the ‘freed up time’ we just did more stuff, more busy-ness.

What about Christians, those in the church? We’re no different than pagan culture. American seminaries even in the early part of the 20th century began straying from taking God’s Word as true, good and authoritative. Evangelical Christians today look, by and large, indistinguishable from their unbelieving colleagues.

Results? Pure insanity. ‘I’m so busy‘ has become a badge of honor.

Let’s look at the time of our agricultural and biblical ancestors, the Hebrews. When God gave His Law to Moses and the redeemed former ‘slaves’, everyone worked 7 days a week. Being commanded to keep the Sabbath would have been a crazy idea. Especially during the different harvest seasons. Unfavorable weather and natural enemies such as blight or pests were feared.

Trusting God enough to ‘remember the Sabbath and keep it holy’ proved impossible to obey. Generations as well as current cultural norms taught that your crops and your livestock were your financial security.

Like us today, it was easier to live by sight than by faith in the unseen God.

God’s 4th commandment and call to rest (He knows what our bodies need!) one day out of seven along with the holy days set aside to worship God cost the Hebrews a lot. Obeying them meant living by faith in the God who had covenanted with them and who promised to provide. They had to walk by faith and NOT by sight. They had to rely on God and NOT on what they and others had done for hundreds of years (i.e. use common sense) as Proverbs 3:5 commands:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

In our assigned reading this week, we read the LORD’s explanation to His people through the prophet Ezekiel. God patiently pointed out two purposes for His good gift of the Sabbath:

  • to remind them that the One they were called to trust at all times, especially on those Sabbaths that fell on sunny, dry days right in the middle of a harvest was the One who created the universe. He had covenanted to take care of them. In other words, He was ABLE and GOOD.
  • to remind them that they had been INTENTIONALLY separated and made different from their pagan neighbors…..they belonged to the LORD for HIS purposes, which were larger than their immediate need to get the harvest in before the weather changed.

So, back to the stereotypical workaholic American. What new thought did the Holy Spirit give me when I arrived at Ezekiel 20:12? Just this:

When we continue to work longer than we HAVE to, to get our work done, then we are acting like pagans, like those who have NO living God to depend on .

The workaholic Christian, whether a mom at home with kids or dad at work in an office or two breadwinners managing both work and kids – they broadcast to their watching neighbors/co-workers that ALL depends on THEIR efforts.

I know. Because I used to be that kind of teacher, one who believed IT was all up to me. Over the years, as the Lord pried my fingers off of ‘my free time’ on weekends to do lesson plans, He surprised me by showing me ways to be more effective with the time DURING the school week. Sundays DID evolve into days with more rest.

And by grace He has continued to deepen my trust in Him, to accomplish each day only what is ordained. I’m able to stop work and leave the undone things to His holy keeping for the morrow.

As I have pondered this reminder about the seriousness of Sabbath keeping, I’ve been asking myself: What does Sabbath look like for New Testament Christians? Here are my thoughts:

  • Are we called to live the entire Sabbath day (24 hours) differently from the other 6 days?
  • Alternatively, is it possible to have Sabbath rest 1/7th of each day, during the waking hours? What would that look like? Given that I fence off 8 hours a night for sleep, what is 1/7 of the remaining 16 hours? (2.3 hours a day.) So, what would qualify as Sabbath rest for those 2.3 hours or 2 hours and 17 minutes? (thus, is birthed a legalist Sabbath worshipper……)
  • OR…..is Sabbath rest for Christians more a posture, a heart leaning? Recall Paul’s guidance in 2 Cor 9:6-7 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Let’s look back at the text in Ezekiel. God gave the people the Sabbath to REMIND them of two facts: Who He is and Who THEY are.

Thinking through work and rest and discussing it with Mike yesterday on our Saturday hike, (thank you, Sweetheart, for pointing out the danger of falling into legalism!), leads me to place this question in the category of issues best left up to the individual conscience, as informed by God’s Word.

But working more than is necessary for an honest day’s labor does not build our case for the Good News of a kind Father who provides what we need, including rest.

As you enjoy your Monday holy-day, leave a few minutes to sit outside, soaking in beauty and maybe meditate on tangible ways you could implement to show the world something True, Beautiful and Good about our God.

I’m still scared of God

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It was that silent part in today’s service, the private confession, where we are encouraged to share unconfessed sins with our Father, counting on the safety of His promise to forgive us because of Jesus. Something from this morning sprang to mind, surprising me.

Earlier, sitting outside with my coffee and the birds, I enjoyed a time of study and prayer. At some point, I started reflecting and then savoring right now, this particularly SWEET time in my life, in OUR lives. God has answered MAJOR prayers, some going back decades.  What kind? Here are the biggies:

  • Repeated cries for healing from work-induced anxiety for Mike that has affected his body 28 of our 40 years together.
  • Prayers for healing and freedom for me regarding eating, fitness and body weight.
  • Pleas for job contentment for Mike.
  • Repeated requests for release from my difficult job situation.

I can’t recall a time in my life that has been this restful, this satisfying. Ever.

So, what is the problem? What did I confess this morning?

That I am afraid.

That I am afraid that the Lord will remove these gifts that mean so much, that are so wonderful and refreshing. That they won’t last.

Why would He take them away?

  • He has every right to for two reasons: He created us and He redeemed us. We are His possession.
  • I know from Scripture that our Father has committed Himself to sanctifying me, to making me holy like Jesus.  In His wisdom, He might take these gifts away. To deepen and strengthen my faith, testing (for my benefit) just exactly where my happiness is rooted.  In the gifts, or in Him.

So, during the service, those 45 seconds or so, I confessed that irrational fear to my Father.  I called it what it is. Sin. A slap in the face of the One whom I should trust most. (Am I listening to Satan’s lies, I wondered? With malicious reason that enemy of God doesn’t want me to trust the Father’s love for me.) And I asked for supernatural, divine help.  Wordlessly, I off-loaded this weight in those silent few moments:

  • Father, I am so ashamed to tell You that I don’t trust You. That I’m clinging to these gifts that You have given us, not You.  I see now that I fear losing THEM more than I fear displeasing and dishonoring You. Forgive me. You’ve got to help me, though. Help me to trust You. To trust that You are good. That all that You have planned for Mike and for me IS for our ultimate happiness. It’s just hard. And this time You’ve granted us is SO restful. Soothing balm after many years of pain.

After that confession, I didn’t sense any response from Him. But now, as I write, I see how His Spirit is working. Prompting me to use this ‘shalom’ as a springboard to proclaim to others what my Father, the One and Only Living God, the Lord and Giver of Life has done.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

I don’t have to fear what He will do.

‘Satan – depart from me. I reject your suggestions. I know that Christ’s Spirit is in me and He is truth and light and He is more powerful than you.  I will not listen to you anymore!’

Here is what I commit to, with help! Instead of meditating on the ‘what ifs’ of circumstances, may I keep declaring my Father’s works to everyone I meet. May I honor His holy name in my prayers, my words and my actions. By faith, I will rely on the strength that He provides to bless Him.

Father, thank You for your promised grace: strength to direct my thoughts and words.

Psalm 126:3 The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.

What are you most afraid of?

Is God behind all this global suffering?

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News agencies world wide report droughts, floods, murders, homelessness, job loss, disease and more.

Christian organizations such as Open Doors post pleas for prayer:

  • Unprotected, Christians murdered in Nigeria
  • West Africans suffering from Fulani, sickness and little food
  • Locusts in East Africa destroy crops
  • Daily assaults on Christians in Asian country

Is all this suffering from God’s hand?

I am a Christian who believes that the Bible is the true word of God. I thus accept as fact what God teaches, that nothing happens outside His sovereign will. (some thoughts about ‘two wills’ of God)

Isaiah 46:9-10  I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me.
 I make known the end from the beginning,
    from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
    and I will do all that I please.

I am thinking, thinking a lot these days and reasoning from what I know, from what God says in His Word. He doesn’t answer all my questions, but there is enough truth for me to ponder and think clearly.  He expects me, as one of His, to apply my mind. ‘Think on these things’, Paul exhorts in Phil 4:8.

I know that all that has befallen me in my 6 decades: the bad, the painful, the shameful, the sicknesses, the sin, the blessings, the rescues, the deliverances, the joys, the ‘pleasants’….all have been planned for my good, to bring me to Jesus (rescuing me from the right judgement of my guilt and fair eternal penalty) and to make me holy like Him.  If God is God and if He is good, wise, all-powerful, faithful and loving, then He has good reason, good purposes for what He does.  Whether I see His reasons. Whether I agree with them or not.

I don’t struggle with that anymore IN MY OWN LIFE. 

But recently I’ve been thinking those who are REALLY suffering in the world, in what we call the 3rd-world areas. (Is there a ‘second-world’ label??)

My pain and struggles have been those of an advantaged American born in the second half of the 20th century.  Past and present – far more people have been and are overcome by poverty, hopelessness, violence, hunger, sickness, disastrous weather and terrorism.  Does God work all those imagination-defying ‘awfuls’ to bring SOME to Christ and make THEM more like Jesus? Are these conditions His tailored will for their lives, just as my circumstances are for me?

That is what I have been wondering.  And it’s a new idea for me.

Not for a moment do I think this is merely an intellectual exercise, that God intends for me just to ponder logically when I read of 3rd-world suffering.   Why not? Because all through the Bible, God’s people are commanded to take care of and provide for the down-and-out in our reach.

  • Deut 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land; that is why I am commanding you to open wide your hand to your brother and to the poor and needy in your land.

In just the week that this topic has been on my mind, my conclusion is that somehow, in God’s wisdom, those who are His, those whom He is calling from each people group, He has placed in the designed location, time and circumstances best suited for their hearing and responding to the Gospel.  No, He doesn’t condone violence and oppression of the poor. But He does ordain what is at the ‘moment’ an evil for a greater good since He KNOWS has PLANNED and will bring about the eventual outcome. All through the Bible we read that His hand is behind droughts (think Naomi and Ruth), slavery (Joseph to Egypt) leprosy (Naaman), murder plots (Esther and the Jews), imprisonment (Paul and the Philippian jailor).

I choose to hold fast to what I know is true about our God.  I have learned that He is trustworthy.  I don’t have to understand or see His reasons to accept that what breaks my heart will one day be the cause of my praise for the resulting beauty of his Grace revealed.

In the meantime, may He keep my heart soft both to call on Him for justice and relief and to be part of His provision.

How the Lord changed my mind

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God still surprises me and I’ve VERY glad.  I am learning that He doesn’t tend to act in the same manner in similar sets of circumstances.  I should know that just through the two accounts of God’s instructions to Moses about how He, God, was going to provide water from the Rock to thirsty, wandering Israel in the wilderness:

In the first instance, Moses was to STRIKE the rock.

Ex 17:5-6 Then the Lord told Moses, “Go over in front of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.  I’ll be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock and water will come out of it, so the people can drink.” Moses did this in front of the elders of Israel.

But again, when the people had no water, God told Moses to TALK to the rock. Moses disobeyed.

Numbers 20:8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”

The God who spoke our varied and intricate universe into existence IS creative and intent on teaching us obedience.

Now to my situation:

For almost two years I had been creating video content for my YouTube channel (videos and transcripts here)  to help English language learners acquire English through simple stories in slow English.  But as 2019 turned into 2020 I had been questioning whether I should continue.  The response and number of subscribers to the channel didn’t seem worth the time I was spending.  After much prayer and discussion with Mike, I decided to let my waning desire be my guide to a decision.  I stopped creating videos in early February 2020.  Relieved of that ‘task’ each week, I happily shifted more time to what was providing satisfaction:  acquiring Spanish!

This self-imposed lay-off coincided with the 5 weeks of work it took to move from a rental house here in Huntsville into a new house and get our household up and running.

To my surprise, God intervened about two weeks ago to direct my thoughts back to ‘English without Fear’.  Through Scripture, books on God and various prayers I read as well as devotions from my favorite teaching & praying pastors (John Piper, Scotty Smith, & Charles Spurgeon) God seemed to be saying that I had a duty to STEWARD my talents, gifts and experiences for the benefit of others.

I immediately thought about His gifts to me – the personal joy in learning and using French, German and Spanish as well as the ability to teach a second language.

“Huh,” I mused and pondered. “The Lord doesn’t seem to be working through my desires right now. He seems to be appealing to the responsibility I have to put to use for others more of my skills and experience.”  Since calling a halt to ‘English without Fear’ I’ve been using my growing, intermediate Spanish skills in my newish volunteer position as an intake counselor at our local pregnancy resource center.  Was God urging me NOW to add back into my week teaching English as a second language via my videos?

I pondered, reasoned, waited and prayed.  The message came again – “Maria, as a believer, you are called NOT to be idle nor hide your gifts, your light, under a bushel basket”

Maybe DESIRE alone should NOT be what determines how I spend my time. With that conclusion, I started back up creating content for ‘English without Fear’.

My resolve, for now, is to be faithful with what the Lord has given me. It matters not if few still watch.  If one or two are helped, then isn’t that enough? And if NO one watches right now, isn’t the bigger principle my obedience to Holy Spirit nudges?

Therefore, for the time being and with His grace, I will keep my hand to the plow, confident that He will signal me when and if it is time for a course change.

 

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