Today’s reading: Proverbs 3:21-26, Isaiah 31:1-3, Habakkuk 1:11
Today’s focus: Surrender
This week’s memory verse: Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best of everything you produce. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

LillianAmbition is good. Without it, infants would never learn to crawl and children would never master language. Ambition, when centered in Christ can be a wonderful thing, but, when centered in human pride and self-reliance, it can become our greatest weakness. Today multi-published author Lillian Duncan reminds us, no matter what we do or don’t accomplish, no matter how strong or weak we believe we are, God remains in control, and He wants us to rely on Him, not our gifts, talents, strengths, or accomplishments.

WHO’S IN CONTROL? by Lillian Duncan
Proverbs 3: 26
for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.

I’ve been thinking a lot about control lately.

If you ask me, who is in control, I would, of course, give the good Christian answer—GOD . If you ask me who is my provision, I would, of course, give the good Christian answer—GOD. If you ask me who the source if my confidence is, I would give the good Christian answer—GOD.

And I believe that but….

On the other hand, I like to think of myself as self-reliant. I started working the same week I graduated from high school in…cough…stammer…uhm 1973 . I found a job the same week and have worked since then with the exception of one quarter in college when I saved enough money to take a break.

I put myself through college along with a few grants and scholarships—no loans. ME and MY WORK. I save my money—bought my houses-bought my cars. ME and MY WORK

So, even though I say and believe God is in control, believe He is my provision, I’m not so sure I’ve ever depended on HIM the way HE wants. Because after all, for almost forty years, it’s been ME and MY WORK.

That is until lately.

I’ve been retired and only working part-time for the past few years. That was really awesome! I had time to write and enough money not to worry! And then it happened!

NO JOB! I actually didn’t freak out at first. I assumed something would come along at the last minute. But it didn’t.

The last check came and then it wasn’t ME and MY WORK anymore! Just me! Oh, that’s right, I admit it—I forgot about God for a few anxiety-filled weeks. I worried, I grumbled to myself. I was more anxious than I’d been in years!

And it was driving me crazy!

Suddenly, my peace and joy was replaced with worry and aggravation. A lot of it and I didn’t like it. But I didn’t stop me from doing it until one day when I realized by worrying I wasn’t trusting God. I was NOT placing my confidence in God as my provider.

HE had been my provider all along but as with us fleshly humans, I forgot that for a while..

So, now each time the worry comes back, I say a quick prayer: “I know You love me. You are all-powerful and I know you will work this out for my good.” Sometimes, it’s simpler and even quicker: “I need you or Your Will be done.”

The anxiety and worry are slowly being replaced by the peace and joy again. And that is wonderful!

We don’t, can’t, and won’t always know why things happen the way they do, but we always have a choice in how we react to them. We can choose to believe God’s promises. We can choose to believe God loves us and will take care of us. We can choose to stay in faith.

My life circumstances may still a mess, but as long as I keep my eyes on God, my faith remains steady. I now know that GOD truly is in control and my times are indeed in HIS hands.

Psalm 105:4
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

TheChristmasStalking_h11248_680CTHE CHRISTMAS STALKING by Lillian Duncan:

Overzealous fan or crazed stalker?

Country music superstar Destiny appears to have it all. Beauty, money, and fame. But it’s not all glitz and glamour. Being a celebrity comes with a price—loneliness, and now threats from an unknown stalker.

With Christmas approaching, and as the danger escalates in Nashville, Destiny has no choice but to disappear. She escapes to her grandparents’ cabin in the Adirondack Mountains near the tiny Village of Serenity & Peace. It seems to be the perfect choice for a hideout. Longing for the serenity and peace she experienced there as a child, Destiny sheds her celebrity persona and resumes her long-forgotten identity as Holly Stone.

Unfortunately, fame follows her to the tiny village—along with her stalker.

Lillian Duncan writes stories of faith mingled with murder & mayhem. She writes the type of books she loves to read—suspense with a touch of romance. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

To learn more about Lillian and her books, visit: http://www.lillianduncan.net. She also has a devotional blog at: http://www.PowerUpWithGod.com

***

Let’s talk about this. As I read Lillian’s devotion, I thought of my daughter. She’s in highschool, and if you remember your highschool years, I’m sure you’ll understand, things can get tough. Especially for a Christian surrounded by those engaging in promiscuity and drug and alcohol use. My Mamma-bear longs to yank her out–to keep her home where I can shelter her.

But I have to remember God’s in control. That’s hard. It’s hard enough to relinquish control of my own life, but it’s even harder to surrender my daughter to God. And yet, it becomes easier when I remember God’s nature and promises. (Aren’t you glad we’re memorizing Scripture? 😉 )

Let’s talk about this. How is God speaking to you through today’s reading? You can share your thoughts in the comments below or you can join our Yahoo Proverbs study group:


Click to join ProverbsStudy

Click to join ProverbsStudy
Some questions to ponder and/or discuss:

What about you? What area is hardest for you to relinquish control?

What biblical promises might make this easier?

When have you been forced to surrender something, and what were the results?

As I read today’s devotion and thought about today’s focus, I was reminded of James 1:5-8.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

I also thought of Habakkuk 1:11.

“They sweep past like the wind and are gone. But they are deeply guilty, for their own strength is their god.”

This verse is talking about the Babylonians, but I suspect it could apply to each one of us as well.

One of our Yahoo study group members asked if I could provide a schedule for our upcoming reading. I figured some of you may appreciate having a schedule as well:

I plan to stay in ch 3 until the 10th; then we will read and focus on ch 4 on the 11th; chapter 5 on the 12th, 13th, and 14th; ch. 6 on the 16th, 17th, and 18th; reading ch. 7-8 on the 19th and focusing on ch. 8; chapter 9 on the 20th;
chapter 10 on the 22nd and 23rd; chapter 11 on the 24th and 25th; ch. 12 on the 26th & 27th; ch 13 on the 28th and 29th; ch. 14 on the 30th and 31st; ch. 15 on Feb. 1st and 2nd; ch. 16 on the 3rd; ch. 17 on the 4th, 5th, and 6th; ch. 18 on the 7th and 8th; ch. 19 on the 9th and 10th; ch. 20 on the 11th-13th; ch 21 on the 14th-16th; ch. 22 on the 17th; ch 24 on the 19th-20th; ch. 25 on the 21st; ch. 26 on the 22nd; ch 27 on the 23rd-24th; ch. 28th on the 25th; ch. 29 on the 26th; ch. 30 on the 27th; ch. 31 on the 28th.

I also suggest, for those of you wanting more reading, that you read the other suggested passages provided on the days when our reading from Proverbs is shorter. The reason I am doing this is so we have time to really digest and
apply what we are focusing on, hoping by doing so, it will be more likely to
become a life-habit. 🙂

You could also go back and re-read previous chapters or read ahead.

Today’s reading: Proverbs 3:1-8, Psalm 139 , James 1:2-8

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 3:5

Today’s focus: Choosing to trust

This week’s memory verse: 
Proverbs2memoryverse

 This has been an interesting year for me. I’ve seen healings I’ve fervently prayed for not come to pass. I’ve seen a family with young children lose their mother to brain cancer. I’ve seen hurting and hungry children and broken adults. I’ve experienced some health challenges and watched helplessly as my daughter cried out in pain from a bad case of shingles. Worse, I listened to her express her broken heart as she wondered why God would allow her to experience such pain. And there were times when all I could pray was why. Why, Lord, would you let these things happen? Where is Your healing? Can you see us? Do you care?

One morning, while asking those very questions, God gave me this answer, found in Ezekiel 36:9 “See, I care about you and will pay attention to you” (NLT).

And truly, that was all I needed to hear. You see, we won’t always receive answers this side of heaven. Nor will we always be rescued. But we will always be heard. And held. So what do we do when life doesn’t go as we expect? We choose to trust. When we don’t understand the what or the why, we must focus on the Who–knowing God is in complete control and that at every moment, He has us in mind. He is attentive to our cries, and He has a loving purpose for everything He does and everything He allows. But more than that, one day He will set everything right. One day He will wipe away every last tear, will heal every disease and heartache. So hold on, beloved, for our bridegroom is coming and oh, what a party He has planned for us!

Today as you read Beth Farley’s devotion, prayerfully direct your thoughts onto the nature of God. Choose to trust Him, for He is worthy.

GE DIGITAL CAMERABeth Ann Farley is a dear friend of mine and one of our Yahoo Bible Study group members. She is married with three grown children. She lives in Kansas City, MO where she serves as librarian. She loves to read, write, decorate and spend as much time as possible outside with her Peek-A-Poo. Beth is a lover of the Lord. “He is my-everything and I can’t start a day without visiting with Him.” Beth came to know the Lord when she was 30 years old and has served Him on committee’s such as Missions Outreach, Local Missions, Diaconate Committee, Youth Committee, and was a church secretary for several years. Beth loves Women’s Bible Studies, has hosted several in each one of her homes that she has lived in and has led a few as well. Beth is now taking time in life to move forward with her writing in whatever way God directs her.

Visit her online at: http://firsthalfday1.wordpress.com/

Proverbs 3:5 in several versions

New King James:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;

New Living Translation

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.

American Standard Translation

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

Amplified Bible

 Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

No matter how many ways the above scripture is written, it means the same thing; trusting in God and not myself. I had an opportunity to chat with a close relative the other day about the shooting in Connecticut. She is a mother of three young children and about ready to have another. She told me that she didn’t want her kids to go back to school and did not understand why God would do such a terrible thing.

I had to let her words soak in for a few before I answered. I wanted to be very careful and wise because she is not really a believer. She is not sure what she believes in. Before answering, I quickly asked God that His words come from my mouth, not my own because I was sure to botch it up.

I told her that I believed that God did not make that happen. He may have allowed it but for reasons we can’t possibly understand and won’t understand until we meet Him face to face. I shared with her the above scripture about trusting in God and not in her own thoughts and strengths.  I also spoke to her about Isaiah 55:8 where God tells us, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” NLT I also told her that so often I will have circumstances arise and not know why but if I do trust in the Lord then I know everything will work out fine.

Today I pray as you continue to study Proverbs 3 that you will ask the Lord to give you the strength and discipline to trust in Him and not in yourself. I pray that when you are approached by an unbeliever or someone who is just not certain about events that make no sense, that you are trusting in God to give you the best guidance possible. I pray that if you are hit yourself by something during this study that tempts you to quit, that you just trust and not give up.

Are you truly trusting God in all that you do? In all that you say? In all that is going on in your world right now? I ask myself these questions as well. I have to trust. Without trust, I have nothing.

Remember; no matter how many versions of Proverbs 3:5 you read; it all comes down to the one important word…

TRUST!

LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS!

1) List five things you know to be true about God. Now pause and prayerfully think about His nature in light of whatever difficulties you are facing. Fill in the following:

Because He is loving ___________________________________________________.

Because He is faithful __________________________________________________.

Because He is all-knowing _______________________________________________.

Because He is with me __________________________________________________.

2) Yesterday, we learned the heart means the inner man, or the core of who we are. What does it mean to trust in the Lord with *all* your heart?

3) Psalm 139 is one of my favorite passages. Take a moment to read the chapter. Do any verses stand out to you? What might God be trying to say to you this morning?

Here’s what stood out to me:

God examines my heart–searches deep to my very core and knows me intimately, even better than I know myself. (v. 1)

He goes before me, to guide me, and stands behind me, to catch me when I fall or slip. Like a loving, attentive, gentle father, He places His hand upon me. (v. 5, 10)

He knows what I will face tomorrow, why I will face it, and how He will see me through it. Nothing I encounter is by accident, and because God’s loving hand is always upon me, I can rest assured everything I encounter is truly for my best. (v. 16)

God is constantly thinking of me. (v. 17)

4) Now I will ask you again, what might God be trying to say to you this morning? Will you trust Him? Will you walk with Him, not dragging behind, complaining about the journey, nor forging ahead in impatience, but instead, humbly matching your step with His, trusting He knows what is best for you?

5) Pause to consider the following passage:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

I’ve given you a lot to think about this morning. I’d love to know how God used this devotional or the suggested passages to speak to you. Join the conversation here, in the comments below, on Facebook, or at our online Bible study Group.

Click to join ProverbsStudy

Do you have faith? How deep? Does your faith extend beyond your head-knowledge–what you believe to be true–to your full surrender? That’s the Staci headshotmeasuring line, isn’t it? Being able–willing–to stake all we have and all we are on what we claim to believe. Even when everything around us points to the contrary. Today Staci Stallings, author of Cowboy, encourages us to put feet to our beliefs by trusting in–resting in–the Person of God.

Real Faith

Faith is the bedrock of being a Christian. Few people would argue that fact.  However, I recently read something that caused me to go, “Hmm… I never thought about it like that.”

The author of the piece pointed out that faith no longer seems to mean what it once did.  It, like so many other things and words in our society today, has been cheapened.  That cheapening affects not just our understanding of the word but also how we put it into practice in our lives.

There are five definitions for faith on Dictionary.com.  They are:

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing

2. belief that is not based on proof

3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion

4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit

5. a system of religious belief

Our basic problem in Christianity stems from the fact that the world has, in the minds of many, replaced the first definition with the second.

The first definition speaks about “trust.”  The second only speaks about believing in something you cannot see.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  The second is important.  The problem is when we completely supplant it for the first.

Let me offer it this way:  I can believe in God–i.e. believe He exists without trusting Him.

Merely believing that He exists gets us no farther on our faith walk than believing another person exists gets us married.  Yes, that belief in His existence is important, but you can believe God and Christ exist and not experience what Christian living is all about.

Why?

Because the belief in their existence is not what changes your life.  It is only in experiencing and living the first definition of faith that real Christianity and real faith begin to be manifested.

Once I clear the first hurdle of believing in God, the next leap of faith–trusting Him must be made or “Christian life” will feel exactly as “non-Christian life” felt.  It will still be all up to me.  I will continue to try to self-effort myself through life.

You see these types of Christians all the time.  They work and they do and they serve.  They are in the choir and on the finance counsel.  They run from church meeting to church meeting.  If they aren’t exhausted yet, they soon will be.

I know.  I was one of those Christians.

It was only when God allowed my self-effort to prove to me how futile it was that I went seeking for another answer, and the Answer I found was in the first definition–in fully trusting God.  It was only when I began to fully trust God and Christ and stop relying on myself that I found what I had been searching for the whole time:  A victorious Christian walk etched in grace and forgiveness and love.

When I put that first definition into practice, I found that it really is as easy as just letting God love me and then giving that love to others.

It was only when I found real faith, rooted in the FIRST definition of faith that my life began to have meaning and peace and hope.  I believe that life is offered to everyone, just don’t fall for the trap that believing in God’s existence is enough.  You must take that second (albeit scary) step of fully trusting Him in every aspect of your life to experience the incredible freedom that God can in your spirit, your world, and your life.

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2012

Cowboy coverStaci’s novel, Cowboy:

Life has done its best to knock Beth McCasland to the ground, and the truth is: it’s done a pretty good job of keeping her there. Stuck in a minimum-wage job with a young daughter counting on her, Beth does her best to stay standing under the weight of it all because she knows God is on her side. Then one night she gets the chance to be an angel to another of life’s weary travelers. For once hope has never looked so real.

Cowboy is a grace-filled story about the power of giving everything to God and how a simple act of compassion can change lives forever. Emotional, soothing, and heart-wrenching, Cowboy is infused with the message that no matter who we are and no matter what life has thrown at us, we never have to walk alone.

A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings is now a #1 Best Selling author in Christian Romance at Amazon.  She has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure!  That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.  Staci touches the lives of people across the globe every week with her various Internet endeavors including:

 

Spirit Light Books–The Blog
http://spiritlightbooks.wordpress.com/

We all face trials, heartaches, and disappointments, but with Christ, we can rise above. Today, Susan Sleeman shares her struggles with chronic illness and how God helped her move forward. Please note: Susan is giving away a copy of her novel Double Exposure to one randomly selected reader who leaves a comment or question for her on today’s post.

Do you have a situation in your life that you’re struggling with? Maybe a job loss, financial difficulties, a home loss, loss of a family member or friend, your own illness or the illness of someone you love? If you do, then you’re like most of us on any given day. We all face struggles and need to overcome them to move on.

I live with a chronic illness. Each day can be a challenge from the time I get up to the time I fall asleep at night. I could (and have) wallowed in the pain and suffering. I’ve clung to it like an old friend and felt sorry for myself.

But why? What good did it do me?

None. Absolutely none.

Focusing on my situation only made it worse. Made it grow. Bigger and bigger until it was insurmountable and the only reaction is self-pity. That’s what I used to do, but what do I do now?

I can best tell you by sharing the words of the popular song Trading My Sorrows by Darrell Evans?

I’m trading my sickness
I’m trading my pain
I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord

When I first heard these words, I wondered how I could trade my sickness and pain. Trust me if I could trade it for health I would in a heartbeat. But the song is really saying lay down how you feel about the illness and pain. Lay down the self-pity. Praise the Lord for all He has done for you. All He is for you and be joyful. Even praise Him for the suffering, because it’s in the fires of suffering and pain that we draw closer to God and we find out who we are.

So whatever you’re facing, lay it down for the joy of the Lord. Trust Him to be faithful and bring you through your problem. Trust that He knows and hears your pain and is walking each step with you. Trust that He loves you and whatever situation you are going through will ultimately work for good. Trust Him!

Dead Wrong:

A KILLER’S CLOSING IN…

When her client and old college friend is murdered, P.I. Kat Justice knows the killer will come for her next. Her survival depends on finding her unknown enemy first…and working with homicide detective Mitch Elliot, her onetime crush.

It’ll take all her professional skills to ignore the sparks between them, but Kat can’t allow the handsome cop to get close. She’s seen too many people she loves die, so she vows just to do her job without getting emotionally involved. Yet keeping her distance may not be the best way to protect her heart—or their lives.

For more info about and to read and except for Dead Wrong visit Susan’s website at about http://www.susansleeman.com/books/dead-wrong/

SUSAN SLEEMAN is a best-selling author of inspirational romantic suspense and mystery novels. Her first romantic suspense title, High-Stakes Inheritance earned a spot on the ECPA bestseller list and her Garden Gate Mystery series, which features Nipped in the Bud, and Read Between the Tines has enjoyed time on Amazon bestseller lists as well. And The Christmas Witness was named a finalist in the 2011 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. In addition to writing, Susan hosts the popular internet website TheSuspenseZone.com.

She currently lives in Florida, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law, and an adorable grandson. To learn more about Susan stop by any of these locations on the web.

To learn more about Susan stop by any of these locations on the web.

Website           www.SusanSleeman.com

Facebook        http://www.Facebook.com/SusanSleeemanBooks

Twitter            http://www.Twitter.com/SusanSleeman

Review Site     http://www.TheSuspenseZone.com

Let’s talk about this. I loved Susan’s reminder to trust in God–to trust He’s walking with us, that He hears us, that He sees our pain, and that He cares. Join us at Living by Grace today as we talk about drawing near to God during trials and times of weakness.

And make sure to come back to Living By Grace Friday and Saturday for a continuation of our in-depth look at the book of James.

Most of us don’t have wooden or stone idols. In fact, a large proportion of us have turned to Christ for salvation, but are we truly resting in His hands? Or have we merged our securities and marginalized our lives? Have we placed conditions on our trust.

Conditions like:

I trust God to provide, but I must keep my savings account at this level

I trust God to watch over my children, but I must watch them diligently

I trust God with my marriage, but my spouse must ….

Oh, how hard it is to truly surrender! Especially in some of these gray, even biblical areas. The Bible tells us to handle our money wisely, to save for the future, to diligently raise and train our children, to submit to our spouses in humility and love.

Those are great things, but they are not strong enough to carry our burdens, to rescue us from storms. And when we trust in those things, we are really trusting in ourselves–in our abilities.

But we all know how far we get in our own abilities, right?

Prayerfully read over the following passage and ask God to show you what idols you have allowed to weasel into your life.

Isaiah 44 (NLT)

“But now, listen to me, Jacob my servant,
Israel my chosen one.
The Lord who made you and helps you says:
Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant,
    O dear Israel, my chosen one.
For I will pour out water to quench your thirst
and to irrigate your parched fields.
And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants,
and my blessing on your children.
They will thrive like watered grass,
like willows on a riverbank.
Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the Lord.’
Others will say, ‘I am a descendant of Jacob.’
Some will write the Lord’s name on their hands
and will take the name of Israel as their own.”

The Foolishness of Idols

This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies:

“I am the First and the Last;
there is no other God.
Who is like me?
    Let him step forward and prove to you his power.
Let him do as I have done since ancient times
when I established a people and explained its future.
Do not tremble; do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago?
You are my witnesses—is there any other God?
No! There is no other Rock—not one!”

How foolish are those who manufacture idols.
These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
so they are all put to shame.
10 Who but a fool would make his own god—
 an idol that cannot help him one bit?
11 All who worship idols will be disgraced
along with all these craftsmen—mere humans—
who claim they can make a god.
They may all stand together,
but they will stand in terror and shame.

12 The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool,
pounding and shaping it with all his might.
His work makes him hungry and weak.
It makes him thirsty and faint.
13 Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood
and draws a pattern on it.
He works with chisel and plane
and carves it into a human figure.
He gives it human beauty
and puts it in a little shrine.
14 He cuts down cedars;
he selects the cypress and the oak;
he plants the pine in the forest
to be nourished by the rain.
15 Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.
With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.
Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it
and makes himself a god to worship!
He makes an idol
and bows down in front of it!
16 He burns part of the tree to roast his meat
and to keep himself warm.
He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.”
17 Then he takes what’s left
and makes his god: a carved idol!
He falls down in front of it,
worshiping and praying to it.
“Rescue me!” he says.
“You are my god!”

18 Such stupidity and ignorance!
Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.
Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.
19 The person who made the idol never stops to reflect,
“Why, it’s just a block of wood!
I burned half of it for heat
and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat.
How can the rest of it be a god?
Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?”
20 The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes.
He trusts something that can’t help him at all.
Yet he cannot bring himself to ask,
    “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?”

I love that last verse for it speaks of an honest heart evaluation, something we each need … daily.

Let’s talk about this!

Are you fearfully clinging to something God is asking you to surrender? Are you building safety nets God might want you to release?

Stop for a moment and focus on God’s unchanging nature. List ten things you know to be true about God. Now, stop to remember all He has done. List five to ten times when God came through–when He provided a friend when you needed one, a check at just the right time, strength when you felt ready to break.

Does remembering who God is and what He’s done make surrender easier?

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about perseverance and how we can do that during “the waiting period.”

As many of you now, we are in the process of moving which means we’ve spent a great deal of time looking at houses. As our moving date approaches, my anxiety rises. What if we don’t find a place in time? Will we have to stay in a hotel, spending $100-$150 a night? When deadlines loom, it’s easy to focus on the problem instead of on God, but when we do, we risk tuning out the protective still small voice of our Heavenly Father.

Two weeks ago, we found a lovely house in a great neighborhood. It was large, backed up to trees, and was walking distance from the local high school. It was at the top of our budget but after some number crunching, appeared manageable. We made an offer, they accepted, and we scheduled a home inspection.

The inspection didn’t go well, and as we negotiated back and forth with the sellers, my husband and I became increasingly uncomfortable. But our logical, number crunching, analytical minds viewed things differently. Yes, there were a few issues–like some wood rot and a faulty roof–but if they repaired the roof, we had the money to fix the rest. And we really didn’t have time to start over.

God knew differently and saw what we couldn’t—the future.

After more prayer, we rescinded our offer and called our realtor to schedule more house hunting.

I was pretty discouraged. My schedule’s crazy on a good day. Add weekend house hunting trips and all that comes with it (like not sleeping due to a noisy hotel air conditioning unit) and perhaps you could understand my sense of urgency. (Not to mention the money spent on hotel and restaurant fees each time we look for homes.) I wondered if we’d ever find a home!

We did! Last weekend, we found another house,  made an offer, and it was accepted.

Two days later, we received a few emails necessitating expensive trips this summer. Trips that will eat into our savings–that savings we’d planned to use to repair house number one.

God knew.

Imagine the bind we could have been in if we’d muscled our way forward.

At the time, it was tempting to ignore that still, small voice redirecting us. How easy it would have been to justify buying that house! We were on a time crunch, we had money in savings for repairs, it was a great neighborhood full of kids and close to school. ALL of us liked the house, and we’d already looked at so many! Surely we were being too picky.

And yet, instead of forcing our way and justifying our actions, we chose to obey. We chose to trust that God knew best, and that He only acted in love.

When we hit a closed door, we can either push our way in, closing our ears to God’s warnings, or we can surrender to the loving, faithful, protective will of our Heavenly Father.

Really, it comes down to trust, in believing God is truly for us, not against us. In believing He truly does know what’s best.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 says 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 

Maybe there’s something you’re holding on to–a new job, a new home, a ministry or opportunity. Have you paused to seek God’s will? And are you ready to obey, no matter what He tells you? How might knowing He’ll only do what’s in your best interest help?

Stop and think of your own children. How many times have you had to tell them no to something–something they assumed to be a blessing but that you knew could lead to danger?

Let’s talk about this!

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about full surrender  and trusting in God’s unchanging nature when the road ahead gets blurred or blocked.

On Saturday I talked about letting go and taking a step of faith toward whatever God is calling you to. Today, Naomi Musch, author of  The Red Fury and The Green Veil  reminds us of the pain of not following after God’s will. Throughout the pages of Scripture, we read accounts of strange obedience–washing in a river seven times to be cleansed of leprosy, marching around a wall for seven days, stepping into a river at flood stage. In every account, from the confusing to the amazing, it all boils down to trust. If we truly know who God is, if we truly understand His nature, the God-head, full of grace, mercy, love and truth, we’d surrender fully, completely, instantly, continually.

The Silver Lining of Trust by Naomi Musch

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions; however, for the first time in my life I feel pressed to take inventory. The past year has marked a season of change. I turned 50 in November, and next month my youngest child of five hits that magical 18. I’ve been a nester, a homeschooling mom for the past eighteen years who only took on a part-time job a few years ago. 2011 has been a year of very high highs and extremely low lows. Suddenly, despite moments of tremendous joy, I find I have a lot of soul-rending regrets. Sorrows have clouded the landscape of my heart. In dwelling on the lows, I find that I regret my leniency as well as my severity. I regret some jobs and some seasons. I regret most battles and many words — or the lack of them.

Regret is a grim reaper. It kills hope and faith and turns the joy of love into heartache. And yet…

When I was a teenager I swore I’d live without regrets. I said I’d never be sorry for anything. That was a prideful thing to say, even privately. A person who doesn’t regret lives arrogantly. It’s like saying they never do anything wrong, or if they do, so what? That was me back then.

But I’ve learned that regrets, when put into a right perspective, lead to repentance, and repentance leads to mercy. And mercy makes me grow in Grace.

I wrestle with those things I can’t change as I watch my children grapple with their own decisions. I struggle between the right balances of introspection and putting the past behind.

“Press on toward the mark,” the Holy Spirit whispers to my heart. My choices have consequences. Sometimes the consequence is the knowledge that I can’t have a do-over. Still, if I also choose to repent, or if my regrets aren’t the result of sin, but merely disappointing outcomes to decisions, I can turn them over to the Lord and not be overcome by them.

A new year stretches out before us. It may be a terrific year, but it will likely come with disappointments too. Regrets may surface. Loss could be inevitable. But my goal for the year is to trust God intentionally when it comes to these hurts, heartaches, and the things I wish I had or hadn’t done.

It’s a familiar Scripture He whispers, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way (italics mine), and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” (Philippians 3:13-16)

What intentional living and intentional trust!

This morning I wrote in my journal, “Dear Lord, help me to trust in You for the silver lining around the clouds.” Some might call it positive thinking, but not I. I know it is intentional trusting. It’s the course I must steel my heart to take, keeping my eyes on those sparkling edges, holding fast and true to God’s embrace.

The Red Fury: 

Lainey Kade has been spurned twice since the death of her true love in a logging accident. Now there’s been talk. “That Lainey, she’s a shrew all right. Not ever going to marry, likely.” Seeing herself as an unlovable vixen on whom God has turned His back, she hardens herself to the prospect of such a painful emotion again. Walking away from love’s possibilities and from trusting God, Lainey looks for solace instead in seeking adventure and breaking the rules.

Zane and Kelly Beaumont are drifters, brothers suffering their own disillusionment and bitter degrees of “soldier’s heart” since the Civil War. When their paths join Lainey’s, risky actions and emotions long thought buried set their course on edge. Then the Great Peshtigo Fire sweeps across the young Wisconsin wilderness, swallowing thousands of lives and 2,400 square miles in its wrath. And Lainey realizes that if she allows the spark of love inside her to flame again, it may tear them each apart.

Naomi Dawn Musch was born and raised in central Wisconsin and now makes her home in Wisconsin’s vast northwoods where the vistas are ripe to feed the imagination of anyone interested in history.  She and husband Jeff have three grown children and two under wing on their 150 acre farm where they dabble at raising a menagerie of animals.

Naomi has been publishing a regional newsletter for home educators for the past thirteen years entitled Apples of Gold.  See the page “Apples of Gold for Home Educators” for more information. She is also a staff writer for Living Stones News, a regional Christian newpaper; and a regular contributor to Home School Enrichment magazine.www.livingstonesnews.com  www.homeschoolenrichment.com www.applesofgoldnews.com

Besides writing, Naomi enjoys homeschooling her children, gardening, taking walks in the woods, a little basketball, and fellowshipping with friends.

Visit her online.

And join the conversation:

What has helped you to trust God more? What are the benefits of full surrender based on total trust? What do you think hinders our trust?

The other day, while driving, my husband and I passed a blind woman led by a seeing eye dog. Cars zoomed by and horns honked, but the dog remained focused. His task? To bring the woman to her destination safely. The woman’s task? To follow, not veering to the left or right. As I watched her, I couldn’t help but think how incredibly frightening that must have been. She couldn’t see the path ahead, or what lay between her and her destination. All she could do was focus on her next step, then the next, and the next. Through practiced obedience, she’d become accustomed to her guides every move, and she responded accordingly. When the dog stopped, she stopped. When he veered, she veered. Her sensitivity to his movements, at times, may have meant the difference between life and death.

Our faith walk is a lot like that, isn’t it? In many ways, it’s like walking in the dark, not knowing what obstacles, hurdles, or detours lie ahead. It’s easy to get so caught up in the “what-ifs” that we loose our focus on the here and now–that next step. But like a seeing eye dog who guides his companion with unwavering focus, God has promised to lead us to our final destination.

All we need to do is focus on our guide and take that next step.

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.

God leads us, not always along the path of least resistance, but the path of inner peace. When you surrender everything to God, trusting Him to be who He says He is and do what He promises to do, you’ll find rest even amidst the greatest struggles because you’ll realize it’s not about you. It’s not about how great you are, how gifted, talented, strong, insightful. It’s about how obedient and pliable you are.

Our trust is not based on our present circumstances, but instead, in the unfailing goodness of God. I love how verse six puts it–God’s goodness and love will pursue us.

Yesterday one of my friends posted this video on facebook, which led to about an hour of instant replay. 

And it’s not just because it has a catchy beat. The words, “How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er” touched me deeply. As I sang, memories of all the times Jesus has shown up—again, and again, and again—came washing over me. When I’ve had nowhere else to turn, He was there. When everyone else turned away, He was there. When I was too tired to lift my face, He lifted it for me. When I felt like my heart would break, He comforted me with words of love. Like a gentle father enveloping a weak and timid child. God has proven His love and faithfulness to me o’er and o’er.

One day I was speaking with an atheist. This was one of those intellectual conversations–you know, “According to the first law of thermodynamics…therefore there must be a God.”

He wasn’t buying it.

Although, I suspect he was. Each one of us knows deep in our hearts there is a God. And I believe each one of us catch glimpses of His all-consuming love throughout the day, but we rationalize those moments and faint whispers away.

That’s easy to do, even for believers. We’ll hear a word from God. Maybe a verse will speak to us, asking us to do something we’d rather not do. And in that moment, we surrender completely. But then the next day rolls around, and the words, and our passion, fades. How do you know that verse was from God? (Besides the fact that it’s in the Bible?) Maybe you’re making too much of it. You do have a tendency to make every verse your own. (News flash–the Bible is God’s Word to you. Own it.)

Or, we’ll ask for another confirmation, then another, then another. And over time, that tiny flame begins to fade. Life seeps in, and we tell ourselves it was never really a call.

Given enough time and enough human rationalization, even the miraculous can be explained away. Maybe it wasn’t a worldwide flood. Maybe Jonah’s life was an allegory. Maybe that check that came in the mail at just the right time was a coincidence.

Until we’re leveled–totally broken, without a glimmer of hope, and God shows up. Then there’s no doubt. No explanations suffice, and that memory of God reaching down His hand and plunging us out of whatever mess we were in resonates so deeply, it cements itself into our hearts.

After a long, and fruitless conversation with my atheist friend, he asked me what I would do if someone proved the Bible wrong. Perhaps he wasn’t aware of how many years I had spent studying cannonization, biblical archeology and books upon books discussing the credibility and authority of the Bible. But despite all the evidence I’d seen in favor of the Bible’s authority, I contemplated his question honestly.

After all the times God surrounded me, held me, spoke to me, saved me, healed me–showed Himself to me in both the big and the mundane–could anything convince me of His non-existence?

No. Once you’ve tasted the water, there is no way someone can convince you it is not real.

What about you? Pause for a moment and think…contemplate all the times and ways God has shown up in your life. Then listen to the song again. Do you find yourself singing, “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him. How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.”?

Not there yet? Curious? Maybe even a tad thirsty? Wanna see if God really is who He says He is and really does what He says He does? Ask Him to show you, for all who ask receive, all who seek find and to him who knocks the door will be opened.

Jeremiah 29:12-13 “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”

If you want to know God–truly know Him, and experience His freeing, cleansing love first hand, tell Him. If you seek, you will find. He’s already there, loving you, drawing you. Waiting for you to life up your face.

And now I’ going to play that song again. Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him. How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.

Jesus–life, peace, joy…rest.