Finding Rest in Christ

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2

What does it mean to find rest in God alone? My first thoughts of rest are of sleep and relaxation, but the word rest also means peace of mind and of spirit. I think the later definition fits the Psalmist description.  Resting in God then entails having a peace of heart and peace of mind. It means waiting upon Him and not fretting about tomorrow. Resting in Christ results in true trust, believing God to be in control and on His throne.

A week ago I was really struggling and a dear friend encouraged me to focus on the character of God. I have thought about this a lot since then and sought to do just what she said. I began by listing out all the qualities of God I could think of. For instance the fact that He alone is God. He is sovereign over all and in control of all things. He sees all, knows all and is all places at all times. God is love and this great love was demonstrated at Calvary. God is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. God is good all the time. He knows what is best and has my best interest at heart. He see’s the full picture while I only see now. He is perfect and there is no flaw to be found in Him. God is gracious, merciful, loving and kind. Once I had my list together, I began to meditate upon these great truths. Each morning as I have woken up, the first thing I have done is thank God that He is on His throne and completely in control. I thank Him that He sees and knows our situation and that He has a plan for good. I praise Him in advance for what He is going to do and then wait in expectation for what the day will entail. The difference this has made is amazing. For instead of waking up anxious and weary, I have been waking up in anticipation of what He will do.

The struggle of course comes as the day continues on. Yet each time I become anxious, each time my mind began to run off course, I remind myself of these same truths and pray. I will by no means say I have this down to a fine art, but by God’s grace I am trying and finding true rest in Christ.

Does this erase the problems or fix things? No, but the grace it brings and the peace of heart and mind are worth it all and they enable me to wait upon Him by faith.

Mathew Henry explained it like this, “We are in the way both of duty and comfort, when our souls wait upon God; when we cheerfully give up ourselves, and all our affairs, to his will and wisdom; when we leave ourselves to all the ways of his providence, and patiently expect the event, with full satisfaction in his goodness.”

This is what the Psalmist was doing. Despite all going on and what others were saying, David determined to find His rest, his peace in God and encourages all to do the same. He says, “Trust in him at all times, you people;  pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge (v8).”  I have always loved the picture these words paint. For David tells us to pour our hearts to God. If you have read many of the Psalms of David you find that David did just this. He held nothing back. He didn’t mince words but shared his heart with the Lord,  knowing God already knew his struggles and pain.

I believe this is what the Lord desires of us as well. That we pour out our hearts before Him. Tell him of our struggles, tell him of our pain. Tell him of every anxious thought and fear. For as we dwell in His presence in prayer and pour out our hearts, it is then He can fill our hearts with peace and joy, reminding us of who He is, leading us to rest in Him.

The Psalm ends with a reminder of who God is, it says, “One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone  according to what they have done.”

David knew what struggles were, he understood pain and cried out to God on many occasions. Yet, he had learned that he must remember who God is and take comfort in these truths. David rested in the fact that God was all-powerful and loving. He rested in the truth that the Lord will reward everyone according to what they have done. He rested in truth and because of this He could trust and wait upon God.

I want to encourage any who are weary today, to rest in Him. I want to encourage any who feel they can’t go on, to pour out their heart before God. And for those struggling to believe, I encourage you to make your own list and daily remind yourself of who God is.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation;he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:5-6

Follow the Leader

Today I watched a flock of geese wander through the yard. They walked in a row, one following the other. I’m not sure how the leader was chosen, but the three baby geese walked in between the adults. The geese marches across the front of the neighbor’s yard, as I curiously watched to see if they would go into the highway or try to cross the road. Just in time, the leader turned and back across the yard they went. My guess is had the leader crossed, the others would have followed.

While I watched I thought to myself, how well do I follow my leader? As followers of Christ, our leader is Jesus. Most of us realize this and are quick to claim we follow Christ. But I wonder how close most of us actually follow Him. When He leads us to do something that doesn’t line up with what we want, do we follow or go our own way. Are we listening to His directions or are we going through our lives living for ourselves. When the Lord leads us to do something do we quickly obey, question Him or argue with Him?

As we have journey by faith with the Lord these past months, the Lord continues to ask me, “Do you really believe?” For if we really believe, I’m convinced we will follow the Lord and His leading despite how we feel. Our “yes” will be on the table and we will surrender to His leading. If we fail to believe, we will question Him, we will doubt His guidance and will be tempted to fear.

Paul followed hard after Christ. Despite the hardships that awaited him in Jerusalem, he was determined to go. Because He knew the Lord was leading Him here. Paul did as he was told, he followed where Christ led and He did it with joy. I”m convinced many of us are not following the Lord, because we fear what He may ask of us. Or we like living the way we are and aren’t willing to change. Another reason we may fail to follow our Leader, is because we aren’t even walking with Him.  If we aren’t spending time in His Word and prayer, we can be sure we will miss His leading in our lives.

At this point in our journey, the Lord seems to be narrowing down our choices of places to serve. We are faced with the question, will we follow or turn back? Will we go where He leads even if it doesn’t line up with what we previously had thought? Will we go even if going means sacrifice? Will we follow despite it all? If we really believe, we will follow, trusting and believing each step of the way and we will do it with joy, knowing as we follow we are safe in the will of God and truly there is no better place to be.

So, I ask you? Are you following your Leader? Are you sensitive to the Holy Spirit? Are you willing to ask Him to show you what He wants for your life? Are you willing to let go of things in order to receive more? Is your “yes” on the table? Can you honestly say, “Where He leads me, I will follow?”

We can remain right where we are and be comfortable or we can step out in faith. It could be He leaves us right where we are doing exactly what we are doing? Or it could mean a change in jobs, selling our home, adopting  a child, or going to the mission field. God‘s plan is unique for each person and no one’s calling is better than another. What He ask is not whats important. What is important is whether or not we believe and follow.

Give me one pure and holy passion

Give me one magnificent obsession

Give me one glorious ambition for my life

To know and follow hard after you!

Truth vs. Lies

A while back ago Eric and I were traveling to Atlanta. We had mapped out our course on map quest and had been warned of the way not to go. As we started out, we decided to plug-in the GPS just to be safe and we were off. For the first few hours our written directions were in sync with the lady on the GPS. Then it happened, our map quest was telling us to do one thing and the lady was telling us to do another. We were at a fork in the road and had to make a choice which voice to listen to. For a while we followed map quest, but as we traveled we began to question these directions. After a half hour or so, we decided we had better listen to the lady, so we altered our course. It wasn’t long before we began to see signs telling us of the area we had been warned not to go. By this point, we were too far in, so we kept going. This route proved to be just as bad as everyone had said and it seemed forever before we arrived at my brother’s house.

I’ve thought about this a lot lately. As Christians each day our minds are full of voices. The world tells us one thing, our family tells us another, our friends speak loudly at us giving us their opinion and then there is the still small voice of the Lord. It seems the other voices are much louder than the Lords and if we aren’t careful we miss what He has to say. I believe this is one of Satan‘s greatest tactics. For if he can get us distracted and listening to other voices, he wins and keeps us from following after the Lord.

One of the biggest ways he does this is by whispering lies to us on a regular basis. We may be having a hard day and here he comes telling us, God doesn’t care. We may feel lonely and he tells us God has forsaken us. When things aren’t going the way we think and we have been praying for answers, Satan is quick to tell us God has forgotten us. And on and on he goes. He knows us and knows which lies to fill our minds with. And if we aren’t careful, we begin to listen to his voice and his lies instead of listening to the voice of truth.

The way we think is incredibly important. Paul tells us to put on the helmet of salvation for a reason, for he knew how crafty the enemy is and warns us over and over to “focus our minds on Christ and things above (Col. 2:3).” “To be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).” Paul tells us we must “think on things that are true, honorable, right and pure and lovely (Phil. 4:8).”

I am finding that when my mind is full of truth and I am dwelling on the bigness and greatness of my God, then I can believe and trust Him. It is then that I can pray in faith believing nothing is impossible for Him. The opposite is also true though. For when my mind is full of lies, then my view of God shrinks and I struggle to trust Him, I struggle to pray and instead feel anxiety and desperation.

One of my theme verses these past months comes from Isaiah 41:10 which says, “‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

When I listen to the lies instead of the truth, I do the opposite of what this verse instruct. When I listen to lies, I am fillled with fear and begin to anxiously look about me, trying to figure it out and do it myself. I leave God out of the picture and seek to help myself. This ultimately spells disaster! However, when I listen to truth and to the Lord’s still small voice, I am able to believe and stand still watching and waiting for my big God to do the impossible.

Each day we hear voices from the world, our family and friends, the enemy and the Lord. We must be ready for battle. We must resist the lies and hold to the truth. We must fill out minds with God’s Word.  Or like Eric and I we will make wrong choices and will go down the worst path possible. We will eventually make it back, but first will be taken on a long and curvy ride.

So which voices are you listening to? For me, I can tell real quick the voices I’m listening to. For they determine whether I am trusting or doubting the Lord. One leads to joy and peace and the other to destruction. I challenge us both to listen and stand upon the truth.

Put your Hope in God

What do you put your hope in? Is your hope in a person, a job, an answer? The Bible teaches us our hope is to be in the Lord. Yet, so often lately the Lord is showing me, my hope has been in the wrong things and when these things fail, my hope is shattered and my faith shaken.

King David understood despair better than most. He knew what it was like to prosper and he knew what it was like to have nothing. At the beginning of Psalm 42, David says, As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. When can I go and meet with God?” Growing up we sang this as a song but as I read it recently I was struck by the second verse which David says, “My tears have been my food day and night. While men say to me all day long, where is your God?” Somehow this line of the Psalm was taken out of the song. I do believe David longed for the Lord, he longed to meet with God. Yet, I also believe David was longing for the Lord’s deliverance and help. This Psalm was written as many of David’s Psalms when he was on the run. He could not just go to the temple and meet with God, he was probably living in a cave. When David writes this, he is in despair, his heart is in agony and day and night he is in tears. Everywhere he goes people taunt him saying, where is your God.

For 8 months now our family has been waiting on the Lord, praying for open doors and living with family. There have been numerous days when tears have been my food both day and night. Days I have sensed people laughing at us and saying, “Where is this God you serve? When are you just going to give up? Don’t you know He has forgotten you?” Days, like David I have longed for the Lord and panted after his deliverance.

In verse 4, we see David has no qualms with pouring out his heart before God and as he prays, he remembers. He remembers how things use to be and my guess is, he wished things were still the same. Isn’t it funny how we always remember the good and rarely remember the bad. I can’t count the number of times I have remembered the good ol days and longed for them, yet if I’m honest, they werent’ always as good as I remember.

In verse 5, we find that all this longing for deliverance and remembering has led to despair. David’s hope has been in getting out of his situation, it has been in returning to his former days. Then David recognizes that his hope must be in the Lord. As we have waited these months, there have been many times I have gotten my hopes up, thinking we had our answer, our open door, our deliverance. Only to be disappointed when plans have fallen through. Each time I kick myself for getting excited and each time I remember David’s words, “Put your hope in God.” When our hope is in Him, He proves faithful and our hopes are never crushed or destroyed.

In verse 4 David remembered his past, yet in verse 6 he says, “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.” As David remembers and thinks upon God he is reminded of God’s love for him. He is reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness and goodness. How easy it is to forget the goodness of the Lord in tough times. How quick we are to focus on our situation that God’s faithfulness and love. How easy to lose perspective and feel all hope is gone.

Yet, verse 9 shows us clearly David wasn’t perfect, he was human. For though he recognized his hope must be in the Lord alone and choose to trust in Him. Doing this does not remove David’s present reality. He is still on the run, he is still being mocked and shunned and because of this, he feels forgotten by God.

Feelings I have found are super powerful. Feelings are real. So the question is what do we do with these feelings? There are days I FEEL forsaken, forgotten, and that God surely doesn’t care. Yet, I know, based on Scripture these real feelings are nothing but lies. For they contradict the very Word of God. David feels forgotten yet he ends the Psalm by saying again, “Why are you downcast O my soul? So disturbed within me. Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God.” David has determined that despite how he feels, he will put his hope in God and He will praise Him. he will trust God, that deliverance is at hand and will praise Him in advance for what He will do.

This is no easy task and is impossible apart from God. Yet, on days when I feel as David,and I pray, choosing to trust God despite how I feel, by grace through faith. He always proves Himself faithful and carries me through. This changes not my situation and I may struggle again before the day is through, but my hope must be in Him. For He is the only one who will never let me down. So I challenge us all, let us put our hope in God, nothing else and let us remember his goodness and praise Him.

One Thing

If you could only ask God for one thing, what would it be? Would it be for fame, fortune, success? Would you ask for a husband, children, a place to call home? What would that one thing be?

In my Bible reading over the past few days, I have read and meditated upon Ps. 27.  We have to understand that when David wrote this Psalm, commentaries believe Absalom, his own son was seeking to take his kingdom. He had turned the hearts of the people toward himself, they wanted him as king and David has fled out of the city. Yet, David begins this Psalm by stating,The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my  life of whom shall I be afraid?” Despite what is happening in David’s life, He has determined He will trust in the Lord and believes no matter what is going on God is bigger. He goes on in verse three to say, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” David realizes that things are bad and that they could get worse. He knows Absalom and his men could attack him, yet David has placed his confidence in the Lord.

In verse four we find, the one thing David ask of the Lord. Now considering the situation, he might have asked for wisdom of what He should do. He could have asked for victory against Absalom. Yet, instead in verse four David says, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to seek him in his temple.” David was a man after God’s own heart and the hand of the Lord was with Him. The Scriptures teach us that the Lord gave David victory in all he did. So, clearly David could have asked for a number of things, yet instead he ask to dwell in the presence of the Lord.

This was what mattered to him, not success, not victory, not fame or fortune. Not even the love and respect of his own son. Instead what mattered to David was God’s presence. We find out in verses 5 and 6, that David asked not for these other things, because He had confidence God would do these things. He knew the Lord would protect him, he knew the Lord would exalt him over his enemies, for He knew He was the Lord’s anointed. Verse eight, David says, “My heart says of you, Seek his face! Your face, Lord, I will seek!” Then David cries out for the Lord’s mercy. Not mercy to win the fight, not mercy for the Lord to help him. Yet mercy that the Lord would not turn away from him, that He would continue to dwell in His presence. David closes the Psalm by saying, ” I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Because David trusted in the Lord, He was confident in Him. Therefore, all David ask of the Lord is that He may dwell in his presence forever.

It seems many days my prayers are focused upon the things I want or feel I need. As I read this Psalm the Lord brought conviction upon my heart. Asking me, if I could ask the Lord for only one thing, what would it be? Would I ask for myself, my family or would I ask for His presence.

I listened to a sermon the other day concerning Moses and the Israelites. The Israelites had made the Lord angry and He has told Moses, You and the Israelites can enter the promised land and receive all the blessings of the land, but my presence will not go with you. The pastor asked this question. He said, how many of us just want the blessings and how many of us would want His presence? The Israelites could have gone into the promised land and enjoyed all the blessings the land had to offer. Or they could remain in the wilderness, wait, and enjoy God’s presence. Moses reply was, Lord if you don’t go with us, then don’t send us.” Moses understood the need and importance of God’s presence. He recognized that all the blessings in the world mattered not apart from God’s presence.

So I ask you, I ask myself? What is most important? What one thing do we want the most from the Lord? His blessings, His provisions? Or do we just want to be in His presence? I must say this is a very convicting question, one not to be taken lightly. As I close, I’m reminded of Mathew 6. The Bible tells us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto us.”

I think David understood this truth. He believed that as He sought after the Lord, as He sought the face of God and dwelled in His presence, that God would take care of everything else. He was confident of this, despite everything going on in his life. His confidence was in he Lord as He dwelled in the presence of the Lord.

Choices

I read a blog the other day that really hit home.  It said, “If it seems God isn’t answering our prayers, we may wonder if He is serious about listening to them. We can doubt if His Word really applies to our situations. We might question if His promises are meant for us. During these times we are faced with two choices. We can either assume God’s promises are not trustworthy or we can believe that when He makes a promise He is serious about keeping it.”

As I read this I was struck by the word, choice and how correct this is. We make choices every day, what we will eat, where we will go, and what we will do. We make a choice. We also choose each day whether we will live for the Lord or ourselves. Whether we will trust or doubt. Whether we will obey or disobey. Most days these choices seem simple but there are days when it is a battle and it is much harder. However from experience I know that when we choose to doubt or think upon lies, the pit of despair is close by. I can’t tell you the number of times the enemy has come along and roped me into this pit. By planting doubt and lies in my mind, luring me in and then leaving me to try to find my way out.

There have been days I have woke up trusting and believing, knowing God is on His throne and completely in control. Resting in His sovereignty and peace. Then there have been days when I have doubted the very Word most days I cling to and struggled to hold on.

I believe Paul felt like this at one time. In 2 Corinthians 1 he says he and the others despaired their very life. They had been through so much, much more difficult than I have ever encountered and they struggled, wondering if they had been sentenced to death. Or remember Elijah, he had just seen God send fire from Heaven, yet soon thereafter we find him running for his life, despising life so much that he asked God to kill him. And we must never forget John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus. Yet, when he was placed in prison, he questioned the very existence of the one he had told others of.

So, how did these endure? How do we endure? Again, I believe it truly is a choice we make. A choice to believe by grace through faith. Just as we did when we received Christ for salvation. A choice to say I believe you Lord, despite how I feel and despite my circumstances. A choice to hold fast to God’s promises, to claim them, pray them and then wait upon them. A choice to focus our eyes off of ourselves and onto Him.

This is not easy and I’m by no means saying it is. Some days it seems impossible, some days I feel too weak to even try. Yet that’s the beauty of it, for when we are weak, He is strong and will carry us through. He will shelter us under His wings, until the storm is passed (Ps. 91:4). He will enable us to do this by His grace.

Now, when the fears grip my heart or the doubts assail, I pray as many times as needed, Lord, I choose to trust You. I choose to trust You despite how dark it feels, despite how hard it is, despite how hopeless it seems. I choose to trust You, because unlike me, our God is always faithful, for He can not deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

The Mighty Hand of God

There are some things only God can do. Only God can create the world out of nothing. Only God can speak all things into existence. Only God can tell the oceans how far to come on shore and how much rain should fall. Only God could allow Noah to build and ark, David to kill a giant and Daniel to escape the lions. God alone could multiply fish and bread and walk on water. He alone could die in our place that we might live. Jonathon Edwards once said, “Only God can do what God can do.” How true this is.

As we close out our study on Ruth, we find another only God moment. The Bible says that “Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.” We can’t forget Ruth had been previously married to Mahlon for 10 years. Ten years they had lived together as husband and wife and yet, Ruth had never bore any children. I find this fascinating. For it seems that almost immediately after Boaz and Ruth marry, she conceives. I wonder if Ruth thought it was even possible? Yet, after seeing the Lord take her from the land of Moab, lead her to the field of Boaz and allow this kind man to redeem her. I’m sure she was not too surprised.  Yet, not only does Ruth conceive, as if that wasn’t good enough, the Bible says she has a son. And not just any son, but the “father of Jesse; the father of David.”

Just as it was God’s plan from the foundation of the world to redeem his children through the death and blood of Christ. It was the Lord’s plan for Boaz, a half-jew/half-gentile, to redeem Ruth, a Moabite, that He might bring about the Christ, the Savior of the world.

There is so much to be learned from this, yet I want to leave you with a few thoughts. First, only God is in control of all things. He alone opened Ruth’s womb and allowed her to conceive. At just the right time and for just the right purpose. He too is in control of our lives and He, not we, knows what is best. Second, if God can use Boaz a half-breed and Ruth a Moabite in the lineage of Christ. He can use us no matter what our past, no matter who we are or what our abilities for His good purposes and for His ultimate glory.

 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord (I Cor. 1:27-31).”