THBBloomBlogForgetMeNots

This morning in my Falling in Love Again with Your Lord study we were prompted to read the story of Abraham. The Scriptures took us through Abram becoming Abraham and how he time and time again heard from the Lord. Even though most of what God said seemed a total impossibility, Abraham continued to believe what the Lord told him. Romans 4:20-21 says of Abraham, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” As I read the story I was once again astonished by his unwavering faith and convicted of my own feeble faith. I’m truly amazed at the love that Abraham had for God.

A few things really blew me away. First, when the story began and God told Abram to go to a different land, Abram was 75 years old. God told him then He would make him a father. Later, when Abraham was 99 years old he was still without a son to be his heir except for one that he had conceived in his own way and timing—not the one the Lord had promised. Then Abraham didn’t have Isaac, the son God had promised, until he was 100 years old. While the fact that he was 100 years old and having a baby is amazing in and of itself, what stood out to me even more this time as I read the story was the fact that the promises began when he was 75. Twenty-five years had gone by with God promising him things but Abraham not seeing the fulfillment of these promises. Yet still he didn’t waver in his faith. All I can say is…wow.

A second thing that stood out to me more this time as I read Abraham’s story is when he went to sacrifice Isaac as the Lord had told him. What God was asking of Abraham almost seemed to completely contradict God’s initial promises to him. How confusing would that have been? God told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and that he would have an heir that would be his own son. He even told him when Sarah was gong to conceive and then once that promise was fulfilled he tells Abraham to sacrifice that fulfilled promise! It doesn’t seem as if Abraham even questioned this. Yet again, no unbelief made him waver—amazing! (Hebrews 11:17-19 describes the amazing reasoning of the faith of Abraham and how he reconciled this apparent contradiction in his mind.)

I say I trust God, but really when it comes down to it, I trust Him when I want to, or when it’s easy, or when it makes sense. Nothing about what God promised or asked Abraham made sense. I even thought to myself as I was reading the story this morning that for Abraham it must have been somewhat easier for him to trust because God was telling him what would happen if he did. God was telling him, “Go to this land and you will be blessed,” or do this and essentially this good thing will happen. I thought to myself that I would be more inclined to believe God if I was told directly and knew that something good would come from it. The Lord pointed out to me the irony in those thoughts. He does in fact tell me the good that will come from my belief. It may not be now in this world like I would like it to be, but good will come—I am promised heaven, an eternal inheritance that waits for me because of Jesus! You’d think that it would be easier to believe and follow God’s ways because of that, but man my flesh is weak and my unbelief is strong. And the Lord is revealing that to me more all the time. I want to have belief like Abraham; I don’t want to waver.

Let me be really honest with you though. Even now my flesh is acting up because I want to have this faith to look good, to be a “good Christian,” instead of having this faith because God is who He says He is. My motives are totally wrong. I am so weak, but I’m seeing more and more lately that that is the place where God can show His strength in me. Second Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Our study ended the day with explaining that we have been given promises that we don’t have to waver on believing either. Promises like Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Even though my motives are wrong because they are prideful and self-righteous, wanting my glory instead of the Lord’s, by God’s grace I can believe His promise that Jesus has covered those sins and I am not condemned. My hope is in Jesus Christ alone. In my weakness He is strong. I am so weak, but He is so strong. Strong for me. May we all remember that promise as we go throughout our days, moment by moment. Lord, give us faith like Abraham, for your glory alone!

Planted for His Glory

THBBloomBlogDaisies-

“…for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy” (Psa. 63:7).

When I am hurting, I find I want to hide. I want to retreat. I think many people are like this. Maybe that’s why we self-medicate. We can “hide” in drugs, alcohol, food, TV, shopping, being on the computer or phone. Even “good” activities like reading or exercise or can become harmful if we use them as a form of perpetual distraction.

Our great God knows we want to hide. What was one of the first things Adam did after he ate of the fruit and sinned? He hid. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8).

Hiding is on my mind this week as I thought about Thanksgiving. Due to health issues, we had a very low-key Thanksgiving. No extended family. We ordered our food from a local restaurant, so all we had to do was heat up our dinner. We ate in clothes that resembled pajamas! It was very easy. During our meal, I commented on how nice it was to have had such a stress-free meal. My daughter asked why the holidays are so stressful for people. What a hard question! I told her that not all families find the holidays stressful, but for some families, getting together is hard. People who don’t see each other for long periods of time are suddenly thrust together, and that is not always easy or fun. Old wounds re-surface.  People squabble over the menu choices or criticize the holiday meal. And that’s not taking into consideration Christmas and the issues that go along with gift-giving and receiving, decorating, etc!

What I find interesting is how, when with family, people often revert to the roles they assumed while living under the same roof. There is the peacemaker, the outcast, the “stuffer” (the one who looks pleasant but stuffs away his or her real emotions), the cynic, the alpha personality, the academic…the list is endless. Sometimes these are not the roles we want to “play” anymore, and gatherings can be tense and unpleasant, even hurtful. And then we try to hide. At least I know I do.

We are coming to the end of our study, Falling in Love Again with Your Lord. Our verse this week talks about the shadow of God’s wings being a place in which we sing for joy. I have always thought of the shadow of God’s wings being akin to a refuge, like an eagle that would stretch out his wings and shelter me from the elements that could rain down upon my head.

But now as I learn more of God’s lovingkindness, I envision being a chick, and God, like a mother hen, wraps His wings about me to shelter me and keep me safe. To hold me close. To give me warmth. I envision being able to climb up onto my heavenly Father’s lap and have him surround me with His soft wings…giving me a place to curl up and hide away. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Psa. 91:4 NIV).

David goes onto say, however, that in the shadow of God’s wings, he will sing for joy! David knows that God is his help, his shield, his strength, his portion, his Deliverer, his shelter, his strong tower, his salvation. He sings for joy, and so should we! Praise God for the song He puts in our mouths (Psa. 40:3)!

So, how do we go from wanting to hide away to singing for joy? That sounds impossible. That’s because it is – on our own. It is only through God’s strength that we can heal in such a dramatic way. We rely on God by fixing our eyes upon Him, and walking, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, praying to Him, crying out to Him, and asking Him to direct our steps. We become acquainted with the person of God by reading His Word and spending time with Him. We heal and grow by waiting on the Lord to do the work He has promised He will do – and trusting Him to do it.

Father God, help me in this holiday season and always when I am hurting or feel the need to retreat, to come to you and find shelter in your wings. Help me to remember Who my real Shelter is. Help me to remember that the distractions this world offers are temporary and that they cannot ever remove or heal the pain or hurt I may be experiencing. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on you and not on my circumstances. Thank you, Lord, for your loving provision for your children. You know we want to hide away when life is hard and we are hurting. Thank you for providing the perfect refuge in the shadow of your wings. “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Psa. 17:8).

Growing in Grace

 

 

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When my daughter was around 5 years old, she told me that there was a voice that lived inside her head. My daughter is highly creative, so instead of thinking, “OH NO!” I asked her tell me more. It turned out that my daughter had given this voice a name: Mind-y (like the word “mind” with a “y” on the end). My daughter held conversations with Mind-y. Sometimes, Mind-y was kind, and other times, not so kind. My daughter told me after school one day that Mind-y had told her she was dumb for missing a question on a test, but that she responded that this was not true; missing one question was still very good!

I found all of this completely fascinating; my daughter was learning at a young age that most of us have active “thought lives” and that different voices/thoughts clamor for our attention. Our “Mind-ys” can speak positive or negative thoughts to us. I urged my daughter to always listen to the positive voice in her head, and never let Mind-y belittle her.

Many years later, I still think what a profound illustration Mind-y was/is, and how God gifted my daughter at a young age to be so insightful. I know that I have my own “Mind-y” and that I listen to her negative words. My thoughts can be very negative. I struggle with fear of man, comparing myself to others, trying to find comfort in something other than the Lord – and these struggles lead to feelings of hopelessness and wanting to retreat. I try to silence my “Mind-y” by turning up the volume in my mind through distractions.

I used to believe this was just psychological; I suffered from depression and anxiety and I thought that a running tape of negative thinking was normal for someone with my conditions. Occasionally, a positive thought would take root and I would feel better for awhile, but the negative thoughts were never completely gone. I experienced all of these issues before and after I became a believer; before and after I attended church; before and after I regularly attended Bible studies.

Then I came to Thistlebend. I heard for the first time about spiritual warfare, that there is a spiritual realm we cannot see but that is very real, and that there are forces strongly opposed to God who will do whatever they can to keep us from focusing our thoughts on what is true and good. C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, is a great fictional depiction on how demons attempt to keep humans focused on anything but God.

Laurie’s teaching helped me understand that we can combat the lies of the enemy by speaking biblical truth to ourselves. This has been enormously helpful to me as I have battled fear, anxiety, unbelief, feelings of isolation or hopelessness, and even despair.

Recently, I have been battling debilitating pain. I have been crying out to the Lord for deliverance but He has allowed my pain to continue. This week, during our homework, we read Psalm 40. The first verses read:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction…and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. (Psa. 40:1-3)

As I worked on my Taking the Truth to Heart assignment, I felt the Lord leading me to Psalm 40:3 for my verse for the week. I confided in my small group that my pain was causing me to despair. I was fearful I would never get better. But by God’s grace, I knew I needed to speak more truth to myself, so I planned to live out the “new song in my mouth” by listening to more hymns and praise music. And I did.

My pain worsened and I became bedridden. But when fear or anguish threatened to dominate my thoughts, I would hear music. “How sweet the sound of saving grace; Christ died for me” ran through my mind constantly. My pain didn’t go away, but my faith was bolstered. The Lord sweetly taught me so much through this verse and the actions I committed to in my Taking the Truth to Heart assignment. When we truly take the truth of God’s Word to heart, when we speak that truth to ourselves, we can overcome the negative thoughts that the enemy uses to try to poison our minds! I will tell you; this does not happen overnight. It is a discipline that we must practice. Through His strength, we commit Bible verses to memory. We pray more. We fix our eyes on the Lord instead of ourselves. We begin to recognize when we are responding in our flesh in thought or action versus responding in God’s Spirit.

The Lord graciously delivered me from my pain (literally)…and I’m still hearing music.

Growing in Grace