“I Will Trust in You!”

(Psalm 105:39-41) 39 He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. 40 They asked, and he brought them quail; he fed them well with the bread of heaven. 41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed like a river in the desert.

For the lonely, for the lost; when you struggle to believe; when you feel forgotten, discouraged and defeated; when your money’s run out and your hope is spent…

For the childless woman with a mother’s heart, for the widow, for the bereaved; when you wonder why; when sadness overwhelms your heart…

For the broken family, for the abused and neglected; when you’re numb and your faith is dead; when guilt and shame have crushed your spirit…

(Psalm 139: 1-5) 1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

…the Lord knows.

Sometimes you have to take a look in the rearview mirror, to gain some retrospective.  I’m sure if you were to ask the Israelites in the midst of their journey through the wilderness how they felt about life, they probably wouldn’t have had much positive feedback.  They were, in fact, dealing with crisis after crisis, misery upon misery (or so it seemed to them).  When their exodus began, they were exhilarated by their deliverance and the miracles they had seen take place in order to set them free.  They set out toward the promised land much like a child sets out on a foot race…full speed ahead.  However, we all know what eventually happens to that eager runner.  Thirst, exhaustion, discouragement and frustration all seem to set in at once.  That’s when he is faced with the choice to either dread the long road ahead and quit, or to look back on what he has conquered thus far and finish what he started. 

For the Israelites, there were MANY stops and starts as they navigated their way toward something that, at times, I’m sure was hard to believe or trust.  Looking forward, it had to be unsettling to see no end to the struggles.  Thousands of years later, here we are, children of God, dealing with the same issue.  Because we are human, because our vision is limited and we cannot see the entire scope of what God is doing in our lives, we have to depend on our faith to keep us moving.  Looking back on the trials, the Israelites were able to recount what the Lord had done to sustain them. 

A good friend once told me to record my prayers (both great and small) in a journal and to go back after a year or so and allow myself to be encouraged and amazed at just how many of them were answered.  It doesn’t happen, rarely ever, the way that we would have imagined or hoped for it to…the answer, I mean…because you know what?  Sometimes the answer is a no, or the dreaded, “we’ll see.”  In our impatience and petulance, instead of forging on in faith, trusting the Creator of the world, we let our human”ness” bring us to a halt. 

In our loneliness we say, “I’m forgotten.” 

In our financial distress we declare, “This is hopeless.”

In our loss we cry out, “I can’t go on!”

In our shame we whisper, “I’m worthless.” 

But the word of the Lord says this:  16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I look back on my life I see Your hand in all things, the joy and pain alike, and because of Your faithfulness I will continue to trust in You.  Amen. 

“Rainy Days & Mondays”

(Numbers 6: 24-26, NLT)

The Priestly Blessing:

24 ‘May the Lord bless you

    and protect you.

25 May the Lord smile on you

    and be gracious to you.

26 May the Lord show you his favor

    and give you his peace.’

Well…it’s Monday again, y’all.  I know that a lot of people hate and dread Mondays, because they don’t want to return to work and get back into the “race” of things, but I must admit…I usually like Mondays.  I guess because they usher in a new week full of different challenges and problems to solve,  they present various opportunities for me to start over and do better, and — as an educator — they mean I get to see my kiddos again (yes, I really do miss them over the weekends), and I do love my job.  However, the closer to the end of the school year that we get, the harder it is for me to devote myself to the routine and to get pumped up about Monday mornings!  I get summer fever.  I think of my parents and going to stay with them for two weeks after school gets out, seeing my old friends, hugging the necks of people that I miss and cherish dearly, and I seem to spend each Sunday night wishing for another day off…and another…and another…

Maybe for you it’s simply a Monday thing.  But maybe it’s more than that.  Maybe something you once loved — your spouse, your family life, your time with the Lord — has become stagnant…lifeless…something you no longer enjoy.  Many of us enter our adult lives under the false impression that things will always be as good as they are in the beginning.  We think we will always look at our spouse and get that knot in our throats.  We think our little newborns couldn’t possibly ever become sources of anxiety and exasperation.  We think that our walks of faith will always be enveloped by the glow and excitement that we feel when we first come to know Christ.  But…BUT…the truth is that all of these pieces of our lives get turned around from time to time and sometimes feel as if they don’t quite fit.

All of which to say, even when we love our lives and all of the responsibilities that come with living them, we all need some encouragement at times.  We all need to know that when things get harried and feel out of control, when we long for the next season of our lives to occur, and when we start to feel the urge to give up on something that we love, there is hope for peace and blessing.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to do better with encouragement.  Instead of always jumping straight to advice, why not simply speak blessing over one another?  Instead of standing by and watching others crumble, and then wondering what in the world happened, why not speak blessing into their lives when we see the struggle?  Our words are powerful, and should be used carefully and with love. 

So, whether you simply have a case of the “Mondays” or you’re dealing with the turmoil and stress of a significant part of your life, I leave you again with this blessing that Aaron prayed over the Israelites. 

‘May the Lord bless you

    and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you

    and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor

    and give you his peace.’

Let’s make a united effort, starting today — this Monday — to lift one another up as we face life together in Christ.  We all find out, rather quickly, that life isn’t always manageable.  We all get overwhelmed and discouraged from time to time, and as the time of Christ’s return draws nearer, we simply have to love each other better.

23 We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.  (Hebrews 10: 23-25, CEV)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, if I am to truly proclaim You as my Lord and Savior, then help me truly practice Your love in all that I do.  Help me encourage where I see despair and fatigue.  Help to me speak blessing over others, because I know that through my words your love can and will shine through when I am committed to Your ways.  Amen.

Set Apart

“You must be holy because I, the Lord, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own.” (Leviticus 20:26)

When I attended Lee University, one of the requirements for my degree was a class called “Introduction to Preaching.” The professor that taught my section was known to be particularly strict in his expectations and grading, and he did not disappoint! On the first day of class he let us know that a 10 point grading scale was too lenient in his view so we would be using a 6-point scale, meaning that anything below a 76% was a failing grade. No pressure.

Over the course of the semester, we were expected to deliver two sermons in different styles and he gave us the expectations on which we would be graded. It included everything from the quality of our sermon notes/manuscript, tone of voice, posture, eye contact, dress and even personal grooming. (One of my friends missed getting an A on his sermon because his hair was “disheveled.”) I knew that I really needed to step up my game if I was going to get the grade that I wanted.

When challenged with high standards most of us have one of two responses. Some of us determine to put on our big boy/girl britches and get to work. We determine to do our best, even if the possibility of failure is very real. Others of us look at the standards and become overwhelmed by them. We can become so discouraged that we just give a half effort since we’re doomed to failure anyway. Other times, we just give up entirely. How we view difficult tasks can even change from day-to-day!

When it comes to high standards, there is nothing that comes close to the standard of holiness that God requires of his people. God says “This is what I am like. Be like me.” But no matter how hard we try and strive, we can’t! He’s omniscient, omnipotent, and perfect. We are not. Because of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limitations, it is quite literally impossible for us to be like a limitless God.

So is God mocking us? Is he setting us up to fail? No, of course not! Well, then what does he mean?

Holiness can be a difficult concept to understand, but one of the primary meanings of the word is the idea of being “dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose.” When God is calling his people to holiness what he is saying is “this is how I am moving and working in the world and I want you to be a part of it.” To do this, we have to re-orient our lives to move in the same direction. We have to be set apart for a religious purpose, his purpose. Yes, there will be outward manifestations, but they are the result of this inner transformation, not the cause.

In Romans 12:1, Paul writes, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” There’s just one problem with being living sacrifices…we tend to fall off the altar!

Yes, you will mess up. I will mess up. Everyone does. But that doesn’t mean we should get discouraged and give up. We just need to put on our big boy/girl britches, decide to do the best we can, and rely on the grace and mercy of God to make up the difference.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for calling us to holiness and setting us apart. It’s a hard task and we often get worn out in the effort, but we don’t have to do it alone. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to comfort us in our weariness and guide us in our confusion. Most of all thank you for your patience and mercy for those times when we do fall short. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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