Accepting and Trusting in God’s Peace

It’s less than two weeks to Christmas, we only have one more week of Advent and I’m more than a little sad to see the Christmas season passing as quickly as it has, especially in this year that has felt like many years crammed into one. But if Mary can wrap her head around being the mother of the Son of God in 9 months, and shepherds can pick up and find the stable in moments, I suppose I can accept that we only really get 4 weeks to celebrate Christmas (maybe pushing it to 6 weeks if I’m lucky).

Each person in the story of the First Christmas had a choice: they could accept what God was telling them and follow through on it trusting God to make it work out, or let their doubts and questions take lead. There was a close call with Joseph who almost backed out, but God spoke to him and Joseph turned his heart in a way that to our knowledge didn’t happen with Jonah who also had an up close and personal encounter with God.

This year hasn’t been the year of peace, but here we are in the season that’s supposed to be about peace. You know, that peaceful little scene at the manger, right? Totally not peaceful. After all, who has ever been in a very peaceful area with animals or while someone is giving birth or after making a big and long journey? It’s not picture perfect. But peace doesn’t have to be about perfection, it can just be about accepting and trusting God to lead as He said He would.

“The angel came to her and said, “Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!”” Luke 1:28 GNT

This is one of the most famous and well known passages from the Christmas story, and the angel leads with a message of peace before Mary had any idea exactly what situation God had brought her into. It’s like saying: even though you don’t know anything really yet, be assured that it will all work out, there’s no reason to worry. If there’s a message we need to hear after this year, that’s a big one. I just wish that we’d have what’s next shared with us, and not just that declaration of peace. But maybe we need to start with peace, and we haven’t accepted it yet or trusted that God is in control, which is why we don’t know the next steps yet. What are you learning about peace this Christmas season?

Let Go and Let God

Like many people over the last few days I’ve been thinking about the first Thanksgiving. I’ve thought a lot about the challenges they faced, the challenges we’re facing today and how much courage it must have taken to undergo that journey so many years ago. I’ve also questioned what they were thinking and how adventurous they must have been or how bad their situation must have been to consider something that was so very dangerous and risky at those times. It may be like us contemplating going to Mars to live as part of the programs they’re contemplating and planning. The only answer I came up with was an old saying that so well describes what they must have ultimately thought and we should consider today as well: let go and let God.

It’s really hard for many of us to let go and trust that others will take care of things because we’ve been let down before. I can’t imagine what it was like back in the 15 and 1600’s and making the choice to cross the ocean on a boat that may not make it to land, let alone the right place, the extremely limited resources that will be there if you get there and the utter lack of everything familiar. Even if we were to move to somewhere new today, we’d still have our phones and social media accounts and could connect with our old life and tap into resources. We would have challenges, yes, but nothing like what they faced.

And yet here we are almost at the end of another year, but this year being so very different than those of recent memory. We’ve had the worst hurricane season in years, fire season has been bad both in the US and Australia, and the world is working through a pandemic that has completely shut down parts of the world for months on end. The uncertainty of what shoe will drop the next day or week (even though we’ve already dropped way more than the two we can technically wear at one time) brings us back to the only thing we can truly do and that’s trust that God does indeed have our lives in His hands, that He cares about us just as much as He did the early settlers, and that we can get through this challenge too, just like we’ve done with the challenges in our history.

Maybe this Thanksgiving as you’re giving thanks for your food, whether alone or with family and/or friends, you’ll choose to take the day off from concerns and worries and just let God handle things for a bit. We’re not lemmings to just give up all control, direction and effort in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all benefit from a helping hand, especially one that has proven over and over again to be so very capable.

Wilderness Lessons

There were many challenges that the people of Israel faced in the Old Testament, unfortunately all too often it was of their own doing that they ended up in those messes. It always seemed to me like they heard from God more often than we do, but maybe that’s just because we have so much of their history condensed into a thousand or so pages and focused on most of the experiences they have connected to God. One of the experiences that they had that was a direct result of a mess they made were the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

This year we’ve had some really big challenges, and in years of war we’ve faced some big challenges as a world too. But I can’t imagine knowing that we’ll be facing everything that went on this year for another 39 years. That’s half a lifetime for many people today. Could you imagine the next generation or two growing up in this confusing and chaotic world with such an unknown future and so few answers about the challenge we currently face? The Israelites knew they would be wandering for 40 years and that God would provide their food in that time, but we don’t have that same reassurance and many families are facing questions and challenges they never thought they would.

The lessons of the 40 years in the wilderness (or at least those the Israelites were supposed to learn) can be applied to this year’s challenge. Already people have slowed down, reconsidered the ways they were using their time, and are more considerate and careful about and attentive to their health. The 40 years were also all about getting the Israelites to trust God and remember that He is in charge and they aren’t and don’t have to be. The same holds true for us. I talk often enough about how it’s not necessary for us to know and do everything, we’re part of an incredible group of people living on this planet at the same time that we are. This is especially true when it comes to God: we don’t have to even pretend to be as capable as Him (mostly because we aren’t).

I hope that we aren’t looking at another 39 years of this, and that the time we do have with this challenge is enough to prepare us for whatever the future holds and whatever challenges we’ll have to face, and that God won’t give up on us just like He didn’t give up on the Israelites during those 40 years or in the many years since then.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey His commands.” Deuteronomy 8:2

A Time To Trust God

This week a verse from Ecclesiastes came through my inbox and I thought it was a good reminder as we move into this new month and not only plan for the rest of this year but plan for hopefully better things in the next year. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says:

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”

This season of 2020 has been at times scary, special, life-changing, frustrating, and a reality check. We’ve had a ton of teachable moments, including some that have we hope to never have to access the lessons of again. We’ve come together in many ways as a world, and been separated in ways that we haven’t in many years. It’s been a season that has again reminded us of the treasure that is the life we’ve been given, a treasure that could be gone in an instant. It’s also been a season that has helped make some positive changes, but also added onto what were large piles of challenge and difficulty that some were already struggling to wade through.

It’s not easy to accept or understand that this is the season or time that we need to be living in. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t change our lives for the lives of those hundreds of years ago who didn’t have technology and indoor plumbing, but it does make me wonder why life has to include so many challenges. Is it because we’re not being good stewards of the lives we have? Is it because we’re not following as closely to the calling of God in our lives as we should be? When do we get to move to a new season of plenty and health? Is that even a season we can enter?

I know that the seasons of change and challenge can make us stronger, but those same seasons can also cause permanent, irreparable damage. I pray we find the answers to moving through this season that we’re in sooner rather than later so we can avoid as much of that damage as possible. It all comes down to that I have to put my faith in the second part of the verse, that there is a time for every activity under heaven: every activity including activities of peace, growth, health, happiness and prosperity. What are you putting your faith in today?

Reality Reflections: Conversations about Trust and Health

I don’t know about you but I’m getting to a point of serious frustration. I was very excited by all of the progress that I was seeing with how people were working together and being more considerate of each other, and now with this new virus growing and impacting lives around the globe, it’s got great potential to hurt the progress we’ve been very slowly making. My concern is that after the virus has run the course for this time, one of two things will happen: either we’ll be thrilled to go back to life as normal and get back to our regular relationships and activities, or the worse case scenario would be that we’ll see serious damage done to our cultural fabric.

As much as the issue would be one of health concerns, the bigger issue is that we’re very possibly destroying the trust we have in our fellow humans. I got to thinking about this in recent conversations with my partner and some other people about issues they were having with other family members or others in general. How these people were disrespecting them or disregarding them or not following through on conversations and requests. Having experienced this myself, it makes it very hard to want to put any extra effort out for those people in the future, which ultimately goes back to underlying trust issues, or completely destroyed trust altogether. Trust is so very easy to break and so very hard to rebuild. It only takes one or two situations before trust starts to erode, and can take dozens before any trust begins to be reestablished.

I think a lot of how this goes depends on the leadership and how well they manage things as they develop, as well as the medical and scientific community and how they are able to catch on and respond to the spread. If both of those communities respond well and are supportive and strong as we work through this virus, I think we’ll have a better chance of keeping the trust we have in our fellow humans and returning to life as normal after. If not, I dread to think about having fear as the underlying emotion when we interact with each other.

Regardless, it could be a lot of work to rebuild our world after this virus passes, and my hope is that we’re up for the challenge and not going to let it beat us down. Long after the virus passes though we’ll still have to work on our relationships and the trust or lack thereof in them. Is it an honesty issue? Is it a (simple) communication issue? Is it a fear issue? It’s so easy to hurt others and so hard to fix those relationships. I’d say it’s more important than ever to work on our relationships and our consciousness of how we are when we’re with others.

Time to Leave the Mountain

I love technology in part because it’s given us the ability to access God’s word anywhere and at any time with just a few touches or clicks. Yes, it’s great to read from a physical Bible, but not only do we have access to the Bible through technology, we’re able to access devotionals, have spiritual thoughts, guidance and insight sent to us by email or in an app. These little insights that can be sent to us throughout the day are easy ways for us to keep in touch with God all day and grow our faith and spiritual knowledge.

Often the passages or insights are designed to be complete thoughts, things that while they may make you think, don’t really force you to investigate beyond what’s shared in the message. But the other day, one of the verses I got in an email was Deuteronomy 1:6: “You have stayed at this mountain long enough.” I had an inkling what this verse might refer to, but I decided to investigate and share some thoughts with you.

First, Deuteronomy 1:6 can be taken at face value, you don’t have to explore it further. Sometimes all you need to hear from God is that it’s time to move on, you’ve done what needs to be done, this part of your journey is over. You don’t always need to hear more or get more details, sometimes all you need is the permission or assurance that it’s time to move.

So when I went to get the context of this verse I found that it was from Moses reviewing history with the Israelites. In fact, the book of Deuteronomy contains the final words of Moses to the Israelites, encouraging them to remember the journey that has gotten them to this point, the journey through Egypt, 40 years wandering in the wilderness, many mistakes and episodes of disobedience, and now finally getting ready to enter the promised land. Deuteronomy 1:6 is actually what God said to the Israelites 40 years earlier, when He was ready for them to enter the promised land, but they caught a case of nerves and didn’t trust God to know what He was doing, and thus they wandered for 40 years.

Have you been fighting the command to move on or not listening to whatever God is trying to tell you? Remember the words of Deuteronomy and don’t let the Israelites be your guidance, but rather trust that God does know what He’s asking and that He will go with you even if the next steps seem scary.

Conquering Fears

This week I read an interesting Bible verse, it was Psalm 112:7 NIV which says: “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Let’s unpack this verse a bit.

The first thing this verse talks about is not having fear. I don’t think we can truly escape fears or not experience them, fear is part of the human experience whether we’re talking heights or spiders or of broken hearts or cancer or drowning. I think it’s one of the things that’s hardwired into us. It’s also a learning experience and warning indicator for us: when we feel fear we know that we need to take a step back and evaluate what’s going on.

But the difference is that fear doesn’t have to take over our lives or make us incapable of moving through the fear. God gives us the strength to experience the fear, recognize what is scaring us and move on. Sometimes moving on means a new path or new plan (you’re making changes as a result of the fear you’re experiencing), other times it just means we recognize the fear and move on (for example not jumping into the pit of alligators but rather walking past or around).

Fear can absolutely control us, so it’s up to us to choose not to let it have the final say in what decisions we make. Instead when you’re faced with fear I would encourage you to take a deep breath, take any immediate actions necessary and/or evaluate next steps before taking action knowing that God will be with you every step of the way, and then move on to continue in the plan He has for your life.

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.

Reality Reflection: I Need, You Need, We All Need

This month we’ve been talking about relationships and something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the topic of needs. We all have needs, some of us meet them pretty well while others aren’t as good at realizing, communicating, or acting on those needs. My partner recently said that he wished he could do more to meet my needs and I said that he does meet my needs, I just may not need him in the same way he’s been needed in past relationships. It’s an important fact to remember because while we all have the same basic needs (food, shelter, love), how we meet those needs and the levels of those needs are different for all of us, not to mention the other needs (and passions and interests) we have individually.

But going back to the topic of relationships, when you choose to enter a relationship you go in with the intention of bringing something to that relationship and hoping to get something out as well. So while the word “need” doesn’t have to be the one that’s applied here, because you may already have food, shelter and love, there’s still something missing in your life that you think you can gain by entering into that relationship.

I don’t think ‘needs’ is a dirty word, unless you’re content to have serious needs and not do something about them (dumping them on someone else isn’t “doing something about them”).  It’s perfectly normal to have them, and also perfectly normal to ask for help with them. I’m not a believer in knowing and being everything to everyone. I don’t have to be able to fix a pipe or rewire a house or fix a broken bone, there are other people who are very good at those things and actually enjoy them.

I think it’s time we stop seeing our needs as an embarrassment or something we should hide. I think it’s time we step up and ask for the help we need, ask for the direction we need and ask for the support we need, and above all do something about the needs we have. Yes, sometimes you’ll have others turn you down, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how many people are willing to step up for you, especially if they know you’ll step up for them in their time of need.

Trust and Fears

This month in our talks about fears an important topic to address is that of trust. Our fears tell us that we can’t trust people or things, and some of our experiences or the experiences we hear about do back up that distrust. So how do we build trust when dealing with our inevitable fears?

Often all we need is one person we can trust in order to start trusting ourselves and others.  A good place to start is with God. Throughout the Bible, the lives of countless Saints and my life as well are reminders that God can be trusted and that He will always come through for us.  Maybe it won’t be in the way or timeline we think it should be, but He will follow through and will do all that He promised. Through our daily interactions with God little by little He reveals that we can trust Him and that He won’t let us down.

God gives us experiences that teach us that we are capable humans and we can trust ourselves in the face of many different types of challenges and obstacles, and that we can still trust ourselves even when our fears come to fruition. He builds our trust in Him and our trust in ourselves so we can keep going in the face of life’s uncertainties.

Our experiences with God and trust show us that fear and trust aren’t about knowing everything or having all the answers.  Sometimes our fears will come to pass and sometimes our trust will be rewarded.  But much of life and faith are about going forward without knowing all the answers and hoping, believing and trusting that it will all work out.

So if you’re dreading the week ahead because it’s Monday, because there are so many unknowns or because of what happened in the past week and the trust that was broken or you broke, spend some extra prayer and devotion time today reminding yourself that God trusts you and you can trust God to help you work everything out.

“Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” Isaiah 26:4