Once again, Haiti here we come! We received our final adoption consent today and are booking our flights tonight. We should arrive in Haiti next Thursday, October 9th. Feeling so blessed to finally be able to go! Thank you Lord for answering our prayers. Thank you for doing far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
Experts have estimated that forty percent of things we worry about will never even happen, thirty percent of things we worry about are things from the past, twelve percent of our worries are about our health (when nothing is actually wrong with us), and ten percent of things we worry about are too petty and insignificant to really affect our future. That means that only eight percent of the things we worry about legitimately deserve our concern and thought.
A few years ago, the Gallup organization asked Americans what they were most afraid of:
Number one on the list was snakes (51% of all Americans).
The second on the list was public speaking (40% of Americans).
In fact, a lot of people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying.
37% reported fears of heights
34% being closed in small spaces
27% were afraid of spiders and insects
21% afraid of needles and shots
20% afraid of mice
18% of flying on airplanes
Statistics prove that a vast majority of the things we fear never become a reality. And yet an unhealthy, destructive thought will occasionally pop into our minds and we will entertain it. We become professional movie producers and allow the movie reel inside our minds to captivate us. We go down roads that we should not go down. We think thoughts that we should not think. Because in our minds, sometimes these false fears can seem more real than anything else around us.
God’s Word encourages us to think on good things and stop fearful thinking. Look at what Philippians 4:7-9 says:
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
I read these verses today and picked up on something new. It takes practice. It takes practice to put a stop to dwelling on fear and instead, to think on whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute. Obviously, this means it will take some effort on our part. If anxiety and fear are a struggle for you…why not start small. Practice with one fearful thought which constantly pops into your mind. Try to take that thought captive and ask the Holy Spirit to renew your thoughts and mind. Replace the fearful thought with something good and positive.
I sat down to enjoy a cup of #mojo at one of my favorite spots, Mozart’s on the Lake. It is one of the few incredibly peaceful places where you can actually be surrounded by UT students hectically studying for exams and yet, get caught up in the serenity of the water. Peaceful, indeed. I thought I was just minding my own business when suddenly, I was completely caught off guard. Apparently one of the birds overhead had too much to eat for dinner!
There is nothing under the sun that takes Him by surprise. The good, the bad and the ugly are all under His watchful eye. I agree, sometimes it is difficult to see God working. At moments like these, we must trust that God is still there.
Although God permits evil to occur, He does not initiate it. Satan does. We see this exemplified in the life of Job. Satan had to first ask permission from God to inflict pain and suffering on Job and his family. In Job 1:21 we read, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Notice the choice of words. It does not say “The Lord gave, and Satan hath taken away.” No, God permits certain things to occur because He knows He is “working all things together for our good.” (Romans 8:28)
God has the world in His hands and the ability to do whatever He wants. Afterall, He is God.
Even at times when we think we are the ones running the show, it is God who is ultimately calling the shots. We may attempt to steal God’s glory, taking credit for the work He has done. But let us be reminded, God deserves the glory. Not us. He is the one who holds the world in His hands (Isaiah 40:12), who called into existence the sun and the stars (Genesis 1:16), who sets up kings and deposes them (Daniel 2:21) and has numbered the days we each will live (Job 14:5). Why, God even knows what is on the tip of our tongue.
“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” Lamentations 3:37
Knowing God is in control is actually very comforting. I can rest and not grow weary because I don’t have to figure every little thing out. I can live life freely, not grasping too tightly to things that are outside of my control. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from a mentor was this: Hang on loosely to things of this world. Hang on tight to God.
Clearly God was trying to get my attention tonight…maybe to redirect my eyes to Him. The birds must be at target practice. I’ve been hit twice now, so I gotta run!
“From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.” Isaiah 46:11
How much time do we spend making our outer selves look good, meanwhile neglecting what is going on within? Scripture warns us numerous times to not get caught up in our outward appearance. And yet, it is such a struggle for us. We get wrapped up in our exercise regimes, our diet & health, our skin care routines, our clothes and the latest fashions. This world promotes a certain way to look through advertising and promoting. You feel compelled to look a certain way, dress a certain way and talk a certain way.
If we are not careful, it can consume us. The way we look can become our focal point, taking precedence over God. We exercise, we spraytan, we scrub cellulitis (what in the world is cellulitis anyways?), we use wrinkle creams, we buy the latest fashion, we avoid sunlight, we things pinned…and unpinned. Stretched…and plumbed. Thin is in one year and curvy the next. Last year’s fashion is no longer fashionable. And if we are not careful, we can get our outer appearance tied up with our self worth.
The sad thing is–we don’t even see ourselves as beautiful. This documentary titled “Real Beauty” shows how we look right over the beauty of our created beings and instead, we focus on our personal imperfections and flaws. We fail to see ourselves through God’s eyes. He has a different lens. After all, is it not God Himself who created us “in His own image?” (Genesis 1:27) Seriously, what is cooler than that? God has made us all individually, creatively, uniquely and yes, even beautifully. We are the work of His hands.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
They are more than just childhood capers and a fight against good vs. evil. In the famous Disney movie titled The Beauty and the Beast, we are shown how an unlovable monster become loveable. People can change when they see themselves for who they really are. A new creation. A child of God. Chosen. A royal priesthood. We must understand God’s genuine and deep love for us before we can love others. You see, the cause of low self-esteem is simple: Refusing to see yourself as God sees you.
Against a garage wall, we have a place where annually my husband measures our children to see how much they have grown. My kids swell with excitement as they see how big they have become. Invariably, however, my children always try to cheat when it comes to measuring time. They will stand real tall and try to stretch out as much as possible. If Dad is not watching closely, they will even try to stand on their tippy-toes. It never seems they are ever quite satisfied with how many inches they have surpassed from the previous year. They always want to be a little bit taller. They even try to argue and discredit that Dad did not measure correctly. He is frequently accused of using the yardstick incorrectly.
In all honesty, we are no different. We will never measure up to the standards set for us by ourselves, our parents, our society, our friends, or our banker.
Isaiah 43:4, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you..”
1 John 3:1, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! “
Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;”
Before you accomplished anything…He set His love upon you. Your identity is secure in Him. It doesn’t matter whether you are tall or short, black or white, rich or poor–God knows you. And when you start to understand His great, unmerited favor towards you, it starts to show. God’s love will emanate from you and you will want to be involved in His work. Because there is no greater joy than being smack dab in the middle of His will, living full-heartedly for Him.
John Piper refers to this great joy as “Christian Hedonism” meaning we have been created to give God glory, living a life pleasing to Him. We have been pre-wired this way and therefore, this is what brings us the greatest joy. We bring God great joy when we are joyful in Him. For this, is right where God wants us to be!
We all have come across those unexpected roadblocks and detours, derailing our expected plans. We often view them as such a nuisance and inconvenience, zapping away our time. I mean seriously…we have places to go and people to see. We have an agenda.
It’s funny how we can place these same expectations on God’s timing. We want Him to grant our wishes and desires right now. Amen? We get so accustomed to having things done our way. Our fast food fast and our favorite t.v. shows at the click of a button.
Doesn’t He hear our prayer? Does He not sense the urgency? Why is He not doing anything! It would be so easy to shout out orders like a commanding officer. Telling God what to do and when. But when we act with such arrogance, are we truly allowing God to be God? Or instead, are we trying to take over for Him?
However, not all is lost. We have a God who hears our cry. One who is attentive to our concerns and worries.
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” Psalm 62:8
We may not be able to see how our situation could possibly turn out for our good, or how God could possibly be glorified through it all. From our vantage point, we not see the big view. It’s possible God is doing something bigger and greater than we can even imagine. Why, it could be possible He’s even changing you! Teaching you patience, drawing nigh unto Him, learning to lean in times of weakness, recognizing His voice in the quiet times…although we may not understand what God is up to, we can trust…
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” Psalm 84:11-12
We were supposed to leave next week to pick up our adopted son, Comerson, in Haiti. But apparently, God has other plans and we have had to hit “pause.” There come times in life when you cannot see, think, or imagine what God is doing. And it is at moments like these, we learn to trust and believe.
Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve … but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua had just completed a great military campaign which brought the Israelites into the promised land of Canaan. Joshua reminded the Israelites of the amazing journey in the wilderness that had brought them there. After 40 years of wandering and finally having a bed to rest their weary heads on, a place to actually call home, you would have thought that the Israelites would have been sold-out 100% to God, right? I mean, after all, they are settled in the land flowing with milk and honey.
Joshua implores the Israelites to set aside once and for all other idols. The people rally around Joshua’s creed and collectively promise to always and only serve the Lord and never to worship idols again.
But unfortunately, the people fell away. When we’re not careful, we fall away too. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” is something you expect Christians to proclaim. But why are the lives of so-called Christians so hard to distinguish from unbelievers? Usually it’s because the “choose this day” part is missing.
Is God asking you to do something today that you are ignoring? If so, what?
We can easily get so caught up in this world. The laundry, school work, extracurricular activities and the list goes on and on of things pulling us away. How often do we wake up, jump out of bed, ready to attack our day (or maybe it takes a cup of jo)? But we often set out on our day with an agenda of what we want to do. We have a list of things that have to get done. Maybe we feel accomplished when we cross things off of our “to do’s.”
Let’s face it: serving God takes times. Developing a relationship with Him takes discipline. Living full heartedly for Him takes devotion.
The Greek word for goodness is agathosume. It is more than an excellence of character; it is character energized by expressing itself in benevolent and active goodness. The fruit of the Spirit referred to as goodness is like kindness on steroids. It is everything that kindness is and represents, but one step more. It has an edge. It is extremely active. It doesn’t sit back and relax or take the easy road. In fact, goodness does not avoid confrontation, discipline and accountability because it is in for the long haul.
This life is chock full of difficulty. No one is immune from it. But I don’t want you to think, for even a second, God has forgotten about you. He is always watching over you. He does care about you.
Psalm 121:5, “The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.”
You could not utter those words right now because of the current dilemma you are facing. You feel like the flood waters have come and they are engulfing you. You are barely surviving. You feel like you can barely hang on. In times like this, we must grasp onto Scripture in order to remind ourselves God is there. Yes, indeed, He is watching. You may feel like the waves are going to swallow you up whole. But let me tell you something, God has a word for you.
Jeremiah 5:22, “Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it.”
I love the thought of God setting boundaries around the bad stuff in our lives. Yes, we might be tested for awhile. Yes, this life may be tough. However, ultimately, God is in control and although the waves may come crashing in, they will not prevail.
In closing, here are some of my favorite lyrics from an old hymn…
“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”
by Edward Mote, 1797-1874
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
“Often, we do everything but pray. We tend to want something more “substantial.” Even studying the Bible, going to church, talking to the pastor, or receiving counsel seems more tangible than prayer. What victory the enemy has in winning us over to prayerlessness! He would rather we do anything than pray. He’d rather see us serve ourselves into the ground, because he knows we’ll eventually grow resentful without prayer. He’d rather see us study the Bible into the wee hours of the morning like the Pharisees & Sadducees, because he knows we’ll never have a deep understanding and power to live what we’ve learned without prayer. He knows prayerless lives are powerless lives, while prayerful lives are powerful lives!” (Beth Moore, Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender, p. 71).
Interestingly, throughout Scripture, we see many prayers of blessing. God Himself first said a prayer of blessing over Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply.” God gave a similar blessing to Noah and his sons in Genesis 9:1 after they left the ark. In Genesis 12:3, we see God go one step further and not only give a blessing to Abraham, but a blessing is given for generations to come. “I [God] will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” These prayer of blessings continue: God blesses Isaac, Isaac blesses his son Jacob, Jacob blesses his 12 sons which become the 12 tribes of Israel and the list goes on and on.
Today, I want to draw your attention to the New Testament. To a prayer of blessing that Paul prayed over the church of Ephesus. Pay close attention to the specific blessings that can result from prayer.
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,” Ephesians 1:17-20
Although I may not know you or be able to tangibly see your face, I am sitting at my kitchen table today saying this prayer over you. I pray that you will know God better. I pray that your eyes will be opened to the hope to which you have been called. I pray that you will begin to realize the power…not just any power, but an INCOMPARABLY GREAT power…you have been given whose name is the Holy Spirit. I pray you know (not just think about or ponder…but actually know) that God has a plan for you. Specifically for you because He wants to include you in His work. He wants to use you to introduce your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers and others to Jesus Christ.
This incomparably great power was able to raise Jesus Christ from the dead! And we are told this power is available “for us who believe.” So, do you believe it? Does your life reflect it? Do others see it? I wonder what would happen if we started living what we believed? I wonder if our lives were infused with prayer, would we see God working? I wonder how many lives could potentially be changed if only we knew God better? Oh, how I wonder.
I gotta go now. It’s time to do some praying.
Today someone asked me if our adopted son knew who Coby and I are. Like, does he know we are his parents? It’s always a question I struggle to answer. Yes, he does know who we are and we go by “mommi” and “poppi” when we are at his orphanage. But, in all honesty, I don’t know if he really understands yet who we really are. For one, he is only two years old and he may not be able to comprehend we are his parents. And secondly, I don’t even know if he understands the concept of a family. He’s never really had one. He has incredible caretakers and is loved by many, but how do you explain to him something that he has never been a part of? How do you explain he is going to have clothes of his own…and toys, too? How do you tell him he will have brothers and sisters who cannot wait to spoil just him?
I think as believers, we also struggle with this concept. We are told we are a “new creation,” but do we really understand what that means? Can we truly comprehend what God is doing in our lives?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Cor. 5:17
God is still doing a work in us. He is molding us and transforming us into His image. Sometimes it is hard to imagine what we will become and how we will get to the end result.
It means allowing God to use whatever means He thinks is necessary to transform us. It means sometimes the fire will be hot. And we may not like it. At all! But in order for the old to be gone, we have to allow God to do His work in us. We have to trust He knows what He is doing. No matter what the cost. No matter how difficult the pain. We must continue to believe we are a work in progress and the new is here. It’s here…beneath all the clutter. It may take some refining, and polishing, and deep-cleaning for God to reveal the new you. Oh, and yes, it may also take some time.