Quiet Confidence

I was driving to go visit with my parents today. It is a two hour drive, but there is an urgency lately to spend as much quality time with them as possible. While I was driving I was listening to the Christian radio station and singing along with the praise songs. When I got so far out of the city that I could no longer pick up the station, I turned off the radio and began to pray. There is much to pray about. I started praying for my parents, for my children, for my husband and grandchildren. My prayer seemed to become more like a desperate begging for God’s intervention. I prayed for miracles as I imagined they could be. Then I was reminded that God’s ways are higher than mine and His thoughts higher than my thoughts (Is 55:9). My prayer started to change. Now I was asking God to glorify Himself in all of the circumstances that surrounded us. I asked Him not to limit Himself to the little box that my imagination could think up. I acknowledged that even though things may look bleak, He is ultimately in control and He can use these things to bring about a far greater purpose and victory.

He reminded me of the story of Elisha and the king of Aram. The king wanted to capture Elisha because he kept warning the king of Isreal of his plans. He sent a large army to the city where Elisha was and surrounded him. When his servant saw it, he panicked. But Elisha didn’t. He was calm.

“”Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:16-17

Elisha knew God. He was confident that God was with him.

Or what about the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. When Elijah finally got up to call on God, his prayer wasn’t a doubt-filled begging for God to appear, it was one of confidence:

“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.  When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”” 1 Kings 18: 36-39.

What about Paul and Silas in jail? Were they panic-stricken and begging God for their lives? No. God was with them and they knew it. God had other plans:

 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.  The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”  The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.  At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.” Acts 16:25-34.

God is moving now too. He has big plans. He is calling His people back to Himself. He is readying His church for His arrival. He is answering those prayers that have been outstanding. Do I need to panic? No. God is with me. He will glorify Himself in this. I can be confident and give glory to the One who has it all under control.

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Dwelling in the Secret Place – 3

Written Oct 2012: I make mistakes. I screw up. I sin. I am proud, selfish, angry, deceitful, harsh, rough, and uncontrolled – and all of that before breakfast! I am far from perfect. Thankfully, I don’t have to be. But the more time I spend in God’s shadow, the less I will do these things. Matt 1:21 says that Jesus “will save His people from their sins.” That is a good thing, because if I had to become perfect to make it to Heaven, I wouldn’t have a chance. Matt 2:6 says that Jesus will be a “Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.” Here, Jesus is set apart as my Saviour and my Guide. As sheep are lead by a shepherd, they are safest when they know him: when they can recognize his voice and his direction, when they can understand what his crook on their side means, and when they stay close to him. The same is true for me and Jesus. I have no hope of saving myself. But He saves me. And He has come to lead me. I don’t know if I have actually spent much time following Jesus. I have spent lots of time following the church or other Christian writers or thinkers or local Christians that I look up to. But have I been following Jesus? There have been times in my life where I have compared myself to others. I thought, “Oh I am better than this one,” or, “I will never be as good as that one.” Then that changes the way I think about myself and what I am willing to do, and sometimes it makes me think that God does not favor me like he does others, and maybe I am not good enough. Then there are those reminders of my sin and that I really am not good enough and what is the point of trying anyway?? But if we continue through Matthew we see Jesus taking this issue on. He talks about the religious figureheads. They are “perfect.” They say long prayers for everyone to see, they fast in public, they keep the letter of the law. But Jesus shows us that it is not what people can see that is important, but what God sees. They may not have committed adultery in the flesh, but they were in their hearts. They were praying and fasting in public for the praise of men and that was all the benefit that would come from it. But Jesus told us that God sees and knows what is done in secret. In the secret place. He is able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. He brings God out of the dimension of religion and into the dimension of reality. God is alive. He is not found in rules and traditions, but in individual experience. Jesus tells us that we do not need to worry, that God can take care of us (Matt 6:25-34). He is again bringing God out of the theoretical and into our lives. Then He goes on to tell us not to judge others. We are in no position to judge others. We cannot see them as God does. And they cannot see us as God does. In Matt 7:21, we are told that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of Heaven. This race that He has commissioned us to run is not run with others. We are not to compare ourselves to others, or find our direction from others. This is an individual sport. It is just Him and me. He leads me. He knows what I need to be doing. Those that I keep comparing myself to: are they the ones that in the end will not enter the kingdom? Only God knows. I am not getting on down my path if I am taking my pace and direction from others. I need to fix my eyes on Jesus. He tells us to seek what we need from God. He wants to give us good things (Matt 7:11). He is not a rule or philosophy or” feel good” lifestyle. He is powerful and loving and able to hear and answer and get involved in our lives. In verse 23 (Chap 7), Jesus says to those who are not permitted to enter the kingdom, “I never knew you.” He said in verse 21 that the people who get in are those who do “the will of My Father in heaven.” In order to know His will, I need to know Him. Not man- made rules, traditions, philosophies, etc. I need to know Him. He wants me to know Him. He has a wealth of love to share and all of the knowledge to impart. There is no better Guide. No other Saviour!

Dwelling in the Secret Place

Written Oct 2012: A good life takes effort. It means investing in something. Like cooking a turkey. You could enjoy a turkey dinner at a restaurant (although even that will cost you), or you could go to your mom’s for some and if you are lucky you might come away with a doggy bag for lunch the next day. But there is nothing like making one yourself. It is the preparing days in advance for the event, making sure the bird is thawed and all of the ingredients that you will need are purchased. It means an all day investment in the creating of an experience. Getting up early and slowly cooking the turkey, the peeling and cooking of vegetables, making stuffing, and gravy and rolls. All of the effort comes to a climax with the serving of it and the enjoying it together. There is that great satisfaction of a job well done when you can indulge together. But while you are in the midst of it, you get to enjoy the aroma of the turkey cooking and afterward all of the leftovers that can be used in so many ways to feed you for a week! Sometimes you miss out on the fact that the blessing comes because of the effort you put in. And it isn’t just the end product that is the blessing, but the experience of it as well. And all of that effort results in blessing that can last for more than the official meal.
It is the same for everything in life. I could, and am sure that I have, skated through life without much effort. School was easy, I really didn’t need to put much effort in there. University was harder, but instead of putting any effort in, I was content to settle for mediocre marks. I have had several careers, but never really became an expert in anything. Oh, sometimes I can fake it. I can talk a good talk and can fool many. I have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things, but I know very little. Even in my relationships, I have not invested too much. Whether it is out of fear of getting hurt or just sheer laziness or habit, I am not sure. But it becomes very obvious that my relationships have no depth when they can end so quickly. I feel the emptiness though. I feel it even in my career, when I really should have more knowledge than I do and with each passing day and shift I continue to risk both my livelihood and the lives of those in my care because of my lack of effort to learn my trade. I want to be an expert, but I can always find an excuse why I can’t make the effort today. It is much like losing weight. I want to be skinny. To be healthy. But when there is a pan of fudge in front of me, I can put off the effort until tomorrow. And exercise? Oh yes, I have a whole shelf of exercise DVDs. But there is never time to actually do one. I can talk about it, even plan for it. But when it comes right down to actually putting in the effort to eat healthy and exercise, well…..
And then there is God. I have accepted Jesus as my Saviour. But can I say that I know Him? In reality I might pull out my Bible once every couple weeks for 5 minutes. I go to church on Sunday and enjoy my time. I get a glimpse of the relationship that is possible, feel good for a little while and then go back to my old life. Because, to continue in that relationship takes effort. It means meeting with Him and investing time with Him. Getting to know Him means reading His Word and praying. There is great reward and blessing should I choose to partake of this journey, but I can always find an excuse. Tomorrow. I will start tomorrow. But funny thing,… tomorrow never comes. I can fake it. I can talk the good talk. I can make people think that I know Him. But that is the thing about God. He knows the truth. He is not going to punish me, but I am missing out on the sweet “aroma” of a passionate love relationship with Him. Don’t I want the experience of Him? What about the “Well done” at the end? And the legacy of the” leftovers“ that will bless generations after me? Are they not all worth the effort? Psalm 91 verse 1 says, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” There it is. The goal. I want to dwell in the secret place. I want to abide with the Almighty. God help me to take the first step.