Hanging out with Jesus, permanently

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Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. John 15:4

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 4:13

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
1 Corinthians 6:17

The New Testament has a lot to say about staying connected to Jesus. Our savior uses many images to communicate union with him.

Mentally, I understand what Jesus teaches. But living as though it is reality challenges me. The promise staggers the mind: ALL of God’s spiritual resources are available to the born-from-above Christian. We are promised protection, energy, wisdom, direction, understanding of heavenly things, love, hope, joy, strength and much else. To his small group of disciples, Jesus taught and re-taught connection with God using simple agricultural analogies, such as vines and branches, and being yoked with him.

To my relief, our Bible also records how often his guys forgot their master’s words and lived out of their own pathetic resources. Just as they did, I need help getting used to this offer of ongoing supernatural help. And I need to practice it. Or to put it in modern language, I need to bushwhack a new neural network in my brain. Over decades I have worn a deep rut that is easy to follow, that of depending on human strength and know-how.

Over the past two and half weeks, I have felt encouraged and emboldened to pick up my machete and forge a different pathway or neural network, one that I trust will become my default before too long.

I’m using a meditative app created by John Eldredge and his team. This is what it looks like.

If you put in the search bar of the app store ‘John Eldredge Pause’, you’ll see it. The app has some individual meditations, but I’ve been following the 30 Days to Resilient program. This morning (Day 16) the team talked much about staying connected and receiving from Jesus.

What has been hard up to now is that when we receive from Jesus, we don’t FEEL anything. To help myself, I jotted down some other ‘receivings’ that we probably don’t physically feel. These examples might not be perfect, but maybe one will spark a connection that helps.

Consider being hooked up to a dialysis machine. I did a little research and most sites said that if you are connected properly, you shouldn’t feel anything during the cleaning of your blood. This quote encouraged me:
“The best sign that you are getting good dialysis is that you feel well, look healthy and can do the things you want to do. With adequate dialysis, you should have a good appetite. When it’s time for your next treatment, you should feel like you don’t need it. This is the goal of dialysis.”

I thought of other illustrations:

  • A feeding tube
  • Blood transfusion
  • Oxygen masks
  • A wireless insulin pump
    I like this last one. A device is planted under your skin and administers insulin when your body needs it. I don’t know whether one FEELS the insulin entering his body, maybe not.

This is what our ongoing union with Jesus is like. We are permanently connected with our savior. Our challenge, especially in view of Satan, whose goal is to make us forget and FEEL alone without hope or help, is to RECALL our gifted and permanent connection with the Son of God. The passage way is always open for us to receive from Jesus, our vine.

It’s okay we don’t FEEL it physically. We have to SEE this pipeline with our new eyes, eyes of faith. Yes, we have new eyes, because we are new creations, grafted into Jesus and he into us.

Mike and I are facing difficult circumstances with his mom living on her own and far away. She is quickly fading physically and mentally, but what is MORE troubling is that she refuses to budge in her understanding of Christianity. She clings to the distortions she learned as a girl growing up catholic.

We need divine wisdom, guidance, financial resources and a host of other provision. All of which the Lord promises to provide. We just have to stay connected to our life-source and receive what he is ready to give.

If Jesus comes back today.

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On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God…….

Exodus 19:16-17 ESV

I don’t recall noticing ‘the trumpet blast’ in previous readings through Exodus. This time, the connection to Jesus’ return with angels amid the sounding of the trumpet struck me.

I pondered, ‘You know, it’s not at all unrealistic for Jesus to arrive this very day!  If he does come back before midnight, then which worries and preoccupations of mine will have been a waste of emotional energy, as well as a waste of time?’

These days, you’d probably think first off, as I did, of Putin. We’re all praying for an end to this evil man and the suffering he is causing. Most of my rescue scenarios have God supernaturally multiplying the Ukrainian military forces to overwhelm the Russian army.  But Jesus’ second coming would end this war instantly.

Sometimes, I forget how creative our God is.  He has at his disposal infinite scenarios with perfect resources for every event he plans to permit.  We’re encouraged by the verse to believe and count on our God who does more than the wildest of our imaginings.

What other worries and issues would be OBE (overcome by events)?  Mike and I are making financial plans and decisions as his projected retirement approaches.  Planning is a good. God encourages us to steward well the resources he loans us and to ask for his wisdom. But when we let life’s natural uncertainties weigh us down instead of giving them to him, that is sin.  So, all the anxious, emotional churn over our financial future will turn out to have been for naught, if Jesus comes back this day.

Then there are the ‘concerns’ we have for certain family members, whether their health or their salvation.  Those worries would evaporate.

Here’s the logic I want to apply to my thought life:

  • If Jesus’ sudden arrival would eliminate the need to worry about specific issues, why not just hand over those worries to Jesus right now?

Then what will I think about? After praying for situations and people, I pray that I will remember to think on whatever is pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, excellent and worthy of praise.  It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

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

Living with Jesus is like being a substitute teacher

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We make our own plans, but the LORD decides where we will go. Proverbs 16:9 CEV

Have you ever been a substitute teacher or had one as a child? Then you know what it’s like for these stalwart men and women who never know when or whether they will receive that early morning wake-up call. When the phone does interrupt that last hour or two of REM restoration, they quickly dress, heading out the door to such-and-such school by the designated time.

That’s how I’m beginning to look at my life.  Even though I do all my work these days as a volunteer, I still have a schedule.  I’m learning to hold it loosely. Recently, I readjusted my week so I could fly out to Seattle to encourage and help my mother-in-law.  This family need trumped what I had penciled in on my calendar.

That decision altered an entire week. I’m also finding that the Lord redirects my steps not only at the beginning of a day, but in the middle of the day. I’m developing the mindset that allows me to hold loosely every plan I make. 

I see the life of a substitute teacher as a metaphor for how we family members of God are to live.  We are not the ones running God’s household.  But he’s included us in his family to learn and to serve, obeying out of love. We should expect the Holy Spirit often to change the schedule according to the needs of the Godhead.

Mike’s clients in his contractor’s job often don’t clarify what they want, making it difficult for Mike and his team to provide value.  He sometimes laments the murkiness of his job. He frequently doesn’t know what to expect.  How like the daily duty of a substitute teacher!  I remind him to count on the Lord to unfold his plan for Mike when he doesn’t foresee how he should proceed.

This approach is so like the one a sub has to adopt. She regularly has no idea what the day will be like when she shows up to a classroom.  But usually there is a plan, already purposed and laid out awaiting her. She arrives and carries out the regular classroom teacher’s lessons, following all the directions.  She doesn’t have a say in what she is to do.  She is under ‘orders’, so to speak.

I have found a certain freedom in anticipating God’s sudden changes.  There’s no longer a reason to stress.  For example, when I flew out to Seattle, I had to change in Dallas.  The margin was a mere 34 minutes.  Therefore, I packed a small carry-on bag that would not have to be gate checked, costing me minutes.  When the pilot announced a delay in our arrival time due to a headwind, I had to fight against anxious thoughts which attacked my peace.  Proverbs 16:9 was the weapon I used.  During the 2-hour flight, I wielded that promise about 6 times, finally reasoning that if I missed my connection, then Jesus had a good reason that would be better than making my connection. Anxiety finally gave up.

I’ll leave you a final thought connected to this idea of a substitute teacher.  A simple way of thinking of the grace that Jesus provided is that of a substitute.  He took my place as guilty sinner, deserving of God’s just anger and punishment.  What is more, his perfect life also substitutes for my fouled-up record.  A double substitution. Maybe it’s only fitting that I can sub for him as hands and feet in the part of the world he has placed me.  What do you think?

First the heart, then the actions

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Create in me a pure heart, O God, Psalm 51:10 NIV

Let’s face it.  Relationships are hard!  No wonder, since we live in a sin-saturated world.  After all, our perfect world Eden didn’t last long. Eve and Adam disobeyed God, breaking our world’s order and harmony forever. But instead of fix our world at that point, he set about fixing us, with the promise (future – dated for a set kairos event to come) to give us a new world, a renovated earth 2.0.

Back to difficult relationships and today’s focus on the heart.  Like you all, Mike and I live with some regrets and painful sadness about how our interactions with others have gone over the years.  Thinking about an upcoming visit with some family members caused me to worry this morning. I turned to a fresh page in my journal as I started scribbling down my thoughts.  I wrote in clear declarative sentences:  I feel anxious thinking about what we can do differently to reduce the awkwardness we feel around this couple. Even writing this down caused more angst.

I continued: How am I going to have the wisdom to know just what we should change in our interactions? And if God does bring something to mind and we agree about it and then attempt to implement it, that might make us feel even more uncomfortable resulting in us looking ‘pained’. Likely we’ll be so focused on monitoring our behavior and their response that it will appear like we are NOT enjoying them! 

I now felt worse than when I started to identify my worry. But the sweet Father gifted me with wisdom from above. He sidestepped the ‘what should we do, how should we act’ aim of my worry and presented a new and different approach.  What would happen if Mike and I directed our prayers not to relational tools, but instead asked God to purify our hearts?

I stepped further into this new idea and started to write, Father, you who swap out dead hearts for living hearts that incline toward you, YOU know how to get rid of all the junk in our hearts. It’s no big deal for you to drain away impurities such as: regrets, past hurts, memories of visits that did not satisfy, mindfulness of having to ‘walk on eggshells’, fears about what they think of us, disappointments, and unwelcome feedback that we didn’t see coming.

What if you really removed all that ‘yuk’ and replaced it with a heart totally filled with delight and love toward them? Wouldn’t they notice and respond in kind? Wouldn’t we all feel more natural?

All of a sudden, lightness flooded my whole being and the heaviness and sense of being weighed down vanished.  I realized that it’s not first a matter of deeds and actions, but the heart.  Out of the heart flow our actions.

We wouldn’t even have to game plan our responses and actions. What a concept!  We might actually be able to sit back and enjoy their visit AND look forward to it, as well.

I bet you have relationships that perk along quite naturally.  You feel comfortable with a friend or family member.  You don’t TRY to act a certain way.  You simply are who you are and it all works.

Of course, we can still hurt those who are this easy to love.  That’s why good friends still need to practice forgiveness.  We’re going to step on others’ toes because we’re sinners. Genuine friends aren’t afraid to say with soft and gentle directness, ‘ouch….that hurt when you said/did that just now!’.

Thank you, Father, for providing your wisdom from above.  Please, we ask you, do this supernatural work in us.  It feels like it’s impossible, but nothing is impossible for you.

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.

One of God’s gifts I was ignoring

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For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Driving my granddaughters to school through Tampa rush-hour traffic this week has made me extra cautious.  Plus, I’m driving my son’s new car and I don’t want to damage it. En route to school yesterday morning, my speed just happened to be under the 70 mph limit on Interstate 275-S where the traffic was flowing before all the congestion hit. As a police car passed me on the left, I remarked to 10-year-old Chloe, “Obedience brings blessings.  You don’t have to worry about being pulled over if you obey the speed limit!”

I didn’t share the REAL reason I was traveling a bit slower.  It had nothing to do with avoiding a ticket and unnecessary stress. Nevertheless, I put in a general plug for obeying God.  The REAL reason to heed this traffic law is that I’ve been thinking differently about obeying God in the past 2 days. I’m starting to wonder that maybe our Father’s commands are actually a GIFT, a BLESSING, as opposed to a restriction God has imposed.

As I grow older and my cohort of friends is  aging; as I have grown children in their 30s with their own children; as the Holy Spirit shaves off some of my self-centeredness, sensitizing me to the pain and suffering of those around me, I find myself caring and praying A LOT.

But as God has grown my desire to pray for more people, a concomitant self-imposed burden has emerged.

Years in Bible Study Fellowship back in Virginia taught me to pray for specific needs in a way that is measurable.  Instead of asking God to ‘bless John’s work’, I’ve learned to detail just what John’s tangible need is and name it, asking God’s help WITH the ‘it’.

My prayers now look like this: Father, please guide John to soften his tone with his co-workers so that they and he cooperate better and carry out the assigned task at hand.

Why all the detail?  So, I can know when God comes through and then have the specifics to thank Him!

What then is the burden?  Just that I have fallen into thinking that if I don’t pray specifically WITH all the pertinent details, then my prayer is less effective.

I know what you’re thinking!  Am I not forgetting the comforting promise about the Holy Spirit’s help?

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26

Now that I have given you background, I want to share how marvelously the Spirit came to my rescue yesterday!  There’s a situation in our life that feels complex and overwhelming. Monday evening our granddaughters were in dance class.  While I waited for them Mike and I chatted briefly. He shared a setback over the phone.  After we hung up, a wave of dismay rolled over me as I tried to place this news into the context of God’s promises.

Thank you, Father, for the time TO think, to know where to hang this new piece of data according to what is TRUE about You!

Here is what the Lord did. He gave me insight having to do with obedience!

My obedience is not something I think about much. But on this occasion the Holy Spirit reminded me of Jesus’ many teachings NOT to worry.  The Spirit then brought​ to mind​ divine commands​ penned ​by Paul & Pete​​r​,​ reenforce​ing the Lord’s lessons::

Cast ALL your cares on Him, for He cares for you! 1 Peter 5:7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Phil 4:6

Here then is how my mind worked to bring me back out of this tight spot after hearing Mike’s report.

“Oh, I am supposed to OBEY my heavenly Father.  And He tells me to hand over every single care TO Him. What a relief!  Here you go, dear Father, take this new development in this season of painful suffering and do what is best.  Amen”

Simple and easy.  I picked up my Kindle book, reading while I waited for the girls to finish. Each time my mind drifted back to the dark, tight spot it’s like I shook it off and reminded myself: “My Father is handling this.  I am to obey Him and leave it in His hands.”

The night that followed, I woke up a couple of times to gray mist seeping into my thoughts. But by the power and reminder from God’s Spirit, I quickly swept them away with this assertion: “I’m obeying my Father, so I am not going to think about IT!”

Just as with any new habit, this change in reflex will take practice over time.

But already, I FEEL the lightness. The bottom line is that I am to obey my Father. Yes, I will continue to pray daily with thanksgiving. Once. And then obey Him by leaving the matter with Him.​

I wonder what other commands our Father has given that might actually be blessings!

 

Was it a good day? How do you know?

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Isaiah 43:6-7  I will say to the north, ‘Give up’,
    and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the end of the earth,
 everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.’

How do you evaluate your day?  How do you determine if it was a GOOD day?  Is it based on your To-Do list, how much you cross off?  Or do you call it ‘good’ if no problems surface, if the kids go to bed and stay asleep, if you have enough energy to meet everyone’s needs?  Maybe it’s a good day if you don’t binge or fall back into a harmful habit you’re trying to shake.

I’ve fallen prey to many false and harmful frameworks for looking at the hours the LORD gives me.  From the get-go, if I go down the path of viewing the day as MY day, MY time, I’ve walked away from how my Father views the time He allots.  For years I was wrong. I wore ‘glasses’ that saw standards such as:

  • productivity,
  • not overeating or
  • having my students respond favorably to my teaching
  • problem-free relationships

Those turned out to be self-shackling measurements.  I felt great on the days I ‘succeeded’ and somewhere between SAD and DEPRESSED on the days when I felt short of my expectations.

By God’s grace, in the past 2-3 years I’ve been allowing His Word, His truths to shape how I think about each day.  Change comes slowly, but I FEEL less stuck in unhealthy patterns of thinking. This past week I caught a powerful glimpse of what I believe is more in line and more FREEING to me of how God measures the daily hours given me.  The relief came from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Question # 1 goes like this:

Question: What is the chief end of man?

Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

If I understand what this question and answer teach about my life’s purpose, then I will set my focus and invest my energy to that end.   What exactly does glorifying God mean?  Since God is the most important person in the universe and the most praiseworthy, then He deserves my ongoing happy attention, my grateful praise, and relieved reliance on His promised provision.  My thoughts, my words, my posture, my choices and my hourly interactions with Him and others should highlight His kindness toward those who belong to Him.  With these two Meta Purposes for my life which focus more on the MANNER of living each day, I am free to do what is at hand without giving the way I complete it such POWER to make or break my day.

If it were you who was explaining all the above, I’d likely ask: But what does that LOOK like across your various actions/activities? It sounds lofty, but can you bring it down to the man in the street level?

That’s what the 2nd part of the answer provides.  People can recognize our high esteem and praise of God primarily in our visible, sincere satisfaction, relief and gladness in being a covenant member of His family – that is, ‘a son or a daughter,’ as the text from Isaiah describes family members.

If I trust God and rely on His promises, then I should have a relaxed, peace-filled, gentle demeanor.  Paul explains in his letter to the Philippians (4:4-8) that he learned to hand over his problems (aka:  how to be content) to the Lord:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

So, I take it that my body language and tone of voice should visibly show this peace and contentment with all that the Lord is for me. I think that is what ‘enjoying the Lord’ looks like in Christians.

I am now trying out this simple way of looking at my spent day. It goes like this.  “Maria, how did you do today in:

  • showcasing God’s goodness in your life?
  • heaving and leaving all your cares with Him because you believe Him when He promises to take care of them?
  • thinking about and savoring your adoption as His beloved daughter?

Realistically, I know that this will be a practice that grows more natural over time.  There’s no A or F for the day.  The Father loves me SO much, that He is pleased at my toddler-like stumbling to be more like His daughter.  Repentance with His promised forgiveness takes away my fear of being honest.

The other freeing aspect of this evaluative framework is that it suits ALL of our conscious days we live in our current body. It’s appropriate for our ‘prime times’ and it works for the periods of life when our health is poor and we are physically in decline.

What do you think?  What’s your journey been like in how you deem a day ‘good’ or ‘eh’ or ‘bad’?

I could still be completely wrong in my thinking – maybe He doesn’t want me to evaluate the day at all!  I’m open to having Him align my seeing with His.

Worry – futile and evil

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Luke 12: 22 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “And so I tell you not to worry about the food you need to stay alive or about the clothes you need for your body.” (GNT)

Christians know they are commanded NOT to worry.  And some of us do worry from time to time.  This is an account of when I recently succumbed to worry. We had been in Seattle for our mom’s 90th birthday.  And I was NOT at peace about some of the return trip details.

We were due to land in Charlotte, a 3-hour drive from our house in the Smokey Mountains.  On this late November Friday it would be dark when we landed at 7:30 pm.  I brooded about 2 significant details:

  • What about dinner?  First off, we wouldn’t want to spend time at a restaurant, which would only delay our arrival home.  But where would we buy low-carb food that time of night, once we left the airport?  Should we stop at a food place in the airport before claiming our bags?  The problem was that our bodies were operating on Seattle time (4:30 pm) and wouldn’t be hungry.
  • More troublesome than that was my imagined ‘what-if’:  What if there is a tree down across the gravel road leading up to our isolated house?  I didn’t want to imagine Mike, stopping and getting out his chainsaw and in the dark cutting, and removing a tree.  We would be exhausted from the plane ride and the drive and the general stress of air travel at Thanksgiving.

I had been churning over these 2 situations during our trip to Seattle.  And hadn’t come to any resolution.

Here is how God reminded me, yet again, of the futility of worry:

  • Our take-off was delayed by 2 hours (we sat on the plane, having taxied back for a mechanical problem.)
  • Realizing we probably wouldn’t arrive in Charlotte until 9:30 pm, Mike and I chatted and decided it would be wise to get a hotel near the airport.  Because we were on the plane and back at the gate, I could use my phone. I booked us a room.
  • Now, what about food?  Maybe we’d just skip dinner and eat almonds which I always carry in my purse…..fasting wouldn’t hurt us.
  • Here’s how God answered that need.  We arrived at the Charlotte airport hotel at 10:10 pm.  There was a bar in the lobby.  They stopped serving food at 10:30. We checked in, left our luggage in the car, sat down and ordered bunless burgers, a salad and something to drink.

God came through, providing our low-carb dinner AND arranging our drive home for the next day.  We slept soundly, felt rested and made our way home under sunny skies.  And there were no trees down in the cove.

Once again, I saw how pointless it is to worry and ponder imaginary ‘what-ifs’.

Yes, worry is futile.  But how is it evil?

Hebrews 5:13-14 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

These verses above pinged me last week when I read them in a prayer.  Here are my conclusions:

  • Milk and solid food refer to 2 levels of Biblical teaching – the first is basic familiarization for new believers. The latter – a deeper study for mature believers.
  • The Bible teaches God’s standard of righteousness or holiness.
  • We grow more holy as we learn to distinguish good from evil.
  • God is the One and only who has authority to define evil and good.

Here are two examples of God explicitly describing evil.

  •  Jer 2:13 ….my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
  • Another example of how God defines evil is idolatry or serving something created, rather than the Creator.  Gal 2:20 And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

My conclusion from these and other verses? That doing anything not from faith in or grateful reliance on God is sin, aka evil – Romans 14:23 For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Father, PLEASE help me, by your Holy and supernatural Spirit, not only to recognize when I’m straying into worry but to choose NOT to indulge in this futile, evil pattern. Amen.

 

Not my plan, not my life, not my worry

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It started like this.  We were reading about King Jehosophat and his God-ward response to the imminent attack by hordes of Moabites and Ammonites.  At the time, I was praying for someone enduring a long-term trial.

Each time I ‘revisit’ the reign of King J, I draw encouragement to turn over ‘impossible’ situations to our Father.  While in 2 Chronicles this time around, I shared with Cousin Terry my ongoing prayer.  She immediately pointed out what happened AFTER the Judean king humbled himself in his public prayer about the approaching enemy.  Opening up to chapter 20 of 2 Chronicles I found this in verses 4-6a:

And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly.  And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.  Tomorrow go……..”

Seeing in print God’s encouraging direction NOT to fear, but to trust God and to fight in the Lord’s battle shifted something in my mind.

Subsequently, when I found myself wondering how God would come through to answer this top-of-my-list petition, I stopped and confessed to day-dreaming. I redirected my thoughts and recited out loud:

  • not my battle
  • not my plan
  • not my rescue

Next, I would turn my thoughts toward HIM, the one true God who is imminently qualified and powerful, and motivated to make his name known as Rescuer.

You might push back and say: ‘What’s wrong with indulging in a little speculation about how God is going to act?”

For me, it’s sin.  Because I derive more pleasure from fantasizing through possible outcomes God might choose than from thinking about what awaits me in heaven or about all the privileges I have now as a follower of Jesus.

Three weeks later, the ‘not my plan’ response has grown roots as my # 1 weapon (when I catch myself) against WORRYING, FEARING, FANTASIZING, ENVYING OR…. today, DREADING.  I added ‘dreading’ this morning when I realized that only one week of summer break remains.  Past years have found me dreading the rev-up of the school year that lessens leisure time at home.  Today God enabled me quickly to direct my thoughts this way.

First here is my assumption as a rock-solid foundation:

I believe that God sovereignly directs all things in this universe “……according to the purpose of the One working all things according to the counsel of His will.” Ephesians 1:11.

And then this premise:

It must follow logically that my good Father has a plan for me today along with the provisioning grace needed for each happening event.  Since God only plans what will be ETERNALLY ‘good’ for me as his child, I can relax.  I trust him.

Freed from all that mess of anxiety and fear, what do I do?  At my Father’s disposal, I do the next thing that seems good to me, keeping my eyes on him for a change in direction.

How comforting, these 3 words.

How do you combat the sin of worry and fear?

 

 

 

 

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