Today is the second day of September and we are having a big heat wave here in the bay area. I know it has happened before, but it is rare for us to get temperatures over 100 all over the area. We are spoiled because of the temperate climate here.. very few extremes. It is easy to be comfortable in this area since our lifestyle allows us to see so much beauty and we rarely face disasters like they are facing right now in Texas. The flooding we have been watching all week is a reminder that things can change in an instant. No matter how much we try to be in control of our lives, we are not able to predict the future. It seems to me that the Lord continues to remind us of His sovereignty through natural disasters and personal tragedies.
More and more of my conversations seem to center around trials and tests that people are facing. Even here in our county.. things are changing. With so many people moving to the bay area over the last 10 years.. our highways are crowded and there is litter everywhere. Our quiet protected area is not so quiet or protected. People are struggling here with finances, health, and family problems. In order to live here.. there are not enough jobs and the housing situation is unbelievable.. who can afford to be here? I know we can’t.. but God has us here and He continues to confirm that. Our family is here and we support one another. My husband has lived here since he was born and I have been in this area for 50 years.. Yes we are getting older every day:) Many of our friends are gone, they have either moved away or passed away.. it is a bit lonely at times. Aging is challenging in a youth oriented culture and unfortunately the church is the same way. We have found ourselves feeling left behind and in some cases cast aside.
The good news is that these experiences do not define us. Our identity is in the Lord and He continues to affirm our worth and value. Because of the challenges we face.. I am more confident that it is not what I do, or who I know or what people think that defines me. I am His and that is what matters. Our circumstances continually change.. tomorrow it could be snowing here and Texas may experience a heat wave that dries up the land quickly. Tomorrow could bring a scary diagnosis for us or someone we love.. or tomorrow someone may be healed right in front of us.. reminding us of who is in control.. every day.. every single hour. We are not alone or forgotten..we are never abandoned or cast off. He remembers us.. comforts us.. holds us as we lean into Him in these times.
Father.. I pray for everyone reading this that they may experience more of you as this day unfolds. I pray for your spirit to be poured out on us as we cling to you in these trying times. We long to draw closer to your heart.. teach us how to do that.. protect us and guide us each day as we trust you.
The last few weeks have been a great reminder of the way God works in our lives. We often wait for things hoping that what we long for will happen. I am a great believer in “longing’. After all it is our longing that draws us near to the Lord and it was His longing for us that led to creation and all that followed. So..as we long for things..we may start to hear things that bring discouragement. We may believe that God has said no.. when in truth He has not. We may find ourselves tested.. when nothing is happening or even worse when things are all happening in the wrong way.. do we trust God? In my life I have seen this testing happen over and over again.. as though the enemy works overtime to bring discouragement while the Lord is working behind the scenes on our behalf. We have to make some pretty important choices.
Will we trust in the goodness of God when everything around us says that is not true? Will we believe that He knows the desire of our hearts when everything is taking way too long? Can we walk in faith when we have no sight? I believe the answer to all of these questions needs to be yes. If we are followers then we follow in His steps no matter what our circumstances and we trust that Romans 8:28 is true every single day of our lives. The older I get the more I have the more memories I have of God’s sovereignty over every difficult circumstance and the easier it is to believe that He will continue to provide and deliver as I wait on Him and do not give up.. That in itself is a huge!
I am thinking of you as I write this.. wondering if you are struggling the same way I do when I cannot see ahead… the uncertainty causes anxiety and worry. I doubt if I will ever totally overcome in this area, but I have memories and that is helping. I remember learning how people often give up right before the blessing.. so I won’t give up. I remember how the Bible talks about perseverance and how there are so many examples of God coming through at the last minute and rescuing His people. I have many memories of that in my own life..He has been there for me over and over again. So I want this post to bring you hope..we cannot live without hope and we cannot live the abundant life without our God. Trust in Him.. wait on Him..remind yourself of every single time He has come for you and know that He will do that again and again.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)
What exactly does it mean? This word came up in a conversation today and it seems important to explore the concept. It is the 4th basic doctrine in Calvinism.. but that does not exactly shed light on its true meaning.. does it? Calvin used that term to communicate the way that the Holy Spirit works on the hearts of those who hear the gospel. It refers to the inner working of the spirit.. in places we cannot see.. that draws us into a relationship with God. What that means for us is that we cannot take credit for having responded to the Lord since He was always pursuing us..even when we did not pay any attention to Him or His people. It is very reassuring to know that God takes the initiative with us and desires to be in relationship with us when we think we are fine without Him. He works through circumstances, books, movies.. music.. relationships..nature.. He uses everything to seek us out.. to draw us closer to Him so He can pour out His love into our broken hearts.
I love the fact that nothing is too hard for Him.. that He seeks us out.. that His love is so large that we only get glimpses of it… God is at work in our world.. He never tires of revealing things to us.. pursuing us and healing us. One of the worst things we can do as believers is make Him too small.. if we make it all about us and our abilities we have missed the point.. He is able to do more than our human minds can comprehend. Ephesians 3:20 says:
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Read that again slowly and allow it to sink in. How is He able to do more than we can ask or think? ( some translations say imagine) Through His mighty power! Are you making Him smaller and less powerful than He is? If you are you are not alone.. in our insecurities we often think we make our roles more important than they are. God is the one who finds us.. His grace is irresistible.. that means He finds the keys to our hearts and unlocks them so we run out to meet Him. I remember when I realized the sovereignty of God at a much deeper level in theology class and I was amazed.. God was so much more involved in everything and I could trust Him in a much greater way than ever before because of this new revelation of His goodness. It was life changing!
My prayer for you is that you will be set free from any bondage that is keeping you away from the Lord.. any condemnation that causes you to believe that someone’s eternal destiny rests on your shoulders. Your God is huge and He will never stop pursuing you and those you love.. He is at work in mysterious ways fulfilling every plan that He has put into place!
I love this time of year.. after a long rainy winter, we are finally getting some beautiful weather and the first signs of spring are here. All my potted plants are showing signs of life.. it is always a surprise when I see that they survived so much rain and I never managed to transplant them.. yet they are coming back again. Their conditions are less than ideal.. but they persevere..reminds me of our lives.
We live in less than ideal circumstances.. yet every spring we can look ahead with hope and trust that the Lord has new things for us in this season. The hardships of winter may have beaten us down.. but there are signs of new growth.. signs of life. I don’t know about you.. but I need to have hope for the future.. to believe that there are going to be surprises.. things that God is going to do that I never expected..I try to make a point of noticing those things when they happen.. even if they are very small things.. like my rose bushes looking exceptionally healthy this year.. almost ready to bloom.. a precious gift from God.
Easter is coming in two weeks.. a time of celebration.. rejoicing in what the Lord has done for us. We have this time to begin to savor each day and to be thankful for this life.. to pray and ask for restoration and healing.. to seek a greater glimpse of His goodness. This is a special time and I don’t want to waste it looking back at the disappointments..the desire of my heart is to experience the abundant life of John 10:10 every single day in the midst of the challenges and trials.. He is always with us and always pouring out His love into our hearts.. time to drink deeply of the Living Water.. to fill up so we can pour out that love to others.. Let it be so Lord!
My blog is 7 years old today. I remember when I started it.. I really did not know what a blog was or if I could write anything that people would want to read. So here we are way down the road.. and I am still writing.. and there are some of you who benefit from what I share.. I am thankful to the Lord for providing me with the words and ideas for the last 7 years.
The month of March is significant in many ways.. my dad died 10 years ago this month and I got married on March 30th..15 years ago.. to the love of my life after waiting many years to meet him:) God is so good. My son-in-law’s birthday in March as well. It is a significant time for me.. endings and new beginnings. They always go together.. often things need to end so that new things can begin and it can be painful while it is happening. Steve and I are in a new season right now and the transition has been challenging. After 7 years of job disappointments for both of us and a long period of unemployment.. we are finally in a more stable place. The things I hoped for during that time have not happened.. but God has been sovereign over all of it. He has taken care of us and provided for us during this long pruning season. I look forward to the fruit that will come from this time.
The road of life is unpredictable and uncertain.. we hope for stability and the ability to see way down the road and know we will be safe.. that is natural for us. The truth is this life is not going to provide that.. our certainty and safety is only in the Lord.. not in our circumstances. He leads us and we follow.. knowing that He is ahead preparing things is very reassuring… we are in His hands and He will never forget us. In our world that is shaking daily.. where all the news is bad and frightening.. we have our God and our real life is in His kingdom.. Someday we will experience it fully and the things of this world will fade away.. Right now we can only live a day at a time.. or maybe an hour at a time.. trusting that He is with us and for us!
” Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”
I cannot remember who first told me that.. but I imagine it was over 30 years ago. I did not understand it the way I do now:) God is at work in every circumstance and will use every single experience for good. Yes, I had trouble with that one ( Romans 8:28) at first, but now.. it is very real to me. Every difficult and challenging trial I’ve experienced has been training for times when I can sit with another person and encourage them.. the reason? The more hard things you go through in life.. the more you have to offer others who are hurting. When people come to me for counseling I often say ” you really cannot shock me because of all the life experiences I have lived through” usually that turns out to be true. God does not waste anything.. He uses it all to help us understand and help others.
It feels really good to realize once again that He is always training me to be more understanding and compassionate. He is preparing me to see into the next broken heart that sits in front of me and needs healing. How does He accomplish that? I am not sure.. I do know that He stretches me and finds those places that need changing and as I agree with Him.. He begins a deeper work of transformation.. It is awesome.
I don’t know about you.. but I want the full measure of life that God has for me ( John 10:10) and I realize that often comes through trials and tests. Somehow we don’t learn as easily when things are going smoothly..in reality that is rare in the life of a Believer. No.. it is not all trials and suffering, but we are never promised an easy life here. What we do have is His promise to be with us.. His Spirit to guide us and strength for the journey.
So if things are difficult right now.. remember He is doing something deep inside your heart.. preparing you for the day when you will share what you have learned with another person.. when you will encourage someone who has a broken heart or is struggling with pain and suffering . You will become a source of life to them.. bringing hope and healing.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
This is one of my very favorite scriptures ( from Isaiah 61) Jesus read this in the temple in the book of Luke.. It describes perfectly what He came to do and what He allows us to do with Him.. Amazing!
A conversation I had with a friend this morning made me think deeply about choices. We have so many of them in this world. Everyday we are choosing without even knowing it. The Lord gave us free will and He gave us a mind. Both of these enable us to choose.. He seems to be very in favor of that or He would not have created us with the ability to choose so freely. I realize that there are people who think we should choose everything that feels good with no regard for anyone else.. I am definitely not in that camp. Then there are those who believe if you do not choose what I choose.. then something is very wrong with you.. not in that camp either. Choices are very serious and they are messy.
What prompted this blog post was the realization that we may have more choices than we realize.. maybe we feel like if we don’t choose wisely right now.. this could be our last chance. While I realize that there are grave consequences to choices made lightly without careful prayer and seeking God’s best.. I also know we are serve a God of second chances. third chances etc. Basically we cannot run out of chances with Him. So how do we navigate this road which often feels like it is full of potholes? I can’t claim to have all the answers.. but I do know that we live in a world where the Lord is constantly redeeming things. I also know that so many of the heroes of the Bible did really unbelievable things.. in fact if we were in charge we might say to them.. ” that is it.. no more chances.” Fortunately we are not in charge and that is not how God sees things.. He does not run out of grace and mercy.. even we take a wrong turn He will steer us back in the right direction.
So choosing is an awesome responsibility .. God knows that through our choices we will see Him more clearly.. even the bad choices. He knows that we will learn to seek Him more deeply as we choose.. if we desire to follow Him throughout our lives and He does not have a list of consequences we can read before we decide. Choices are deeply entrenched into our life.. we are walking by faith and not by sight. Choices tell the Lord we trust Him even if everyone around us thinks we are crazy.. Choices knit us to Him in a way that rules and regulations never will. We are given freedom.. lots of it.
Really the only thing we can do is pray and seek Him and ask Him to stop us when we are moving in the wrong direction. Then we can shut out of the voices of well-meaning people or how- to books and leap ahead in the direction that is right for us. Once we realize that if we fall He will catch us.. We can ask for courage and turn away from fear as we move forward..
I hope this year is one filled with hope for you as we move into 2017.. may you choose wisely as you follow our amazing God.
If you wander from the right path, either to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, “You should go this way. Here is the right way.” ( Isaiah 30:21)