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Posts Tagged ‘trust’

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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excuses

God has laid out his plan for Moses to deliver Israel out of Egypt.  Moses has given a couple humble objections to which God has faithfully replied.  God has assured Moses that it is not about him, that he will be with him, that the people of God would believe him, and that they would have victory over Egypt. Where Moses should have started acquiescing, he continues declining and excuse-making.

In chapter 4, we find Moses bickering with God.  He gives three more rebuttals to God’s commands:

-They will not believe me or listen to me.

Um, Moses, God already told you they will.

– I am not eloquent…I am slow of speech and tongue.

Moses.  I (God) made your mouth.  Go.  I (God) will be with you and your mouth.  I’ll teach you what to say.

-Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.

Fine, Moses.  Take your brother and let him speak.

After all this refusing, God is angry with Moses’ stubborn unwillingness to simply do what he is commanding.  Still, God stays and reasons with Moses.  He gives Moses unmistakable miraculous signs.  He assures Moses that he has made him entirely capable of doing what is asked of him.  He even offers Moses’ brother as an acceptable substitute for the speaking parts of his assignment.  Again, God promises to be with them both, to instruct them both, and to give them miraculous signs to accompany their words.  Finally, Moses obeys.

Here we find that God was speaking directly to Moses and Moses continually refusing his explicit commands.  Remind you of anyone?  Us.  Right.

 It’s like praying for God to speak to us and then refusing to open our Bibles.  He did speak.  He has spoken.  Our refusal to obey is nothing other than continual rejection of his clear instructions.  Matthew Henry puts it this way, “An unwilling mind will take up with a sorry excuse rather than none, and is willing to devolve those services upon other that have any thing of difficulty or danger in them.”

How many times do we stand around expecting God to do great things in our lives and the lives of those around us without any commitment to carry out the instructions he has already given?  We often expect God to accept our requests while rejecting his commands.  How foolish.

Pray.  Read the Word.  Obey.  Trust him in small things and big things.  Stop making lame excuses about why you cannot.  Do whatever he tells you.  Rest knowing that he is with you and he is faithful.  If we are faithful to even just these few things, our lives and the lives of those around us will undoubtedly change.

Why?  Because, “Even self-diffidence, when it grows to an extreme – when it either hinders us from duty or clogs us in duty, or when it discourages our dependence of the grace of God, is very displeasing to him.” ~Matthew Henry

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letter

I wrote on Philippians 4:2-9 this morning.  I covered all the bases that a 30-something un-ordained, amateur writing lay lady with the help of Matthew Henry might be expected to.  The message was clear.  It was truthful and as accurate as can be expected from a mere flawed human being equipped with a one track mind set on sharing the gospel and a few scattered prayers for incite and wisdom.  Then, God said no.  No sooner did the last stroke of my pen hit the paper than I heard him say, not today.  No regurgitation of facts.  Today it’s personal.  In fact, it’s always personal.  Make it so.

So, if Paul were here writing this passage to me, I’m going to tell you what he would likely say…what God is saying to us here:

Lori, this is urgent.  I beg you to listen to me.  The women around you are your sisters.  The men around you are your brothers.  You are all Christians.  You are all serving the Lord the best way you know how.  You must agree.  Allow my chosen leader to help you get along.  In order to do so, there are a couple things I need you to do.  These are not suggestions.  They are commands.

Rejoice.  Rejoice, always.  No matter what happens, rejoice.  If someone offends you, rejoice.  If they ignore you, rejoice.  If they take offense when none was given, rejoice.  If you feel taken advantage of, excluded, used, abused, or ripped off in any way by anyone inside or outside the church, rejoice.  Lori, I’m not asking you.  I’m telling you.  Rejoice.

While you’re rejoicing for the goodness you’ve been given, but do not, by any means, deserve, I need you to be reasonable.  Your feelings must not get in the way of the generosity, the forbearance, the long-suffering nature of the love that I have called you to.  There is absolutely no room for being high strung, irate, self-interested, or over bearing for any reason.  You cannot let offenses or feelings trump my call to be reasonable with everyone at all times.  This is not a suggestion.  It’s a command.

I know what you’re going to say next.  You’re going to tell me how if you do these two things under the load of stress I’ve provided for your spiritual growth that you will internalize all of the uncertainty and begin to worry about how it’s all going to turn out.  You’re going to pretend to rejoice outwardly so I will think you’re obeying.  You’re going to be outwardly kind and peaceable with those who’ve hurt you but also allow a root of bitterness to grow inside over their offenses.  That’s not going to work, Lori.  The reason is because anxiety, fear, and worry are not permitted inside my children.  Under no circumstances will I allow these soul-robbing vices.  Worry, fear, and anxiety are mine to keep.  You cannot have them.  You must pray if you are tempted by these evils.

 I’ll tell you what.  Every time you start to feel anxious, worried, afraid, or angry about some injustice, I want you to tell me about how thankful you are for the things I’ve blessed you so abundantly with.  I need you to not forget where you came from.  I want you to remember who you would be right now without me.  Am I faithful, Lori?  Am I?  I will give you peace.  I will protect your heart.  I will protect your mind.  Nothing you can gain in the world will do that for you.  Don’t forget who it is that’s talking to you.  I AM.

Before I go, I have one last instruction.  I want you to think about only good things.  I don’t want to see the evil done to you played out over and over in your mind today.  I want you to think about me.  I want you to think about how much I love you.  I want you to remember what I did for you; what I do for you every single day.  Look at your blessings.  Look at my provision.  Consider my sacrifice.  Believe me.  I am good.  You are mine.  There is no time to fret.  We have too much to do, Lori!  Look around!  Imitate the righteous.  Do whatever I say.  There is little time left.  Just listen.  Obey me.  I am holding out my hand.  I am holding out my peace.  I have promised to be with you and I cannot lie.

I am faithful.  Do not worry.  Trust me.

 ~ I AM

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