June 25, 2017

Will You Trace the Path?

When I am facing the unknown in my future or facing significant choices and decisions, I look back and trace how God has worked in my life in previous circumstances. I remember answered prayer. I remember how He opened doors that I thought were closed to me. I remember how He moved on my behalf and made things possible that looked difficult to me. 
When we trace the path of God’s great work in our lives, He will remind us that we can trust Him because of the great things He has already done. 

David gives us this example when he takes up the challenge to battle Goliath. He knew God would be with him in the battle against Goliath because God had already been with him and delivered him from a lion and a bear. Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:37 

In Exodus God repeatedly reminds the Israelites that they can trust Him to take them through the wilderness and into the Promised Land because they had already seen what He did in Egypt with the plagues and what He did to deliver them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. Exodus 19:3-5 

Abraham believed God would intervene somehow when God tested him and asked him to sacrifice Isaac, because He’d seen God bless him and Sarah with a child when it was impossible for Sarah to conceive, and because of the promises God had already made to Abraham regarding making him the father of a great nation. Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. Genesis 22:13 

We will find many examples among the men and women in the Bible who trusted God for great things because they had seen Him work mightily before, and we have the examples in our own lives as we recall the evidences of God at work in our various life circumstances over the passage of time.

The greatest strengthening factor for our faith is when God works in our lives in a way that grows our trust in Him, and then the next time we are challenged, we remember what He has already done.

If there is a challenge before you right now—that looks unattainable and beyond your ability to achieve, will you trace the path of what God has already done in your life?

June 21, 2017

Peace Like a Bright Shining Sun

Dawn’s early light didn’t have much light this morning. Instead, dark clouds stretched across the horizon blocking the morning sunlight just like the heaviness that is trying to hover over me, a heaviness that I must choose to push away. 
I could see narrow ribbons of gold and pink behind breaks in the clouds, and I could see that the sun was shining behind those thick clouds. 

Peace like a bright shining sun waits for me behind those clouds!  

Maybe I am the one doing the blocking as I begin to pile on fretting, stressing, and far too much worrying. Maybe I need to let go of some things, lay some things down and walk away. 

Maybe I need to breathe the fresh air of God’s peace.

Sometimes it is as simple as a choice, and if it is as simple as a choice then I am going to choose God’s peace.

It is one of God’s mysterious ways that in surrendering our human failings and drawing on His strength, and not our own—we will ultimately find the peace and the strength we were trying to find because it is found in the Lord.

Yes, I will breathe in the satisfying richness of His peace because this is what He wants for me.

I will push away those dark clouds of heaviness and welcome the light and open my heart to all the peace God has to offer me in great and exceeding abundance.

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 4:6-7
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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

June 18, 2017

Where Tears Go

You number my wanderings;  
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?  Psalm 56:8

When I served as a lay counselor in our church in Houston before our move to Dallas nine years ago, there were always boxes of tissues on the tables in all the counseling rooms. Each session usually began with someone breaking down and crying and inevitably reaching for a Kleenex box and pulling out several tissues while tearfully saying, “I’m sorry.” 

The tears they spilled would open the way for them to let go of deep and troubling pain and finally share it with an objective party who could offer the words of hope and encouragement as counselors are trained to do. Often those tears had needed to be shed for a long time.

As we talked I would often share the verse in Psalm 56 that reminds us that God keeps our tears in a bottle. I would explain how He knows each tear that falls and He knows exactly what we are going through. I was surprised at the number of people who were not familiar with this verse and found that they always asked, “What verse is that? Can you write it down for me?”

This is a verse of great comfort. The visual portrayal of God collecting our tears communicates to us that they are important to Him. When I think of God keeping our tears in a bottle, I also tend to believe He holds them in His heart.

In verse 9 of this same chapter—a psalm written by David under great duress, David declares that God is for him. 

Yes, a God who cares about our tears is a God that is for us.

When I cry out to You,
Then my enemies will turn back;
This I know, because God is for me.  Psalm 56:9

June 14, 2017

The Prayer Garden

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. ~ James 4:8
My large back yard flower bed that I refer to as my garden is sanctuary to my quiet heart. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden overwhelms me with its beauty whichever season I visit. The wildflowers at our nearby Breckenridge Park delight me every spring.

And now The Prayer Garden is etched in my heart for the few moments I could spend there on the one sunny afternoon among the multiple days it rained while I attended the writers conference in North Carolina a few weeks ago. 

No one else was there and I could not believe how fortunate I was to have this place to myself. Mine is a heart that thrives on moments like this. I could sit on one of the inviting benches or walk among the flowers and trees and across the covered bridge, whispering freely every thought out loud to God because it was just us. Warmed by the spring sun in the middle of this Prayer Garden in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it was just us. 

As I felt His closeness, I was reminded of the verses that tell us He is not a God that is far off. He is a God that desires to have a close relationship with His beloved children. He wants to walk with us whether it is during a busy day at the office or while we are tending to our homes and family, or quietly in a garden. It can truly be said of Him that He is always near.

“Am I a God near at hand,” says the Lord,
“And not a God afar off?
Can anyone hide himself in secret places,
So I shall not see him?” says the Lord;
“Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord.
Jeremiah 23:23-24

The Prayer Garden is located on the property of the LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, NC.