How Much To Trust

. . . because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.  II Timothy 1:12

How much do I trust Him . . . really?  Oh man, this question is one I have always avoided.  I would suspect that it has been one that many choose not to ask of themselves for fear of the truth that lies beneath the selfish surface of our own sufficiency.

One of my boys thinks it’s fun to randomly fall backwards toward me without notice.  I’ve told him over and over again this is not a good idea.  “What if I don’t see you or notice you falling?  What then?”  His reply . . .  “Dad, you wouldn’t let me fall, you’ll catch me, right?”  That’s some firm trust!

Unlike my son, unlike Paul or Timothy, I’m looking behind me to see if God is there to catch me — before I take the plunge.  That’s not faith — nor trust.  That’s doing things my way.  God wants me to abandon my way and have faith in His way — though it doesn’t make sense at times.  But my plan seems to abandon His way for mine most of the time.

Yes, Lord, I pray for your provision on those I love.  Give them the fruits of your hand in whatever form you see fit:  sunshine or storms, abundance or famine, wealth or poverty, health or illness, peace or conflict.  Whatever it takes to draw them nearer.  And for me, I pray the same!  Give me the confidence to fall into you with all things, in all things, from all things.  I do trust you Lord, with everything!  And even when I don’t, I know you will give me a chance to find out if I am.

. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

Faith Springs From Hope

. . . the faith and love that springs from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel . . .    Colossians 1:5

On those hot, blistery Florida summer days, I remember as a teenager going with my friends to the local springs to swim.  With it 95 degrees or more in the shade, the year-long 70 degree water was always a bit chilly at first.  The shallow end of the spring was much warmer as the sun was able to make a difference in the shallow.  But the deeper you swam, the closer you came to the spring, the colder that water would get.

I remember swimming near the sandy bottom, chasing the bluegill and becoming fixed on the bubbling of fresh water from somewhere beneath it all.  It made the sand dance.  When the light from the sun cast its light just right, you could see the fury of cold water mixing with the warmer water around the spring.  It was truly amazing to see — and I never grew tired of that sight.

I was sad to learn recently, the spring is no longer open to the public — but is still dancing . . . it just can’t help it!

God has given us an abundance of love and faith and it, too, springs from hope.   It dances . . . it just can’t help it!  The difference is, it has no measure and nothing can contain it.  It stretches as far as the east is from the west.  It is the strength we need in pressing forward, to pursue the desires of our heart, to obtain our God-given dreams.

Lord Jesus, my faith has been tested on many levels.  My hope has been battered by storms in my life.  Restore in my heart, in my mind, the truth about your hope.  The truth that says your love and faith force themselves from your hope — because it just can’t help it!  As you live in me and I in you, may I remember when things feel bleak that your springs are bubbling in my soul with an abundance, uncontainable love to which I find your hope in all things.

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. . . The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.   Galatians 5:5-6

Mind Of Its Own

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hpe fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  I Peter 1:13

I ask because I want . . .

I want because I do not have . . .

I wonder on that I do not have . . . that’s doubt.

I reason when I wonder . . . that’s distrust.

I get so confused . . . that’s distraction.

I want to live from faith to faith . . .

But, I doubt when I lose faith . . .

And, I do not believe when I doubt.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything form the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.   James 1:5-7

Lord Jesus, this unsettles my soul.  I am fearful . . . I am that man.  I know the battlefield is not for my heart — it already belongs to you!  The battlefield is for my mind.  I thought about my children this morning in the early hours, about your words from Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  I find great comfort in knowing this, as my children face so many obstacles — none too large for you.  As you know, I thought, too, how our minds are much like children — they need training.  While my soul belongs to you and my spirit lends its ear for hearing you, my mind . . . well, it has a mind of its own.  My mind has been trained to speak loud against my spirit and disbelieve many things.  When I disbelieve, I disobey.  But this is more than just a declaration, it’s a prayer of revelation — one of finally seeing the root of my angst, the nourishment of my doubt and the birth of stillborn hope.  Renew these thoughts into a river of peace, resting in the joy of faith, not by sight, but faith through belief in who you are and what you are doing in me.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

I ask because you make it possible to come before you to seek you in fulfilling the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4)  . . .

I seek you with my desires because I want to experience you in all things (Matthew 6:33) . . .

I trust you in all things with all of my heart (Proverbs 3:5-6) . . .

I live from faith to faith, believing you when what I see does not make sense (Luke 1:45).

Murdering Hope

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.   Ephesians 4:31-32

I don’t have a clue what just happened, but I know who did it!  It was a team effort, they worked together and while they carefully manipulated the moment in their favor, the next move determined the fate of hope.  Unfortunately however, this murderous moment is not so uncommon and repeats itself virtually every day and often more than once.

Whether its like last night when I couldn’t find the ice cream scoop or yesterday when someone pulled into the parking spot I had been waiting on, it’s as though, as some say, someone just “peed in my cornflakes” and the smell of murder fills the air.  It’s when the sidekick accomplice of pride and entitlement lend their support to the masquerade.  When my friend speaks the truth and when family seems to turn their back, the characters begin to prepare for hope’s assassination.  There is nothing good that comes from the acts of resentment and bitterness — together they murder hope — and everyone gets hurt!

It seems like hope doesn’t have a fighting chance in this orchestrated tale of events, but hope has a few tricks up it’s sleeve just the same.  The lord over resentment and bitterness is lies themselves.  Hope is drained through the lies I choose to believe — both of myself and others.  Standing firm however, on the promises that Christ alone IS my everlasting Hope ushers in THE very thing that unravels the plans brought about by lies through resentment and bitterness.  When the ploy is revealed, hope lives!

Lord Jesus, while this story is silly in nature, it conveys a familiar pattern of destruction that so easily entangles.  I know who wins this and I know that hope through you is all the hope that is needed.  Jesus, I’m asking that you continue to heal me and guard my heart from resentment in the little, daily things, but more so, guard my attitude from bitterness and remind my mind of the fullness of my faith in you and the untrustworthiness of my emotions.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.  

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.  

Lamentations 3:19-26

Desert Cure

He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there.  He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle.    Psalm 107:33-36

I wish I could say that I’ve stepped foot onto an actual desert.  But then again, thinking about standing atop a living dune of sand with nothing but mirages glistening in every direction is not my idea of a pleasant experience.  Life seems to beg for mercy in the desert, crying out to but a dew drop to quench the thirst — to give life.  And yet, it’s beautiful.  Adorned with brilliance and elegance, sculpted upon an ever shifting canvas of sand, the desert is a place of renewal, dependence and discovery.

The desert is a place that whispers no words, but instead churns more questions than answers.  It’s a place that gives no breaks and no hint of relief.  A desert can be personal, God makes certain of that!   It’s hand-made, different for each one of us — and trust me, everyone will encounter a desert at some point.

The desert experience is found throughout the Bible in many of the familiar stories.  Joseph’s desert was him being betrayed and spending years as a slave.  The Israelites wandered throughout the desert for forty years.  David ran from Saul in the desert.  Paul spent his converted life wrestling with sin in his desert.  Lazarus became an example to all of new life that comes from the desert.  And Jesus stepped into the desert for forty days to reenact our own desert journeys by fasting and facing the temptations of Satan.  All of these experiences face the reality of their own desert while holding tight to the hope of God’s Word and promises.

It becomes a place where all that once sustained you is no longer there to satisfy the cravings of the flesh.  It’s a place of spiritual purging that cleanses the soul and dries out the tongue that no longer thirsts for junk.  Instead, it defines the true thirst of our hearts.  The desert becomes the best place for God to wilt away the false selves and bring life to an authentic self.

Lord Jesus, in my desert are many mirages.  My eyes fail me, my senses deceive me to think that what my mind thinks is there is true.  But I know you are the only Truth to trust and it is not found by my senses.  It is found in the faith of knowing who you are in me and I in you!  While I’m in my desert may I encounter the gift of your presence each day.  And in your presence, as I am so thirsty, may I drink from the abundance of your well of living water!  It is in knowing you are with me in the desert I experience your protective love that gives me the strength to continue in this journey.

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.   Psalm 63:1

If He Does Not

But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.    Daniel 3:18

Children teach us so much about ourselves.  Regardless of their age, children have a sense — or maybe a trying spirit — that tests their boundaries and their place in the order of things.  I’m reminded of this often through the lives of my children, nephews and niece — nine total!  It’s always interesting to me when a request from a parent (usually made to get action) is made to one of them and the response is nothing like what was requested.  It’s because, deep within them, they have a better idea!  So they think!  They have crafted, through their better understanding of their own state-of-affairs that what was being requested was somehow optional to the growing interest of whatever they are actively participating.  It forces the question, “Who’s the boss here?”

I find, in my own life, that I often act the same way towards God when He is trying to lead me down paths I’m not so comfortable walking.  I always seem to have a “better” plan, a “smarter” idea and a more “reasonable” response.  I forget that the outcome of His leading is nothing but good!  And so I ensue.

The confidence I have in knowing that “all things will work together for His good,” as He says in Romans, will become just that — good.  I place my faith, hope and trust in those words that it will be good and press on, as did Paul, toward that end.  But, I’m learning that the measurement of good differs.  What is good?  What is His good?  What is my good?  Good is suddenly looking a little less good and more not so good — not to be confused with bad.

And so enters, without question, the stories of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego along with Daniel.  The good in these real stories is but one thing — serving and worshiping the one true God!  It was not a popular choice and to everyone other than them it appeared to be a bad choice.  But doing what is right, serving the One who lives within me — Christ in me — while it doesn’t appear to be the most popular or notable thing to do IS THE measure of good.  It, beyond all things, is of greater importance and value.

This is why when the heat was turned up, the fire of life burned fiercely before their eyes and Daniel could smell the foul breath of the jaws of imminent death they were all at peace.  With confidence that God would deliver them from fire and lions, they stated ever so clearly, “But if he does not.”

All things do work together for good — but is my measurement of good on a scale I understand or on a scale measured only by my God?

My Father, let this sink in to the depths of my being.  Show me, teach me, stir in me the goodness you measure so that when things do not look so good on the path ahead by what my eyes see that I would know to look more deeply with the eyes of your Spirit within me.  May my faith in you become so strong that I say too, “But if He does not . . .” and be at peace.

. . . for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.   Philippians 1:30

Relevant Reality

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Matthew 16:16

I am struck this morning of the relevance of my Creator to the present state of my reality.  The Christ I know has been, throughout my life somewhat like that narrator from the old Twilight Zone series that somehow, and for some reason, always appeared to the viewer within a scene of the twisted story.  It’s not far off to think that I’m not alone in the presupposition that Christ is welcomed and waiting around the corner for my next crisis.  Or that He’d show up, present and waiting for the next funeral to embrace the grieving.  Nor would He turn His ear from being desperately approached and wait at a bout with severe illness.  Why wouldn’t I think that Christ wouldn’t be there for me?  He has always promised to be there and He has never missed an appointment.  But is that what He’s been boiled down to?  Have I really considered Him no more than a glorified bell-hop at the concierge counter of my life?

Christ is clearly more than that — more so, He is nothing of that!  The truth of the relevance of Christ to the present state of my reality is no different than it has always been.  My choice to justify His relevance to me has customized within my heart and mind a false reality of His existence in me.  It really isn’t a question of relevance at all — Christ is my life!  He lives in me!

He walks and talks with me wherever I go.  Never alone and never silent to the heartbeat of Christ within me!  He is the one who gives me understanding into the worlds of those unloving, unlovely ugly people that wander in and out of my life every day.  He is the one who takes the heart — broken and battered — and restores it to full strength!  He is the Christ who restores crumbling dreams.  He is the Christ who rekindles hope.  Christ is my Comforter!  He is the Christ who catches every tear I shed in the palms of His hands.  He is the Christ who laughs with me when I’m funny, when I’m silly and when life itself cracks a joke.  Christ is He who watches me breathe as I sleep and keeps me.  He is Christ who died for me — my Savior!

Dare I neglect the relevance of Christ — my Creator, my Comforter, my Redeemer, my Restorer, my Provider, my Peace, my Fortress, my Deliverer, my Savior — who is my life and my all?  There is great relevance to Him in my current and future reality — because He is my everything!

Lord Jesus, may I live every second in fellowship with you!  Relating with others with your voice, your mind, your heart!  May my words and my heart be in harmony with your life in me.

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20:29

Holy Dark

But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  Romans 8:24-25

My sweet niece was getting ready for school this morning in the room next to mine when I overheard her conversation with her mom.  Quite frankly, being in the next room over was no privilege since her 5 year old demands were being made at the top of her lungs.  I burst out into a sudden, unexpected and uncontrolled laugh and I quickly tried to douse my reaction.  But, according to her, she was going to have pigtails this morning — no I mean – she was GOING TO HAVE PIGTAILS!!  There were no options, no waiting, no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” about it.  She clearly did not wake on the patience side of the bed.

I’ve reflected on this moment all morning.  I’ve thought how not so very different I am with God and my circumstances.  I chart a way to get through the rough terrain of life and declare what I need, when I need it with no waiting expected.  When we’re five years old, we thought we were the boss of everything.  Funny how some things just never change.  But, truth is, I know the Boss — and I’m not him!  And so I wait.

I wait with anticipation, expectation and birth of a transformation unlike anything I’ve ever known.  In Romans 8 it speaks of all creation waiting with eager expectation of God’s glory and similarly, I wait for my wings.  But until then, something is happening.

As I wait in this holy darkness it almost feels like God is absent.  Everything I’ve known of Him seems nowhere near.  It’s quiet, it’s blindingly dark, it’s disorienting, it’s Mysterious.  I search for the “lights” that I have become so accustomed to leading me and in this holy darkness those lights are not allowed.  It’s a liquifying of the knowledge and reliance of my “creation” and the experience of the crumbling of who God is and the system that makes it work for me and my ego.

This place of darkness is not an evil place — it’s that place an inch beneath the soil where the seed waits to become all that God has designed it to be.  It’s that place in a mother’s womb where life begins and is nurtured.  It’s that place where God wanders and wonders and where His fingertips run along the seams of my heart.  It’s that place, in the darkness of the tomb where God transformed!

For me it has been as though I’ve been walking with Him in this dense forest.  It’s become so dense the light of the sun has been kept from the forest floor.  What once was day has turned to an eery darkness.  I want to panic, I want to run, but I have no idea where I am.  I feel lost among the trees, but lost I am not.  This darkness is part of God’s journey.  It’s not even a detour, nor is it a wrong turn.  It’s The Way and I’m on it!  Hallelujah!  There is no way I’ll find my way back alone and everything that I’ve ever trusted and leaned against is nowhere in this holy dark.

So, I let go and turn to the Boss to lead The Way.  If I can only trust Him and truly let go all glory will be revealed.  Too often I panic like many do when they find themselves in the pitch of darkness.  I need to understand the need to surrender and journey through and make my way to the real light ahead.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.    Romans 8:18-21

The Darkness Of True Liberty

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness,.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  Romans 8:26-27

My experiences have proven the realization that life exists in the midst of straightaways and sharp curves, smooth surfaces and potholes, along with periods of light and darkness.  It’s within those moments in tight turns, jolted with blindness that life truly begins to define itself.  It’s when life enters the Refiner’s fire that the true S[s]elf emerges.  It’s a phase, a stage, within a life-altering experience that while the music stops and the lights suddenly go out, opportunity for something miraculous occurs — transformation into true liberty.

But letting go is a crazy thing to do, it’s not easy with something precious.  Stepping into the dark requires significant abandonment.  In the dark the senses are heightened because nothing is seen.  Nothing is as it appears and nothing seems trustworthy, yet it is here that God tells me to “let go.”  Let go?  What?  Are you kidding me?  Sound familiar?

And with that I light a candle, flip the switch and bring light onto my circumstances.  Why?  Well, it’s safe there!  I am most comfortable in that place I recognize, understand and relate.  Even if it means hurting the same way, staying in conflict or being in trouble, I am most familiar in those moments because experiencing these things would bring far more comfort in the light of familiarity than in the darkness of uncertainty.  But God tells me [us] to “let go.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

So, just maybe, in the midst of my own crisis, while in the chrysalis seems dark, it is a period of time to learn the lessons of letting go.  My flesh wants to cling on to those things I am most comfortable in knowing.  But true crisis: separation from something, warrants a response to change.  The options are simple . . . Run!  Walk! or Wait!  Each response determines the success and direction of the rest of my life.  And the process of waiting is the choice of transformation and wholeness.  My choice!

John Sanford writes in his book, The Kingdom Within:

At first the approach of the kingdom may seem like a violent attack from something dark and dreadful . . . . Entrance into the kingdom means the destruction of the old personality with its constricted and uncreative attitudes . . . . The fortress behind which the ego had been hiding must be torn down, and as these defenses are battered down forcibly by the movements from within, it may seem at first like a violent assault.

Lord Jesus, I’m feeling battered within.  My circumstances rear themselves to my heart and soul much like a violent assault.  I know and step toward you in confidence, that though this is how I feel, that true liberty in Christ is happening!  When my thoughts turn negative, whisper your promises back into my heart — remind me of your staff that comforts me and your spring from which I drink!

Inside The Chrysalis

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”  Psalm 130:5-6

I remember as a child, during the sweltering summers of the Florida heat, when an occasional mosquito would find it’s way in my bedroom.  Without air-conditioning the windows were extended as open and wide as they could stretch in the event a slight breeze may catch the sill.  The screens did their job for the most part, although I found it strikingly remarkable how the mosquitoes could find the four or five BB holes left there from . . . well, what else is a boy to do when he’s sent to his room and he has a BB gun?  The nights were hot and very sticky with that humid Florida air.  I begged most nights for that breeze!  With no hope of relief I fought hard to drift to sleep.  But the mosquito knew exactly where to find me!  Worse, he knew exactly where my ear was in which to announce his presence.  This sound, this buzzing sound was and quite frankly, still is, the worst noise in the world!  My only hope, my only escape was to retreat.  Despite the heat, the sealed, fortress-like fabric of my sheets were the perfect cover.  I pulled and tucked myself in and under the covers until I could barely breathe.  Inside the chrysalis.

Time has no measure inside the chrysalis.  Jonah spent three days in his, the Hebrews spent forty years in theirs.  Life is full of cocoons, both big and small.  But life inside the chrysalis is never easy.  It appears lonely, and may include a sense of abandonment.  After all, a caterpillar never shares his cocoon with another.  The journey inside the chrysalis is the second phase of a threefold process God uses in soul-making.  The life inside the chrysalis transforms!

The author, Sue Kidd says, “A creature can separate from an old way of existence, enter a time of metamorphosis, and emerge to a new level of being.”  Transformation happens!

Lord Jesus, it is dark, it feels lonely, and it’s hard to see what is happening inside the chrysalis of my life right now!  I ask you to work the clay, whittle away from my heart that which does not look like the man You called me to be.  And while I wait and put my hope in your word may I be attentive to the call, sweet whisper of your Spirit within.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  II Corinthians 5:17