Blown-Out Tires and God’s Great Undisturbedness

flattireMy husband was a hero today. A back tire on our vehicle blew out with a loud bang and a sharp pull to the left that could have sent us all out of control. We could have swerved out into the speeding oncoming traffic or the other way into the concrete barrier. But we didn’t- because Chris stayed calm. He didn’t panic but rather maintained composure, and brought us slowly to a safe stopping place off the main road. From all appearances, He was undisturbed by the sudden crisis. And in this “undisturbedness,” my husband commanded control of the situation and responded with wisdom. He chose peace instead of panic.

I was reminded immediately of God’s great undisturbedness. When we face any sudden crisis, we can either look at the frightening circumstance and panic, or we can look up to our Great King who is seated on His heavenly throne and find peace. When we see Him there, reigning over all, we see His great undisturbedness. As unexpected as the crisis is to us, the One who set time in motion, and is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), has not been caught off guard. And if we will allow Him to, He will command control of the situation and respond with wisdom. And He will help us choose peace instead of panic.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

When did you last have a blown-out tire? When did your world blow apart with unexpected news or injury or illness? What crisis has sent you into panic? Can you look back now and see how God was there- He was with you and He was working good even through the hardest time? Or are you still waiting for Him to make sense of it all?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. Romans 8:28-29

If we believe that the promises of God are true, then we can be sure that each crisis that comes is ultimately working in us a greater good than we can know in the immediate experience. We can look back upon His faithfulness through past crises, and trust Him to be faithful for this one, and for all the ones that are yet to come. These are all part of His growth plan to conform us to the likeness of His Son. We can look into His great undisturbedness, and find the peace and wisdom and strength needed to wisely navigate through another life storm.

As a kid, my dad taught us the “3 C’s”- He taught us to stay “calm, cool, and collected” in stressful situations. He taught us to not panic (or at least try our hardest not too), because things only get worse when we panic. It helped me not to panic knowing my dad was nearby to help. And now as an adult, it helps me not to panic knowing God is always nearby to help.

God will not temporarily take a break from his throne and let the world spin out of control. Do we believe that He is Lord of all- or do we think things happen that catch Him off guard? Everything that comes to His children has come through the fold of His hands around each of our lives. Nothing slips by Him, but rather in all things God is working for the good of those who love Him.

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us.  Psalm 46:10-11

Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and I am in control. Be still and know that I am undisturbed by what is happening in your life. Be still and know that I am working all for your good and for my glory.

Don’t panic. Stay calm, cool, and collected. Look for my peace to guard your heart and my wisdom to direct your path.

Be still.

And know that I am God.

Hope Surrenders to God’s Ways

BeachWomanWe have seen that hope surrenders to God’s will and God’s Word. Now we will look at how hope surrenders to God’s ways.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

I would have chosen an entirely different plan for my life. I think most of us would have.  I had a different career, family structure, and location in mind as I headed into adulthood over twenty years ago. And while there are certainly some things I would have had to go differently, I can fully say that I am glad God worked His way in my life, so different than my own. His ways have been much higher, and much better, than mine ever could have been. I am so thankful His ways have won out.

I see several reasons God’s ways are better than ours:

Our view is limited- His view is limitless. God in His omniscience knows all. He is El Roi, the God who sees, and His lookout is high above the earth. The expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” speaks to our limited view, but God is way above the forest and He sees all.

Our perspective is temporary- His is eternal. The God who set time in motion is outside of time in existence Himself. Therefore, His perspective is from everlasting to everlasting, from generation to generation. His ways move according to an eternal plan, not a temporary one which we create.  He sets time in motion, and wills events to happen that will far outlast this life- all for His glory and our good.

Our purpose is local- His is global. We are prone to self-centered thinking, set on our own situation, wanting the best for us and for those near to us. Yet God’s purpose is to bring the world to know Him. He can orchestrate circumstances in a small village in Africa to coincide with a major city in Asia and a rural community in Montana.

I am the LORD and there is no other, apart from me there is no God, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting, men may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster, I the LORD do all these things. .. Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the works of my hands?  Isaiah 45:5-7, 11

We are wise to surrender to God’s ways. He is the LORD, and there is no other. He is worthy of our trust and hope. We may look upon our challenges with our children and question His ways, yet He has proven Himself faithful.  We will find lasting peace and increased strength when we accept His ways, and surrender to His working in our lives.

Sometimes it is helpful for my faith when something happens that is totally out of my control. A child runs a fever, my car won’t start, the dishwasher breaks, the school is closed. These are things not in my plan, but clearly in God’s. His ways are not my ways. His ways are better than my ways.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things- and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.  1 Corinthians 1:27-29

God’s ways are not like ours, and for that we can be glad. His wisdom is not like ours. His work is not like ours. And His worthiness is not like ours. Let us surrender to His ways as they work in our lives- and there let us find our hope.

Thankful for Dads

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I woke up this morning 750 miles away from my Dad. For the last 20 years, I have worked to celebrate him on Father’s Day, usually from my far away adult world, while also celebrating the great dad that my husband is to our family. The more years that pass, the more I realize what a gift I have in my dad. I realize that his faithfulness, kindness and unconditional love are rare. And I realize that his character has helped me better understand the character of God.

I’m thankful for years of special memories- hiking the Colorado mountains, fishing New Mexico streams, cross-country camper trips to my Grammy’s house, and always seeing him in the stands for my volleyball games. My dad was present, and very active in our lives. (And he still is). He took time to pass along wisdom and life tips to my sister and me. (And he still does). He always knew what to do in a crisis, and he always told too many “punny” jokes. For all he gave, and all he shared, and all he taught, I am very thankful.

Years ago I was in a Bible Study that looked at the influence our earthly fathers have on our understanding of our Heavenly Father. We filled out a chart with lots of characteristics, both positive and negative, and checked those that described our earthly dad. Then we turned the page and did the same for how we view God. And then on the third page, we laid the two sets of answers on top of each other. It was so insightful to see how similar the two lists were. People who had angry fathers tended to see God as angry, or people who had strong fathers tended to see God as strong, etc.

I am thankful for my own father, who wasn’t perfect, but had many God-like characteristics for me to experience, and for so many fathers I see that are living out the love, strength, wisdom and closeness of God for their families.

Thankful for dads who play. Dads are usually better than moms at play time- or at least that has been my experience. Dads communicate a lot of love through teasing and wrestling and joking and giggling. Moms tend to be more preoccupied with the “serious” things and taking care of all the details for daily living. Playing dads teach us to be happy and joyful, and not take life or ourselves too seriously.

May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.  Psalm 68:3

Thankful for dads who pray. Dads who set an example and lead out spiritually for their families teach more by their actions, than by their wise words. Guiding their children with wisdom they have sought from God, and extending God-like compassion and grace, set a life-long impression of their Heavenly Father.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

Thankful for dads who stay. Several years ago I helped our church start an outreach for parents of children with special needs. I was expecting moms and dads to come, and share an encouraging Bible Study, and support one another on this hard journey. What I didn’t expect though, was that the parents who came would be primarily single mothers. Single moms raising one or more children with special needs on their own. Yes, I had read of the high divorce rates of these families, but I didn’t want to believe dads could actually leave their wives and children with so many challenges. Yet it happens more often than not.

Two things I would like to say in light of this. First, if you are a dad who is staying, thank you. And if you are a wife of a dad who is staying, be thankful. Be very thankful. Press in close to God for strength and cling tightly to each other through the hard. You will display the faithfulness of God as you do.

Second, if you are a mother raising children on your own, you too can press in close to God for strength. He is your perfect Heavenly Father, and He is that for your children. He loves each of them more than you do, and promises to take care of their every need. My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

God is your heavenly husband: For your Maker is your husband, the LORD Almighty is His name. Isaiah 54:5 (Read the whole chapter for more promises).

God is their heavenly father: A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows. Psalm 68:8

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  I John 3:1

As we honor fathers on Father’s Day, let’s be thankful for the dads who have been a part of our lives and our children’s lives. And let’s work to  trust our Heavenly Father to heal our hurts and meet our unmet needs with his perfect Fatherly love, compassion and care.

Is He not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?  Deuteronomy 32:6

The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Praise from a Place of Pain

PraisingBeachMy good friend sings in our church choir. She always sings with all the strength of her beautiful voice, lifting the name of our Savior high in song. But tonight, she seemed to be singing with an extra depth, an extra vigor, and an extra true joy shining on her face. I could hardly watch her without some of my own tears springing forth. I am one of only a few who know the hard she is facing and the great depth of the pain from where she is coming to praise God the way she does. Difficulties in her marriage and with her child are almost insurmountable, and she is struggling with grief, betrayal, anger, anxiety, hurt and confusion.

It is easy to give God praise when life is beautiful, but how can we give Him praise when life is hard? He is pleased when we praise Him from a place of blessing, but I believe He receives even greater glory when we praise Him from a place of pain.

To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3

Isaiah’s prophecy about the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was proclaimed hundreds of years later by Jesus as He began His earthly ministry. He told the people “Today the scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luke 4:22) He proclaimed Himself as the one who brings us a new garment in the midst of our ashes, mourning and despair. Christ covers our pain with praise.

The contrast of the light of praise to the darkness of our pain makes it shine even brighter. Light a candle outside in the afternoon sun and it can’t hardly be seen. But light it in the darkness of midnight, and its light shines forth enough light to comfort your fear and guide your feet.

Praising God in our pain is “heart” work. It is making a conscious choice to lift our hearts and minds above the pain to see God still reigning on His throne. And it is choosing to praise Him there.

Why are you downcast, I my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.  My soul is downcast within me, therefore I will remember you. Psalm 42:5-6

The Psalmist here speaks of a conscious decision to place his hope in God, reaching out from his downcast and disturbed soul to look for his Savior and God. He “remembers” God as he moves his mind from his pain to praise.

In times of great pain, our emotions can be all over the place. We have to allow our minds to lead out over our hearts seeking truth and perspective that move us towards Christ. We want to seek Him first and follow hard after Him even in our pain, and not be swept into even greater pain by letting our hurting hearts guide our decisions. “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Praising God in our pain points others to Christ. God uses our pain and the hope we hold on to through it to draw others to Himself by faith. As they see us hurting, yet hanging on to Christ, they see genuine faith lived out. They see a hope that they want to have. Our pain has a purpose in our lives, yes, but also in the lives of those who are touched as we live through it.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  1 Peter 3:15

Praising God in our pain calls Him in close. Psalm 22:3 says, “You are holy, and you inhabit the praise of Israel” (KJV). When we praise God, He inhabits, He lives in our praise. Psalm 75:1 says, “We give thanks to you, O God, for your Name is near.” He is near! He is here! He is pleased to dwell with those who are dwelling in His praise.

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed. Save me, and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. Jeremiah 17:14

It’s hard to describe in words, but we have a funny tradition at our house. If someone falls or trips or in some crazy way hurts themselves, they follow it by getting back on their feet, raising their hands and proclaiming a simple, “I’m okay!” Praising God in our pain is somewhat like this. Though we may be hurting, from our own shortcomings or someone else’s, we raise our hands and let God and everyone else know, “I’m okay!”

We can be more than okay as we choose to lift hearts to our God and Savior still seated on His heavenly throne. As we praise Him there, we shine His light to others and call Him in close to see us through. May God give us greater faith to praise Him from our places of pain.

Strong Woman, Good Mom

MothersDayFlowersMother’s Day 2015. Today we celebrate moms. We celebrate our moms, our stepmoms, our grandmothers, and our mother-in-laws. We send cards and flowers to some, and share brunch with others.

And we celebrate the joy of getting to be moms. We are thankful for our husbands and the children who made us moms. We celebrate the privilege of getting to be the one that they call “Mom.”

This year more than ever before have I seen the need to celebrate moms- not just on this day, but on every day. So many moms I’ve met are needing encouragement. Visiting with women on international mission trips and sitting beside the baseball field, swimming pool, and dance studio here at home, I have talked with countless moms who are beat down, stressed out, overwhelmed, and just plain exhausted.  And while all of us are wrestling with the many daily tasks moms must take on, we are wrestling with even deeper questions of value and worth. Am I doing enough to help my child succeed? Am I helping my child make the right choices?  Am I spending our time and money the right way? Will my child be okay?

Being a mom is hard. It is hard physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. People sometimes compare parenting toddlers and parenting teenagers, as if one is easier than the other. While the demands and challenges may be different at different ages, it’s all very hard. And it’s hard everyday.

I think just admitting that to ourselves first, and then to others, can bring a great deal of relief and freedom. In Romania last summer, I met several groups of mothers of children with special needs. Each time I met with them, I would start out with the simple phrase, “I know it’s hard.”  It would amaze me what a difference that would make in the look on their faces. “And I know it’s hard everyday.” Their whole countenance would relax, and several would start to cry, when we admitted this is not easy, and no one does it perfectly, and acknowledged the daily challenge that rules their world.

We open ourselves to grace and to the strength God provides when we admit the task is bigger than we can handle on our own.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When I would finish meeting with these precious mothers, I would take hold of their hands, look them straight in the eye, and with the help of a translator, tell them simply, “You are a strong woman and a good mom.”

That’s what I wanted to resonate with them long after they went home that day. Those simple, true words of blessing that I prayed would counter the discouragement and despair they came in carrying. I pray today that I could share those words with other mothers in need of the same encouragement.

You are a strong woman. Just as God gave you the strength to bring your children into the world, so will He give you the strength to carry them through it for the time He’s given them to you.

You are strong physically- loads of laundry, bags of groceries, double strollers, and sleeping toddlers. Her arms are strong for the task. Proverbs 31:17

You are strong mentally- balancing checkbooks, calculating pre-algebra problems, dispensing medications, and following new recipes.

You are strong emotionally- managing anger, dealing with disappointment, working through sadness, and giving patience.

And you are strong spiritually- drawing near to God, leaning on the Holy Spirit, following Christ and resting in Him.

And you are a good mom. Good moms want the very best for their children, which of course every loving mother does. Good moms work hard with the resources they have to make the best life for their children. Good moms do the best they can in each day, and wake up again to try again the next day.

Good moms, however, are not perfect moms.

Good moms make mistakes, and give themselves grace when they do. They let their children make mistakes, and give the same grace to them.

Good moms know that God is taking care of them, as they take care of their children. And they trust God to be the perfect provider and protector for all of them.

Good moms know we are all on a journey, growing closer to Christ and to each other as we grow up in years. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:6

You are strong woman. You are a good mom. Who do you know needs to hear this today? Do you need to tell yourself this today? Let’s be moms that admit how hard our jobs are, and build one another up as we tackle this one hard day at a time. Let’s turn far away from comparing and criticizing and expecting perfection from others and from ourselves. Let’s trust God with our children, and lean on the strength, wisdom and joy He provides. Let’s serve Him as we serve them.

And let’s remember that the motherly love we have for our kids is meant to be only a small taste of the perfect Heavenly Father love God has for us. The love He had for us before we were mothers, the love He has for us as we mother, and the love He will have for us forever.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Colossians 3:12

We love because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19

Hope Surrenders to God’s Word

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(Continuing on with earlier posts- Hope surrenders. Hope surrenders to God’s will. Hope surrenders to God’s Word.)

Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your Word. I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.  Psalm 119:73-77

Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.  Psalm 1:2

Hope delights in God’s Word, and surrenders to the commands and promises found there. We often run ourselves nearly to the ground, seeking answers and encouragement elsewhere, when all the while God’s Word holds all that we need. The richness of God’s Word and all it has for us await for us to take in. So often, it is a treasure yet undiscovered, waiting to bless and enrich our lives.

I rise before dawn and cry for help. I have put my hope in your Word.  Psalm 119:147

 With two testaments, sixty-six books and 1,189 chapters, the Bible can be overwhelming. Where do we even start? I think we all know we need to read our Bibles more and we all would like to read our Bibles more, but we can get stuck wondering where to begin. Having a plan for when, where and how to study can help get us on our way.

The psalmist here as in other places in scripture tells us to start our day off with prayer and Bible Study in the morning. Whether you are a morning person or not, a few minutes of devotional reading and laying out your praises and prayers for the day can make an incredible difference. For me the few moments I lose in sleep to get up before my children far makes up for itself in peace and direction for the day. My Bible and a cup of coffee in my comfy chair in the quiet before the chaos have become absolutely critical. Find a way to put time with Christ in your morning. “She gets up while it is still dark.” (Proverbs 31:15)

Where to read in your Bible can be a challenge. There are so many verses to take in. I suggest two kinds of reading- devotional reading and in-depth study. Devotional reading may be guided by a devotional book, or maybe a daily reading plan, and usually covers a short part of scripture. Some of the most popular books for devotional reading are Psalms, Proverbs (try reading one chapter a day), the gospel of John, or one of Paul’s letters like Philippians or Colossians.  In-depth Bible study may happen in a longer period of time later in your day. If you are a night person, you may best study at night. In-depth study takes one book or one passage and looks intently into its context, meaning and application. While we should read devotionally every day, we may only study in-depth several times each week. Consider working through a New Testament book, and then alternate with an Old Testament book.

How to read the Bible could fill a year’s worth of seminary classes, but what is helpful for us as we commit to daily Bible study? As we look at a verse, or several verses, we should always look for meaning in its context. Read the verses before and after to get a greater feel for its true meaning. Then see if you can find out who wrote the verses. What you can learn about the author and his purpose for writing will add further understanding. And most important of all, ask the question, “What does this teach me about God?” The Bible is a book about God, not me. I can be quick to jump to the question, “What does this teach me about me?” and look for a personal application, before seeing first all that I can learn about God, His character and His purposes.

Another great way to learn God’s Word is to teach it to our children. As we share the stories of Old Testament heroes and prophets, or the New Testament gospels of Jesus’ life and the early church, we learn them better ourselves. I learned the names of the books of the Bible singing children’s Bible songs. We learn as we teach.

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees, then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the paths of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things, preserve my life according to your Word.  Psalm 119: 33-37

Hope surrenders to God’s Word. Cling to His laws, delight in His decrees, and find freedom in the paths of His commands.

Thick Skin and Tuning Out the World

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You know the feeling.

You know the look of disdain from a person who could be offering help, but instead offers hurt.

You know the whisper that clearly is speaking harm when it is hope that is needed.

You know the directly spoken criticism, and the obvious cold stares. The lack of compassion and care.

People in this world can be downright brutal, especially to those caring for children with special needs. And sadly these people can be total strangers, or they can be those closest to us.

How can we respond to the hurt caused by others in a way that honors God? Is there a way we can respond to make the situation better, not worse, for all of us?

Put on thick skin

Putting on thick skin means not taking ugly stares or words so personally. It means not letting them get to you. Water off a duck’s back. (Or I like- “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”)

I have found the best way to deflect hurtful words is to cling to what I know is true. I can think about the other person- who is usually speaking out of ignorance- and try and offer them grace. Their judgements are usually lies- and according to scripture, lies come from Satan Himself. Our best defense then is to cling to Christ and put forth His truth, His word, over the situation. It also helps me to think that I’m probably not the only person this person is mean to- and that makes it their problem, not mine.

Tune out the world

We are called to be in this world, but not of this world. And this world can be a pretty scary place. The world is filled with pressure to be perfect, pressure to have and be more than we are. If our eyes and ears are tuned in to all of that, we get beat down and discouraged. Discontentment drowns our spirit, and we can’t see past our failures shortcomings. And even more dangerous, we can get to where can’t see past our child’s failures and shortcomings.

Tuning out the “big” world means treasuring the “little world” God has put me in. I like to say, “draw a circle around us” and find contentment again. Find thanksgiving again. Find peace again. When I tune out the world, I find that I love what God has placed in my little world.

You have assigned me my portion and my cup. You have made my lot secure. The boundaries have fallen for me in pleasant places.  Psalm 16:5-6

Cling to Christ

Coming through Holy Week, and meditating on the week before Jesus’ crucifixion, I realized how much hate and cruelty Jesus withstood. They were brutal to Jesus too. What can we learn from how he handled pain so much worse than mine?

When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate. He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23

I love the words “He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.” The dictionary says that to entrust means “to give someone the responsibility of doing something or caring for something else or someone else.” So if I entrust myself to God, then I am giving Him the responsibility of doing something or caring for me. It means I give over control of my care to Him and trust Him to protect and to provide for all my needs as He has promised.

When babies are scared, they turn and press their face into their mother, clinging to her for protection. I want to do the same- turning away from the scary world, pressing hard into Christ, and clinging to Him for my protection and provision.

Jesus did as He had taught His followers in Matthew 5:39, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” He also told His disciples that the world would reject them as they rejected Him. We can expect to get struck, and we can find the strength in Christ to turn our cheek the other way.

Shine!

The way we live out our lives is a constant example for others to see. The way we parent our children is also a constant example. And the way we handle stress- both from within our current circumstances and from the outside hurtful looks and words of others- can be a witness to many.

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.  1 Peter 3:15

Live such good lives among the pagans that though they may accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.  1 Peter 2:12

So we can put on our thick skin and head out into the world, ready to tune out its hurt, cling to Christ, and shine for Him as we love the precious ones He’s given us.

Resurrection Power

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I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. Philippians 3:10

We celebrate Easter this week- a beautiful day! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

The ultimate expression of Christ’s power was shown in His resurrection- His triumph over death, His victory over sin. And because of His payment for the penalty of our sin, and His Holy Spirit now living in us, we have His resurrection power available to us.

As I head into another full week, I want to be sure my power resources are on full.

With His power, I can follow His will. I can obey. Even before the resurrection had happened, Mary was tapped in to this supernatural power. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1: 35). To follow the specific calling God had placed on her life, Mary needed His Spirit to obey with heart, soul, mind and strength.  So too do we need His power to walk in submission to His perfect will for our lives. “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” I believe our true callings are placed just out of reach of our own skills and experiences, to where we have to rely on His strength alone to live them out.

With His power, I can withstand life’s trials. I can endure. The storms of life come hard, and most often they come harder and last longer than we can withstand on our own. But Christ’s power keeps us standing, helps us see with eternal eyes, and gives that peace that transcends understanding.  We can endure difficult circumstances with His strength, and we can endure difficult people with His patience.  “…Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”  Colossians 1:11

 

With His power, I can battle my enemies. I can fight. What enemies threaten your peace? Your safety? Your faith? Are you armed with Christ’s resurrection power for the promised victory? He conquered death when He rose from the grave. His is the victory now and forever. If we will fight in His power, He will defeat our enemies and restore His eternal peace. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10

I am reminded of the familiar story of a great master pianist who had gotten up from the piano to bow before the audience applause. When he did so, a small child wandered up on to the stage, climbed up and sat at the piano and begin plinking on the keys. Finding great humor in this, the master pianist came around behind the child, encircled him with his long arms, and began performing another masterpiece that far outshadowed the child’s continued plinking.

So, too, with us, the Master takes our feeble offering and turns it into a masterpiece. His power overshadows our own, and in the end, He receives the deserved glory for a life played out unto Him.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

Christian artist Toby Mac has a hit song “Steal My Show.”

“If you want to steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch you go.

If you’ve got something to say, go on and take it away.

Need you to steal my show, Can’t wait to watch you go

Go on and take it away.”

When I live in resurrection power, my life brings glory to the One who resurrected. I receive needed strength and He receives the glory due His name alone.

Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.  Revelation 7:12

Sick Kids, Sovereign God

sickchildIn my book, sick kids always trump ministry or work.

On the days when I have a child come up sick, I know that whatever I was thinking I was supposed to do that day, I wasn’t.

We recently served with a group of high school students on an intergenerational mission trip to Honduras. Mid-week, my 15-year-old daughter became very sick. We had to miss out on that morning of ministry and an afternoon with a very special outing, and we were both very disappointed.

Several of the wisdom-seeking young girls had asked among the adults that week the question we all long to have answered, “How can we know God’s will for our lives?” Whether in choosing a college, or finding a husband, these girls were on a quest to know how to know what God wants them to do. The day my daughter was sick made for a good example of how God often uses the circumstances He allows into our life each day to show us His good, pleasing and perfect plan. For that day, my child was sick, and I needed to forego my ministry service role and fulfill my nurturing caregiver role with her.

Early in my motherhood journey, my mother said to me, “You’re only as happy as your saddest child.” And I think it has also gone like this: “You’re only as well as your sickest child.” A given mom-trait is empathy, the ability to share someone else’s (especially our child’s) feelings. When our children are sick, our hearts are broken, and we would rather take their place suffering than watch them suffer through.

Having a sick child is exhausting physically and emotionally, but are we able to see God’s hand in it? Are we able to sense His presence on those hard days? Are we able to tap His power for strength beyond ourselves? Are we able to trust that He is sovereign even over our child’s illness, whether it be acute or chronic?

In my not-so-theologically-equipped mind, I struggle to put my mind around the sovereignty of God, especially when it comes to the very difficult trials that come into our lives. A sick child is clearly one of those. And though this may be over-simplified, the question it comes down to for me is this: “Is He on His throne as King of kings and Lord of all the earth? Or is He not?”

Years ago a local youth group had a terrible tragedy on a weekend retreat. A pickup truck filled with sleeping bags and duffle bags was heading from the church to the home where one group of students was to spend the night. The students followed behind on the freeway, and all saw right away when one sleeping bag flew out of the pickup truck onto the freeway ahead of them. Apparently, they pulled over, and one student went out on the freeway to pick up the sleeping bag. Then, very tragically, the student was struck by an oncoming vehicle and killed.

I heard the senior pastor trying to offer counsel for the students and parents the following morning. And while it would be very difficult to know how to comfort those in the face of such a tragedy, I didn’t feel like his words went in the right direction. Some of the words he spoke were, “God didn’t plan this. This was not in His will. This is not what God wanted to happen here last night.”

Again, in my simple mind, it sounded to me like he was suggesting that God had taken a short break from His throne while the accident occurred. Which brings that question again, “Is He on His throne, or is He not?”

Remember the childhood song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands?” It gives me a picture of God as sovereign Creator of the universe, holding all of creation, especially man whom He created in His image, in His strong hands. If we are held within His strong hands, then only what He allows to come into our lives can get through to us. Whether He is the source of the difficulty, or if our sin, other sinners or Satan are the source, God allows it to come to us for a specific purpose that we may or may not ever know. We can know for certain, though, that His purpose is always to draw us closer into Himself, and shape us closer into the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

Does God know when my child is going to be sick?

Yes- He is omniscient, all-knowing. He knows everything about everyone.

Is God able to make my child well?

Yes- He is omnipotent, all-powerful. Whether He does or not, He has the power to.

Is God here to help me through this hard?

Yes- He is omnipresent, ever-present. And He draws near to the brokenhearted.

The gospels tell of us several parents whose children were sick. Where did they turn? They turned to Jesus. One father cried out to Jesus with a very simple, yet honest and profound prayer. “Help me overcome my unbelief!”

May we learn to trust God with our sick children. Whether our plan is interrupted for a day or for years, may He grant us greater faith to trust that He is sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent through it all.

Hope Surrenders to God’s Will

HandsThough He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.  Job 13:15

Job surrendered to the will of God, even at the loss of his fortune, his family, and then his own health. His hope was in the God whose character He had known to be trustworthy for many years. He knew He could surrender to God’s will and God would prove faithful.  Job held on to God even in the hard. His example is a strong one for us as we try to hold on to hope in our own hard.

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

Surrendering to God’s will begins in our minds, when we make a conscious choice to move from the world’s patterns to take hold of what He has for us instead. As that transformation happens, we are able to know God’s will for our lives. His “good, pleasing and perfect will” becomes clearer as we remove the old ways of thinking and “let this mind be in you which also is in Christ.” (Philippians 2:5) His Spirit makes His will known to us.

Many struggle with the idea of “God’s will.” If we are honest, we may ask questions like, “Was it God’s will for my child to get sick?” “Was it God’s will that she was born with this disability?”  “Did He will for my husband to leave us?” This can become a complex theological discussion that would take many pages. For our purposes, though, I think we start by asking the question “Is God sovereign?” Does the Creator reign over all His creation?  We can be sure from scripture, from history and from our own experience that He does. We can be sure that all power and glory and honor and praise belong to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Then as Job did, we can surrender to what He allows to come into our lives and trust His will to be best- for His glory and for our good.

The illustration I like best to help understand this is from the song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Picture God’s hands held together holding your life inside. As He protects and provides for you, any blessing or trial that comes your way must come through His hands first. What gets through to you has been allowed by Him, even if that be sin’s consequences or Satan’s schemes. And if He allows it through, it is according to His good, pleasing and perfect will.

We can be sure that God’s ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself as Lord of all. We have seen how that happens even in life’s most difficult circumstances. His presence, His power and His peace through our trials all bring honor to Him.

A second purpose we can be sure of is His will to conform His children to the image of Christ. “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29). We can surrender to His sovereign hands allowing tests and trials to come our way to shape us into His image. As a potter pushes and prods his clay to conform to his beautiful plan, so does God push and prod His children to become more like His Son.

Jesus Christ demonstrated total surrender to God’s will through His death on the cross.  Knowing the great sacrifice of suffering He was near to enduring, He prayed this profound prayer.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42

The scripture goes on to tell us that an angel came to Him and “strengthened Him.” Then we learn how difficult that prayer of surrender was for Christ to pray:

And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.  Luke 22:44

If surrendering to God’s will was that painful for His Son, we can expect to struggle with it as well.  He understands the fight to surrender our own will for His. And He will be faithful to be near to help with the letting go. He knows that the letting go is the very best thing for us. He will give us faith to hold on for God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.

Because of Christ’s surrender, we can surrender to God’s will for our lives.