Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Week Thirty - The Expert Juggler

In one of my videos, I talked about doing a brain dump to regain order in my life. By the way, if you didn't know, I have a YouTube channel, too. Just search my name on YouTube, and they should all come up.

Anyway, I was talking about when life gets scattered and confused, or tough things come, and you can't see your way through. At times like that, it is a good idea to focus only on the most important things, which can sometimes be hard to find. When I'm in that spot, I write down all the balls I am juggling and put them into order - most important, can wait, can get rid of, could complete today, etc. That usually unclutters my thoughts and brings me back on track.

But sometimes, I have trouble getting my balls to stay in the air or fall into a category. They become more like a ball and chain than a juggling ball! Or they won't roll straight or stay where I put them. That's when I am so thankful God is the one directing my steps. He knows where all my balls are and how they are acting.

Do you ever feel like that? To be honest, this usually happens when I create my own problem by taking on too many commitments. But other times, it is a deluge of activities and demands that all land uninvited on my plate. 

But God is the expert juggler. He manages everything. All nature, all our prayers, all kingdoms, and every broken heart are under His commitment. Nothing escapes His attention or is beyond His control. I love to think about that!

Even when my little life seems so scattered and unmanageable, God isn't afraid of it. He isn't intimidated or frustrated. He knows how it will work out. He knows how to keep all the balls juggling! And, He is right beside me.

Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established." Many, many times, I have fallen back on this promise. When life is messed up and confusion sets in, I give the whole thing back to God, and He sorts it out for me. What a relief! He is right there - notwithstanding.

2 Timothy 4:17 says, "Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me." We all need the comfort of that promise because we aren't expert jugglers.

So today, come to Him when life gets messy and you can't see your way forward. Commit your works and let Him sort your thoughts. He will help you see the way forward. He is an expert juggler!

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Week Twenty-Nine - It's Too Heavy

Do you have needy people in your life? Do they drain your energy and try your patience? Did you ever think, or do you understand, that God is aware of what they lack and has given you the resources to meet those needs? I hear some of you sighing and feeling the pain of that statement. Sometimes, I also struggle to be the caring and giving individual I hope to be. It can all seem too heavy.

When I feel that way, I remind myself of the truth and pray. God does nothing by accident. Every person that comes through my life is there for a purpose. Iron sharpeneth iron, right? And there are the sandpaper people that God uses to knock off our rough edges. Another quote I copied from somewhere reads, "Look not at the irritation but at the opportunity."

Blackaby says, "When a need surfaces around you, immediately go to the Father and say, "You put me here for a reason. You knew this was going to happen. What did You intend to do through me that would help this person become closer to You?" Recognizing a need in someone's life can be one of the greatest invitations from God you will ever experience. It's easy to become frustrated by the problems of others. They can overwhelm you as you become aware of need after need. Rather than looking at each new problem as one more drain on your time, energy, or finances, ask God why He placed you in this situation. Allow God to help you see beyond the obvious needs of others to the things He wants to accomplish in their lives. Don't miss God's activity because you're reluctant to carry the load of others."

Galatians 6:2 reminds us to carry one another's burdens to fulfill the law of Christ. His law is love. It comes alongside patience, wisdom, perseverance, and a host of other qualities that can only be developed as we exercise them by faith. Pressure causes us to grow when we handle it correctly. That heavy burden just might be God's tool.

Another thing I have found that helps me carry these burdens is to carve out time for them. I set boundaries, but I also designate purposeful amounts of time for these dear ones. I give them my full attention and listen carefully to the Spirit as we talk together so I can point them to hope in Christ. He is the one who will ultimately carry their burden, and they must learn how to find strength in Him.

So, if you have a heavy burden weighing you down today, take it to the Lord, and ask for direction and wisdom. Let me leave you with a couple more thoughts.

F.W. Faber puts a real challenge before us when he says, "Blessed is any weight, however overwhelming, which God has been so good as to fasten with His own hand upon our shoulders."

Scott Wesley Brown wrote - 

There is no problem so big God cannot solve it.
There is no mountain so tall God cannot move it.
There is no storm so dark God cannot calm it.
There is no sorrow so deep He cannot soothe it.
If He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders,
I know my brother that He will carry you.

So, dear friend, when it all gets to feeling too heavy, remember, the Lord is carrying you!

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Week Twenty-Eight - Abrupt Changes Ahead

As if two years of the pandemic weren't shocking enough, now our pocketbook is taking a hit at the pump, war is looming, and things around us are growing more and more unstable as we hear talk of blackouts, strikes, and unrest. We are going to have to begin making some necessary adjustments for the abrupt changes ahead.

For the past two weeks, I referred to Mary's response to the angel's announcement - total surrender to the radical turning point in her life. I know none of us relish abrupt changes, and they aren't usually preceded by a visit from an angel, but we, like Mary, are still called upon to trust God even when we don't understand. So how do we do that? What can we learn from Mary?

The first clue is Mary's reference to herself as the handmaid of the Lord. Handmaid is the same word as bondservant. It is defined as "one whose will was not their own but who rather was committed to another. The slave was obligated to perform the master's will without question or delay." How many of us define our Christian attitude as one of bondservant? Do we see ourselves as slaves to Christ? Sadly, I don't think we really grasp the depth of this truth.

"A handmaid would sit silently and watch for hand signals from her mistress (Psalm 123:2). Through these motions, rather than any spoken command, the mistress would communicate her wishes. The handmaiden, having been trained to watch for these signs, would then obey them - without question or hesitation."

Mary, describing herself as a handmaid, says she has cultivated that attitude and mentality and is fine-turned in her attentiveness to God. Here's what Psalm 123:2 says, "Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us."  Mary was paying attention. "So, that day in Nazareth when God moved His hand and signaled His will, Mary, His devoted handmaiden, noticed. At the flick of God's finger, she responded."

What a beautiful picture of obedience and acceptance. But that's not all we can see from Mary's response. When you look at Mary's words of praise, you see her working knowledge of God. She knew Him through the books of Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets and had a deep reverence. Hers was not a shallow faith. No, she was well versed and strong, able to yield to the will of God.

That brings us back to Romans 11:33, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" This verse is quickly followed by the admonition of Romans 12:1,2 - to be a living sacrifice. Mary certainly yielded her life as a living sacrifice to something she did not understand, and today, we continue drawing strength and encouragement from her willingness.

So, when strange things happen, we need not fall apart (1 Peter 4:12, 13) but cast ourselves upon the Lord (Psalm 27:13, 14). Either God is in control of the changes in our lives, or He is not. Either I trust Him to provide, or I do not. Our response and attitude reveal our faith. Are you His servant? Are you attentive? Would you notice God's hand? Would you see the flick of His finger? Would you obey and accept the abrupt change as Mary did? Or would you kick, cry, and complain? Good questions to consider, I'd say!

Adapted from Loving God with All Your Mind, by Elizabeth George

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Week Twenty-Seven - Accepting the Unacceptable

Today I want to share with you a portion of something I read in Elizabeth George's book, Loving God with All Your Mind, that made me rethink my attitude toward situations I find hard to accept. She's discussing Romans 11:33, which reads, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" 

She says, "This single verse has taught me how to accept the unacceptable."  Her premise is that since God's ways are past finding out, we must learn to accept the unacceptable by faith and reliance on God's perfect wisdom. She gives us four things we do not have to do and eight things we should be doing when facing the unacceptable.

1. I don't have to understand everything. This brings great freedom. You can divorce yourself from the responsibility of explaining or trying to get to the bottom of every issue when you realize it is not your responsibility to understand everything.

2. I don't need to understand everything. This attitude lets you off the hook and acknowledges that God is in control.

3. I can't understand everything. I am finite and limited, but God - who knows all and understands all - is infinite and limitless. Since God's ways are past finding out, we waste a lot of energy trying to understand things beyond our capability.

4. Why ask "Why?" "Job grabbed on to facts about God. Facts like - God is too kind to do anything cruel, too wise to make a mistake, and too deep to explain Himself. Believing these truths about God should erase all why's." We are better to ask "who?"  Who is beside me? Who will carry me through? Who knows the answer to why? Answers to those questions bring us to worship and surrender!

And the eight things we should do?

1. Know that it's okay. When we entrust ourselves to God, we experience rest and peace. He will take care of us. Times might be rough, but God is still there. It might not look like it will be okay, and that's okay. If we believe in God, we know that Romans 8:28 is valid, and even if things look different in the end, that's okay, too.

2. Let it go. When we pry our grip off the problem, we experience freedom. Grasping and clinging to our idea of how things should work out never brings us peace. Letting go and letting God work things according to the purpose of His will is a much more exciting way to live a life of faith.

3. Let God be God. He is "Un-understandable, unsearchable, inscrutable, inexhaustible, unfathomable, and impossible to grasp." And that's how it should be because He is God!

4. Let go of your right to know. Stop demanding answers. Instead, entrust yourself to Him and let your heart praise His wisdom and sovereignty. Praise is much better!

5. These are God's judgments. "Whatever has happened to you is a part of God's judgments, and they are "unsearchable." You may never understand why, so you must accept the unacceptable by faith.

6. These are God's ways. And His ways are past finding out. Better for you to yield.

7. No vengeance. God will make all things right in the end. Therefore, we are best to defer to Him. 

8. It's not them; it's Him! "One person does not have the power to limit, alter, or change your life. People are only God's instruments, and He uses them to conform you to the image of His dear Son." So pointing out blame is futile. If we are always looking to blame others, we fail to find the peace we need, and we will miss God at work in our lives.

Finally, she writes, "For eight years, I wasted time and emotional energy on a situation that was causing me real distress. But it was a situation God knew all about - and had allowed. Those years were rocky and miserable because I didn't understand that the problem was evidence of God's unsearchable wisdom and knowledge, evidence of His unfathomable judgments and ways.

And today? I still don't understand the reasons why my ongoing problem occurred. But guess what? It no longer matters! You see, now I am free! I can accept that God's ways aren't my ways, and I don't need to understand.

And there's more! Finally, because of all God has taught me through Romans 11:33, I am also determined never to waste my time or emotional energy like that again. Instead, I am intent on remembering that God's judgments and ways are not like mine. I want to defer to His wisdom and knowledge. I want to say, along with Mary, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). I want to accept the unacceptable."

As I look again at her instructions, I can hear the dismay of some of you. Living in the middle of unacceptable circumstances is not a nice place to be. It is challenging and can be soul-destroying, but I have always found these truths Mrs. George puts to us to be the ones I fall back on as well. And you can too. In your unacceptable circumstances, you will always find more peace, freedom, and encouragement in laying yourself open to the Lord than in trying to manage the situation without Him. So let me challenge you today to rethink your situation in light of these thoughts and see if God doesn't meet you there!