Making Adjustments to Stay on Course

The constant changes and transitions of life require the adjustment and tweaking of priorities and schedules to stay on course. During the last two weeks, I’ve been reminded in various ways about the importance of maintaining godly priorities. Misalignment, especially in the area of work, has been causing me to veer off course.

My daughter-in-law mentioned that during a flight the plane’s internal systems continually make adjustments to keep the plane on course. Wreckages throughout history give us ample evidence of the dangers of veering even slightly off track.

Samson blindly believed he was on course to walk out his destiny.

“Then she called, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon your!’ He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”
Judges 16:20

Too late, he realized his error. His spiritual blindness led to physical blindness when his enemies gouged out his eyes and turned him into a human mule to grind their grain.

Following our own life track might appear to work for a while. But when we take God’s Word and His call on our lives casually, be aware. We are heading for a crash.

Mount Erebus Tragedy

Though the crash of TE901 occurred almost fifty years ago, it remains New Zealand’s worst peacetime disaster. The air cruise over the Antarctic turned fatal because the navigation system was off by two degrees. Yes! Two degrees! In the scheme of life, we may easily dismiss two degrees as inconsequential. But if we don’t remain “on target,” we, too, may be heading for disaster.

Each person on board trusted the pilot to take them on the scenic flight to McMurdo Sound and back. The pilot trusted the navigation system to guide him as he made two familiar loops, descending through the clouds to about 2,000 feet to give his passengers a better view. He saw the ice and snow through the cockpit window; only seconds before impact did he realize it was the side of Mount Erebus.

No one was more blinded by pure zeal for God than Saul of Tarsus. Trained as a Pharisee of Pharisees, he expended immeasurable time and energy to eradicate the radical Christian sect that contradicted his understanding of God’s laws and ways. He headed straight for a crash.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked . . . My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.”
Acts 22:6-11

Zeal counts for nothing when you are off course!

Blinding Light

Even moments before impact, tourists walked around, drank their chosen beverages, and took pictures inside the cabin and outside the window. Until . . .

Air NZ flight TE901 before it crashed into Mt Erebus. Warning: content may be upsetting.

Every one of us walks around doing life as usual. None of us know the moment of impact — that millisecond between this life and the next. It is a sobering reality waiting us all.

Thanks to previous prompting by the Holy Spirit, encouragement from my pastor, and an extra nudge from my daughter-in-law, I’ve been making adjustments to stay on course to reach the destination God desires for me. Honestly, I’ve been further off than a few degrees.

Usually, it’s the demanding pressures of work which lure me off track. For others, it might be positions of power or the praise of people. Even one of Jesus’ disciples became confused.

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'”
Matthew 16:23

Jesus warns Peter and us, that whenever human concerns outweigh our concern for God, we have switched allegiance, joining enemy ranks. There is no such thing as neutral ground.

Jesus went on to explain that discipleship costs. Maintaining healthy boundaries around godly priorities will always cost.

Stay on Course

Forfeiting God’s best for a pat on the back or a few more dollars in the bank amounts to nothing in the end.

With Samson, Saul, and Peter, God gracious confronted them, redirecting their course. Their lives impacted multitudes of people. What we do today influences and affects generations as well. May we choose wisely.

The carnage from TE901 that still liters the side of Mount Erebus campares little to the painful aftermath of the crash. After many years and multiple investigations, the blame first placed upon the pilot shifted to the airlines. God won’t need further explanation or investigation. He already knows both the obvious and hidden reasons for our losing sight of what is most important. Excuses and self-justification will disintegrate and fall like ashes before Him.

To stay on course means to continue until something is finished or until we achieve something we planned to do. It means to not vary from a predetermined plan. God has a predetermined plan for every life, in which, as Brother Andrew said,

“The joy gets bigger and life gets better.”

We all plan to finish our life’s journey well. We all plan to please our Heavenly Father and hear Him say,

“. . . ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'”
Matthew 25:23

Take Action

The deceptive blindness of this world too often pulls us from eternal perspectives. The counsel of others will forewarn us when we are shifting off track, whether by two degrees or more. Here are other steps to help us stay on course:

  • Listen to Holy Spirit.
    • Push the “Pause” button on busyness and rest.
    • Ask God to show us when and how we are getting off track.
    • Ask ourselves if we have set a godly destination?
  • Listen to wise counsel.
    • What are those who love us saying? (e.g. spouses, family, pastors, counselors)
  • Soul search.
    • What unmet need am I trying to satisfy through things other than God?
    • Why is it easier for me to trust in my own ability and efforts rather than in God?
    • Why am I willing to sacrifice the most important things for temporary satisfaction?

Ouch! Though difficult, the answers may save our lives and the lives of those around us before we crash against the mountain of our own doing.

When not corrected, small things always become big things.

God may not provide a blinding light to stop us in our deviant tracks. Failure to realign ourselves may cost us our physical and emotionally health, our closest relationships, and, more importantly, ministry effectiveness.

A minor course adjustment and a little rise in altitude would have been enough to save everyone aboard TE901. In the same way, a few simple personal course adjustments and a small rise in our spiritual altitude may be the preventative measures we need to avoid disastrous consequences.

Let’s heed the warnings and move toward a life where “the joy gets bigger and life gets better.” Blessings, my friends.

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Want More?

You might appreciate this message about setting priorities.

Godly Priorities | Pastor Rob Reimer | September 25, 2022

Does God Hear and Answer Prayer

Hear and Answer Prayer

One question we may ask is, “Does God hear and answer prayer?” We might know He responds to the prayers of others, but what about mine? Can I pray with confidence, believing He turns His ear toward my petitions and that His hand opens to my needs?

For many people, this is the point of wavering faith. Does He listen me? Will He respond to my voice?

When I turn the hot water tap on in my house, the water initially runs cold. By leaving it running, I confidently know that the hot water will flow through the pipes eventually getting from the heating tank to me. Prayer is like that hot water tap. I don’t always experience an instant response, but if I keep the “prayer pipe” open, the desired results will come.

But what do we do when answers don’t flow like water? When faith fades? Or hope hides?

I relate to the words of the psalmist David,

“I’m hurting, Lord — will you forget me forever? How much longer, Lord? Will you look the other way when I’m in need? How much longer must I cling to this constant grief? I’ve endured this shaking of my soul. So how much longer will my enemy have the upper hand?”
Psalm 13:1-2

Hot Water Tap

I appreciate David’s honest bearing of his soul. “How much longer,” forms a familiar refrain for many of us. As we read further, however, we discover God heard his cry. The answer to David’s longing came. Later, he penned psalms of thanksgiving and praise for the answers sent his way.

“For (God’s) anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Psalm 30:5

But will God hear and answer my prayer? Will He turn my weeping into joy, my struggle into success, or my darkness into the brightness of day?

Take Courage

I take hope from a short passage in Exodus. After generations of immersion in a wicked and foreign country, not to mention cruel slavery, God’s chosen people finally cried out for help. They should have known God as their Deliverer, but they didn’t. God’s faithfulness seemed distant, His promises forgotten. So in misery they cried!

” . . . The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.” Exodus 2:23

They didn’t remember to look to God or ask Him for help. Yet, their pain-filled cries reached Heaven’s gates and God’s throne. God heard. He answered by sending Moses to lead them to freedom from their oppressors.

Watering Can

Many of my prayers resonate with cries and groans. I, too, sometimes forget to look to God for the answer. As a compassionate Father, He responds. The answer may come in unexpected ways and unpredictable timing, however.

“Lord, how much longer?”

Never Too Late

Unlike the Israelites in Egypt, the priest, Zechariah, and his wife, Elizabeth, stayed close to God. At first, their prayers overflowed with faith and anticipation. Years passed. Decades slipped away. God’s deafening silence prevailed.

I wonder when they stopped praying for a child. When did they resolve themselves to barrenness, childlessness, hopelessness . . . When did their groaning and crying cease? Now too old to hope for their miracle, they gave themselves to intercede for others. They loved and served God with unflinching devotion, without expectation of personal gain.

Did the ache ever leave? That longing for a child of their own. Did they sometimes wonder how different life might have been with children and grandchildren, or even great grandchildren?

Does God hear and answer prayer? Yes!

Water Spout

” . . . ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.”
Luke 1:13-14

God sent His angel to announce the good news. He heard! He answered! His perfect timing arrived. Those faith-filled prayers, long silenced on Earth, echoed in Heaven. God hadn’t forgotten, even when it seemed He had.

Keep Praying

A Roman Centurion named Cornelius also devoted himself to prayer.

“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing, he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” Acts 10:2

One would expect such consistent praying from Jewish believers, not a Gentile — one considered outside the realm of God’s care and concern. Cornelius dared to keep the prayer tap open, believing God, in grace, would hear and answer. He was right!

Because Cornelius prayed, the entire direction of the early church shifted. God shook Peter from religious mindsets and false paradigms. He proved His availability and accessibility to everyone, Jews and Gentiles.

” Cornelius answered: ‘Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.”
Acts 10:30-31

Now that’s a rare occurrence! Angels seldom come to assure us that our prayers are being answered. Because this Gentile man faithfully prayed, trusting somehow, some way God would respond, he received the greatest of miracles.

Fountain

As Peter told Cornelius, his family, and friends about Jesus, they all received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter baptized them into the faith and later stayed to teach them more.

Does God hear and answer prayer? Yes, more often than we realize.

Not Now

The hardest responses for me to receive are the “not now” answers. Everyone loves the miraculous, supernatural responses to prayer. We gladly share our testimonies of when God came through in desperate times.

” . . . who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the word; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again . . . “
Hebrews 11:33-35

Ah! We watch movies and read books about such exciting exploits. We gladly sing praise to God for His great love and awesome power demonstrated in such amazing ways.

But . . .

Dripping Faucet

But there are times when and others who

” . . . were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
Hebrews 11:39-40

Their faith rose to the challenge. The Bible says, “The world was not worthy of them!” (vs 38) Yet, miracles stayed distant. God answered, “Not now. I have something better for you, faithful one.”

Only a quiet trust in God’s better, higher, perfect ways holds us in such times.

The Word of God

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Romans 10:17

Though I would love to offer pat answers and fixed formulas, none exist. God is God. Though He chooses to hear and answer prayer, He owes us nothing. Nothing obligates Him to respond to our efforts to garner His attention.

Nonetheless, He is a good God who delights in responding to the call of those in relationship with HIm. Oh, what confidence we gain from this wonderful assurance,

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Hebrews 11:6

He exists! He rewards!

Faith builds as we read the Bible and the testimony of God’s faithfulness to multiple others. It grows in the shelter of God’s unfailing love and His steadfast devotion. Faith, not in prayer, but in the God who answers prayer, flourishes on the foundation of His unchanging Word.

No word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1:37

Fountain

A daily time reading the Bible and praying keeps our spiritual taps open and the channel clear for God to hear and answer. There is no substitute or easy fixes. God’s Word saturates our hearts, fills our minds, and lifts our spirits to believe.

The roots of trust take root until we know that we know that we know, God will hear and answer. It may be soon, but it will never be late.

Patient Endurance

I can either be annoyed because the hot water takes so long to reach the sink, or be thankful when it arrives. Attitude determines altitude someone once said. An attitude of patient endurance as we wait for the full result of prayer to develop is essential.

Let’s not grow weary or give up, saints! The answer is on the way. May we rejoice even before it arrives, while we keep the tap open and expectation flowing.

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4 Steps to Learning How to Rest Effectively in God

Rest Effectively

Rest for some people comes naturally. For me, however, learning how to rest effectively has been a struggle. God gives rest to the weary. It is a gift I am only just beginning to understand and receive.

My father would often admonish me to slow down, saying, “You always lean into the wind!” Obviously, even as a child I erred toward quick movement and constant action.

How about you? Are you like many people who fall exhausted into bed each night after high pressure days? Do you, like others, rise from a night’s sleep without feeling refreshed? Have you learned how to rest effectively? More importantly, do you know how to rest in God? True rest encompasses spiritual, physical, and emotional elements. Only then will we find the powerful secret of rest.

“It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.”
Psalm 127:2

Peace and Rest

Step 1 — Discern When to Work and When to Rest

Psalms 127 describes me — overworked and anxious! God instructs us to work. Most people possess a desire to accomplish, to better ourselves and things around us. A good day of productive labor gives a sense of satisfaction, but God knows we need a healthy balance. He instructs us to work for six days, followed by a Sabbath rest.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . “
Exodus 20:8-10

In some seasons of life, this may seem near impossible. How does a young mother not work to care for her children? Shift work or being on continuous call doesn’t afford flexibility to designate a consistent day for sabbath rest each week.

Rest from Work

God created us and remembers we are “made from dust” (Psalm 103:14). He knows continuous work will cause us to implode! Between work shifts and serving in ministry, I, too, struggle to eek out a sabbath rest. Then what?

For people whose employment runs from nine-to-five o’clock five days a week, schedules may require very little adaptation for a sabbath rest. For many others, diligence to prioritize where and how to spend precious time becomes essential. One day a week (Saturday, Sunday, or any other day) to pull away from responsibility and work will increase one’s ability to enjoy refreshing, sustaining rest.

The first step in learning how to rest effectively comes with giving God permission to reset our focus away from work. Through sabbath rest, we give our bodies and minds a break from routine pressures.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
Jeremiah 31:25

Step 2 — Get Away With God

Jesus faced similar pressures when He walked this earth. Many times, He invited His disciples to leave the crowds for time to rest with Him. He understands the unending demands of responsibility.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'”
Mark 6:31

For me, just beginning each day fresh with God helps to set my pace and give me perspective. Finishing the day with Him, settles my heart and mind. My “quiet place” with God includes Bible reading and meditation on His Word, prayer, and worship. It also includes being still within to hear His gentle whispers in my heart — sometimes affirming, sometimes convicting, often giving direction.

The “quiet place” of rest might include going for a walk in nature, allowing Him to reset the rhythms of life. God often nudges our thoughts toward Him during these times. He seeks opportunity to simply “be with” us. Every thriving relationship requires uninterrupted time together, including our relationship with God.

Somehow, in the midst of time with Him, we find rest. This simple step helps to train us to rest effectively in Him.

Step 3 — Trust God is Good

Training ourselves to draw away from work and near to God sets the foundation of trusting Him with all the other “burdens” and pressures we pick up and carry. I worry over family, concern myself about the future, and feel anxious over the uncertainty of our times. Trust! Easy to say; hard to do!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

The secret for true rest comes in trusting God — trusting He is always good to me and those I love. Doubting God’s goodness lies at the core of my struggle to rest in Him.

So I work more, try harder, and attempt to control everything possible. I wear out, play out, and burn out. “Get away with me and you will recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest,” sounds too good to be true.

Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it!” Instead, I resist Him, going my direction, doing things my way, and expecting Him to watch how I do everything! It usually ends in misguided effort, ultimate failure, and guaranteed fatigue. But as I learn how to trust and rest effectively in God, I walk more with Him, work better beside Him and through Him, while watching closely how He works. How peaceful and easy everything becomes, while trusting His ways and co-operating with the Holy Spirit.

Step 4 — Discovering God’s Grace

As an unaccomplished musician, I remember well the hours upon hours spent leaning over the ivory keys of an upright grand piano. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it sure helps. From childhood into adulthood, hours turned into weeks, and week into years of practice and concentrated effort.

“The unforced rhythms of grace” play a different tune, however. Paint swirled upon a canvas by a skilled artist yields fluently to the flow of the brush. Clay upon the potter’s wheel offers no resistance to the will of trained hands. As we fully rest in God’s plan, we learn to flow freely in the unforced rhythms of His grace and love. Here we find sweet rest. Here we recover abundant life, living freely and lightly.

Artist Painting

In “the unforced rhythms of grace” — where soul, body, and spirit find refuge and rest — guilt holds no sway.

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

Learning how to rest effectively in God partners with grace. How peaceful the heart becomes when we acknowledge we don’t need all the answers. Success does not depend on our ability, strength, power, resources, or wisdom. It depends on God. As we rest in Him, He works through us all the more.

Learning How to Rest Effectively

Life, for all of us, continuously changes. We no sooner learn the rhythm of one season when suddenly we face another. Sometimes changes shift slowly. Often, they come like violent upheavals. My husband and I are learning again to rest effectively in God. In Him alone, we find rest in transition and change.

Learning suggests an ongoing process — a process of internal change and transformation. Learning also suggests a Teacher faithfully guiding the steps of that journey.

“O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.”
Psalm 71:17

David, once a shepherd and then a king, wrote,

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside quiet water, he refreshes my soul.”
Psalm 23:1-2

Sheep Resting

Sometimes God, our Shepherd, makes us lie down. Usually, when we have forgotten to rest.

May I invite you to come with me as together we learn how to rest effectively. Let us allow God, our Good Shepherd, to give us times of rest “in green pastures” and “beside quiet waters”. Through rest may we recover our lives, living freely and lightly, and may we experience the “unforced rhythms of grace.”

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Faith and Closure: Avoiding Misconception and Error

Faith And Closure

Both faith and closure depend on sensory input. Unfortunately, senses alone create a fragmented and incomplete concept of our world. What do we do with those random bits and pieces of known and unknown? By nature, we fill in the gaps between what we know and what we don’t know from previous experience.

We define this human phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole as “closure.” Usually our definition of closure falls between the limited boundaries of ending a business or relationship. The full sense of closure reaches much broader than that, however.

As we begin life, our minds largely resemble a blank slate. Of course, our natural senses already became activated in the womb. Once we exploded into the world, sensory overload kicked into high gear. Bright lights and dark shadows, cold air and warm touches, unmuted sound (including our own screams of panic), and smells both pungent and subtle. Neither faith nor closure existed for any of us in those early moments of life.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:11-12

See Like a Child

Paul affirms the ways of childhood give way to adulthood — as do thoughts, speech, and whole waft of other developmental attributes.

Faith

Most of us have played peek-a-boo with a child. The child saw our familiar face. Suddenly, we hid behind a blanket, causing the child brief but great concern. As soon as we showed our face again, the child responded with equal delight. Gradually, he/she learned that even though they could not see our face, we were present — hidden from view but with them.

Innocently, those first simple faith steps of a child began. Drawing from experience, he/she believed you were present and available. The child’s ability to create closure — to finish the picture in his/her mind even though all he/she saw was a blanket — required faith in its simplest form.

Spiritual faith follows a parallel journey as we learn that although we cannot visibly see God, His Presence is tangible and constant. Spiritual senses develop through similar childlike steps.

All too often, however, we take giant leaps in our attempt to “finish the picture,” recreating God in our minds.

In 1 Corinthians, the great love chapter, Paul warns us about this premature propensity toward closure. He reminds us that we don’t fully know the whole story, or see the bigger picture. At best, we see God and our world in fragmented pieces — like a half-painted portrait.

Glass Window

Other Bible translations phrase it this way:

  • “we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections” (NLV)
  • “now we see through a glass in obscurity” (BLB)
  • “we see through a glass, darkly” (KJV)

Yet despite our blurred context, we adopt faith and closure, framing everything and everyone around us by previous limited experience.

Mystery

Even though much of life (let alone God) remains a mystery, we involuntarily close the gaps of time and space between known and unknown with great leaps of faith. For Christians, faith is mandatory to our belief system.

Many people in Jesus’ day attempted to create closure apart from faith. They nullified the mystery of God by leaning toward presumption, misconception, or even error. Examples regarding Jesus are many:

  • Some accused Him of performing miracles through Beelzebul, the prince of demons. (Matt 12:24)
  • Religious leaders tried to stone Him, believing He was a mere man, claiming to be God. (John 10:31-33)
  • His own family thought He had gone completely mad — out of his mind. (Mark 3:20)

That’s only the tip of the iceberg of accusations and misunderstanding. Though people witnessed the miracles and heard His teaching, without both faith and closure they came to faulty conclusions of His person and ministry.

Iceberg

Seen and Known

To a lesser degree, we’ve all fallen victim to similar judgments and misunderstandings of our motives and actions. We’ve probably also been guilty of forming false assumptions about others. Paul offered the Corinthian church this wise advice,

“So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time — before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.”
1 Corinthians 4:5

The Lord Jesus, who knows all things, will reveal every hidden piece, every secret portion. He will unveil the completed canvas. Then, there will be no misunderstandings, misconceptions or errors. Everyone will clearly see and be fully known. Faith and closure blending in perfect unity! No presumptuously filling in the gaps or judgmental conclusions.

Closure

Just as faith develops in a baby through experience over time, so does closure. The more we come to know the heart and ways of God, the longer we walk this journey called the Christian faith, the greater our perception of Him, our world, others, and even ourselves becomes.

Horse Tail

With both human and spiritual sensory inputs functioning to a greater degree, we become increasingly capable of successfully navigating the circumstances of life. Even then, we always remember that we only know and see in part.

Jesus’ disciples tripped and faltered as they continually attempted to bring closure where there wasn’t any. Some assumed they would sit at His right or left hand in His Kingdom (Mark 10:37). Others concluded the disciple John would never die (John 21:23). They often attempted to squish Jesus into their religious or political paradigms. Despite His warnings, they all believed they would never forsake Him (Matt 26:31-35).

We too dangerously combine faith and closure in misdirected ways. How few Christians in North American believe trouble and persecution will intrude upon their comfortable lives? Many believe Christianity equates to entitlement regarding health, wealth and ease. What percentage of the population falsely believe access to heaven comes through good behavior and honorable intentions?

Here we see faith without justified closure.

Jesus Christ

Only One Person capably closes such gaps — Jesus Christ! In Him is the pinnacle of both faith and closure, eradicating every misconception and all error. In Him is absolute fullness and completeness.

In every way, this familiar passage applies.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
Proverbs 3:5-7

Faith and Closure

When we direct our eyes and hearts exclusively to Him, allowing Him to reveal the full picture, we release the need for premature closure and by faith trust Him with all outcomes — large and small. Then, with childlike enthusiasm, we will rejoice as He reveals the full image both in our lives and in the lives of others.

We will never panic like a little child playing peek-a-boo. We will possess an assurance, fear from all doubt, He is forever present, though unseen, in the twists and turns of life. Only in Jesus Christ comes faith, knowing He will put all the pieces into perfect union and bring closure to the mysteries yet to be revealed.

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Setting Priorities: God or Money; Faith or Fortune; Wisdom or Wealth

Setting priorities between eternal and temporary remains a struggle for people of every social and economic strata. Written within the suffering of Job, we find his perspective on wisdom and wealth. Job successfully established his priorities with both God and finances. These are words spoken by someone whose wealth, even in today’s terms, would dwarf most other enterprises.

“People assault the flinty rock with their hands
and lay bare the roots of the  mountains.
They tunnel through the rock;
their eyes see all its treasures.”
Job 28:9-10

Job talks about the enormous effort people have exerted to uncover precious metals, like gold and silver, and rare jewels. Deep into the earth they’ve chisel to expose valuable treasures.

Treasure

Setting Priorities

How does the level of exertion while striving for wealth compare with the pursuit of wisdom? Which venture consumes more of our time and energy? More importantly, what do I worry about the most: spiritual hunger for God or the desire for greater financial security.

Recently, God tested where my heart was on the issue. I knew it was God because of the bizarre circumstances: an injury causing unemployment for my spouse with no compensation, unemployment insurance, or disability coverage; an empty rental unit and a mortgage to pay; and my employment closing. For three months, bills came without income to match.

We never lacked. God isn’t a God of lack. Although, we considered carefully every penny spent. God has seen us through many tough seasons, including financially. We have learned,

“The LORD Will Provide.”
Genesis 22:14

At such times,  will I base my decisions not on my financial position, but on faith, giving God my “Yes!” to whatever He asks?

Amethyst

Wisdom maintains faith to put God first. Often a financial crunch shows clearly how we choose to set priorities between God and money.

Wisdom

Job’s observation confirmed most people know more about gaining and maintaining wealth than they do concerning finding wisdom. A quick scan of the bookstore or “Google” reveals almost unlimited advice on creating wealth. His question still applies generations later.

“But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?
No mortal comprehends its worth…”
Job 28:12

Perhaps humanity’s search for wisdom pales in comparison to the feverish pursuit of wealth, because we don’t comprehend the value of wisdom. If we did, setting priorities between God and money wouldn’t be such a challenge.

Gold Jewelry

Job is the oldest writing in the Bible. The teachings of Jesus form some of the newest.

Heaven and Earth

Jesus reminded His listeners that everything we accumulate here will be left behind, so the wise invest in eternity.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moths and vermin destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moths and vermin do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is
there heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21

Our hearts are intrinsically connected to our investment, whether here “on earth” or there “in heaven.” These storehouses don’t just vie for our hours, energy and focus, they fight for our devotion.

“No one can serve two master.
Either you will hate the one and love the other,
or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and money.”
Matthew 6:24

Pearl

What is my choice? God or money? Which captures my heart and devotion? Do I view life decisions from the perspective of heaven or earth?

Do I set my strength to break through whatever obstacle presents itself, the flinty rocks of apathy, lethargy, or complacency to seek wisdom and understanding?

God The Source

God is the source of all things. As Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, everything belongs to Him.

For from Him and through Him
and for Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:36

Any level of financial success achieved comes from God because “it is he who gives you the ability to create wealth.” (Deut 8:18) Haggai reminds us.

“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,
declares the LORD Almighty.”
Haggai 2:8

Whatever wealth we think we possess remains borrowed goods. It is far too easy to believe our accumulations came from strategic thinking, smart investing, or a solid work ethic. Not that these are wrong, but perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate true motivation!

A Gift

Wisdom endures. Wealth is temporary.  Solomon, the wealthiest man of his day and the wisest man of all time, speaks of wisdom as being a gift —

“For the LORD gives wisdom,
from His mouth come
knowledge and understanding.”
Proverbs 2:6

Job confirms that “God understands the way to (wisdom).” (28:23)  His circumstances convinced him that wisdom remains the rarest and most precious of any commodity. Job previously knew wealth plus wisdom; God was showing him wisdom, plus wealth. There’s a difference!

Diamonds

How do I know?

“The fear of the Lord —
that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”
Job 28:28

Job, stripped bare of all security, comfort and wealth, felt God as distant. It’s the dark seasons, the tough road, the desperate places where God proves Himself near and enough. Setting priorities upon God proves the essence of our faith — the foundation of our trust.

When all else fades, the surpassing value of hidden treasures of wisdom and understanding outweigh all else. God is faithful! He can be trusted! Let’s learn from Job setting priorities sooner rather than later.

It starts with me. Here. Today.

Wait Patiently for the Lord: The Lord is Sufficient

More than once someone has encouraged me to “wait patiently for the Lord.” Dare I say these are not my most cherished words!

My dictionary defines patience as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delays, problems or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” Understandably, my name is not inserted near that definition as a prime example. As a matter of fact, my children laugh at the way I carefully choose routes of travel to avoid stop signs, traffic lights and construction zones. Neither the words “wait” nor “patiently” form the foundation of my genetic makeup.

How about you? What thoughts enter your mind as you read this passage?

Wait patiently for the LORD.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”
Psalms 27:14

Note the double emphasis David used. Perhaps first to remind himself and then a second time to remind the rest of us.

Wait Patiently

The Hebrew word for “wait” means to bind together and to expect. I’m not alone in choosing more tangible, readily available things or people to “bind” myself to rather than trusting and relying confidently in God as my soul support.

Israel had a similar problem. They had a habit of “going” when God specifically asked them to “wait”; they “mumbled and grumbled” instead of “patiently” binding themselves to God as the source for all they needed. No finger pointing here! I associate more with their twisted attitude and off-centered focus than with the psalmist’s clear directive.

God is loving in all He does; He is an inerrantly good and gracious Father. As such, He works His friendly persuasion to lead us to rely on Him as our soul support and help.

“The Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies
will take away from Jerusalem and Judah
everything they depend on:
every bit of bread and every drop of water.”
Isaiah 3:1

If God were to do the same with me, removing every level of support and supply, every attempt to protect or sustain myself, every self-created prop I so confidently depend upon, what would remain? I fear that I would quickly realize how little, rather than how much, I am actually waiting patiently on God.

Trusting on God

Two years ago, I purchased a small weeping birch tree. Although it was about eight feet tall, the trunk was quite slender and weak. To protect the new addition to my landscape, I staked it firmly on three sides, and tied it securely with soft cords. Weekly, I gave it the water and fertilizer it needed for steady growth and  root development.. There it stood flexing and bending during the summer storms.

In early winter, however, a fierce winter blizzard hit with freezing rain. The gale force winds and weight of icy boughs broke the support cords, pressing my little tree horizontal to the ground. All natural support had failed! I gently broke the ice from its frail branches and retied the little sapling, hoping it would somehow survive winter’s assault.

“But I am trusting you,
O LORD, saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.”
Psalm 31:14-15

Man made help and support might be adequate for the everyday “storms” of life, but only God is sufficient for all seasons and circumstances. David learned this truth on the hillside protecting his sheep from lions and bears — a truth reinforced while hiding in desert caves from a king who put a bounty on his life.

How willing am I to wait patiently on the Lord declaring, “my future is in your hands?” If I find it difficult to trust Him in this moment, with patience, how will I possibly trust Him with my unknown tomorrows?

Grace to Wait

Though I look impatiently to the destination God is pointing me toward, He is creating in me the grace to wait. He patiently develops my character with a greater “capacity to accept or tolerate delays, problems or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” With God, patience is an attribute of His character: for me, however, patience is a process.

Although I don’t experience it moment by moment, through hindsight I vividly see the grace, strength and ability to endure taking form. What once caused a great deal of anxiousness and annoyance, now has far less power to control my emotions. Progress may be slow, but God continues to faithfully work in me.

My little tree doesn’t need artificial staking and support any more. It has developed an ability to bend and flex in the wind and endure extreme conditions. The trunk has thickened sufficiently to support the tree through the worst weather thrown its way. The unseen roots have spread out to securely anchor the sapling, producing vibrancy and growth. I hope the same can be said of each of us.

If we back up a few verses in Psalm 27, we discover the reason for David’s ability to wait patiently for the Lord with strength and courage. We see clearly where he plants his spiritual roots for optimum growth.

The LORD is my light and salvation —
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life —
of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27:1

The Lord Is!

When God removed every previous support system that David had once depended on, David was still secure, confident and solidly grounded. Why? God was enough! When all else is stripped away, we discover (often to our surprise) that the Lord is enough — He is sufficient to satisfy our every need.

Herein lies the joy of having all human and artificial supports removed from our lives. What nothing and no one else can bring, God supplies within Himself.

One thing I ask from the LORD this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock. . .
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!
Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
Psalm 27:4-8

When we finally come to realize that the Lord is all we need, the essential for our lives, we too possess an ability to wait patiently for Him. In Him, we find the strength and courage not just to wait, but to move ahead into what God is calling us to do — trusting fully that our future indeed is in His hands.

Looking Ahead

This one thing I want to remind myself of and encourage you with, “God is enough!” As we enter a new year, either with trepidation or optimism, we wait patiently for the Lord to lead us through.

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

Proverbs 3:5 – Trust In The Lord With All Your Heart

What does it mean to “trust in the Lord with all your heart?” These seven little words may take a life time to accomplish. Why? Because they require moment-by-moment, day-by-day, surrender — all encompassing surrender.

The problem started for us all in the Garden of Eden a long time ago. Self-reliance began the unceasing battle against surrender. Since that time, every individual has witnessed this relentless war. Even the youngest of us asserts, “I can do it myself.” 

Positive determination has produced amazing results. It has led mankind to explore, invent, engineer, create and break preconceived limitations. Through this compulsion we have

stood on mountains,
walked in space,
explored ocean depths,
developed cures,
conquered fears,
and challenged the impossible.

But such exploits have also created an over confidence in our own ability, ingenuity or intelligence. So how do we turn about face and kneel before the Lord God, Creator and Sustainer of all?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on
your own understanding.”
Proverbs 3:5

Jenna Loveridge Photography

Trust

As a mother, I find it uncomfortable to watch a young child being thrust into the air by its father. The child may scream in fear, while simultaneously delighting in the game of dangerous reliance of its father. The father trusts in his own strength to catch the child. However, the child trusts in the father’s loving character to not allow it to fall.

Sometimes, I honestly feel like that little child tossed skyward by my Heavenly Father — gasping for air and screaming. Not always in delight! Usually, I’m not wanting more!

Trust conveys a sense of security or calm assurance.

“May the God of hope fill you
with all joy and peace
as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow
with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

Such explicit trust, of necessity, requires that we know the One we are trusting in. Do I trust Him as the God of all hope? Do I know Him to be trustworthy? Or do I question His character and His love for me?

How I perceive God’s character will ultimately determine my level of trust in Him.

The LORD

The name for God used here is “Yahweh” — “I AM.”

“God said to Moses,
I AM WHO I AM.’…”
Exodus 3:14

Perhaps it takes so long to trust God, because it takes time to understand who He is. Self reliance declares, “Trust only yourself.” However, history has shown how faulty that reasoning is!

By reading the bible, we begin to develop insight into God’s nature. Experience also teaches us that He is completely trustworthy. His character is constant and good — indescribably good.

God
eternal, self-existent,
omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient,
Alpha and Omega, without beginning or end,
independent and unchanging,
absolute truth, beauty and goodness.

Jenna Loveridge Photography

The more we come to accurately know God for who He truly is, the more we sense the security and calm assurance that comes with trusting Him.

“Those who know your name
trust in you, for you, LORD,
have never forsaken those who seek you.”
Psalm 9:10

Can we trust God when our prayer seems to go unanswered? Can we trust Him when He appears distant even though we needed His Presence? How can we trust Him when His ways are so much different than ours?

These are honest questions. The only honest answer is, “Yes!” Yes, because His love never fails. Yes, because He is immeasurable good. Yahweh is redemptive in all He does. He remains trustworthy.

With All

If seven words present a problem, seven letters create an even bigger one — “with all.”  Perhaps, we can trust God “with a little”. We might even trust Him “with some.” But “with all?”  Now that’s different. And difficult!

Dare I trust Him with

my family and relationships,
finances and possession,
dreams and desires,
restoring my past or securing my future,
providing not just what is good,
but the absolute best?

It has been over 40 years since in hopelessness I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. With faltering prayer, I simply said, “Lord, I have nothing worth giving you. But if you want me, I am Yours. Take the broken pieces. I give them all to You.” With that, I gave Jesus “all.”

Amazingly enough He took me up on the offer. He still holds me to it!

Through the years, God has been persuading me about the inclusively of “all.” Some things I have clung too resistantly. Other things, I have gladly tossed His way. “With all” really does mean everything. God cannot be Lord, if He is only lord of some. Lordship encompasses “all.”

“You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfact,
because they trust in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD himself,
is the Rock eternal.”
Isaiah 26:3-4

Yet with such yielding comes peace — “perfect peace.”

Heart

The heart signifies the centre — the core of all feelings, will, and intellect. The heart makes me, me and you, you. It determines our values, how we perceive the world around us and  how we respond to others. The heart is the central part that makes every aspect of our lives “tick.”

The human heart is made up of many chambers. So is our heart of hearts. Trusting Him must flow through “all” the centre of our being.

“I will say of the LORD,
“He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalms 91:2

Do we foolishly think we can trust our feelings above His goodness? Are we in any way resistant to surrendering our will? In what ways do we believe we know better than God? Writing these question makes them sound unreasonable. Perhaps because they are.

Yet, in my littleness, I cling to them with childlike determination. God pulls at my small hand with persistence, wanting my little, so He can grant me His big more.

Trusting in oneself “with all your heart” proves futile. On the other hand, “trust(ing) the Lord with all your heart” brings his security and calm assurance.

Blessings

Many promises await fulfillment as we trust the Lord — in everything and with everything.

“But blessed is the one
who
trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree
planted by the w
ater
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Trust and blessing co-exist — inseparably bound together. As fragile as our trust might seem, it powerfully links us to innumerable benefits. The security and calm confidence derived from trusting in the Lord replaces fear and worry. Trusting God demolishes the vulnerability of uncertainty.

So today, I trust again, afresh and more fully. Moment-by-moment, day-by-day, I choose totrust in the Lord with all (my) heart.”

God faithfully invites me closer, while creating new opportunities to trust. He also rewards my efforts to trust with confidence.

**********

Trust is the Greatest Compliment We Give Each Other

Trust is the greatest compliment we can give each other. Trust securely glues every kind of relationship we experience together: parent and child, husband and wife, teacher and student, friend to friend, leader and disciple, employer to employee. We know the security of trust when it is present. Yet, trust is difficult to define. 

Every newborn baby comes explicitly trusting others to care selflessly for its needs. Yet, broken trust requires extra measures of responsibility, grace and time to restore.  

Love, honour, servanthood, and humility are just a few of the non-optional attributes we owe to each other. But not trust! In fact, Jesus didn’t trust everyone!

“Now while he was in Jerusalem
at the Passover Festival,
many people saw the signs
he was performing and believed in his name.
But Jesus would not entrust himself to them,
for he knew all people.”
John 2:23-24

What is this valuable asset, we call trust, in relationships? What allows trust to thrive? How can trust be restored once broken?

Five key elements must exist to create trust: empathy, motivation, ability, character, and history. 

Empathy

The dictionary defines empathy as an “ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. Far too often, our need to be understood exceeds our desire to truly understand others. 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility
value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests
but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:3-4

Instinctively, we sense when people are more concerned with themselves than with others. Developing positive communication skills, including listening well, has been a process for me. We can learn to hear beyond people’s words to their hearts.

I honestly have to ask myself, “Do I listen well?” So far, the response is “Not good enough!” I am learning, albeit slowly, how to listen with more than my ears. 

Often words mask the real message of the heart. Will I look into people’s eyes and honour their unspoken longing — taking the risk, though messy and uncomfortable? Will I focus on their circumstances, their struggles, and their needs?

“Nobody cares how much you know
until they know how much you care.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

Motivation

Motivation, the reason why someone acts or behaves in a certain way, usually conceals itself in wounded caverns of the soul. We may be ignorant of our own “real” motivation behind our words or actions. 

Dr. Henry Cloud says, “Whenever we meet someone — especially a stranger but also a friend, a boss we see every day, or even a family member — we unconsciously scan the face, read the body language, and assess the tone of voice to determine whether the person is with us or against us. It is just what humans do.” 

“But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.”
Jeremiah 17:10

By allowing God to search our hearts, we become people others can trust. The only way to effectively invest in the lives of others, championing their causes and helping them to succeed, is through pure motives.

When someone has “dropped the ball”, failing us in some way, will vengeance cloud our vision of them? Do we value them and the relationship enough to seek restoration? Will we stand by them until they walk strong again?

Restoring trust is the greatest compliment we can offer. Trust says, “I want you to succeed.”

Ability

It is amazing to me, how Jesus drew His incompetent disciples into ever increasing levels of ability. They floundered and fought. Yet Jesus trusted them enough (after only three years of training) to launch the Christian Church off their backs. Astounding!

Ability unlocks trust.
Trust empowers ability.

We often chose people for positions of trust based on credentials, certification or even the recommendation of others. Jesus chose The Twelve in a different way.

“One of those days
Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray,
and spent the night praying to God.
When morning came,
he called his disciples to him
and chose twelve of them,
whom he also designated apostles.”
Luke 6:12-13

Would any of us have chosen to trust this team? Would we have considered any of them upper level leadership? As Jesus sought the wisdom of God, He saw in each of them potential. 

Relationships require trusting the ability of others to bring what is needed into the situation. Trust says, “This is no gamble! I know that you can do it. You will do well.”

Trust is the greatest compliment we can offer someone who questions their own ability.

Character

Character resembles the steel structure in a skyscraper. It is the invisible strength that sustains a person through time and adversity. As fire forms steel, suffering molds godly character.

“Not only so but we also
glory in our suffering,
because we know that suffering
produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3-4

Character includes far more than the moral aspects required to be trustworthy. Trust grows best among those 

who are optimistic,
know how to persevere through trial,
refuse to act impulsively or defensively,
are unstoppable by fear,
secure and tenacious.

People with these attributes possess character mature enough to trust.

“Character inspires others to trust them.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud

History

Past successes and failures historically map our lives. Paul and Barnabas, after much prayer and fasting, were sent off to preach the gospel. I’m not sure anyone was at fault, but soon we see the team divided over John Mark. 

“They had such a sharp disagreement
that they parted company.
Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,
but Paul chose Silas and left,
commended by the believers
to the grace of the Lord.”
Acts 15:39-41

Paul’s impression of John Mark was clouded by previous experience — “history.” Mark once deserted him “in the work.” Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, embraced Mark in spite of past failure. Paul refused to trust again.

 

Later, Paul considered him a valuable brother. Obviously something changed, either in Paul’s heart or in Mark’s attitude.

“The best predictor of the future is the past,
unless there is something new.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud

Broken trust necessitates change before it can be restored — often on the part of both parties. Such restoration develops over time, forming a new history. Trust is the greatest compliment we can extend to each other. It is the confidence to say, “I believe in you!”

Only One

Trust varies depending on the relationship. God is the only One we can completely trust all the time.

“Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.”
Psalms 62:8

For people, trust is a work in progress through grace and vulnerability. 

Though we might struggle to move past times of broken trust, it is far more beneficial to focus on how we can become trustworthy ourselves. Let’s allow God to reveal our empathy and inner motivation. May we increase in our ability to facilitate trust with strength of character. Then, over the duration of our lives, we will develop a “history” of trust.

**********

Recommended Read:
Dr. Henry Cloud – “The Power of the Other” 

 

Responsiveness! God Responds to Us. How Will We Respond to God?

Being responsive may be easy for some people, but it is difficult for me. Responsiveness forms the foundation for any thriving relationship. God responds as we look toward Him. But how will we respond to God’s invitation to come into a mutual relationship with Him?

The dictionary meaning of “responsive” is “to react quickly and positively, to respond readily and with enthusiasm.”

Here is my present reality. I want God to respond “quickly and positively” to my cries for help, yet expect His grace allowing me to hesitate, to evaluate, or even procrastinate in my response to Him.

“Do two walk together
unless they agreed to do so?”
Amos 3:3

Responsiveness gives agreement to each other.

Difficulty Responding

Disappointment, betrayal, rejection or brokenness form wounds within relationships, Wounds create callouses, a hardness of heart, that often makes responding difficult.

God gave Hosea the overwhelming task of marrying a prostitute, knowing she would be unfaithful. He had to overcome personal pain to woo her back.

God asked this humble prophet to live in a way that visibly demonstrated Israel’s betrayal of their God — the Bride’s betrayal of the Bridegroom.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor
a door of hope.
There she will respond
as in the days of her youth.”
Hosea 2:14-15

Broken bruised hearts struggle to respond to love. But God leads — even in “the wilderness”, in “the Valley of Achor” (Valley of Trouble). God turns this dry place of trouble into “a door of hope.” Even when hope vanishes, God leads the way!

Here beyond hope, “she will respond.”

Rebellion Blocks

Hosea speaks of Israel’s stubborn refusal to respond “quickly and positively” to God.

Israel’s arrogance testifies against them;
the Israelites, even Ephraim,
stumble in their sin;
Judah also stumbles with them.”
Hosea 5:5

The phrase “testifies against” translates from the same word for “respond.” Refusal to respond epitomizes defiance against our Redeemer and Lord.

Even our faintest response to God’s open “door of hope” releases a transformational change.

“‘In that day I will respond,’
declares the LORD —
I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.'”
Hosea 2:21-22

Envision it! Our little response to God releases a supernatural reproduction. Creation breaks forth on the wings of human responsiveness to God!

Love Initiates

Jezreel means “God plants.” The seeds of responsiveness bloom and grow, producing a love that initiates — fully and continuously responding.

“I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called
‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called
‘Not my people,’
You are my people‘;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.‘”
Hosea 2:23

This same word “respond” weaves through the Song of Songs, veiling the responsiveness between the Lover and His Beloved

“My beloved spoke and said to me,
arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
come with me.'”
Songs 2:10

Singing and Shouting Erupts

Some versions translate Hosea 2:15 as she will sing there” in “Valley of Trouble.” The Psalms often express this way of responding.

“May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.”
Psalm 119:172

Such joyous response of singing or triumphant shouts over our enemies, represent quick, positive response. Listen to God’s decree over Babylon.

“The LORD Almighty has sworn by himself;
I will surely fill you with troops,
as with a swarm of locust,
and they will shout in triumph over you.”
Jeremiah 51:14

Here “shout in triumph” is translated from the Hebrew word for respond.

Covenant Facilitates

Responsiveness refers mainly within the context of covenant relationship. Perhaps that is why I appreciate Hosea so much. He experienced the deepest breach of covenant — the pain of adultery.

The Valley of Trouble leaves enduring scars — visible remnants of broken trust. Everyone faces the sting of betrayal to some degree. Recovery cannot be forced. How does a bruised and wounded heart respond again?

By God’s grace alone! David’s says, “I call out to the LORD, and he answers me.” (Ps 3:4) He assures us, “God will respond to your need.”

“May the LORD answer you
when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help
and grant you support.
Psalm 20:1-2

The word “respond” is hidden within Psalm 20 multiple times — responsiveness between God and His children in need. “Help” and “support” are essential to restoring trust. The decision to respond, not just to God, but to those around us, rests upon our security in the Lord’s Presence rather than trusting people to show value and dignity.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:4-5

God delivers and covers the bruised one from fear and the betrayed one from shame within the responsiveness of covenant love.

Responding

Jonah avoided responding by running and hiding.

“But Jonah ran away from the LORD…
he went down to Joppa…
After paying the fare, he went aboard…
to flee from the LORD…
Jonah had gone below deck,
where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.”
Jonah 1:3-4

Refusal to respond “quickly and positively” to God’s voice carries a heavy price. The journey leads ever downward into deepening disengagement from God, others and even ourselves. “The fare” costs far more than any realize.

Though Jonah eventually did what God asked, his heart never turned fully to God. He remained hard within the crusty shell of self-sufficiency (4:5), self-pity (4:8), and self-righteousness (4:9). Nineveh repented. Jonah refused.

There is only one man known for his responsiveness to God’s voice.

“Because your heart was responsive
and you humbled yourself before the LORD
when you heard what I have spoken…
and because you tore your robes
and wept in my presence,
I also have heard you, declares the LORD.”
2 Kings 22:19

Josiah was the man! Though imperfect, Josiah responded to God’s voice with humility and repentance.

Positive Outcome

The bible is filled with examples of those who responded well and those who didn’t. They either received a blessing or ended life as a faint shadow of their potential.

God responds to our slightest movement in His direction. How will we respond to His leading, timing and call? Any slowness in our responsiveness delays

God’s presence and power,
intimacy and communion,
and the supernatural results of living
in fellowship with Him.

God waits patiently, but hopes intensely, for us to “quickly and positively” respond to the whisper of His voice. As difficult as responding often is for me, my heart truly wants to leave hesitation, evaluation and procrastination behind. I’m sure you do too.

I want the grace of responsiveness to permeate my life, both with God and with those around me. Every day requires choice. Will I shrink back or move into responsiveness?

**********

Flying Lead Change! Following God’s Lead!

Though I would never consider myself of a horse person, I appreciate the beauty and grace of flying lead changes. Both horse and rider must become proficient to make these smooth, clean changes of direction in perfect balance without breaking rhythm or losing forward momentum.

Flying Lead Change

In a flying lead change a horse changes leads without changing the rhythm of a canter. It is similar to skipping from one foot to the other, but on four feet instead of two!

While watching horses canter around an open meadow you would notice how beautifully and freely they naturally accomplish this. Add a rider to the mix and it becomes a little more complicated.

The grace of a flying lead change!

Both horse and rider must develop a unified rhythm, trust, freedom of gait, perfect contact, straightness, alignment and balance. The rider must become “one with” the horse, in tune with the horse’s natural rhythm and timing. The discipline is nothing short of frustrating to master, but when accomplished successfully there is an awareness of genuine power unhindered.

The beauty, elegance and power of barrel racing, pole bending, dressage or many other equestrian disciplines is often a result of graceful flying lead changes. In full  motion, the center of gravity shifts, the subtle cues of horse and rider are instinctively responded too. Nothing is lost! Everything is gained!

“What got you thinking equestrian?” you ask.

Lately, I’m having trouble “skipping” to God’s time and smoothly following His direction! Gracefully leaping through life is not an apt description of my walk with Him.

The Lord’s Lead

There is nothing wrong with the Lord’s leading, of course. However, as He calls me to change direction or adjust my focus, personal insecurity, hesitancy, and imbalance create a frustrating, out-of-step cadence within me. Like a stumbling novice I clumsily respond to His directing. I am unable to proceed beyond a slow trot.

“Where is he who set
His Holy Spirit among them,
who sent his glorious arm of power
to be at Moses’ right hand,
who divided the waters before them,
to gain for himself everlasting renown,
who led them through the depths?
Like a horse in open country,
they did not stumble;
like cattle that go down to the plain,
they were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD.
This is how you guided your people
to make for yourself a glorious name.”
Isaiah 63:11-14

Who holds the rein of my life?

What beautiful imagery! God leads His children like a horse into open country where there is perfect liberty or like cattle to peacefully rest in an open meadow.

Do I trust His lead! Trust is necessary for flying lead changes.

Trusting Fully

To trust means I need to lay down preconceived ideas of where I think I should be heading and the pace I want to get there. Personal agendas must fall!

Who really has the reins in my life? It is an easy question to ask; it is much harder to honestly evaluate my heart! As a matter of fact, I can believe I am doing quite fine, until God asks me to step into a new lead. Then reality sets in!

Trusting God to direct

Just like a horse needing blinders to avoid distraction and loss of focus, God often needs to allow circumstances to hem me in to get my full attention.

“I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.”
Psalm 119:60

I hunger to sense the shift of His rhythm and bend in fluid motion to His every movement.

My sister owned a mature cutting horse. Countless times I toppled off the side or plunged over the neck of this amazing responsive horse. Duchess turned on a dime and stopped instantly to the slightest touch of the reins. She was sensitive; I was not! It took time to develop a trust between us that would enable fluid movement and unison.

Without Grumbling

Sometimes horse and rider fight for dominance. It can be a serious battle of wills. Every rider has met this challenge.

Responding with a flying lead change!

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing,”
Philippians 2:14

Time and energy can be wasted grumbling and arguing over God’s lead. Even though it may not make sense to me, a flying lead change requires that I don’t know all the answers or outcomes. Not only is a high level of trust necessary, I also must be convinced of the nature of The One who is asking me to redirect.

Often grumbling is rooted in my personal insecurity. Will I honestly acknowledge my frailty and embrace my struggle. Surrendering in childlike humility to my Heavenly Father always knows best is not an option.

Step by step I AM WORKING toward my personal flying lead change! It may not look or feel “graceful” today, but with practice and time it will! By embracing even the points of failure, I am preparing for success. I am learning much from present disappointments.

Tenacity

My father would often encourage us, “When you fall off, get right back on!”

He didn’t want his children to quit before they tasted success. I think Dad reflected the Father’s heart toward us.

“May the Lord lead your hearts
into a full understanding and expression of the love of God
and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.”
2 Thessalonians 3:5

Here is the essence of a flying lead change – understanding hearts fully expressing God’s love plus the endurance, or perseverance from Christ. What a perfect mix!

When God sees us flounder or break rhythm, He is never discouraged or disappointed with us. Gently, He invites us to try again. He picks up the pace, whispers a new direction, and welcomes us to respond.

When we begin to respond instinctively to His lead, we will rejoice together! The beauty of our flying lead change will be obvious to everyone watching.

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Testimonies of Others:

A Daughter’s Redemption! Dawn Enters a New Day!

The Prodigal Returns, Prayer Answered! Running No More!