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Down to the Small Details

I am having such a good time making quilts! Yesterday I finished piecing the top for a new one. I’ve ordered backing fabric and am thinking about how to quilt it while I wait for the delivery. The most enjoyable thing about quilting is that God actually speaks to me about it. He gives me patterns, even tells me how to construct them. Sometimes the idea for a quilt comes in a dream and other times it just comes to me. Then He guides me through the construction process, down to the last detail of colors, piecing, quilting, and binding. His guidance is not dramatic, not sensational or emotional — no trumpet fanfares or flashes of lightening. It is everyday casual, but it is God. That is a revelation in itself.

This morning I was reading in Exodus about the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The instructions God gave to Moses were very specific and detailed, right down to the colors and patterns and materials to be used. I have always assumed that the tabernacle, and later the Temple in Jerusalem, were sacred places and that was why God spoke in such extraordinary detail about their construction.

Then I read about the priests that ministered in the tabernacle. They had extraordinary costumes to wear. God gave complicated and detailed instruction about those garments, right down to the underwear. I always figured those priests were special, holy people picked by God to minister to and for Him and that’s why He gave such detailed guidance for their clothing.

But consisder this: the New Testament tells us that every believer in Jesus Christ is a priest. Peter calls us “a royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9).  He says we are “living stones” being “built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood” and are to “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5). Our sacrifices as believers are not the slain animals of the Old Testament but a continual “sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). If God intimately guided the building of the tabernacle tent in the desert and if he gave detailed instructions concerning the brick and mortar temple in Jerusalem, shall He not also intimately guide us today in the building of His new temple, the Church of Jesus Christ? Is not the spiritual service of worship we are called to today at least as important as the sacrifices offered by those early priests?

I have not expected enough of God and he has come crashing into my low expectations by involving Himself in my making of quilts. There is precedent for this kind of guidance in the building of the Old Testament places of worship, but I would never have thought of myself as one of those special, holy priests except that God says I am oneBecause I am a priest of the Most High God, whatever I put my hands to matters. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ then you are a priest too and whatever you put your hands to matters.

God wants to be involved intimately and down to the fine details in everything I do. Whether I am making a quilt, cooking a meal, or working in an office, everything I do should be inspired by the Holy Spirit and bring glory to God. I can expect Him to guide me every step of the way, not just in the crises of my life or in those “mountain top” experiences of worship. He is an everyday, all the time God. He is teaching me to look for Him in the small details. I pray He will help all of us to look for and practice His Presence, to listen for His voice that is intimate and practical right down to our fingertips.

 

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When God Doesn’t Explain . . .

Have you ever been confused in God? When I was a young Christian, I was told that confusion was not ever from God but always from the enemy. I have learned that that statement is oversimplified to the point of being untrue. Yes, confusion is often a hallmark of demonic activity, but does God always explain Himself? Of course not! And when we don’t understand, we are confused, sometimes even baffled and dismayed. In fact, sometimes it feels like we just walked off the map! puzzlement3

The cause? He is God and we are not. The difference between us invites bafflement.

In Luke 11 Jesus is asked by his disciples to teach them to pray. He gives them a prayer example which we now call The Lord’s Prayer, and then, to explain the prayer process, he tells a parable.

Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to  him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and from inside he answers and says, “Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. (Luke 11:5-8)

Why would Jesus describe the Father as a friend who does not care for you and your needs? Perhaps it is because sometimes He appears that way to us. We cry out to Him about some need — in our lives or even in our service to others — and He does not answer. We may even cry out to Him for quite some time, years even — remember Hannah and Elizabeth and Abraham and Sarah? Our reasoning mind tells us He does not care or He is not paying attention or even He is stingy and withholding good things from me. Do not believe it! God Himself is the definition of unconditional love. It is His Nature to care for us.  He always hears us when we pray. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him. He never withholds good things from His children.

But He sometimes is silent. He sometimes seems distant. He sometimes appears callous or indifferent. You will be tempted in those times to think He is an unkind friend. But He is not. He is after something you cannot see.

The next thing Jesus says after sharing this parable is

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10)

He is saying, “I want you to trust me and trust what I have said even when it looks like I am not paying attention.” Can I hang onto Him and believe in His love and goodness in the face of  His seeming indifference? Will I cling to Him and trust Him to provide for me even when He is not answering me? Can I continue to believe He is Who He says He is when it looks and feels like He is not?

Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (Luke 11:11-13)

He is reminding us that He is Who He says He is, that He will do all He has said He will do. He is better than we are. He is more loving than we expect. But there are times when God’s ways are so far beyond ours that we cannot possibly understand what He is doing. Perhaps we will understand in the future, but perhaps not. He is God and we are not. He wants us to trust Him, especially when we don’t understand. He wants us to have faith that He hears and answers and provides, especially when we do not hear Him and cannot see beyond our need. Look for the presence of the Holy Spirit in those times because He brings grace to stay close to God and faithful. And the Holy Spirit is always with us.

My friend, Katelyn Peers, from Christ Community Church in Brockport, NY, delivered a message recently about things that trip up our faith. She talks about the lies of the enemy, about making an idol of our experience, and about making an idol of our understanding. Aren’t those wonderfully descriptive phrases? I suggest that you take about 35 minutes to listen. She is one of Michael’s prophetic disciples and a marvelously gifted speaker. This message will take that convoluted string of your thinking and pull it straight again. Here’s the link, and there are even sermon notes you can download. Really, please listen. http://cccbrockport.org/sermons/where-is-your-faith-at-things-that-trip-us-up/

 

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What Do You Trust?

“Anything that depends on human effort for success is doomed to fail.”  I don’t know who first said that, but it has proven to be true in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an advocate of laziness! But I am an advocate of dependence upon God!

“God helps those who help themselves” is NOT in the Bible! What is in the Bible is

“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)

And then there is

Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

There was a rich young man who came to Jesus and asked, “What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16) Jesus first told him to obey the scriptures. The young man replied that he had done that from his youth. Even so, he knew he was lacking something. What must he do? Mark’s account of this story tells us that Jesus “felt love for him” and so said to him, “One thing you lack; go, sell all you possess and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

The sad thing is that “the young man went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” buy-and-sellJesus put His finger on the one place where the young man felt self-sufficient, the one place where he depended on himself, the one place where he perceived himself to be strong. Jesus saw that the young man’s properties were a hindrance, his perceived assets were a liability. In reality, all the riches he had accumulated had created a lack in his soul because he was depending on them instead of on God. Perhaps the property had been in his family for generations. Or perhaps he had worked hard and invested wisely to acquire wealth. Or perhaps he had written books or painted pictures or given wise counsel that had made him affluent. Whatever it was that had his trust, it stood in the way of obtaining the thing his heart longed for, eternal life with God.

richesWe tend to rely on whatever we perceive to be our strength. Money, physical strength, beauty, family, friends, artistic talent, a head for business, intellect, education, writing ability, a gift for public speaking. even the natural virtues of strength of character, knowledge and experience — all of these are desirable, but they can be a hindrance to knowing God if our trust is in them instead of in Him.strive-personalpowerOswald Chambers said it beautifully: “As long as you think there is something in you, He (Jesus) cannot choose you because you have ends of your own to serve; but if you have let Him bring you to the end of your self-sufficiency then He can choose you . . .” ( My Utmost for His Highest, entry for August 17)creativity

 

We were created for dependence upon God. God did not give Adam an instruction book on how to be a good farmer. He gave him something much better, a relationship of intimacy with Himself. God came to the  garden in the cool of each day anddiploma they talked. Out of friendship with God would come the guidance Adam needed to be God’s gardener.

Of course, we know that Adam rejected the relationship of trust and dependence on God in favor of figuring things out for himself. The rich young man, though he longed for a relationship of security in God, was not willing to give up depending on his possessions in order to follow Jesus.

Have you figured out yet that everything but God will fail you? Failure can be devastating, but it may also be your best friend if it brings about new dependence on God. Remember: anything that depends on human effort for success is doomed to fail.  I hope that young man experienced the failure of his riches and became a follower of Jesus.

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Product and Process

Though God certainly has a plan that ultimately leads to the complete fulfillment of his purposes, the working out of that plan in the daily lives of His people reveals that He is just as interested in the process as He is in the end product. After all, it is in the process of life that our characters are forged and our relationship with Jesus is established.

I tend to be a goal-oriented person. When I make a quilt, for instance, I am so eager to get the thing finished that I have been known to skimp and hurry through the process. I learned early however that failure to pay attention to the details of the process creates an end product that I cannot be proud of! So I have been learning the patience of not getting in a hurry to finish but taking time to do it right — and God has given me a friend to teach me.

Rae is just the opposite of me in her natural focus. She enjoys the process. She is careful and precise with her cutting. Her seams are a persnickety 1/4 inch. Her intersections and points are exact. When she has to sew across a diagonal she doesn’t just wing it, she takes time to draw the seam line with pencil and ruler. And guess what! Her final product is always exquisite!

Recently, Rae and Bobbie (another friend), and I made a quilt together. Rae picked out the pattern IMG_1634(Pause and reflect on that!). Rae did most of the piecing while Bobbie and I learned a lot from watching her. In fact, watching her and seeing her end product has changed the way I make quilts. I have seen that Rae pieces a quilt the way GodIMG_1564 forges my character: He is not in a hurry and He is meticulous about the   small details!

In Matthew 14:22-34, Jesus commands his disciples to get in the boat and row to the other side. He has just fed a crowd of over 5,000 from 5 little loaves and 2 fish. The disciples were tired from serving that miraculous meal to all those people, so Jesus sends them ahead to the other side of the lake while he stays to disburse the crowd. As evening comes, a strong wind springs up on the lake and the disciples had to strain to row Jesus walking alone on wateragainst the wind. They strain and strain until about 4 in the morning —will they never get there? — when they look up and see Jesus walking toward them on the water! They can’t believe their eyes! It must be a ghost! But Jesus speaks to them and their fear is calmed. It really is Jesus and He really is walking on  the water! Bold Peter wants to walk on the water too, and — what a miracle!— Jesus enables him to do it! Peter’s sudden doubt causes him to sink, but HE WALKED ON WATER even if only a few steps. And Jesus was right there to lift him out of the water when he fell.

Did Jesus want them to get to the other side? Oh yes! Jesus had a plan that we see worked out as we read on in the book. But the process of getting to the other side was not wasted on the disciples either. On the journey, they experienced difficulty that tested their strength and endurance, and they saw that Jesus had supernatural power to overcome what their human strength could not. Not only that but Jesus demonstrated through Peter that the disciples had access to that same supernatural power in their own lives! In addition, Jesus was there to rescue them when they didn’t do things just right. When the disciples got to the other side of the lake they were changed. Their faith and vision had increased dramatically.

God is not intimidated by the many things in my soul that need to change. He knows that His power is greater than all my sin. He is not impatient with my desire to compromise and my fondness for denial. He cuts and trims with precision and thoroughness and He connects the pieces of the quilt of our lives with exactitude. He is faithful to omit or overlook nothing, and He never wastes anything! His plan for my life involves daily (and long-term) processes that test my strength and my faith, but it is in the process that my trust in Him becomes strong. “Be patient and trust Me in this process,” He tells me. “The end product I have planned is eternal.”walk on water

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More than Enough

As a quilter, I am both proud of my fabric stash and also a little embarrassed by it. A fabric stash, by definition, is a pile of cloth for which you have no planned use. You may have bought it with a use in mind but, for some reason it remains unused. Maybe you bought too much for a project and had some left-over. Maybe you never got around to making the planned project. Maybe someone gave you some fabric and  you haven’t figured out what to do with it yet.  Or maybe you just liked the fabric and bought it on a whim without a plan. Whatever the reason, you have a cache of fabric from which to draw inspiration. Above is a picture of my stash.  I keep it in what was once a deep television cabinet, now converted to my stash cabinet.  Aren’t those fabrics gorgeous?

 

Whenever I am planning a  new quilt I start with my stash. I pull out those textiles and run my hand across them and imagine how they will look when combined with others. Before long I have piles of my “favorites” all over the floor and I have to start eliminating!  About once a year I sort them, iron them, and refold them so they look neat and tidy. I do like to play with fabric!

 

And then there are my scraps. Scraps are different from stash. Stash fabrics, according to my rule, must be at least a quarter of a yard in size. Anything smaller is a scrap. I used to have scrap bins labeled Light, Medium, and Dark. At the end of a quilt project I would simply toss the small leavings into the appropriate bin.  But those bins began to overflow because it was too hard to find anything usable in them. I added to them with each finished project but never used them.  I either needed to throw them away or get them into some kind of usable order.  So, earlier this year, I cut all my scraps into usable squares and strips. It took a couple of weeks but here is a picture of my scrap collection. IMG_1484Long strips are hung from the closet rod and squares are sorted by size into the boxes on the shelf. I  have an abundance of fabric! Isn’t it beautiful?

 

I have resolved this year not to buy fabric but to use my stash and scraps instead. So far, I have done pretty well. I’ve had to buy some fabric for backing, but I have even learned to piece my backings, making the quilt reversible. Cool!

 

The strange thing is, the more I use up my cache of fabric, the more fabric-wealthy I feel.  The more the pile of fabric shrinks, the richer I perceive myself to be. I am not afraid I will run out of fabric! I am enjoying the use of such an abundance.

 

Jesus said that He came to give us an abundance of LIFE (John 10:10). He said He was able to do “exceeding abundantly beyond all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).  Yet, sometimes we act as though the blessing of God was in short supply, as though His goodness would run out.

 

I saw a young woman approach the prayer line at church and then hold back. I asked her why she didn’t go on forward to get prayer. She said she wanted to give others a chance. Did she think God didn’t have enough to go around?

 

Another woman I counseled with struggled with feelings of unworthiness and condemnation. She knew in her head that God forgives and cleanses sin but she could not feel forgiven. She had read the promise of God to “abundantly pardon” but did not feel worthy to experience the forgiveness God had already provided for her on the cross.  Finally I asked her, “Do you really think your sins surpass the power of God? Are you truly the one person who is too dirty for God to cleanse?”

 

Perhaps you are living in fear and dread of the future, as if God’s promised grace will not be sufficient when you get there. The enemy throws all kinds of fears at us but behind each one is the accusation that God is not sufficient for our need. He is such a liar!

 

Everything in God is abundant — forgiveness, redemption, grace, mercy, love, even life itself. Abundance means “a great supply; more than sufficient quantity” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary). We have more than we need of God! God is not chintzy with Himself. He gives of Himself freely and without measure, “exceeding abundantly more than we ask or think.” We have more than enough, more of Him and His grace than we can ever use. Perhaps we should quit putting it in storage and use it. Receive forgiveness. Ask boldly. Trust God. He is supernatural, you know!

Here is my cart, lovely fabrics to be sure but only a pittance compared to the offering!

Here is my cart, lovely fabrics to be sure but only a pittance compared to the offering!

Here I am at Hancock's of Paducah, quilter's heaven! The fabric store is 6 times bigger than you see here!

Here I am at Hancock’s of Paducah, quilter’s heaven! The fabric store is actually 6 times bigger than you see here!

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IMG_1440Some of you readers may not know that I had open heart surgery in 2014. It was a life-changer for me. Before surgery I was traveling full-time in ministry, mainly teaching and speaking to women but also ministering with my husband Michael. That all stopped after the surgery.

Something went wrong during the surgery. I lost a lot of blood, did not wake up for 3 days, and was very confused and disoriented when woke up. I was in the various levels of cardiac intensive care for almost 3 weeks. When I finally got home in familiar surroundings, the disorientation to time and place got better quickly. But I still had trouble with what the psychologists call sequencing. I could not put things together in logical order.The hospital therapist said I needed a project.

I said, “How about a quilt? I like to make quilts.”

She said, “Perfect!” However, she was not a quilter so she did not know what she was agreeing with!

When I began to feel better physically, I decided to start with a small quilt, but there was a problem. I could not remember how to start and I could not mentally process a written pattern.  Sequencing was missing. I wanted to make pillow shams for my bed, something I had done many times before, but I could not figure out how to do it. Then, one day I was sitting on the couch when how to start just popped into my head. I knew it was God speaking to me. So I went into the dining room where Michael had set up my sewing machine, and started. As I finished

First project after surgery.

First project after surgery.

the first step, I saw what to do next . . . and next . . . and next . . . until I had made a pillow sham. Then I made another, and then I made a pillow and another pillow, each project led in detail by the Holy Spirit.

Did you know that God can speak to us with such clarity and specificity on such a practical level? I didn’t. Of course, I knew He could speak that way — after all, He is God — but it was not my “norm” to experience it!

Then I had a dream and dreamed a quilt. It was God again. I knew it was God. But I didn’t know how to make it. So I prayed. And then, a few days later, I knew how to start! Just as with the first project, as I finished one step I would know what to do next. God was again leading me one step at a time. God was doing the sequencing for  me! It was amazing! I had never before designed a quilt — I had always followed another designer’s pattern — but here I was making original quilts. It was totally, awesomely supernatural!

I began to make quilts for my family. I would pray over each one and God would give me a design and tell me how to make it, one step at a time. Turns out it was the best therapy ever! The sequencing began to come back in my conversation, in my ability to write, in my ability to read with comprehension. God was restoring my mind.

Here is a quilt called “Like a Child” that I made during that first year. And here is another I made for my youngest granddaughter, Gloria Noelle.

Like a Child

Like a Child

I am still making quilts.

Gloria Noelle"s Quilt

Gloria Noelle”s Quilt

Sequencing is improving.
Recently, God told me, “I  like how you follow me when you make a quilt.”

 

I have just opened a shop on Etsy to sell some quilts, both mine and those of my quilty friends. There are pictures of my most recent quilts there. You can find them through this link if you like. http://www.etsy.com/shop/gloriasquiltdesigns

Michael says God is downright chatty. God likes to talk to us. Hearing Him is a learning process. The key to the learning is trusting Him, trusting Him to speak so that I understand, trusting His voice and doing what He says, right down to the fine details. And the more you listen, the more you hear.

“and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. . . and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. John 10:3-4

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That Forbidden Tree

Eve in the garden looked at the forbidden tree and saw that it was good to eat, not poison, that it was beautiful to look at, not ugly or repulsive, and that it would give her knowledge she did not possess. She wanted it.

Evaluating that tree out of her own powers of observation and understanding led her into disagreement and outright rebellion against God. The ONLY thing that told her that tree was bad was the word of God: God had said, “Do not eat from it or you will die.”

Eve said, “I think I will try it out and see for myself.”

Not only did Eve decide that she knew better than God, but she also came to the conclusion that God was not good— He was keeping something from her that would benefit her life. How quickly she rebelled in her heart, in her thinking, and in her action!

Human nature was shaped forever by the original sin of Adam and Eve in that garden. We too so often let some lack we see in our life bring discontentment and cause us to question God’s goodness. Why won’t God give me what I ask for? Why does God withhold from me? This would be so good for me; why does God not do something? I am following Him with my whole heart; why does God not bless me as I ask?

The end of such thinking is rebellion against God and bitterness of heart. Jesus said, “Only God is good.” (Luke 18:19) Anything, therefore, that brings into question His goodness is evil. God gives and withholds good things from His children according to the timetable of His choosing. Trusting Him is an act of faith, faith that is often unreasonable and contrary to my own evaluation of what is needful and good. Funny thing is, I can always find people who will agree with me concerning my lack . It’s human nature that goes back to that tree in the garden.

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Almost all the Christians I know are waiting for something in God. Whether it be freedom from a besetting sin or for a promise of God to be manifested in your life, almost nothing in God comes instantly. God is as interested in the process as in the fulfillment because our relationship with Him is formed in the process. Every wait is an opportunity to choose to trust God or to trust ourselves. May we all remember His goodness in the midst of our lack.

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.

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How Great is Our God?

Over the years I have asked a lot of Christians, “Do  you believe people are basically good or basically bad — 0r perhaps you believe people are a mixture of good and bad?” An amazing number of Bible-believing, Jesus-loving people will say, “I think most people want to do good.” People have the idea that they should “think the best of people,” “give them the benefit of the doubt.” If you think that, the Bible says you are wrong!

The apostle Paul tells us, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” (Romans 7:18) .We could all make that same statement about ourselves and about everyone else. We all need saving! “There is none righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) It was not that God looked down from heaven and saw in you and me something worth saving. No, God saw us in our utterly depraved state, separated from Him and helpless to improve ourselves. He had created us and we had rebelled against Him, defaming His character and rejecting His goodness, but out of His great love and mercy He sent His Son to die in our place, to take the punishment we deserved, and to restore us to fellowship with Himself.

Here is the problem: if we don’t believe in the depravity of man, we cannot appreciate and understand the majestic sufficiency of the atoning blood of Jesus. We have to see how utterly bad the human race is in order to see the powerful, saving goodness of God. Only as I understand and accept what I was before Christ can I comprehend the magnitude of what He has done for me in Jesus Christ.

Christians should never be surprised (or intimidated) by the evil that is in the world, not because we are cynical but because of the reality of the atonement in our own lives. Jesus Himself, “was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25) Jesus was not cynical, but He was not surprised by iniquity and He certainly was not fearful of it! He believed in the depravity of man, but He also believed that His Father was greater.

Yes, we live in a world full of depraved men and women.  Self-seeking, self-centered, self-indulgent, egotistical, greedy, lying, cheating, stealing, ruthless, vengeful, God-hating . . . we could go on and on with the adjectives describing men without Jesus. And such were some of us before Jesus. (I Corinthians 6:11) But because we have experienced in our own lives the reality of the redemption of Jesus, we do not lose hope. Before Christ I was capable of any evil I see around me. Therefore I know there is no one and nothing too hard for God!

Christians are not allowed to give place to despair. Our God is that big. So while we resist evil with whatever tools God provides, let us also affirm the greatness and deuteronomy-32_3sovereignty of our God. He is in control. He is always good.  And He wins.

 

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Worry, An Insidious Enemy

Human beings are natural worriers. In fact, not to worry is downright supernatural! We are attracted to worry like bees to honey. The only thing is, honey is sweet while worry is bitter indeed.

Worry is an insidious enemy. If it gains a foothold in our thinking it will worm its way into every nook and cranny, poisoning our outlook on life, disrupting peaceful sleep, eating away at our joy. Eventually it can give us a sense of dread about the future and cause us to live life in panic mode.

As Christians, we know the Bible says “be anxious for nothing” and “do not be worried about your life.” Even a cursory reading of the New Testament makes it clear that fear is never an appropriate response for a Christian. So now we are not only worried, we are worried about worrying!

So how do we quit worrying? The answer lies in the other half of the verses just quoted.

Matthew 6:25-33: “… do not be worried about your life as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on … for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

When I am worried I need to remember that God loves me. He really loves me! He cares about all the things that are concerning me.  As an action point, I can again choose to put Him first in my life, obey Him in the smallest detail, and renounce the things in my life that displease Him.

Philippians 4, the chapter from which the other quote comes, gives us lots of good, practical advice for living godly lives, but about worry, verses 6-7 give us the key.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Instead of worrying, I can take my concerns to God. I learned long ago that thanksgiving drives out a heart of despair, so I present my concerns to God with thanksgiving, knowing that I am leaving these worries in His capable hands. No matter the outcome of my worrisome situation, I can trust my sovereign God to have wisdom and love greater than mine!

The supernatural promise of these verses is that when I give my concerns to God, His totally irrational and unreasonable peace takes over my heart and mind. The dread and panic leave and I can stop striving and rest in Him. What I could not do in my own effort, stop worrying, God does for me.  The peace of God is supernatural and overcomes my natural tendency to worry.

 

The root problem in all these worry issues is unbelief. Yes, worry is a faith issue. Fear is faith in the wrong thing: faith that something bigger than God is going to happen. Dread is fear that God’s grace will not be sufficient if  this or that happens. Worry says, “I have to fix this because God might not.” It is always so much easier to do something than to trust God.

My worry will be in direct proportion to my lack of faith in God, His love, His power, His goodness. That makes worry pretty serious, doesn’t it? No wonder the New Testament talks about it so much! But the remedy is also clear:

  1. Repent for my unbelief.
  2. Put God first in my life
  3. Give thanks and pray.
  4. Receive forgiveness and peace.

May you receive the sufficiency of God’s grace and and the keeping power of His peace today.

“I’m Right Here”

HEARTToday marks the second anniversary of my open-heart surgery. I am so grateful to be here! There were complications that arose during the surgery and I almost died. I did not wake up for three days, but sometime during those three days something very significant happened to me. God spoke to me, only three words, but they changed the way I think about Him.

I remember only a little from those three days. I remember hearing familiar voices though I could not get to where they were. I remember being confused and frightened. I didn’t know where I was or what had happened to me, but I knew God. I knew He promised never to leave me or forsake me, but I couldn’t find Him. I cried out to Him, “Where are You?” And immediately He answered me, “I’m right here.” It was the same quiet voice I had heard many times before, entirely loving, utterly void of condemnation. I was confused and troubled but He was not anxious, not surprised, not confused, not concerned. I said, “I thought You’d be different.” I thought because I was upset and confused and frightened, He would at least be concerned about my condition. It’s funny how we equate anxiety with love. But God was not anxious about me. He had me and nothing was out of control. I cannot tell you the peace that gave me.

I had forgotten that God never changes. He is never worried about me. He is never surprised or upset or confused. He is not even concerned because He is God and He already has a plan for everything. He knows the end from the beginning and holds it all in His hands. He cannot be overwhelmed by anything! He is the One fixed center around which all creation turns. He is the One absolute in the midst of universal wavering. His sovereignty is so unquestionable that with three words He quelled my fear and straightened out my perspective.

“I’m right here,” He said. and His Presence made everything alright. The circumstances were the same — I still did not know where I was or what had happened to me — but the reminder of His Presence with me settled my soul.

Today, two years later, I am so very grateful my heart still beats and there is breath in my body.  But I am even more grateful that God is in control and that His love for me is as unchangeable as His sovereign power.

. . . for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, . . . Hebrews 13:5-6 (NAS)