Where is Your Security Found?

As a woman, one of my biggest needs is security. It’s very important for me to feel secure in my relationships as well as financially. Before my divorce, I was primarily a stay-at-home mom. I worked a little here-and-there. But we never relied on my income for anything more than pocket change. When the divorce was finalized, I was suddenly thrown into a world I hadn’t been in for more than 17 years–working to support myself.

It was a scary thing to be solely responsible for paying for my life. Suddenly, I felt like my security had been pulled out from under me. But something happened early in my divorce process that gave me an assurance of God’s willingness and ability to take care of me.

As I was processing through the divorce and all the paperwork, I decided to consult with a nonprofit family law expert. They required a small fee for the consultation and I remember feeling unsure about whether to follow through with the meeting. I was worried about the money, even though it was a small amount. I shared my fears with my best friend. She prayed that I would have peace and that I would be able to have this meeting without it costing me anything.

With her prayers undergirding me, I went to the meeting. Indeed, they did ask for the fee, which I willingly paid. But later that night, at a church event, I woman pulled me aside. In her hand was a wad of cash. She gave it to me and said, “God told me to give you all the cash I had in my purse.” I was stunned by her obedience and generosity. I don’t know if I would have been as quick to obey. I graciously took the money and thanked her, but didn’t count it until I was alone. When I counted it, it was exactly the amount of the consultation fee, plus one dollar. I was overwhelmed. Not only had God answered my friend’s prayer by way of a supernatural “refund” but He provided more than I needed. In that moment, I could hear the Holy Spirit reassuring me that God would always meet my needs and then some.

Since then, I’ve had a confidence that God was going to take care of my kids and me. There have been moments when I’ve forgotten this and tried to take care of myself. But I’ve had a peace when it comes to my finances. And I’ve seen God provide in some pretty amazing ways.

Recently, I was looking into taking a step out of my comfort zone financially. As I was thinking through the ramifications of the decision I was facing, I started to question my security again. I was flooded with all of these “what if” thoughts. But that’s when the Holy Spirit reminded me of the above story. He reminded me that my security is not in a person or a job. It’s in the God who made the heavens and the earth. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (ESV). He owns it all, which means He is the source of it all. Everything else is merely a resource, used by Him.

It’s easy to look to a husband or a job for security. But there is no greater sense of security than being in God’s care.

So my question to you is “Where is your security found?” Is it in your job or your relationship? Or is it in your particular candidate being elected? If you are feeling like you’re on shaky ground, look to see who or what you’re standing on. Because as 1 Samuel 2:2 says, “There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God” (ESV, emphasis added).

Yesterday, Today, and Forever

We’ve all heard the Heraclitus quote: “The only constant in life is change.” It’s the kind of thing you say to a child who is upset because something they’d come to rely on has changed. Most of the time I’m that child digging my heels in when confronted with change, especially change that I can’t control or don’t understand. I like routine and consistency. And as much as I try to plan, life still has a way of throwing curve balls and being as changeable as the shifting wind.

As I was thinking about the changeability of life, and mostly thinking about much I hate it, I was reminded of the one thing, or rather person, that never changes–Jesus.

Every Sunday (before COVID-19 limitations), I read Hebrews 13:8. It’s displayed above the platform at my church. During worship or the pastor’s message, my eyes would inevitably wander up and read these words: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” What a comforting thought to know that no matter how much life changes or is unpredictable, God will never change. Just meditating on that thought brings an overwhelming sense of peace to me. Deep breath in, cleansing breath out!

But this truth has to be more than a comforting thought, more than a mantra I recite when feeling anxious. It has to be the reality by which I judge all other realities in my life.

When life changes or people change or the weather changes (Who am I kidding. I live is Southern California. The weather never changes.), it can feel like the ground underneath me is shifting. That’s why it’s important for me to anchor myself in the truth that God never changes. It doesn’t matter what happens, I know I’m secure in my Father’s care. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (ESV, emphasis added).

As the old hymn says:
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
(“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less,” by Edward Mote, 1834)

Eucharisteo

Eucharisteo is a Greek word, meaning to be grateful, feel thankful; give thanks. I keep it on a post-it on my monitor, as a reminder to always be thankful (because it’s not always easy). But today is my birthday and I can’t think of a better word to describe how I feel besides grateful.

As you know, the past few years have been the most challenging of my life. There were times when I thought pain would define my life forever. But today, I can say that, even though things aren’t always easy and I wish some things were different, I am more whole than broken. And that’s definitely something to be grateful for.

I’m also so thankful for all the love I have in my life. I have a beautiful family and amazing friends who have loved and supported me through the worst. And continue to do so to this day. I have been by myself most of the day (my kids will join me later). But not for one moment have I felt alone this birthday.

So today, on my birthday, I want to simply say, “Thank you!”

“Give thanks [eucharisteo] in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

His Eye Is on the Sparrow

It’s been a tough couple of days. I’ve disappointed myself and been disappointed by others. I’ve felt overlooked and underappreciated by people. And I’ve found myself believing that God too had forgotten to notice me.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that God sees me. It’s easy to feel invisible to the Creator of the Universe, especially when I perceive some injustice or unfair treatment by others. But the truth is, God sees me. He sees my struggles, my pain, my good days and bad days. He sees it all! I received a beautiful reminder of this today.

I  had taken a break at work and gone outside to warm my bones and clear my head. I sat in my normal spot, enjoying the view and soaking up the sun. As I was sitting, I noticed quite a few little birds flitting from tree to tree, singing their happy, carefree tune. I have sat in this spot a half dozen times, but I’ve never seen so many little birds. I’ve seen butterflies and crows, even a colony of ants. But never these birds and certainly not as many as I saw today. So I decided to enjoy the scene and their sweet song. As I was watching them, the Lord reminded me of two verses:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26 ESV, emphasis added).

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31 ESV, emphasis added).

In both of these verses, Jesus makes it clear that we, you and I, are more valuable to our Heavenly Father than the birds. And yet He sees each one of them, provides for them and even notices if one falls to the ground. How much more does He see me, care for me and provide?

The rest of the world may not take notice of me. I may be easily forgotten by those around me. But God has never ignored me and He never will. Even when He seems quiet, I can be assured that I have His attention.

As the old song says:
Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely,
And long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant Friend is He
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me
(His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Civilla D. Martin)

An Unworthy Exchange

This week, I was reading Psalm 106. It’s about God’s faithfulness and goodness despite Israel’s unfaithfulness. As I was reading, one verse caught my attention: “They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass” (Psalm‬ ‭106:20‬ ‭ESV)‬‬. When it’s put that way, it sounds absurd that the people of Israel made the choice to worship the golden calf (see Exodus 32).

It’s easy for me to sit back and judge their unfaithfulness, because I would never bow down to “the image of an ox that eats grass.” Right?! But I started to think about all ways I “exchange” God’s glory, His presence, for lesser things. What about that extra 20 minutes of sleep, instead of getting up to seek Him? Or how about the half thought out, half followed through commitment to fast? Or that one more episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, instead of cracking open my Bible before bedtime?

Psalm 105:4 says, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually” (ESV, emphasis added). If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have things we are seeking, other than the presence of the Lord. For me, it’s comfort, rest and peace. None of these things are bad, in and of themselves. But while I’m chasing them through extra sleep or one more episode of my current favorite TV show, I end up with a sorry replica of what can only be found in the presence of God.

Don’t get me wrong, God honors rest. He even set aside a whole day in the week for it. But when I seek that more than His presence, I’ve basically “exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.”

Matthew 6:32-33 says, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (ESV). So that’s what I’m choosing to do–seek God first. When I do that, I can trust that everything else, including that coveted comfort and rest I so desire, will be added to me.

Uncharted Territory

Having the plan for my life irrevocably change before my eyes has forced me take a step back and assess the direction I’m heading. As a creature of habit, it was easy for me to plod along without taking stock of where I was actually going in this life. At one point, there was purpose and intention. I had hopes and dreams and plans. But after a while, purpose and direction gave way to comfort and ease, which gave way to complacency.

I remember being asked once what I was passionate about. At the time, it seemed like a frivolous question. What grownup has time for passion?! We can’t all go chasing our dreams. After all, Proverbs 28:19 says, “A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty” (NLT). But I was confusing fantasies with God-given dreams.

I think about Joseph (Genesis 37-46). God gave him clear dreams about his future. I believe it was because he held on to those dreams that he was able to endure slavery and imprisonment. He knew his dreams were God-given and therefore trustworthy. But what if he had been practical? What if he had looked at his life and decided there was no place for dreams anymore?

I think if was asked about my passion today, I’d have a completely different answer. Chasing dreams doesn’t seem like such an empty pursuit any more–not when I know that it is God who gives the dreams. Acts 2:17 says, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old me shall dream dreams” (ESV, emphasis added).

As I’ve been processing through the end of one season, I can’t help but ask the Lord “What’s next?”  As scary and sad as it is to see the end of my marriage, it’s also a little exciting to be heading into uncharted territory. I’m allowing myself to dream again. I have decided that my faith is bigger than my fear and that I’m going to believe God when He says He has “hope and a good future” for me.

So what is next? I don’t know yet. But I’m going to revel in the dreaming and keep my heart and ears open to what my Father is saying. Because I don’t want to miss what He has for me in this new season.

Seeing God More Clearly

Recently, I was looking through pictures from the past three years. And I could see in these pictures when pain and suffering came to visit us. I saw pictures from our family’s trip to Chicago. On the surface, they looked like pictures from a fun family vacation. But then I remembered we had gone to Chicago for the funeral of a beloved aunt. Then I saw a picture of me with my mom and dad taken less than ten days later. Another beautiful family shot, except we were standing graveside for the burial another well-loved aunt. Then there was the picture of Journey smiling, sitting in an ER bed with swollen lips, the result of an unexplained allergic reaction–just another incident in a string of illnesses and strange symptoms he experienced that year. And so I chronicled the beginning of our season of suffering. Things got progressively worse. There were more deaths in the family, more illnesses and the most painful blow of all–a marriage coming apart.

It was strange looking back at these pictures and reflecting on where I am today compared to then. Somehow God seems nearer now than He did then, despite the fact that the suffering, at least on paper, hasn’t lessened. I have more peace, joy and hope in my life than I had before all of this began.

How is it possible that I can see God more clearly in the suffering than I did in the pleasantness of life? The enemy of our souls designs suffering to pull us away from God. He uses it to try to convince us that God is not good and that He doesn’t have good intentions toward us. His goal has been and continues to be to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). But therein lies the beauty and the contradiction of suffering. If we allow it, we will experience a nearness of God we couldn’t know otherwise. Our Father is so present during our trials. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (ESV).

I have learned that God is not some far-off, distant God. He’s the Father who is orchestrating things to accomplish His good purpose for my life (Genesis 50:20). He’s the Son weeping with me at the tomb (John 11:33-35). And He’s the Spirit making intercession for me with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).

Read, Think, Do, Repeat

I love spending time reading God’s Word. It’s truly the highlight of my day. I love to crawl into my little closet, open the Word and hear what God has to say to me for that day. During this intimate time, I’m at such peace with God and myself.

If I could just stay there all day, life would be great. But I can’t stay there all day. I have to go out into the world and deal with people and torrential rain and garage doors that won’t open. Talk about a buzzkill!

My time with God should pour over into the rest of my day. If my experience in my prayer closet doesn’t have an impact on my everyday life, what’s the point? This sacred time should make a difference in how I treat people or handle challenges. Unfortunately, too often I find that my circumstances or emotions dictate my responses.

Psalm 119:165 NLT says, “Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.” Ouch! Perhaps I don’t love God’s Word as much as I think. Maybe I’m not letting it have it’s full transforming work in my life.

How do I let God’s Word transform every part of my life? Fortunately, the Bible has clear instructions for how to do that:

  • “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8 ESV).
  • “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night” (Psalm 1:2 NLT).
  • “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what is says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourself” (James 1:22 NLT).

If I had to break it into simple steps, it would be:

  1. Read it!
  2. Think about it!
  3. Do it!
  4. Repeat!

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edge sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV).

 

 

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