Control, Faith, grace, Insecurity, Restoration, Sanctification, Surrender, Trust

Neon Signs

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him and

He will make your paths straight.” 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Neon signs, although effective, annoy me because I can’t ignore them. They are the sign equivalent of yard gnomes. You don’t want to look at them but you can’t help yourself. Throughout my life I have encountered God placed, in your face, neon signs. It always means He’s leading me into some kind of change which is usually painful.

The most recent God placed neon sign I’ve noticed is Proverbs 3:5-6. First, I saw it during a Bible study on Proverbs. Then, I heard it during a message on the radio. Finally, I heard it again before a worship song at church. And, just this week, I read it in a friend’s blog. Unable to ignore the neon signs, I opened my Bible and read…

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” Proverbs 3:5a

What came to mind was an incident that happened when I was eight years old. My father bought a small motorcycle and wanted me to ride it. He set me on the seat and then he hopped on the back and told me to take off.

Scared out of my little mind I shouted, “I can’t do it! You’re too heavy!”

He laughed confidently and said, “It’ll be fine. Let’s go!”

I took off but we immediately crashed (just like I knew we would). The motorcycle fell on my left leg so my father, worried that I would get burned, thrust his hand under the bike to free my tiny limb, slicing his palm in the process. I was fine but my dad wasn’t. I felt responsible.  When I went inside the house to check on him I saw my mom in full R.N. mode cleaning his wound. At the time I didn’t know how bad the wound was.

“What happened?” I asked.

Smiling he said, “Look what you did,” as he showed me the bloody flap of skin on the palm of his hand.

That hurt. I still cannot look at any bloody wound without feeling sick. In hindsight I know my dad was being sarcastic, perhaps trying to lighten the mood, but my little girl heart was broken. I felt betrayed. My father, who was supposed to protect me, was blaming me! What I learned that day made a life-long, therapy worthy, impact.  Because I listened to my dad I was physically and emotionally hurt. Therefore, I cannot trust my father.

I know many of you, if not all, have wounds too. It doesn’t matter what the intent was. What matters is the message we perceived. The neon signs at that time in my life said, “If bad things happen it’s all your fault” and “I can’t trust anyone to listen to me or take care of me so I have to protect myself.” Because of this, it is not natural for me to trust anyone. Of course, I trust God with all my head but not with all my heart. I naturally lean on my own understanding and acknowledge Him when I run out of ideas or hope. Then I get confused when His will or path is not clear.

Unfortunately, because of my experience, I still feel deep, deep, deep down inside that I have to protect myself above all else. At some point in my childhood this became my mission — self-preservation. I didn’t get it from the Bible. (Stop looking, it’s not there.) On the contrary, Jesus tells us that we are to die to ourselves. Matthew 10:39 says, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it.”

Ironically, loss is what I’m trying to avoid. I think of Churchill’s speech when he said, “We will never SURRENDER!” Surrender. The one word that came to mind when I read this verse along with Psalm 3:5-6. Trusting the Lord is giving yourself over to Him like a bride gives herself to her husband. It is a willing love offering that acknowledges His death on my behalf because He first loved me and “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB).

Have I surrendered my heart to God in a way that allows me to always be of one heart and mind with the only One who loves me perfectly? Hardly! But God is pursuing me to this end. I am so thankful for His persistence and faithfulness.

Have I unintentionally sent similar messages to my own children? Yes! I pray for God to heal their hearts and redeem the pain, using it to help others as they learn to trust God’s perfect love even though mine was far from perfect. I pray this prayer because that is what God has done for me.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

Anxiety, Faith, Trust, Unbelief

Irrevocable Trust

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” Psalm 56:3

My father stood across the living room in his purple, cotton shirt. The ceiling of the Quonset hut curved behind his wavy, black hair.  His bleary eyes stared at my mother who was dark with anger. Sitting upright on the Naugahyde couch, she cradled my sister and me on either side of her.  I could feel her thin build stiffen next to me as she narrowed her eyes. There was vomit on the green, shag carpet from a guest who had passed out – the catalyst of the argument. Earlier that evening, the house was full of laughter as colorful people drank and talked in our living room.  Cigarette smoke swirled overhead while ice clinked in glasses and the reel-to-reel boomed songs by Sinatra and Martin. I was young. Four or five. Alcoholism was not in my vocabulary.

“We’re leaving!” my mother announced as she ushered us into the bedroom.

My sister was older by two-and-a-half years.  Her taller frame stood next to mine on the bed as my mother briskly tied our puffy kimono-like robes around our thin, tan frames.  My mother’s short, black hair did not move. Everything about her was efficient, clean, crisp. She was an R.N. and worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on base.

“You’re not leaving! I won’t let you!” my father said as he entered our bedroom.  The gun was obvious, but my mother didn’t flinch.

I loved my father. When he was sober and wearing his Air Force blues he seemed safe. But, I couldn’t trust him.  He was unpredictable. Scary. In my heart that night I vowed that I would never trust a man.

“Go ahead. Shoot us!” my mother blurted as she scooped us up and walked briskly outside before plopping us in the car.  We drove away to the sound of locusts screaming in the trees.

For many years this event, and others like it, colored my relationships, even my relationship with God. To cope with the instability I withdrew, surviving through a world of fantasy.  Fear defined my inner life. Fortunately, many years later, God revealed the vow I made as a little girl, “I will never trust a man.”  This vow was like a seed that germinated behaviors like self-protection and distrust, enabling me to shut myself – my real self – off from the world. But, God rescued me at the age of twenty-eight and brought me into a love relationship with Him that forced me to question my normal. Intimate relationships were terrifying, painful and not worth the effort. Eventually, through prayer and counseling, God revealed several deep-rooted lies that had been hiding in my heart for years.  The lies, like weeds, choked out the roses of security, love, patience and trust that God longed for me to experience. He spoke these tender words to me from Isaiah 43:1-3…

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”  

An unstable childhood is a reality for many of us. Like me, you may have struggled with reconciling the truth of your past with God’s character. When I was a young believer God’s personality was morphed together with my father’s.  It was a distortion; a Holy God I couldn’t trust. A God that may not be there when I need Him most.  A God who loved me but wasn’t always delighted in me. A God who would abandon me…someday, just like my father.  It took many years for me to see how I was dishonoring God with these lies. Fear and anxiety took over as I tried to protect myself and failed.  The pain crept in and I felt…abandoned. Forsaken. Betrayed.  In a pit of self-pity God showed me my sin saying, “I am not a man that I should lie. I am not your father.”

He is not my earthly father. He is trustworthy and always patient. He will not love me one minute and dismiss the next. He will not abandon me. He is Love. I can trust Him…irrevocably. It has taken many years of walking with God to come to a place of owning these truths. I still struggle with trusting men in general and have lapses where I forget I have a Godly husband who loves me. The trust struggle also continues with God as I recognize the familiar feelings of fear and anxiety in situations where I feel helpless. However, I have learned to accept these moments as gifts of reflection. No one likes to have their faults exposed (ouch) but God gives us the gift of a holy mirror, allowing us to see the smudges of sin on our faces.  Only then will we allow Him to gently wipe them clean with His blood.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.”

Psalm 23:1-6, NIV

Faith, Trust, Victory

That You May Know

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening.  And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.” 1 John 5:13-15 The Message

Is there someone in your life with whom you can be “bold and free” in their presence? Imagine that someone trying to put you at ease by saying, “Trust me, it’s going to be okay.” What would your response be?  Mine would probably be, “Oh yeah? We’ll see about that.”  But, it would honestly depend upon the level of trust I had in the person reassuring me.  That’s why, when it comes to salvation, eternity and Heaven I believe God wholeheartedly.  No, I don’t just believe, I KNOW without a doubt that it is really going to be okay.  The unity I have with Christ is secure, not because I say so but because I have experienced what God’s Word calls being “born again” (John 3).

However, I have experienced trust issues with people (mostly men) all of my life.   Because of abandonment and betrayal early in life I learned to question the intentions of others and protect my heart.  It is no fun assuming the worst of people, even nice people.  More than that, it is exhausting.  Fortunately, God has given me relationships that have redeemed the past and I am slowly learning to trust again.  Not long ago my husband helped with this process by wearing a name tag that read, “Your Godly husband who loves you,”  during a time when I was struggling with trust in our marriage.  Most of our life together my husband was not a believer but a few years prior to the name tag incident he had given his life to Christ and truly was a different person.  Our relationship had changed but I refused to relate to him as a Godly husband who would “never leave me or forsake me.”  Fortunately, one day my counselor said, “You are not secure in your own reality,”  and it struck me that I was not believing truth.  You see, even though it was true that Marty and I were married and he was loving I still responded to him the same as before.  Self-protection was a comforting habit that created a barrier in our relationship.  I was not free to approach my loving husband because I refused to believe it was true.  What more could he do to convince me? Nothing.  It was obviously true that there was nothing I could do to lose his love.  It was all in my mind.  I needed to step out of the looking glass by faith, into reality and relate to him based on the truth.  This was scary trust.  This is what God calls us to do with Him as well…trust.

In the same way, we can offend God by acting like He’s not trustworthy.  However, God would not give the free gift of eternal life and then take it back.  He  would not adopt a child and then disown him.  That does not line up with Scripture and it is not the heart of God to leave us in a state of uncertainty.  Now, there are those who may believe they are born again but have never confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believed in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).  These people would rightly question whether they were truly saved.  This is not, however, an indication of loss of salvation, rather it is an awareness of your separateness from the Spirit of God who is prompting you to respond to Christ’s invitation to believe on him.   If you do not experience intimacy with God in your Spirit then you can ask God to give you the faith you need to believe in Jesus, inviting Him to come into your life and take over as Savior and LORD.

But, for true believers, a consequence of uncertainty is insecurity.  John wrote 1 John 5 to ensure those who are God’s children that they have eternal life so their relationship with God would be one of freedom and trust.  Look closely at 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”  If we doubt our adoption into God’s family,  unsure where we stand, then we will not be so bold as to approach Him in prayer, asking anything in His name.  A very effective tactic of the enemy is to distract and deceive, convincing us that it is no use praying, relieving us of a very powerful offensive weapon in a very real spiritual battle.  For this reason, God desires a knowing deep in our hearts that we are His.  Only then will we be “bold and free” in his presence.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Romans 10:9-10

Further reading: John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4-5; Hebrews 6:4-6

Uncategorized

Worried and Bothered

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

Whenever we plan an event at our house my default is “worried and bothered.”  On these occasions I can identify with Martha, although, on an ordinary day I am right there with Mary at Jesus’ feet as the dishes pile up in the sink.  But, like Martha,  I too struggle with feeling overwhelmed, abandoned and unloved!  I too accuse God of not caring and tell Him what to do!  However, the reality of Jesus’ love for Martha, as well as for you and me, is that it is endless and unconditional. He wants us to sit at His feet and trust Him for everything because He really does care for you and for me.  This is demonstrated in His words, “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  He’s not excluding or rejecting Martha but inviting her to join them!

Similarly, in Exodus 16 (the first account of God providing manna and quail for the Israelites in the desert) the Israelites also complained and told God what to do.  Even after witnessing God’s gracious provision they still didn’t believe Him.  Some even decided to do it their own way, gathering more manna than they needed for the day, and it “bred worms and became foul.”  Instead of trusting that God cared enough to provide for them the next day they lived by sight and ended up with rot. So too, when I refuse to live by faith the worms of fear and discontent are apparent.

Even now as I sit here writing I am distracted by the reality of selling our home.  I want to know what tomorrow brings instead of trusting that God cares for me and resting in His plan. Simply put, it is unbelief for the here and now.  In the same way a puppy automatically starts paddling when held over water (even though it’s being held securely) all of us tend to panic and start “paddling” when circumstances are out of our control.   In short, we fail to trust that God will keep holding on and tend to anticipate the worst when we choose to believe lies.  Can you hear the enemy whispering, “God doesn’t really care for you,” even though His Word says He does?

So, how do you and I live by faith and not by sight?  We choose to believe God, taking Him at His WORD and purpose to reject the lies.  Yes, living in the unseen reality means we need to fill our minds with God’s truth and believe Him even if it doesn’t make sense and especially when it goes against our natural inclinations. That is called faith.  As Martha focused on her circumstances she became worried and overwhelmed just like we do.  However, Jesus invited her into the unseen reality of a free spiritual life in Christ which is void of “have to’s” and full of “get to’s.”  We have the privilege of sitting at Jesus’ feet when we don’t have time and He miraculously stretches the minutes.  We get to tithe when it doesn’t make sense and He miraculously stretches the dollar.  We are free to drink His living water and He miraculously bears fruit in our lives.  His burden is light because He is outside of time and circumstance.   God tells us to “take My yoke upon you and I will give you rest.”  When I resist this I identify with Martha, the Israelites and also with Peter who heard God say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5b