Thursday, September 28, 2017

Signposts on This Journey

Three years ago (plus a couple of months) we began this blog to reflect our current journey with God. Now, a little further down the road on that journey, here are a few things that I've (Scott) learned. (I won't speak for Cindy. I'll let her tell her own thoughts if she chooses.) There are a few "signposts" if you will.

1. God is faithful.
God is faithful...even when I'm not. He supplies the faith I need to be faithful. Before this journey, I trusted God and knew that He loves and cares for us. I've seen too many "it just happened" instances to doubt that God works in the world today. But this journey has shown me in new ways that God is Sovereign and He will not let us down. Yes, we struggle sometimes but that's to whittle away more of the "not depending on Him" aspects in my life. God is still at work and I must depend on Him.

2. I'm a slow learner. Or at least a stubborn one.
When I read back through some of the posts on this blog, I see that I've already "learned" something that I am currently relearning. I have trouble changing my mind about what I think should be happening. I think that one thing should be happening...God shows me that something else should be happening...I thank Him for leading...then I go back to trying to make the first thing happen again. I trust God. But sometimes I act as if I must make sure He does it the right way (i.e., my way). So He must remind me (again) to trust His way.

3. Letting go is easy and hard.
Even if you know that God is leading in a different way (His way), it is still hard to let go of a dream or concept or plan. (See #2.) God showed me this when the truck was wrecked. I knew - before we even contacted the insurance company - that it would be totaled. It's 20+ years old. The damage was pretty significant, even the truck did still run. I prepared myself for the decision. And they did total it. Cindy and I talked about paying repairs ourselves and keeping the truck. (I really did like it.) But I knew that we had to let it go. We needed to take payment from the insurance company and get another vehicle. And God provided one that cost only a small amount over what the insurance company paid for the truck. God showed me that letting go is easy when grounded in Him. But it's also hard because...well...change is hard. (And sometimes I still miss the truck - but I enjoy the gift God gave us in our little car.)

These are not the only lessons but they are some big ones. And, when I read through them, they really add up to one lesson: "He must increase but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

Friday, June 30, 2017

Asking in Difficult Times

We have had some tragic things happen to families in our church recently. The impact of these has pushed through many in our church and even into the community. Often in these tragic times, we wonder why God would allow these types of things to happen to children or to families who are trusting and following Him.

Nothing remotely comparable has happened to me or my family. But we still have difficulties and struggles. And even in these relatively minor struggles we ask why. We often wonder and ponder how and why such things occur.

Job did. Job lost everything--his animals and his wealth; his family; even his health. And Job had sought to follow God faithfully. He didn't curse God when he lost what he had. But he did ask lots of questions: Why was I even born? Why should I continue to hope? What future do I have? Why have you made me your target? (Job 3:11; 6:11; 7:20) Job wondered why things had happened to him since he had sought to be faithful and follow God.

This week I sat in funerals, listened to words from my pastor, and have pondered these issues. And in my limited understanding, one particular thought became abundantly clear. The question is not WHY. The question to ask in these difficult times is WHO. Who is the One that is Ruler? Who is the strength and comfort? No matter what, who is ultimately the victor?

When God speaks to Job, this is the question God offers: Who laid the cornerstone of creation? Who set the boundaries of darkness? Who established the seasons? God asks question after question about these things. (Job 38-41) And what is Job's reply? "I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours is thwarted." (Job 42:2)

When things are difficult and even tragic, we can know that we are still in God's hand. God holds us and helps us. He is there. And we can trust Him, even when all it seems we see is darkness.

So I'm going to give up on WHY and focus on WHO.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lest We Miss His Kingdom's Goal

Traveling on this journey of the Christian life is continually revealing. I (Scott) continue to see God at work, leading us and providing for us. I continue to see how I fail Him daily. And sometimes when I look back to earlier times, I wonder if I'm regressing rather than progressing.

I remember times when I was more faithful to pray. I see times when it seems I was more connected to God than I sometime feel now. I wonder if my life was more as it should be with God than it is now. However, as I prayed and pondered on these things, a new thought gave me pause. Maybe, in my continual journey with God, I am more aware of things in my life that are not what they should be.

Maybe as I mature, I see areas that need attention. I see where my pride fuels actions. I see times I neglected to act as God would lead. I am more attuned to the pull of disobedience. As God chisels away things in my life, more of the underneath is brought out, areas that laid hidden but now have seen exposed to His light.

So I rejoice in these newly discovered areas. I do not rejoice that I am still immature and worldly. But I rejoice that God is at work, helping me discover them and, hopefully, releasing them to become more as He would have me to be.

Today I read these words from the hymn "God of Grace and God of Glory." This is the third verse (you know, the one that Baptists often skip!).
Cure your children's warring madness;bend our pride to your control;shame our wanton, selfish gladness,rich in things and pour in soul.Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,lest we miss your kingdom's goal,lest we miss your kingdom's goal.                         --Henry Emerson Fosdick
These words, written in 1930, could have been penned today. Often our society - and we Christians in our society - focus on selfishness and pride, rich in things but poor in soul. I see God working on my own selfishness and pride, things that I did not (maybe chose not) to see in years past. Or maybe I was just too busy focusing on other things that needed to be chiseled away. 

A large part of our journey now has been trusting God and not ourselves. I pray that God would work to keep me focused on His kingdom's goal and not on my own selfish ambitions or my own ideas of what should be happening in my life. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Broken for God



The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God. Psalm 51:17 (CSB)

Some things have happened over the last few weeks that have made me (Cindy) think. A few weeks ago, on Sunday, April 23, was the third anniversary of the accident. The car accident landed me in the hospital with some serious injuries. I was broken—broken for God.

This incident changed my life. Not physically, because I have fully recovered from my injuries. But spiritually, I will never be the same. Everything that happened caused me to look into my relationship with God. Was I really relying on God the way I should? Was I trying to grow in Christlikeness, or was I putting on a show for others to prove how much I was following God? Did I have true love for people, or was I just tolerating people?

Sadly, when I really examined my faith, I came up lacking. Looking back, seeing where God was leading is now clear. God broke me to bring me back to Him. I can say with assurance that my faith is stronger than ever before. I have no worries, but give them all to God. I believe that nothing happens except what God ordains. I know that whatever comes along the way, God will handle it.

Here is what I know: If God has chosen you, He will pursue you with a relentless love. He will use any method He chooses to get your attention.

Are you listening?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Soft Whisper

I have often heard people refer to the "still small voice" of God. For a long time I wondered about that. I always picture God's voice as big and booming. God is omnipotent and vast - so isn't His voice the same way.

I remember the first time I read 1 Kings 19, the story of Elijah in a cave. In 1 Kings 18 Elijah confronted 400 prophets of Baal. In that encounter, God made Himself known and the people saw who was the real true God. Then Elijah prayed and a three-year drought was broken when God sent a downpour. But now Elijah was running away. Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah said, "I'm done." He crossed the wilderness and was fed by an angel. Now he was in a cave.

God asked, "Why are you here?" Elijah said, "I'm the only one left standing for you, God. And they're after me now."

Elijah was a prophet of God. That was his identity, his calling. He was good at it. But as he looked at his present circumstances, he was struggling with it. God said He would bring His presence to Elijah. A destructive wind blew through the mountains, but that wasn't God's presence. Then an earthquake, but that wasn't God's presence. Then a blazing fire; not God's presence either. Then came a voice, a soft whisper. There's the still small voice. God said that Elijah was not the only one left. There were other followers. And Elijah's work was not done. He had a successor to anoint and new kings to anoint, too. He was still a prophet and had prophet work to do.

As I read this again, I wonder if Elijah questioned his whole prophet ability. Maybe what he thought he was good at wasn't really true. I certainly have had that experience. For a long time, I felt that I was made to be a teacher of young children. It seemed that my abilities fit perfectly with teaching. I seemed good at it. I enjoyed it. A few years ago things happened that made me question that. If I wasn't a good teacher, what was I really? I didn't do very well then. In recent days I've been feeling like what I once did well is now at best mediocre. Maybe I'm not really meant to be a teacher. Maybe I'm not good at what I thought I was good at.

Those voices can be really loud. And destructive. A forceful wind, an earthquake, a blazing fire. 

But I need to hear the soft whisper. And how do I hear that? I must be quiet. I must listen. 

Maybe I have more teacher work to do. Maybe I have different teacher work to do. Maybe who I thought I was I really am. 

God didn't tell Elijah, "You are a prophet." He gave him work to do. He corrected misinformation and mistaken belief. He affirmed that God's plan was in control.

Listening to the quiet voice through His word, I hear the same. I have work to do, tasks to accomplish. I must have a true and accurate picture of the situation (God's perspective). I can be confident that God is in control.

Each day I must find my wilderness cave and listen. The voice, the soft whisper, is there.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Casting Anxieties


"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares for you." 
(1 Peter 5:6-7)
 I think I wear this verse out, especially verse 7 - casting all your care on Him. I seem to carry a lot of care, a lot of anxieties and worries and such. I remember this verse and cast it on Him. But then I pick it up again or pick up new ones. (So did I really cast it in the first place??)

The other day I was praying, asking God to help me with the worries of this particular week. And the worries of things that I see coming down the road this year. We seem to be at a particular place and see little movement at the moment. So I was praying and feeling a little dejected.

I prayed specifically for the worries that I was carrying at that moment. "God, I cast the worry of ___ on you" I prayed. Then I moved my head as I mentally tossed that rock into God's hands. I did this for every worry, care, or anxiety that appeared in my head. (There were several.)

As I sat quietly after that prayer, I realized that I actually felt lighter, at least mentally. I went to my desk to begin work and felt...happier and more at peace. And I was actually surprised that my anxieties and worries were lifted. Why is that? Why am I surprised when God shows up as He says He will.

Oh, the issues are still there. I'm just not continually thinking about them. And when I do, I ask God to help me face them and deal with them as they come.

Look back at the verse above. I think we often skim over verse 6, the beginning of that. We don't humble ourselves under His hand. We try to take on things ourselves. We let our pride and our own efforts get in the way. We must give up trying to do it. (I'm always trying to take things back.) I must continually cast my pride on Him and humble myself, realizing my dependence on Him for....well everything.

Also, we tend to miss the middle part of that verse. He will exalt us; we won't exalt ourselves. And it will come in His time. I think that's one of the things that God is continuing to teach us during this part of our journey. We must submit to His Sovereignty and His timing. He is in control. We control nothing. We humble ourselves. We cast our cares. We wait. We listen. We obey.

So tomorrow I'll be casting whatever new worries have risen in my mind. And will again thank Him that He is big enough to handle it all.

And hold on to the end of that verse with both hands: He cares for us.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Choking Thorns

Today I (Scott) read one of the parables that always seems to speak to me - the parable of the sower. A man sowed seed in his field. Some fell on the path, the hard-packed ground where people walked. Some fell on the rocky ground. Some fell among the thorns. Some fell on the prepared tilled ground. The seed on the path was eaten by birds, never penetrating the ground. The seed on the rocky ground grew in the limited soil there but withered since it had shallow roots among the rocks. The seed among the thorns grew but the thorns also grew and choked it; this seed was unproductive. The seed that fell on the good ground produced an abundant crop.

I'm definitely not a farmer and not even a good grower of any plant. (Plants beg me not to take them home from the garden center.) But I understand this parable. And Jesus even explains the parable so that we less agriculturally inclined can understand. (See Mark 4:1-20.) Here's the breakdown:
  • Seed is the word of God.
  • The path represents those who hear the word but ignore/disregard it; Jesus says that Satan snatches the seed from them.
  • The rocky ground illustrates those who hear the word and respond joyfully to what they hear; but do not allow it to take root in their lives and any opposition to it causes it to wither in their lives.
  • The thorny ground represents those who receive the word but let the worries and desires of the world to choke out its influence. They produce no spiritual fruit.
  • The good ground are those who hear the word and let it change their lives; they impact others with God's message.
So often I find myself among the thorns. I worry about what's happening around me. I become distracted by earthly pursuits and concerns. I let other things take root in the soil of my spirit and push aside God's word in me. 

Maybe that's what this current part of my journey is all about. Maybe He's pruning out the thorns, trying to make room for the seed of His word to produce fruit. 

As I said, I'm a terrible gardener. At the end of the fall, I worked to clean out flower beds. Our poor azalea has had to contend with other "unplanted" things growing by and through it. I pulled out all the weeds, grass, and other plants. (Pulled with great difficulty since I didn't tend to them when they were small and more easily dealt with.) A few days after this, I noticed that the azalea seemed fuller; it spread out and up - because there was room for it. It benefited from any rain that fell since no other plants were soaking it up.

So, as this year ends and the next one dawns, I'm evaluating and thinking and praying. What things are growing in my spiritual life that were not planted by Him? What things are soaking up valuable resources and energies? What thorns are choking out the fruitful word in my life? 

I think I have some weeding to do.