When Fear Comes

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;
I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

Psalms 56:3‭-‬4 ESV

Did you notice the title?  It was intentional.  I used the word when not if, for fear comes to all of us at some point in our lives. Whether it’s a fear of heights, a fear of failure, or a fear of the unknown, we all have faced and will face fear. There’s no getting around it, really. All of us at some point will have to walk outside our comfort zone, face the unexpected, or tackle the unknown. We need not ever try to avoid fear. Fear will come.

So if we know fear is inevitable, instead of wasting our precious time trying to avoid fear–instead of beating ourselves up every time we feel afraid–we need to acknowledge the fear–acknowledge it yet not embrace it.

In Psalm 56 (and throughout all the Psalms), David faced fear. He was despised, chased, hunted, and much more throughout his life. Fear was not a stranger to him. Yet what David knew, and what we must also remember, is fear is not a state of being; it’s a catalyst. We as God’s children are not supposed to remain afraid; we are to place our fears at God’s feet. We are to trust God with our fears. We are not to be afraid (meaning we are not to be continually in fear); we are to trust in God. We are to trust in the One more powerful than anything and anyone. We are not to remain afraid; we are to run to God. Fear should never be permanent in the life of a believer. Fear should never paralyze us. Rather, it should propel us into the arms of our Father.

We do not fail when we fear. Remember this today. Fear in and of itself is not failure. Rather, failure comes when we cling to the fear instead of to our Father.

So if you are afraid today, that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling fear. Death is scary. Cancer is scary. New is scary. Different is scary. Many situations in life are scary. Yet  whatever it is–known or unknown–that is causing you to be afraid today, do not allow it to keep you there. Bow before your Maker. Surrender your heart and your situation to the only One powerful enough to redeem it. Be not afraid. Be still.  Be still and know God is God. Be still and know you will see the goodness of God in land of the living. Be still and know that the One who is for you is greater than anyone or anything that could possibly be against you. Do not remain afraid about anything today.  Instead “…in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).  And as you do–as you place your fear at our Father’s feet–as you let go of what’s paralyzing you–you’ll feel the change.  No, your circumstances may not change.  The cancer may remain; your loved one may die; your future may still be unclear.  But what will not remain will be the fear; it will be replaced–replaced with faith–replaced with peace–more specifically, the peace of God–the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Therefore I encourage you now: be not continually afraid. Let God’s peace rule and reign in your heart today. Take that fear and cast it at your Father’s feet. God knows your situation.  God knows your heart.  And God knows exactly what you are going through.  So run to Him.  Embrace Him.  Trust Him.  And remember: “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37). 

Fear is not an if; it’s a when. But when fear comes, always remember, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). No one!

 

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How Could I Not

In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
Psalms 11:1‭-‬3 ESV

Has anyone ever said something to you or suggested something to you that left you wondering,”Why did they just say that?” or “How could they just suggest that?”?  Something you assumed was understood or obvious was actually questioned by another. Something you knew that you knew with your whole heart to be true was dubbed crazy or ridiculous by some else. If so, how did you respond?  Were you angry? Were you dumbfounded? Did you laugh it off? Did you begin to question what you thought you once believed?

Regardless of how you may have responded in the past, in Psalm 11 David actually gives us an example to follow the next time. Apparently right before Psalm 11, someone told David he should flee and hide because the enemy was coming and the plight of the righteous was hopeless. Someone dared to not only assume the worst but then invited David do the same. In their opinion David should flee because those arrows in the dark were surely destined to hit their mark.

David was dumfounded. He couldn’t believe someone would dare make that suggestion. He was flabbergasted that someone suggested he run in fear. Yet he didn’t get angry;  he didn’t begin to doubt. He simply responded to that crazy suggestion by asking a question.

His question? “How can you say to my soul to flee like a bird at the threat of the enemy?” In other words, he asked “How could I not trust God who is my refuge?”

David didn’t need to fear the what ifs because David knew Who God was (and is!).  David didn’t have to flee the unknown because He knew the God who knows it all. Read with me what David shared with the doubter:

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord‘s throne is in heaven;
    his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
    but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
    fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
    the upright shall behold his face.

David knew who God was, he knew where God dwelled, he knew God was in charge, and he knew both the righteous and the wicked would one day “get their reward.” David didn’t doubt what he knew just because his physical eyes could not yet see. David trusted. He trusted that one day is Faith would indeed be sight.

My favorite line is the last one: that one day the righteous will behold his face. What a promise! Oh the joy that will come when we enter His presence! No more tears, no more pain, no more sickness, no more suffering. All things will be as God intended them to be.

It is a wonderful promise.

Yet even though we who know this promise can hold on to this promise, we are often questioned by those on the outside. We are often asked “why” and “how.” Why would God allow this to happen? Why would such a good person be taken so early from this life? How could God watch this and do nothing? How could we continue to trust in a God who would “let this happen”? Maybe you have even found yourself asking those very questions. Your home has been destroyed by a hurricane. The one you love has suddenly died. The doctor’s diagnosis is not what you wanted to hear. The cry of your heart seems to be met with silence from heaven.

Well, I do not know exactly what you’re going through today, and I will not even try to pretend that I know. But I will share what I do know. Our God is in his holy Temple in heaven. Our God is righteous. Our God sees it all. Our God knows it all. And one day the wicked will perish but the righteous will see his face.

“Where is your God?” people ask. “How can you trust God in such a time like this?”  Well, here is what our answer should be:  “How could I NOT?!”  How could I not trust in God in times of trouble?  How could I not run to God for refuge? How could I not keep my eyes fixed on the promise that one day I will behold his face?  If I cannot trust in God, then whom can I trust? No one.  All people on earth will fail me.  Nothing on earth and no one on earth will last forever.  But God remains.  God is steadfast. God is immovable.  God is Lord.  And if God is Lord, how dare I question Him when things aren’t going my way.

When the Lord is your refuge, you don’t run away from the enemy; you run to your Lord. And that is my encouragement to you today. Regardless of what you are going through, regardless of the circumstances you are facing, regardless of the questions that remain unanswered–trust in the Lord. Trust in His goodness. Trust in His mercy. Trust in His promise of redemption. Trust. And as you trust, if someone comes up to you and asks you “How could you trust in a time like this?” or “How could you believe in a God that would let this happen?” Do not get angry. Do not get frustrated. Do not begin to doubt. Just pray for that person as you smile back and simply respond with, “How could I not? How could I not trust in the one who was and is and always will be? How could I not trust in the one who promised that one day–yes, one day I, even I, little ‘ole me–will one day behold his face.”

This world is not our home, my friend. This world is not our home. So as we travel through this life, let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Let us keep believing and knowing that we know that when all else falls away, God remains.  Yes, God remains. And one day, one glorious day,  the upright shall behold His face.

 

Seeing Still

I feel compelled to add to my post the other day on faith. The thing about faith is it is not based on sight. Faith believes regardless of physical evidence. Faith doesn’t make sense. I repeat: faith doesn’t make sense; it cannot be rationalized.

Many Old Testament men and women died fully believing in a Savior they never saw with their own eyes. Hebrews 11:13 reads, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

God always keeps His promises, even if we don’t see the answer during our time on earth. Joseph died fully believing God would bring him into the promised land; and it was not until several years after his death that Moses brought Joseph’s bones out of Egypt. Joseph may not have seen the promised land on earth, but he saw it in heaven.

In the New Testament, Paul prayed for a “thorn” that never went away. But Paul kept serving, kept preaching, and died knowing God is good.

On a personal level, I would love for my hormones to allow me to not be on meds, but that is not the case, so I must trust that God’s goodness is greater shown through the use of meds than the normalcy of hormones.

“What about me?”  you may ask? What about your sick child? What about the child you see struggle every day with what should be “normal” developmental  milestones? Why doesn’t God heal your child? Why doesn’t God heal every disease and sickness? Why do those we love get cancer or contract alzheimers?

The answer is simple: I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know. Your child is beautiful, and God will use her to glorify Him in some way; just keep believing. Keep seeing God and His goodness through the eyes of faith. And yes, cancer is ugly; it often takes the life of the one we love sooner than we’d like. But cancer is not too ugly for God. God can and will use its ugliness for something beautiful, even if the one suffering does not see or feel all the beauty this side of heaven.

My friend, this is what faith is: Faith is seeing the victory as having already been accomplished even if our physical eyes never lay hold of it. Even if we never understand on earth. Even if we never “see” on Earth–faith trusts. Faith knows God is righteous, God is good, and God is God, regardless.

So this is what I invite you to today. I invite you to that faith that may not understand, that may not make sense, and that may leave those around you wondering how and why you still believe and still serve and still love a God who supposedly “let this happen.” I invite you to keep believing in God and His goodness regardless of what your physical eyes may see and your physical body may feel.

God is God, and God is good–even when life is not.

Keep believing today, my friend. Do not let the things of this world take your eyes off the King of the World.  Keep believing, keep seeing, and keep moving forward knowing that He who promised is faithful and one day your faith will be made sight. Trust Him. It will.

See

Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.
Joshua 6:1‭-‬2 ESV

Walls. When Joshua’s physical eyes looked at Jericho, that’s what they would have seen– fortified, seemingly impenetrable walls. No people. No movement. Just one big wall behind which the people of Jericho were hiding.  (And I must insert here the irony of God’s comment “mighty men of valor,” for those “mighty men of valor” had heard of the God of the Israelites, and they were afraid! They were so terrified they hid themselves behind a wall!)  Unfortunately, by hiding behind the wall, the men of Jericho were also erroneously placing their trust in that wall. “Surely,” they must have thought, “those Israelites will never get beyond our walls.  No human being on earth could get beyond our borders.” And in a way they were right. The Israelites could not penetrate the fortified city, but God could.  Yes, God could–for no wall is ever too big, too fortified, or too impenetrable for God.

So while the men of Jericho looked with their eyes and assumed the wall before them would protect them, God saw the truth–and He invited Joshua to join Him in seeing the truth–to join Him in looking beyond the physical–to “see” the victory God had already given.  God invited Joshua to believe, to trust, and to have faith that with God all things are possible.

And Joshua believed. When God pointed to the seemingly fortified city and said, “See,” Joseph saw. He saw the victory. He saw that wall with the eyes of faith–a faith that breathes and thrives on what is not seen.  He saw the promise fulfilled. Joseph saw by faith what God had promised.

And it was with this faith he acted.  It was by this faith “…the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30).  Joshua wasn’t afraid of the wall–or the “mighty men of valor” cowering behind the wall.  Joshua didn’t trust in the Israelites’ physical or mental prowess to take down the wall. He didn’t analyze the wall for some kind of weakness. No. While his physical eyes gazed at a wall, his eyes of faith saw its fall.

And that, my friend, is the faith I desire–a faith that circles the walls in my life with confidence that God has already brought them down.   True faith is indeed “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith gives us the ability to “see” with our spiritual eyes what is not yet visible in the earthly realm.  Faith looks at the cancer and sees healing.  Faith looks at death and sees heaven.  Faith looks at the for sale sign and sees “sold.” Faith knows that it knows that it knows that He who promised is faithful–that the One who put the world into motion is more than able to tear down that wall that looms in the distance.

I’m not sure what your wall is today–an uncertain future, a house needing to sell, a dream seemingly shattered, an unexpected bill.  I’m not sure, but God knows.  God knows the very wall before you, and He is inviting you now to see.  See the victory. See its fall.  See that He has delivered the enemy into your hand.   See that with God all things are possible–yes, “all things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23).

Therefore

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1 ESV

“Therefore.” We use this word when we desire those listening to act or at least realize something based on what we just shared.  It is a form of cause and effect. Because I said this, you should accept or do this. Because of this situation, you should behave in this particular manner. Therefore (pun intended), when Paul begins chapter 12 with “therefore,” it is imperative we look back to what he just shared. For what he just shared directly correlates to the message he is about to deliver.

So what did he just share? Well, the chapter preceding Romans 12 is a chapter focused on God’s wisdom in the hardening of some hearts and the softening of others. Paul reminds his readers that God can and will use the disobedience of the Israelites to bring salvation to the Gentiles and then the obedience of the Gentiles to lead the Israelites back to obedience. He points out that God has a plan for both the Gentiles and the Israelites–that neither is worthy of salvation, but both will receive salvation.

Paul then ends the chapter with the following declaration:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33‭-‬36 ESV)

Did you catch what led to Paul’s appeal in verse one of Romans 12?

For from and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever….Therefore.

Because God is God. Because His ways are higher and more intricate than our finite minds could ever comprehend. Because nothing we could ever do or say could ever earn what God has freely given to us. Because God deserves glory through everything–yes everything. Because of who God is and who we are (and are not), we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices. Every moment of every day we are to submit ourselves to Him. When we don’t understand–when our hearts are hurting–when our world is crumbling before us–we are to submit. We are to get on our knees and cry out, “Thy will be done.” And even when life is good and all is well, we are to submit–we are to offer ourselves to Him with humility and reverence.

Why?

Because He is God and we are not. Because from him and through him and to him are all things. Yes, all things. No, God doesn’t cause evil. No, God does not send us temptation. But He can use it. He can use that neighbor’s hardened heart. He can use that sweet little girl’s horrible illness. He is more than able and more than willing to use anything–and anyone–for His good pleasure.

Therefore, I urge you as Paul does in Romans 12: present yourself to God as a living sacrifice today. Whether or not you like and whether or not you understand your current circumstances, bow before Him today. Bow before Him and say, “Here I am, Lord; use me. Use me in my brokenness. Use my hurting heart.” Or if all is well, cry out for God to use your comfort to comfort others. Submit your well being to the One who deserves the glory for it.

Now I am not sure what you are going through today. I am not sure where you have been or where you are going. I do not know the things you have suffered, the pain you have endured, or the heartache you are currently experiencing. I cannot even fully understand the joy, peace, and contentment that may be overwhelming your soul this very moment.

But God does. God knows it all. He knows each of us intimately. He knows each of us more than we know ourselves. And He knows exactly what you are thinking and exactly what you need this very moment.

So rest in this today. Rest in the knowledge that God is God, and you are as child. And regardless of whether or not you understand what is happening to you or going on around you, submit. Present yourself as that living sacrifice–a sacrifice made holy and acceptable by the grace of God. For in so doing you are worshipping. You are praising. You are giving glory to the only One who deserves it. You are not being conformed; you are being transformed–“...that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:2 NKJV).

Speak

And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
Ezekiel 2:6‭-‬7 ESV

Be not afraid. Three times God repeated this command to Ezekiel. God exhorted Ezekiel not to fear the people of Israel–neither what they said nor what they did. For God knew what was coming. God knew the house of Israel was rebellious. God knew not everyone would heed the warnings spoken through Ezekiel. God knew the nation needed to be warned by someone–but God also knew that someone had to be willing to be bold enough to speak despite rejection. To speak despite ridicule and persecution. To do God’s will regardless man’s response. By telling Ezekiel to fear not, God was reminding Ezekiel–and in turn reminding us–our obedience to God is our concern; the obedience of others is theirs.

Let me explain. In Ezekiel 3:17, God spoke to Ezekiel:  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.” This means Ezekiel was called to speak and to share the messages God gave to him, but he was not responsible for what Israel did with those warnings.

You see, in Old Testament times, a watchman’s post was on the wall looking out. His purpose was to help protect the people and the city by diligently keeping an eye out for anything and anyone who could possibly threaten the well being of those he was charged to protect. The watchman did not concern himself with the battle that may or may not come based on his report. The watchman did not focus on how the people might handle the news he shared; the watchman just shared. The watchman reported what he observed. What the people did with that report was not his responsibility.

The same went for Ezekiel. God explained to Ezekiel,   “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 3:18‭-‬19). In other words, Ezekiel was charged with obeying God’s voice. He was not responsible for the willingness or ability of Israel to heed God’s message conveyed through him.

What gets a watchman in trouble is not the actual message he may give, even if it is one of impending disaster; it’s the failure to convey the message to begin with. If a watchman were to see something unusual and not report it, he would be held accountable, even more so if his failure to report led to the downfall or death or defeat of a people or a nation. A watchman must report what he sees, but he then must not be afraid to leave the response up to those with whom he has shared. The potential response does not change the necessity to report. “They may not like what I say,” or “They may not believe my report,” would never keep a watchman from warning the people.

And it should not affect us either.

How people respond to the message of hope–the  message of salvation we are called to share–should never stop us from sharing. When we get to heaven, God’s not going to say, “Well done, people listened to you.” No, He’s going to say, “Well done, you obeyed my voice; you served Me.” Our faithfulness to God does not and should not depend on what others say, do, or think about us. People cannot affect our destiny. No words or actions done by man could ever change the relationship between God and His child–unless the child allows it to.

We do not have power over people. And we should not allow them to have power over our relationship with God. If God calls us to go into the world and preach the gospel (which He does in Matthew 28), then we are to go. Go to our families. Go to our friends. Go to our workplace, our neighborhoods, our grocery stores. Go to the uttermost parts of the world and preach. We are to share the good news with those around us. Sure, not everyone will receive what we share. We may even be persecuted for what we share. But what people do with what we share is not our responsibility. Our responsibility–our service and our duty–is to God alone. He is the author and finisher of the faith. He is the beginning and the last. He is the one we must serve. He alone.

So today, whatever it is God has asked you to do or to say, I encourage you to obey. Obey His voice without hesitation and without fear. Whether or not your words or actions are received is not the point. The point is you have a relationship with God. And to obey Him is worth far more than the praises of man. Man may make your time on earth unpleasant, but God is yours for eternity.  Therefore join me today in choosing to live our lives in the light of eternity–to obey God’s voice regardless the repercussions.

Let us speak the truth in love. Let us do all things without complaining. And as much as depends on us, let us live peacably with those around us (Romans 12:18).  Yet as we walk out the words of Jesus today, remember, not everyone accepted the message of Jesus. Not everyone received the words spoken by the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And not everyone will receive you either. But that’s okay. God doesn’t call us to control others; He calls us to serve Him. So serve Him today. Serve him faithfully and  diligently. And whether you are received or rejected, remind yourself of this: He who is with you is greater than he who is against you. Man’s words fade away, but God’s Word is eternal.

Greater

After these things and this faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and besieged the fortified cities, intending to take them for himself.
2 Chronicles 32:1

After these things…after this faithfulness…they were about to be invaded.

Really?! This is what they were going to get for serving God?

I must confess this thought popped into my head as I read the above verse. And I’m guessing it may have crossed the minds of the men and women of Judah as well at the news of the looming invasion. How could it be? They had just completed a 180 in their walk with God. Were they really going to lose it all so soon?

No. No they weren’t. God had a plan. But I’m sure we can all relate to what the men of Judah must have been thinking. I’m sure we’ve all been there. We are going along our way seeking God, serving God, loving God, and then disaster appears out of nowhere. Death, destruction, and turmoil invade our world. Or maybe we were going the wrong way but then repented and turned our eyes back to Jesus–yet just when we thought we could breathe a sigh of relief, everything begins to unravel. That new life of service to God begins turning into a nightmare.

And although such circumstances are often unpleasant and seemingly unfair, we must take with us the truth exhibited in the story of Hezekiah: God is stronger. He is stronger than our circumstances. Stronger than our struggles. And definitely stronger than our enemy.

Let’s look at King Hezekiah for a moment. When Hezekiah became king of Judah, the spiritual well being of the nation was in shambles. Nothing and no one was consecrated. No sacrifices or worship was taking place. God was on the back burner. But then Hezekiah did what was right. He destroyed the idols, consecrated the temple, reinstituted and reorganized the priesthood, restored temple worship, and began again the Passover celebration. He was steadfast in His faith, encouraging in his words, and focused on prayer.  The writer of Chronicles says it best: “This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah; and he did what was good, right, and true before the Lord his God. Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in keeping with the law and the commandment, seeking and inquiring of his God [and longing for Him], he did with all his heart and prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20-21).

Yet no sooner did Hezekiah complete the spiritual reformation than the enemy came. And quite frankly, this is not unusual. The enemy always finds the faithful a threat and determines to take him down. When we love and serve the Lord, the enemy hates it. And he will do what it takes to bring us down and undo what God has done. Nevertheless, we must always remember, God is stronger.  What the enemy intends for evil, God is more than able to use for His good and for His glory.

And Hezekiah knew this. He knew God was stronger. He knew God was able. So with confidence he encouraged the people of Judah: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria, nor because of all the army that is with him; for the One with us is greater than the one with him. With him there is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:7-8a‭).

With him there is only an arm of flesh. But our God is greater. Hezekiah knew the truth that nothing and no one on this earth can take away what God has done. So even when the men of Assyria began taunting the men of Judah. Even when they ridiculed their trust in God, claiming that the God of Israel was no better and no stronger than the gods of the other nations they destroyed. Hezekiah knew the truth. He knew the king of Assyria had no clue who he was dealing with.

Therefore Hezekiah prayed. Hezekiah prayed for God to be God.

And God answered.

God sent an angel. I must admit I love this part. God could have armed Hezekiah and his men and given them victory through battle. But He didn’t. God could have sent a legion of angels to smite the Assyrian army.  But He didn’t. God wanted to show the king of Assyria that the God of Israel is like no other–the God of Israel is not the work of man’s hands; man is the work of His. So God sent an angel. Not angels. Angel. One angel sent by God “cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria” (2 Chronicles 32:21). And the battle was over–over before it began. The God of all destroyed the enemy.

And what God did for Hezekiah, He is more than able to do for you as well.  Remember this truth today: “you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  He who is with us is greater than anything and anyone who could come against us. Turning our eyes upon Jesus and remaining steadfast in our faith is never a mistake. No amount of unrest and turmoil threatening our earthly lives could ever undo what God has done within. The God who can change our hearts is powerful enough to change our circumstances as well. Yet I would be remiss if I did not insert here that even if He doesn’t–even if our sickness doesn’t go away, our loved one dies, and that dream job remains elusive–God is still God. He is more than able, and He always has a plan. We must keep believing and keep trusting that although God’s way may not be the way we want, we can rest assured it is the way He wills.

So let God show himself to be God in your life today. Whether He changes your attitude toward the circumstances, the circumstances themselves, or a little of both, let Him show you and show those around you that when God is with you, no one can stand against you.  Let Him remind your heart that the One who is with you is greater than the one with the world, for with the world is the arm of flesh, but with you is the Lord.

God’s Got This; God’s Got You

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Why should I feel discouraged and why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion, a constant Friend is He, 
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy; 
I sing because I’m free; 
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Let not your heart be troubled; these tender words I hear; 
And resting on his goodness I lose my doubts and fears; 
Though by the path He leadeth but one step I may see; 
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy; 
I sing because I’m free; 
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted; whenever clouds arise; 
When songs give place to sighing; when hope within me dies; 
I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free; 
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy; 
I sing because I’m free; 
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

“I know He watches me.” What a comforting thought; what a comforting truth. And with them comes both confidence and peace. Confidence knowing God’s got “this”–whatever “this” is.  And peace knowing God’s got you. This very moment you are in the hands of your loving heavenly Father. He’s watching over you. He cares for you. He promises to never leave you.  Yet the words of this beautiful song are not just wishful thinking; they aren’t just the cry of a heart hoping by some chance God will look its way. No. They are truth. They are words of life and love taken straight from the Word of God.

In the tenth chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus sends out the twelve apostles. As He sends them out, He gives them instructions regarding what to bring and what to do. He also warns them not everyone will receive them and persecution will arise.  He reminds them that if people will persecute Him, then they will persecute His followers as well. Yet in addition to telling them what to bring and forewarning them being witnesses is not going to be a walk in the park,  Jesus gives them an important truth: no matter how bad it looks–no matter how much they are rejected, they are not to fear. Jesus tells them, “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:26‭-‬31).

Fear not, for you are more valuable than sparrows. What a life-giving truth from the mouth of our Lord! When you don’t know what step to take, fear not. When the truth you speak is met with scorn, fear not. When you feel alone in your desire for righteousness, fear not. Fear not, because God’s got you. Not a single word spoken to you or against you is a surprise to the One who watches over you. Not a single deed done has not been foreseen by your Father in heaven. Even though you may not like nor understand why people come against you or why your future appears rocky, you can trust that the God whose eye is on the sparrow is also watching over you.

And this is my encouragement to you today: God knows. He knows your heart, your hurt, your confusion. He knows what you’re going through. He knows it all.  And He’s got it all.  He’s got you. Even if you feel unnoticed and unloved, God sees you and God loves you.  He sees your desire to follow Him. He sees your desire for truth. He sees your determination to speak in the light what He has told you in the dark. And whether or not people receive you–whether or not circumstances go your way–God’s got you. He’s got it all.

Fear not what man can do to you, my friend.  Fear not the uncertainty of what may come. For no man has the power to send you to hell. No one and nothing on this earth could ever change your eternity if you are a follower of Jesus. So walk out the words of our Lord today with confidence: Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Walk with Him. Trust in Him. Follow His lead. And know that there is no need to be afraid–no need to dwell on the “what ifs” of this life. For the God who watches over sparrows is watching over you.

 

Beautifully Complex

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether….
13 For you formed my inward parts;

    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:1-4; 13-16

Yes, I know, we have heard this passage time after time.   We often use this entire psalm to remind us God knows us more than we know ourselves, God formed us before the foundation of the earth, and God has plans for our lives beyond what we can see with our eyes.  Yet as I conversed with a friend the other day, and as I’ve watched the news headlines in recent days, God has reminded me of another important truth written within these lines, a truth that is key to living a healthy life as God intended. Yet it is also a truth currently being challenged by society. It is affecting our families, our friends, and most recently, our military. What is it?

Gender identity.

Now please don’t stop reading. I’m not one to typically broach such topics, but after recent events, I feel compelled to do so.

During a conversation with a friend the other day, my friend mentioned a child she knows who by physical traits, is a girl, but in all other attributes, is quite boyish.  The little girl likes all things boy–so much so the family will sometimes comment to this little girl, “You should have been a boy.” Now I know the intentions of such a comment toward the little girl are not meant for evil or made in a derogatory manner.  I know this little girl is well loved by her family. I understand they make this comment in a light hearted way simply because she is a girl who gravitates toward all things boy. I’d say their outlook is the equivalent of the tomboy label of years past.

Yet even though I know the good intentions of such a comment, hearing it the other day struck something inside of me. And my heart hurt for the little girl. For it is such comments–no matter how innocently spoken–that are filling the minds of impressionable young lives nowadays. Some boys are being told they “should have been” girls.  Some girls are being told they “should have been” boys.  And some parents are actually choosing to “let their children decide” what gender they desire to be. Yet in all this, young people are getting the wrong message. They end up thinking that if the ones they love believe they “should have been a boy” or “should have been a girl,” then maybe they should have been. Maybe the wires got crossed while they were being formed. Maybe what they were meant to be isn’t who they are. Maybe who they are is a mistake. In fact, some–believing their body a mistake–actually change their physical bodies to reflect who they think they should be.

This grieves my heart, for too many people are starting to think they are a mistake. But God doesn’t make mistakes. I repeat: God doesn’t make mistakes.

People make mistakes. And I believe it is in part our mistake as a society that has led to this gender identity crisis.

What is our mistake? It’s two-fold. First, we assume that just because someone acts in a way contrary to society’s definition of normal, then that person is a mistake.  We think if a boy plays with dolls or acts in a “feminine” manner then he must want to be a girl.   Or if a girl hates dresses and dolls but loves to play war and wrestle with the boys, then she must want to be a boy. We have these preconceived notions about what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl.

Yet our notions are just that. Notions. There is a difference between societal expectations and Biblical standards. Going against societal norms doesn’t equate with being out of God’s will. Nor does accepting God’s will always match up with the world. Going against the flow doesn’t make someone wrong; it just makes someone different. And God loves (and often uses) different. God loves (and often uses) unique. God doesn’t want us to act the way society expects; He calls us to be who He designed us to be. And if who we are does not fit the norms of society, then so be it.

It shouldn’t be wrong to be different. It shouldn’t be wrong for a boy to like things typically associated with girls. It shouldn’t be wrong for a girl to like things typically associated with boys. But it should be wrong to convince someone that God must have intended them to be someone else– that God somehow messed up in how He fashioned them.

Which brings me to our second mistake: we think we know more than God. We think that if our physical bodies don’t “fit” our personalities, then God must have made a mistake. And if God made a mistake, then we should fix it. Yet we have no right to “fix” God. We have no right to believe that when God intricately wove someone together that He somehow missed a stroke. We have no right to steer someone in a direction that leads them to doubt their value, their worth, and their God-given identity.

Here’s the deal. This gender identity issue isn’t about being born the wrong way; it’s about a group of people who feel the only way to feel whole is to change who they are. They feel they’re trapped in the wrong body because what people expect of them is not who they are. But God doesn’t want any of us to change who we are; He wants to use us as we are for His good pleasure.

Does the propensity of a little girl to be boyish mean her female features are a mistake? Should a little girl like the one my friend knows have been born a boy?

No! God doesn’t make mistakes. No one is born by accident. No one. God doesn’t create someone then say, “Oops! Why did I make her a girl?” God intricately fashioned each of us. He knew exactly what He was doing when He formed us. As He penned our story, He knew the qualities necessary to fulfill His plan. The One who created us–the One who formed our inward parts–knows the specific purpose He has for us, and it is with that specific purpose in mind He created us. God knows us more than we know us.

This girl my friend knows and those in similar circumstances to her are not mistakes; they are masterpieces. They were created by God for God. They are beautifully complex. In fact, we as people created by God are all beautifully complex. Each of us is unique. Each of us is a purposeful creation of our Creator. This means a female is meant to be a female, regardless of whether or not she chooses to act that way according to society’s standards.  A male is meant to be a male, regardless of whether or not he chooses to act that way according to society’s standards.

This little girl my friend knows, and all those individuals who may be struggling to figure out who they are, have been designed beautifully complex and for a specific purpose. Not one of them is a mistake. I fully believe God can and will use a little girl’s love of all things boy as well as her feminine identity to impact the world for His glory.  She doesn’t need to change who she is; she needs to be who she is.  And my prayer is that those who love her will speak such words of life into her heart so she may know she was designed complex and intricately by a God who loves her intimately.  She is valuable; she is a gift. And she is not mistake; she’s a masterpiece.

So my prayer today, and I hope it will become yours as well, is that every individual will see their worth and their value from God’s perspective–that they will realize and know God doesn’t make mistakes. God is more than able to and will use every aspect of our personalities–even the “unconventional” traits–for His good pleasure.

No one is a mistake; everyone is a masterpiece. And this includes you.  You are a masterpiece, my friend. You are a beautifully complex masterpiece. God did not make a mistake when he created you, when he formed you, or when he fashioned you. God knew exactly who he wanted you to be, and He designed you with that purpose in mind.

So today, whether or not you feel you fit into the mold of society’s standards and expectations–whether or not you live life inside or outside the box–remember whose you are: You are God’s. God created you, God loves you, and God will never let you go. He’s got plans for you, my friend–plans beyond your understanding, beyond your comprehension, yet full of hope and full of promise. You are special. You are unique. And you are loved. Don’t change who you are. Be who God designed you to be: fearfully and wonderfully made.

Heavenly Harvest

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 6:1

I’m sure we’ve all been there: compelled by the Holy Spirit to act, you sent an email or text to encourage a friend. You left a gift for someone in need. You paid a bill for a struggling family. You posted a particular Scripture on Facebook. You did something you knew at the time God had called you to do. You did it, not for human praise, but because you knew not to do it would have been to disobey God. You did it for God’s glory.

Nevertheless, even though your motives were pure, you were still a bit surprised when your act of obedience yielded silence in return. The text was left unanswered. The gift never mentioned. The family appeared unphased. That Facebook post apparently unread and without a single like. Again, you didn’t do it for the praise, but the silence leaves you wondering. Did you really hear from God? Was that really the Holy Spirit telling you to do or to say what you did? It sure would have been nice if someone would have provided a bit of confirmation you were on the right track–a little indication you had really heard from God. But nothing. Nothing other than the conviction you did what you did because God told you to do it.

Well, rejoice in this, my friend. Rejoice in knowing that in God’s kingdom, the silence of today might just be the distance between our faithful service and heaven’s eternal praise. Silence on earth does not mean we missed God. It may very well mean we did exactly His will; He’s just saving the full weight of applause for eternity.

Now I am not implying that confirmation or appreciation on earth negates any eternal reward. It’s okay to be appreciated. It’s okay to be thanked. It’s okay to be recognized. It’s okay to be blessed for being a blessing. What I am saying is that whenever we sincerely act as God commands, we must also remain confident that the God who sees all will one day reward all. We must not doubt we heard His voice just because our eyes see no visual confirmation of His approval. We must trust and believe any act of obedience to God–recognized or not on earth by man–will indeed reap an eternal harvest.

God does not judge based on how people receive or don’t receive what we do; God judges the heart. He takes note of our obedience. And whether or not our obedience is ever rewarded this side of heaven, we must continue the walk of faith–we must continue doing what God calls us to do. We must trust that God promises a harvest in heaven for those who sow on earth–and God’s promises are always yes and amen.

In Matthew 25, Jesus previews the judgment by describing how the Father will gather all nations and then separate them as a Shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He tells the sheep, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). He thanks them for feeding Him, clothing Him, visiting Him, and taking Him in. Yet the sheep don’t understand. They ask God, “When? When did we do all this?” And God responds, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40). This means every act of obedience–every act of generosity and goodwill we do as God commands–is the same as if we did it directly for Him. And whatever we do for God will also be rewarded by God.

I’m sure most will agree we are an instant gratification society. If we want something, we get it. If we put something in, we immediately want something back. Waiting is not something we like to do. Even my kids, when they have a question, don’t want to wait; they just come to me  and say, “Mom, ask your phone.”

But God works differently, for His timetable is eternity. Man’s recognition–or lack thereof–means nothing in eternity. Therefore, I encourage you today: don’t let the lack of human appreciation discourage you from walking the path of obedience. Do not grow weary in well doing. Keep listening. Keep obeying. Keep marching forward in faith knowing your Father who sees in secret will reward you–if not in this age, then definitely in the one to come. The seeds you are sowing now will one day be a beautiful harvest in heaven.

Keep on keeping on, my friend. You are loved.