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Posts Tagged ‘trust’

In the very short book of Obadiah, this little known prophet speaks a word of both judgement and encouragement.  Obadiah’s book is only one chapter but R.C. Sproul notes that the authority of his message is seated in the authority of God rather than the prominence, or lack thereof, of this messenger.  Sproul’s observation is something we can put into our pocket and remember when a word of truth comes to us from an unknown or unlikely source.

Obadiah writes his prophesy primarily for two reasons or to two groups of people.  He begins:

The vision of Obadiah.

Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom:
We have heard a report from the Lord,
    and a messenger has been sent among the nations:
“Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”

Obadiah is writing about Edom.  Edom took part in a military assault on Jerusalem.  Judah was defeated and Edom prospered.  Both were covenant people of God.  Justice was not obvious during this time and it could easily have seemed to the people of Judah that they were living in opposite world.  We often feel the same way, too, when evil triumphs over good and wrongdoers win while the innocent suffer.  This is where Judah was.  Obadiah writes this message to make clear to both the people of Judah and the people of Edom that justice was coming.  God used Obadiah to convey also that he had great concern and compassion for the people of Judah.  He is writing to his people for both warning and encouragement, respectively.  Both groups needed this message.

God’s people of Judah needed to hear and understand that they were not forgotten and that God did indeed see their suffering.  They needed to know that God was deeply concerned for them and that it doubtless would be made right in time.

God’s people of Edom needed to hear that God was not pleased and their their victory and prosperity was soon coming to an end.  They needed to remember that God punishes injury – especially injury done to his own people.

Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
    you shall be utterly despised.
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
    you who live in the clefts of the rock,
    in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
    “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
    though your nest is set among the stars,
    from there I will bring you down,
declares the Lord. ~Obadiah 1:2-4

Here, in verses 2-4, God is saying, “Hey Edomites – hey group of people who hurt my people, who by the way are your people too – I am going to make you small among the nations.  Maybe your brothers could not overcome you but I can.  I can and I will.  And God does do just that and fulfill this prophesy.

Why?

Your pride, Edom.  The reason you are being brought low by God himself is because of your pride.  Your pride has deceived your heart.  You may think you’re safe and high and mighty but I – the God of the universe – remember me? – I will bring you down and make you small.  Maybe your brother could not succeed against you and your pride but I can.

Furthermore, in verses 5-9 God goes on to share some more bad news with the people of Edom.  Obadiah assures them that the very people they trusted in – the worldly friends they made at the expense of their brothers – those guys were not their friends at all.  The prophet tells them that the worldly people they trusted in and used to hurt their brothers would be used by God to bring them down.  The ones they trust will be the ones who will conspire against them.  This is justice.  Edom betrayed his brothers so he would be betrayed by those he trusts.

“Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
    shame shall cover you,
    and you shall be cut off forever.
11 On the day that you stood aloof,
    on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,
    you were like one of them.
12 But do not gloat over the day of your brother
    in the day of his misfortune;
do not rejoice over the people of Judah
    in the day of their ruin;
do not boast[e]
    in the day of distress.
13 Do not enter the gate of my people
    in the day of their calamity;
do not gloat over his disaster
    in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
    in the day of his calamity.
14 Do not stand at the crossroads
    to cut off his fugitives;
do not hand over his survivors
    in the day of distress.

15 For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations.

As you have done, it shall be done to you;
    your deeds shall return on your own head. ~Obadiah 1:10-15

The prophet goes on saying that Edom will be ashamed and cut off forever.  That is a pretty harsh word and the reason given for it is the violence done to their brothers.  God is saying that this injustice they have done has not gone unnoticed.  It is not a small matter.  God is not about to overlook their treachery.  They joined the enemy in order to get ahead and they injured their own people on purpose all for their own benefit and false security.  God is saying, “I saw what you did and judgement is coming.”

Consider verse 11.

 On the day that you stood aloof,
    on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,
    you were like one of them.

Remember when you acted like you didn’t see foreigners taking everything from your own brother’s house?  Remember when you sided with the enemy against him and participated in their assault against your own people?  Well don’t gloat about your victory.  Don’t rejoice.  Don’t boast.  Don’t loot.  Because guess what?  The day of the Lord is near.  God’s justice is coming, boys.  As you have done, it shall be done to you.

The house of Jacob shall be a fire,
    and the house of Joseph a flame,
    and the house of Esau stubble;
they shall burn them and consume them,
    and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau,
for the Lord has spoken. ~Obadiah 1:18

Esau.  Esau, this is what happens when you sell your brother out for a bowl of soup; for worldly gain; for selfish ambition; for self-centered self-worship.  You lose.  God sees.  God’s wrath repays.  R.C. Sproul puts it this way: “Edom is doomed because they broke the law of brotherly compassion by joining, in malicious merriment, with God’s enemies as they destroyed Judah…The exploitation of a brother’s adversity showed that Edom’s true loyalty was toward getting ahead in the world, in disregard of moral and spiritual absolutes. The seeds of Edom’s moral character were sown by their ancestor Esau, who shows that he cares more for earthly enjoyment than for God’s kingdom by despising his birthright of covenant blessings and marrying Hittite wives.”

Wow.  Think how encouraging it would be for the people of Judah to hear this in their place of felt betrayal, defeat, and humiliation.  Friends, God sees the injustices done to us.  He sees when your own friends and family betray, injure, and side with the enemy for their own advancement and benefit.  God is concerned about that kind of thing.  Even in the dark places of loss, loneliness, and rejection dealt by those who should have loved and protected us, God is working.  He will bring justice and appropriate discipline to those who wrong his own people.

Therefore, we must take Obadiah;s words to heart lest we begin to doubt God’s goodness in those times.  May our brothers who betray us repent before they are judged and may we know God’s love for us as we wait for either his justice or their repentance.  Amen.

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leader

My husband mentioned he’d been listening to the book of Philemon the other night and he turned it on for our family to listen to yesterday.  It’s been some time since I have read this one chapter book of the Bible and there is a lot of great wisdom here.

Paul writes this book to Philemon.  He was a slave owner who also had a church meeting in his house.  The first thing Paul does is offer encouragement to Philemon.  He then proceeds to make a somewhat forceful request.  He tells Philemon that he could command him but he prefers to appeal.  What is Paul asking for?

Paul ran into a slave that had belonged to Philemon while he was in prison in Rome.  He became close to this man – like a father even.  His name was Onesimus.

Paul had been given the opportunity to share the gospel with Onesimus.  He had been converted to Christ through Paul’s preaching and become like a son to him.  This man was very dear to Paul and he had been helping and serving Paul as he was in prison for a time.

There was only one problem.  Onesimus was not a free man.  He was a runaway slave.  Though free in Christ, Onesimus had done wrong by leaving his master.

Consider this situation.

Philemon had been wronged.  Onesimus’ bad behavior had caused him to lose his worker and his wages.  The man who was under obligation to serve him had deserted.  Onesimus somehow runs into Paul in Rome when Paul is in prison.  Onesimus becomes a Christian through Paul’s ministry and serves him faithfully.  Take close note of what Paul does.

Paul allows some time to pass and doubtless personally disciples this runaway. Making sure his faith is real, he experiences first hand the love and obedience Onesimus’ conversion wrought.  Then, he does something that only a great man of integrity would even consider doing. Paul surrenders the personal help and comfort that this man is giving to him in prison and he sends him back to his rightful owner.

There was nothing in it for Paul except the satisfaction of Onesimus making right on his wrong and having the opportunity to watch Philemon accept him back not as a slave, but as a brother.  Paul gave up personal comfort and help and risked his friendship with Philemon and his church by forcefully appealing to him about what he ought to do with his former slave.

In other words, Paul is basically telling a man who has suffered wrong through no fault of his own to forgive – and not only to forgive, but to welcome this man as a brother rather than putting him back to work as a slave – something he could have done by justice.

Notice how Paul conveys his “suggestion.”

 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. ~Philemon 1:10

Firstly, Paul appeals on the basis of his own frailty.  He’s an old man sitting in prison.  Clearly, he is doing this for the good of all – for love’s sake, not self.

(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) ~Philemon 1:11

Secondly, he appeals by making the point that Onesimus is of much more value and help now, as a brother in Christ, than he was as a trying to escape worker.

I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. ~Philemon 1:12

Finally, he appeals on the basis of love.  Paul makes his true love and concern for this former wrongdoer very clear.

 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. ~Philemon 1:13-14

Lastly, Paul makes the case that he is returning this man in order to prove Philemon faithful to the law of grace and mercy – not by force, but by giving him the opportunity to choose for himself to do what is right.

Paul is trusting.  He is trusting Onesimus to go back to the very situation he likely risked his own life to run away from.  Paul is trusting Philemon to forgive a man he has every right and reason to demand justice from.  Paul is trusting both men to do what is right for the sake of the gospel.  Then, he is taking his hands off of both men and allowing them each to decide for themselves whether they will do what is right in this mess.  He is asking both men to do something that would have been very difficult on both ends and that is to trust each other as well.  Paul is also trusting Philemon’s church and the members of his household to forgive and trust the runaway, too.  Ultimately, Paul is trusting God and giving men every opportunity to prove faithful.  Good leaders like Paul know that they must give responsibility to their children/followers/disciples in order to see them become responsible.

Notice what else Paul does to diffuse the situation and make it easier for both men to choose the right thing.  Paul says this:

So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. ~Philemon 1:17-20

Paul vouches for Onesimus.  He puts his proverbial arms around this rebel and he says, “This is my son; my guy; my friend; my help; my brother. Receive him as if he were me.”  This is so important!  Paul knows that this is what it is going to take to soften the hearts of those who were mad at Onesimus in this household.  Paul uses his authority to influence those under him to love one another sacrificially.  That is a leader we can follow.

Not only that, but how much confidence and love must Onesimus have felt knowing Paul was willing to stand next to him this way.  Paul knows what to do to encourage him because once upon a time he needed someone to vouch for his changed character, too.  Remember when the church was afraid of Paul because he was a murderer?  When he got converted Barnabas stood next to him and did what his is here doing for Onesimus.  Good leaders never forget where they came from.

Furthermore, Paul owns the rebel’s debt.  He tells the man who has been wronged (Philemon) that he will repay any and all debt or lost wages accrued on account of Onesimus’ departure.  He then reminds Philemon of the fact that even though he, too, owes Paul his very life for the salvation he’d brought to him, he is willing to overlook that fact and is more than willing to pay back any debt Onesimus owes Philemon.

In reality both men owe Paul their lives for the grace his gospel preaching had given to them.  Both were converted to Christ by Paul’s ministry.  Yet Paul says I won’t even mention that.  Tell me what I owe you and I’m more than willing to pay for Christ’s sake and the love and unity of his church.

Lastly, Paul encourages Philemon by telling him that he believes in him.  He reminds him that he trusts him.  He reminds him also that he can’t wait to see him.

Wow.  What a leader.  Paul was a man who could look at a situation with a bird’s eye view and navigate it rightly.  In this short book we see just how important righting our wrongs and forgiving our debtors really is.  Paul makes it clear that neither is for the sake of self but both are for the sake of the gospel.

Go and do likewise.

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4

God lays out the fourth commandment in Exodus 20:8-11.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” 

God commands rest.  The Hebrew word for Sabbath is “shabbat,” and it comes from the word which means, “to cease.” God commands his people to stop working.  Not only they, but their children, animals, and even foreigners passing through their land.  Not one of them was to work on this holy day.

So, you couldn’t just tell someone else to work for you on the Sabbath.  You couldn’t have your servants, kids, or animals pull your weight.  Everyone was to rest.  The reason is because this is the example – the precedent set by God himself in his very creation of the world.

The concept of the Sabbath is very important to us today.  It points us back to creation and, even more importantly, forward to redemption.  In Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the Sabbath was meant to point God’s people to their own deliverance from Egypt – from slavery.

All of this points us, today, to our rest in Christ.  We are commanded to cease from labor; to remember our deliverance from slavery; to rest in Christ alone every single minute of every single day in order to glorify him by our complete and total trust and faith in Him – despite the, often times immense workload he has ordained for us.

Resting in Christ does not mean that once we know him we can shuck all our responsibility and not do that which we have been called to.  It is not holy or righteous to cease from our work by dumping it off on everyone around us while we bask in the presence of God.

 It is tempting, I know.  I personally have an almost superhuman ability to block out noise and distraction when I want to study my Bible.  No matter how many mental gymnastics I do, I cannot justifiably come to the conclusion that God has commanded me to rest instead of doing the jobs he has given to me.  Even on the Sabbath, God has not commanded me to ignore and neglect my home and children in order to prove I am faithfully resting in Him.  No.  God wants me to pray for strength and endurance so I might have the great faith it takes to rest in Him in my most overwhelming circumstances.

Resting is remembering God and trusting him enough to stop working in my own strength, not only for one day per week, but every single day until my eternal rest.

Unfortunately, just like a human, I often get off track.  After I work in my own strength without resting in him for a long time, I crash, I burn, or I quit.  Quitting is resting in my own means.  It is a selfish rest.  And it doesn’t really help me, either.  Vacations do not make overwhelming situations go away.  If I left my home and children for a week, they wouldn’t magically become obedient, mature, and respectful while I was gone.  They may not even be alive anymore!  Literally ceasing from the work God has ordained in my life is never an option!  Ceasing from trusting in myself to accomplish it or trusting in my work itself is what this command calls me to.

On the contrary, carrying on and trusting that He is enough to help me accomplish all that which he has called me to do is truly what resting in him is all about.  That is a holy rest; a God-glorifying rest; a righteous rest.

I believe taking a once a week rest from physical or worldly work and daily responsibilities as much as humanly possible is definitely wise.  I believe, however, the command to keep the Sabbath for New Testament believers is rooted in our rest in grace, not works, and, ultimately, our eternal rest in Christ, in heaven.  Even a more literal approach to Sabbath-keeping only indicates and prescribes one day per week for rest from our human responsibilities and callings.  That means the more time we spend “resting” outside that prescription, the less we are actually trusting in God to give and provide us with the true rest he has promised – the rest that comes solely from Him despite overwhelming circumstances and hard labor coupled with a constant, urgent call to share his good news with everyone, everywhere, always.

“Neglected duties remain duties still, notwithstanding our neglect.” ~Matthew Henry

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anger

“Who do these guys think they are?  They just want to tell us where to go and what to do.  How do they even know?  Obviously we are lost.  We are in a desert with no food.  We should have known better than to follow them.  We may been slaves but at least we had food before.  Good food, too.  Now, look!  We’re starving!  These incompetent jerks are trying to kill us!”

God’s people were not happy with God’s prophets – Moses and Aaron.  Underneath that, the truth is that God’s people were not happy with God.  They question God’s providence because they are hungry.  God is not threatened by their grumbling, angry faces.  The prophet is not threatened by their grumbling, angry faces.  Instead, to these grumbling, forgetful, ungrateful people, God gives a special blessing and the prophet gives special instructions.  They are, after all, His beloved children.

 In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.” ~Exodus 16:13-15

Food was provided by the immediate hand of God.  So peculiar and extraordinary the provision was, that the people actually called it, “Manna,” meaning “What is it?”

What is it?  What is the meaning of this food-rain?  Is it rain?  Is it dew?  It is food?  It is food!  We have never seen food quite like this.  Daily bread – nothing more, nothing less – is what God was willing to give them.  That is what God is offering today.

Is that good enough for you, kids?  A daily miracle tailor-made just for you is what I am offering.  Is that enough?  Will you stop complaining now?

 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.” ~Exodus 16:19-20

No, God.  That is not good enough.  We want extra food.  We don’t trust you.  We don’t trust your prophet.  Let us hide some in our pockets.  Let us store some in our tents.

  I told you, NO! Let no one leave any of it over till the morning!

Little wonder why the prophet was angry!  No matter how great the sign, these people refused to trust; to obey; to rest; to listen.

God just keeps on giving, though.  And the prophet just keeps on speaking.  The prophet just keeps on doing what they would not – listening, trusting, resting, and obeying, God.

The children of God were angry.  The prophet of God was angry.  The former were being unbelievably selfish.  The latter was being amazingly obedient.  God was being God.

Is that OK?  Is that good enough for you, kids?  Can God just be God and people just be people and prophets just be prophets?  Will you stop complaining now?

No, God.  That’s not good enough.  We want extra food.  We don’t trust you.  We don’t trust your prophets.  We don’t trust your providence.  Let us hide some in our pockets.  Let us store some in our tents.

I told you, NO!  I am God and you are not.  Listen to me.  Obey me.  Trust me.  Eat.  Rest.  If you don’t, your ‘extra food’ is going to rot anyway.  Self-sufficient psuedo-control is the most vain thing you can ever attempt.  Let ME be God.  Trust my prophet.  Do not worry.  I have you in my hand.

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exit

God is not known to take His people on shortcuts.  This was never truer than in the case of the Israelites leaving Egypt.

There were two ways to get to where God was taking them.  One was shorter, but it went straight through their fiercest enemy’s territory.  The other was much longer and went through the wilderness.  The text says this:

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. ~Exodus 13:17-18

Curiously, we are told that God’s people are equipped for battle, yet, God will not allow them to take a shortcut.  The reason given is because they might turn and run away when they see war.

Hmmmm. Does anyone else find that a seeming contradiction?

They were equipped for battle.  But God knew they lacked confidence.  They had the ability to fight well but God knew their fear would likely overcome them before they ever drew their swords.  Why?

These people had been enslaved.  They were broken.  They were tired, weary, and heavy laden.  God knew they needed time.  Time for what?

Time to consider the words of Joseph, their ancestor, as Moses carried his bones out of Egypt just as he has prophesied.  Time to rest under the stars in the desert.  Time to watch the pillar of cloud lead them day after day.  Time to watch the pillar of fire illuminate the darkness night after night.  Time to watch as their Father led them tenderly.  Time to trust Him as they moved to a new place they had never known.  Time to adjust to the idea that their entire lives were changing completely.  Time to learn patience, providence, and gratitude.  Can’t you hear him speaking to their hearts?

Follow me.  Watch for my cloud.  Watch for my fire.  Do not worry about which way to go on the long, long road ahead.  One day at a time, children.  Your faithful Father is leading so you do not have to.  Watch for me.  Wait for me.  Listen to me.  Trust me.  Walk with me.  Follow me.    

What mercy!  What a good, good Father we have!

On this long way around, God would use the Red Sea ahead to destroy their enemies fully and finally.  He would use the wilderness to sufficiently humble and prove His own people true.  Though we often lack understanding, we can rest assured that God has more than enough reasons to take His people the unique ways in which He takes them.

God is not one much for shortcuts.  There is no easy way to glory.  God warns us when we are tempted to take shortcuts because he knows how apt we are to run away when fearful conflict arises.  War causes fear and God would rather have his people take the long way through the wilderness than a shortcut through wars too frightening for us.  Even though we are equipped for battle, God takes extra care to ensure that we do not become entangled in fights he has not fitted us for.

“Note, God proportions his people’s trials to their strength, and will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able…God knows our frame, and considers our weakness and faint-heartedness, and by less trials will prepare us for greater.” ~Matthew Henry

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“I’m scared.”

Apparently the fifteenth declaration from a frightened wife while driving ever slower on an icy, snow covered road in a 4×4 is the point at which a young husband’s patience runs completely out.

He floors the truck, does a 180 degree doughnut, and lands us in a ditch – a ditch, mind you, that he immediately proceeds to pull back out of with the kind of great skill and ease that is known only to resourceful, self-made men.

“You tried to kill me!”

“I tried to show you.”

“Show me what?!  How to almost die?!”

“That nothing bad is going to happen even if we slide on the ice.”

“I can’t believe you tried to kill me.”

That was over a decade ago.  I still bring it up when I’m the passenger on snowy days.  He still gets aggravated with me when I tell him I’m scared as he drives 30 miles per hour over thoroughly plowed and salted roads.

“What are you afraid of?!  Nothing is going to happen.”

“I know.  You’re a good driver.  Remember when you tried to kill me, honey?”

Fear.  I struggle with fear.  Sometimes irrational; other times justified; always sinful – rooted in unbelief and distrust.

I sit awake long after midnight wondering.  Why am I afraid?  Why do I fear over fragments of falsehood and figments of my own making?  Why is it so hard to take words and what if’s at face value?  Why can’t I just rest knowing that whatever happens is exactly what God is willing.  Why don’t I trust the truth?

This past weekend we spent an hour on the bunny slope and decided it was time to test our snow legs on the real ski slopes.  After not exiting the lift on cue, my 7 year old picked up her pride and whisked her way straight down without blinking.  On the contrary, on her skis at the top of the summit looking down, my 10 year old looked like I felt in that old truck so long ago.

It was written all over her face in flaring redness and tears.  Fear.  Crippling, feel it from head to feet, fiasco feeding fear.

One hour later, we finally found the base of the mountain.

It’s not that Mia couldn’t ski.  It’s that she was afraid to.  And fear makes little girls like us fail every time.

“If only she knew,” I thought.  If only she knew that she can do this.  She doesn’t trust herself.  She doesn’t trust me.  She doesn’t trust her daddy.  She has no confidence.  She believes she will fail.  She can see no scenario in which she will succeed without severe pain and suffering.  She doesn’t know what I know.  I know she can do it.  I know she’ll be ok.  I know there’s no reason to fear this hill because I know daddy won’t let her veer off the path.  I know I won’t leave her side.  But all she can think is that she will fall.  She will speed out of control; she will land in the trees; she will will be left alone with no way down.  She feels trapped; enslaved to the expectations of others and the situation that lies in front of her.  No amount of encouragement can break through her wall of fear.  She does not believe me no matter what I say.  Her vote has been cast and it is against herself.  Even if I were to pack her up and carry her down the mountain she would still be angry – at herself, her failure, her fear, and her father for plopping her in this predicament.

Well, like I said, we were able to coax Mia down the mountain inch by inch, eventually.  But I fear (ironic?) that I am still standing on the tippie top of many of my own – the most ridiculous of which has to do with prayer.

Prayer.  So many times prayer seems so tumultuous to me.  The place of goodness and peace is surrounded by a foreboding angst and I stand at the precipice stalling.  I do not enter.

Will my Father fail me?  Surely not.  My false beliefs are frustrating me.  My fear befriends me as my feelings dissuade any attempts at freedom.  I close up; I stay silent; I run away from soundness and I sleep in my unspiritual cell.  Am I really safe here?  How absurd.

Little wonder why the mechanic sometimes floors it in frustration.  My fear is often nothing short of tomfoolery.

I turn on the radio and plug in my phone.  It will not connect to my music.  As I become impatient, the radio broadcasts a sermon.  I plug it in and out a few more times before remembering the few terse words I threw up before leaving.  “Speak to me, Lord.”

I stop the furious plugging and unplugging and I hear Him.  “You asked God to speak to you, didn’t you, Lori?”

The preacher tells me that whoever hears the truth and does not do it is a fool.  Immediately I know.  I know what I must do.  Surely I can pray.  I can be vulnerable without freaking out on myself.  I can fall down in front of Him and know I have nothing to fear.  He will not be surprised by my shortcomings so easily seen on the slippery slope of spoken words.  He will not leave me alone or let me veer off the path of prayer.  I will not have control, but He will.  I will trust Him and we will make it to the bottom of every unsafe situation.  Because He is there, I have nothing to fear.  Because He is in control, I have nothing to fear.  Because He is good, I have nothing to fear.  Because He is trustworthy, I have nothing to fear.  Because He loves me, I have nothing to fear.

 I will stop believing He is trying to kill me.  I will allow Him to show me that He is a much better driver than I am.  I will trust Him.  I will pray for grace to trust him more.  Amen.

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father's daughter

Every year for the last five my New Year’s resolution has been the same.  The goal is to pray more.

Prayer, being the mysterious discipline that it is, has been quite a struggle for me throughout the latter part of my Christian life.

When I first became a Christian, prayer was easy.  That was more than 18 years ago, though.  I was graduating high school with the world spread out in front of me.  I was hopeful.  I talked to God about everything all the time —with no fear or inclination that things might not work out just the way they were supposed to.  It’s no surprise that at some point, somewhere along the way, I got discouraged.  Blame it on my faulty theology I suppose.  I stopped believing that my voice much mattered in the grand scheme of things.  Children are to be seen and not heard, right?

 Instead of praying, I buried myself in finding out just what God was saying; what he was like; what he wanted; who he was.  In other words, correcting my poor theology, especially on what prayer was and was not.  I read and studied the Bible far more than I prayed.  I believe it was because I desperately needed to know what to pray for, or, what prayer even was.  Communion as well as communication with God was realized almost solely through the study of him and his word.  Aside from sending up a few half-hearted thank yous and the needs of others, fervent prayer had largely taken a backseat in my spiritual life.

I often think about why prayer is so difficult for me.  I read several books on prayer.  I used to think it was because I wasn’t any good at prayer.  I studied and wrote on the Psalms extensively for over a year hoping it would help me understand.   (Go figure…more study, still no increase in prayer…)  I learned that it isn’t because I’m a below average pray-er as far as technique.  More likely, being the analytically wired idealist that I am, my need for understanding overrides my will to simply obey.  In short, flawed human logic overrides faith in the unfathomable.  I am a sinner even in seeking God…and I am often unbalanced.  I do what is easy for me, rather than doing what is best for me.  I am lazy.  I lack faith and discipline and I struggle with unbelief.  Those are some of the real reasons I don’t pray nearly enough.

Nevertheless, even if we are faithless, he remains faithful.  The Lord showed up in the labor room a couple weeks ago.  Our newest addition, Sonny Faye, was born on December 18, 2015.

Like all babies do, she was crying loudly upon entrance to this world.  As the nurses tidied her up, her father walked over to see her.  Then, something happened that made time stand still.  It was one of those moments that etches itself into your memory and you know you will not ever forget it.  As he began to speak to her, she became immediately silent.  Daddy’s calm, familiar voice broke through the barriers of an unfamiliar, cold, fearful place and she listened intently to that which she foreknew.  Daddy’s voice called her attention and in an instant, a squirming, flailing baby girl was comforted.  Without a doubt, she is her father’s daughter.

She is me.

In the fearful, the cold, the unfamiliar trenches of this world, I squirm and squeal.  I thrash and flail not knowing or trusting my harsh surroundings.  When I pray years upon end without seeing change and I have run out of words, out of faith, and out of pleas, I found a way to hear daddy.  My father speaks through his word.  Little wonder why an immature baby in the faith like me pines so intensely over his words.  My father’s words comfort; they calm; they make an infantile daughter cease from flailing in fear.

Perhaps I do not speak to God as oft as I should.  I do not.  I hope to do better this year than last.  What I do know is that when my father speaks to me, I hear him loud and clear.  I am my father’s daughter.

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