Resting In God

As we move deeper into summer, many of us are getting into the swing of things being done differently, having a different schedule, and generally feeling more relaxed. It amazes me that something as ordinary as a season change can bring about such noticable differences in us and our lives.

But what I wanted to talk about today was that one tricky word in there: relaxed. We can get so caught up in life that we forget what it means to relax, and some of us aren’t interested in doing things like yoga or meditation which are both techniques that are known to help people focus and relax. If that’s you and you feel like you’re not resting and don’t know where to begin, I invite you to consider the words of Br. Nicholas Bartoli, and Psalm 23:1-3a respectively:

“Christianity enjoys a rich and ancient tradition of the practice of contemplation, some form of which can be traced back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers who retreated into the solitude of the desert. Saint Gregory the Great described contemplation as simply “resting in God.””

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.” 

There’s no better place to begin your relaxation than by resting in God, and all it takes are a few quiet moments before or after your daily devotion time. You may not change the craziness that is the world out there by resting in God, but you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself and your life if you make it a regular practice in your life.

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Strong with God

This week I’ve been thinking about strength and courage and how so often we talk about strength and courage as something we have to grow or be or become. But a devotional reminded me that sometimes we can be strong or find our strength because there’s someone stronger than us standing between us and whatever or whomever is challenging us. God does ask us to be brave and courageous, but never asks us to be stronger or braver than He will be for us.

Throughout the Bible there are examples of God saying that He will go with and before people as they do the work that He has called them to do. God does sometimes ask us to take a step of faith, a courageous step, but never one that He thinks we’re not ready for or able to do.

There are also countless statements throughout the Bible to how powerful, all knowing, and capable God is, from the flood to caring for the sparrows. God took the time to create each and every creature on earth, He knows them intimately and knows their beginnings and endings, their comings and goings.

Where the Bible calls us to pull on the Armor of God, it talks about pulling on tools, strength and protection from God, not anything like the physical armor that is used in wars here on earth. God gives us each the opportunity to pull on that armor, He doesn’t believe in leaving us defenseless.

This week don’t be afraid to use the tools of protection and strength that God has put in your life, you don’t have to be strong on your own.

“You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory [and my honor], and the One who lifts my head. With my voice I was crying to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lay down and slept [safely]; I awakened, for the Lord sustains me.” Psalm 3:3-5 AMP

From Stumble To Standing Strong

This month one of the topics we’re going to talk about is the topic of strength. Everyone faces challenges in their lives, that’s not something we escape just because we believe in Jesus. But not only do we have a community of believers around us, we’ve got the Bible to encourage us along, and Jesus who will be there when we need some support or a guiding hand.

God never asked us to live a perfect life. He asks us to live with love, compassion, peace, patience, kindness and in a way that honors Him. Perfection isn’t found in the Armor of God, the Fruit of the Spirit or the 10 Commandments. It’s not something David, Solomon, Paul or Martha achieved. They struggled, they stumbled, they lived life with many of the challenges we face.

The question is not if you’ll struggle but when. But after the struggle, stumble or failure, what comes next? Will you choose to get up and make things right? Persevere on? Make better choices next time? You do have responsibility for your life, but the gift that God gives us is that none of us have to go through life or our challenges alone, He’ll support us every step of the way if we let Him. Could you use some support from God in your life? If so know it’s never too soon or too late to ask for His help.

“Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:24

Starting with Trust

This week God has put the subject of trust on my heart. How does the dictionary define trust? It says that trust is hope, placing confidence in someone or something, to rely on, faith, assurance, a feeling of security, dependence, a belief that a person or thing will not fail, a responsibility. Wow, trust is a huge deal!

What does the Bible have to say about trust? Psalm 28:7 says to trust God with all our hearts. Psalm 63 relates that because we know we can trust God we will and should praise him. Psalm 91 says that God protects those who trust him. Isaiah 40 says that God strengthens those who trust him. Jesus said in John 12 that those who trust in him will live in the light and no longer in darkness. Romans 15 speaks of joy and peace in someone because of trust that is placed in God.

Trust means believing God has the best plans possible in store for you in the future. Trust means understanding that there are other people in your life so you can share things with them, converse through difficult situations or times, and rely on them. Trust is Daniel believing God would bring him safely through a night in the lion’s den, but more importantly understanding how important it is to pray regardless of what others may say, trusting God will protect.

I want to finish today with some lyrics from a song “You Never Let Go” by Matt Redman. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Your perfect love is casting out fear. And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life. I won’t turn back. I know you are near. And I will fear no evil. For my God is with me. And if my God is with me. Whom then shall I fear? Whom then shall I fear?”

I pray this week you will put your trust in God, I promise you He will never fail you or let you down.

Blessings for Today

Today I’m thinking about blessings. We’re a little over a week past Easter and the celebrations of Jesus rising again, certainly a huge blessing to all of us who believe. But there’s a lot more to life than just one day out of all of history. Yes, it’s a big day and certainly one worth celebrating each year, but Jesus lived for 30 some years (approximately 10,950 days) other than that one day, and most of us live for more than 30 years and more than 11,000 days. Those days contain a lot more blessings than can be summed up in just one day, not to mention all the challenges that are part of our human existence.

Challenges and blessings are interesting because if we look for them we can find them both, and sometimes we’re surprised by them as they happen to us. There are certainly things you can do with your life, heart, words and mind that can set you up for more blessings, but as long as we’re in this human experience we’ll experience challenges as well.

A phrase that I say is “this or something better.” It’s my way of accepting the reality I’m in, but always being open to something better, to a bigger blessing, a different blessing, a way to bless others or revelation God may have for me.

So if you’re in need of some blessings today, or need a little help turning the day around after some challenges met you this morning, open yourself to the good God has for you, look for the good around you and choose not to focus on the bad for longer than you have to. What blessings will you experience today?

“My cup overflows with blessings.” Psalm 23:5c

An Easter Refresh

One of the things I love about Easter is it’s a reminder of the fresh start that we get with our relationship with God. Sometimes it’s important to be persistent and really see things through, but there’s something almost magical about new things. I’m not a huge fan of having 4 seasons, personally I prefer it to be a bit warmer all year long, but where I live there are 4 seasons, and we get all 4 every year. But as much as I sometimes find the change of seasons to be challenging, there’s something magical about the season of spring. There’s just no way to truly describe the feeling of wonder and excitement that you feel when you see those cherry blossoms begin to appear and little yellow forsythia blossoms appear practically everywhere after months of living in shades of primarily gray, brown and white.

On the first Easter morning all those years ago people woke up feeling disappointed and hurt, until they found the grave empty and learned that Jesus actually did what He said and rose again. His rising means that not only are we given the opportunity of eternal life, but we’ve also got the ability to be forgiven of our past and have a fresh start. Easter is like that big fresh start that appears each spring, but sometimes what you need isn’t that big refresh, but rather a smaller one. One of the things I’ve always been amazed by are morning glories. They flower for a few hours at the beginning of each day in the summer and then they close up. Yes, all the greenery in the summer is amazing, but there’s nothing like waking to find an explosion of color waiting for you on your deck or fence or wherever you have them.

But Easter isn’t the only fresh start we get, it’s not a one-and-done thing. We can have a fresh start any day, at any time. We can choose to sing a new song, have a new conversation, make a new friend, think a new thought or have a new attitude whenever we want or need. But we only get that start if we’re willing to let go of the past and move into the future. That takes a measure of trust in God as well as ourselves, in knowing that He’s got something better for us in the future, and that we can ride out the changes and be strong enough to resist whatever lures our past, recent or distant, may have. What will you do with your fresh start?

“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

Not Alone

This week I’m feeling encouraged to share some hope with you.  We live in a really big world where it can be easy to feel forgotten or overlooked.  We feel hurt by family members, ignored by our bosses, abandoned by our partners and irrelevant to our friends.  We sometimes feel that even God has left us alone.  I hope that these words from scripture remind you of the truth:

Psalm 37:23
“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.   He delights in every detail of their lives.”

1 Peter 1:7a
“These troubles test your faith and prove that it is pure. And such faith is worth more than gold.”

Romans 8:31
“So what should we say about this? If God is for us, no one can stand against us. And God is with us.”

These verses each touch on a very special message: God delights in every part of your life, finds you unbelievably valuable and is with you.  I’ve spent enough time working (and living) with people to know that we all have moments where we don’t feel like these statements could possibly be true. Honestly sometimes we don’t deserve God’s delight or presence, we’re humans who sin and have failures. But God knows that, and still loves us.  We’re still allowed to meet with God and be loved by God because of grace and forgiveness.

On those days that you struggle, remember that you’re enough. You may not be perfect, and you may need to grow some (we all have room for growth), but don’t ever let anyone tell you you aren’t important or special. God hasn’t forgotten you, and will never leave you alone.  He’s also put people in your life to encourage and support you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help (I’m an email, call or message away!).

This week, instead of focusing on what goes wrong, take time to turn to that which inspires and encourages you.  Read the Bible, your favorite devotional, or listen to some Christian music or a sermon that’s online when you’re feeling particularly challenged or discouraged.  You’ll not only feel better, God may give you the wisdom for how to work through your situation in that time of worship or reading.

Don’t give up, God’s got a plan for your life and plans to go with you every step of the journey.