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Posts Tagged ‘relying on God’

 

 

psalm 73

 

All of my self-created, self-proclaimed, self-protective vows could fill a book. You know, the ones whispered under my breath when I’ve been near bursting with anger…fear…judgment…hurt. Those silent promises and I-will-nevers intended to set a personal standard or to protect my own heart or the hearts of those I love. They’ve often proven impossible to uphold and are usually a hindrance to personal, relational, or spiritual growth.

You know what I mean, don’t you? We all have our nevers.

The divorced woman who has vowed to never marry another man—but lives as someone’s common-law wife. The woman who swore she would never smoke cigarettes after watching a loved one die of lung disease now burns through at least one pack a day. The grown man who was determined he would never treat his child that way—and hears the same ugly words of his father or mother erupting from his own mouth.

We all have our nevers. Read Peter’s words—his never—spoken boldly to Christ just prior to being turned over to the authorities.

31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” (Matthew 6:31-34).

Did Peter intend to live up to his words? Yes.

Was his motive wrong? Of course not!

Then what is the matter with Peter’s I-will-never? Is there something wrong with our nevers?

The problem begins with the words I will. Peter’s driving force—his strength—was centered on self; not on the sustaining power of God the Almighty. And self can only carry a given distance. Peter’s personal best? He made it as far as the walls of the court before betraying both Christ and his fervent I will never!

Let’s look to Jesus as he seeks solace in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his arrest.

And going a little farther he (Jesus) fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Did you notice it, Friend? Jesus—who knew of the beatings he would endure and understood the shame of the cross—said, “Not as I will, but as you will.”

Isn’t that remarkable? Christ didn’t choose self. Self-protection. Self-interest. Self-will. Instead, he chose the will of the Father. And the best of Christ joined to the will of the Father resulted in unimaginably beautiful forever-life at the intersection of nail and flesh.

The next time a personal I will never thrusts itself into my thoughts, my hope and prayer is that I would it turn it over to God.

Lord, what is Your will in this situation?  In this moment?   In this hurt?

 And even more—would that I could bravely whisper, “…but as You will.”

 

Scripture for Reflection

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (Ephesians 6:10)

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.         (Isaiah 40:29)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

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woman-570883_1920I vividly remember standing beneath the wooden doorframe of my bedroom–terrified of the imagined evil lurking in the five inches of space beneath mattress and covers. I stood motionless…weighing the options. The risks? Certain punishment if I refused to quickly locate myself beneath the warmth of sleep-inducing blankets or—to my impressionable mind—possible capture by whatever monster or boogie man lurked beneath the confines of a seemingly innocent piece of furniture.

At the tender age of four or five, Shadow had become a thing of nightmares and illusory power.

Too often, though, it seems our fear of Shadow follows us into adulthood. While disguised in more grown-up form, we still tremble at its existence and our thoughts are filled with untrue or unfulfilled imagery that leads us from a place of comfort into the obscure illusion of “What If?”

The “What If’s” come in many shapes and may be different for each of us.

What if…my husband leaves me?

 What if…my child dies?

 What if…I’m really never happy?

 What if…this wound refuses to heal?

 What if? What if? What if?

 

Oh, dear One, the Shadow of What If is—and always has been—a robber of joy and imitator of truth designed to obscure the Light of Hope. We fight each dark pursuer—out of breath and in need of relief. Somehow, we’re certain a jab or swing in the Shadow’s direction will ensure some sort of relief. So we listen to Oprah…read books by Dr. Oz…try the newest diet trend…anything to help us battle the dark, elusive threat that is our greatest Fear.

But in so much of the struggle we rely on ourselves—forgetting the promises of scripture. Psalm 23 reminds us that even when we’re surrounded by a darkness so deep it casts death’s shadow, He is there! Even in the most frightening of times or the loneliest moments he guides…protects…comforts. He is the one who will manage our struggles and wage our battles.

Our futile attempts at Shadow boxing can cease. No more useless jabbing or dodging. Let’s give the battle to the Champion of hearts and souls—the giver of life, conqueror of death, and victor over sin and its effects.

 Suggested Scripture and Questions for Reflection

Read Psalm 23.

What dark valleys has God guided you through already? If your journey is taking you through a place filled with Shadows are you relying upon the Shepherd—or self? I know I struggle with this–vacillating back and forth.

As a gentle reminder to yourself about God’s abounding faithfulness and protection, reread Psalm 23. This time, replace each “me” with your name and “my” with the pronoun “her”.

A David Psalm (MSG)

23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

 

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Lystra, a small boomtown perched alongside a bustling Grecian highway, was known for its wild living and wilder religious practices.   It was also the boyhood home of Timothy, an early church leader.

What do we know of Timothy’s childhood years?  We know his father paid his taxes and regularly worshiped Zeus—and even the Unnamed God—whose temples were near the entrance to the city.  In this way, Timothy’s father would  please god—whoever he was–and lead a successful life.  Based on this description I imagine “dad” as a well-to-do business man; a stand-up sort-of-guy consumed by the lure of cosmopolitan living and providing for his family.

The Bible mentions Timothy’s father, but focuses a bit more on his mother and grandmother in 2 Timothy 1:5— “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.”

There may not seem to be much of a story tucked in this one sentence and even less application.  But consider ancient Turkey at the time.  It holds several parallels to modern America.    Citizens were well-educated, the nation was an established center of commerce, and the famed city of Ephesus boasted a one-of-a-kind library along with renowned pieces of art.  At the same time, wild living was considered acceptable and temples dedicated to its many gods and goddesses thrived throughout the land.

Given his father’s apparent lack of influence and the culture in which he grew up, Timothy might have become a statistic—another child never introduced to Christ or a young man more interested in today’s address than tomorrows final destination .  Instead, Timothy went on to serve as a pastor and missionary in Ephesus.  Why?

I’m convinced God worked through the faith of his mother and grandmother!  What is the lesson then?  There are two things I want us to notice.  First, when we parent alone—even if it’s just parenting alone spiritually, fear and worry can become our closest companions.  The what if’s can overwhelm us.  Don’t allow it!

Instead, begin planting those seeds of faith in your child’s little heart now.  Your influence matters.

Then, align yourself with a mentor—someone who can encourage you, come alongside you, and support you.  Every Eunice needs a Lois.

So..our final two steps toward relying on God when parenting alone (or anytime) are to remain faithful to the task of planting seeds in the lives of our children and link arms with at least one other Christian woman.

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