Guest Blog: “When God Can’t Be Trusted” (Trust #3)

Those who have been reading my blogs lately know that trusting God has been on my mind. This is to be my “best year” of trusting God. It already is. A loved one is battling mental illness, and I have not given in to debilitating fears, depression, or hopelessness. I haven’t been trying to fix this individual as if my words could fix the brain. I have peace and joy in the midst.

Today I’m posting a guest blog by Heather Kopp, a fellow writer. I met Heather years ago when I interviewed her with her husband, David Kopp at a CBA convention in Orlando. They had written a book titled Praying for the World’s 365 Most Influential People. I was intrigued by the book because I’ve always been interested in celebrities, but I hadn’t thought of praying for them.

Then years later Heather came out with a book titled Sober Mercies; How Love Caught Up With A Christian Drunk. Her transparency about her struggle with alcohol moved me and urged me on to keep being honest in my own writing. In her book she wrote about her son, Noah, who also battled addiction. After that I followed her Sober Mercies blog. Her truths helped me so much in my own battle to be set free from my addictions.

A tragedy happened with Heather’s son, Noah, on October 31, 2015. It startled me and shook me to the core. You can read about it on Heather’s blog. It’s her latest post. Please read it after the trust blog, which was first posted on January 9, 2012.

The bottom line is that God can be trusted. However, He cannot be trusted to give in to my demands. He cannot be trusted to make my life unfold in ways I want it to. He cannot be trusted to keep my life free from tragedy. But today I’m celebrating that despite the tragedies in my life—ie the suicide of two of my siblings, severe mental illness in other relatives, gifted Christian loved ones who have become prodigals, and the list goes on—He can still be trusted. Pray for Heather that she will continue to believe that.

The song that came to mind this week as I thought about this blog is “Oceans” by Hillsong.  I invite you to look it up on Youtube.

Here’s the link to my guest blog  “Why God Can’t Be Trusted” by Heather Kopp.

http://soberboots.com/2012/01/09/why-god-cant-be-trusted/

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Heaven Is Real

Not long ago, I attended a Christian concert where one of the groups, Unspoken, sang their new song about heaven called, “Live on Forever.”

Over and over that song has been going through my mind. I’ve been thinking lots about heaven and how wonderful it’s going to be.

Recently I woke up in the night with these lyrics from the song in my mind: “There’s so much more. There’s so much more.”

One of the reasons I have heaven on my mind is because earth can some days seem like such a dark, depressing place. So God needs to remind me that this is not my home—that my true home is in heaven with Him.

That encourages me.

He also reminds me that this place is so temporary compared to my forever home with Him.

Some people I meet who are suicidal want to hurry on to heaven by taking their own lives.

I myself have battled suicidal thoughts. But the truth that comes to me is that if we endure in this life and make it through holding on to the Lord to make it victoriously through the hard times, the joy of heaven will be so much greater than if we give up either by taking our own lives or by living impotent lives where we just coast through until our final day arrives.

The joy of life here on earth comes not by avoiding hard times or waiting for them to be over so we can once again experience joy, but by living fully and obediently through them. The joy is in obeying and trusting.

I’m determined to live life fully here on earth until my time to go to heaven arrives. My passion is to be all God has called me to be and encourage others to do the same.

Yes, I’m tempted to coast, to give up on being truly alive in Christ, to give in to being a tepid Christian instead of someone on fire for the Lord.

But God in me is helping me to overcome that temptation.

Somehow being reminded of the wonder and glory of heaven makes me want to live better here on this earth. Perhaps it’s because when I think of heaven I remember there are rewards there which are determined by how well we live our lives here on earth—how fully we use the gifts and talents God gave us. If I understand this reward system correctly, any reward we get goes to Christ and honors Him.

In his book, The Heaven Answer Book, Billie Graham states that the word “heaven” is spoken of 622 times in the NIV and 692 times in the KJV. He also says that there are countless other references to being with Jesus that don’t mention the word, “heaven.”

Here are three encouraging verses about heaven.

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3 NASB

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3-4

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1

Yes, I’m looking forward to heaven where I can see Jesus face to face and all the sorrows of this world will be erased. (Hey, that rhymes. Maybe I’ll write my own song about heaven.)

I’m also looking forward to the Lord saying to me: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  (See Matthew 25:21)

That’s what I want to be until the day I die: a good and faithful servant. Oh Lord, help me to do that, and thank You for Your mercy when I mess up.

Heaven is real, and we are going to live on forever. Let’s celebrate that!

Below is the link to the song “Live on Forever” by the Afters. Then there are six more songs—seven in all about heaven. (They say seven is the number of perfection.) Listen if you have the time or inclination.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9WEj6uLgmM

 

Where I Belong by Building 429

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zplX5FDDuH0

 

“There Will Be A Day” by Jeremy Camp

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gtud5pvF08A

 

“I Can Only Imagine” MercyMe

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Da4fnYIuV9s

 

“I’ll Fly Away” Allison Krause  (Written in 1929 by Albert Brumley)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcP9Zsaqnck

 

“When We All Get to Heaven” sung by Brad Paisley (Written in 1898 by Eliza E Hewitt)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V–eXiC1LEI

 

“I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy” by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

(Also called, I Dreamt of a City Called Glory”)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2gj_N4i77s

 

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When God Repeats Himself (Trust #2)

One way I know God is trying to tell me something is that He repeats Himself. There are plenty of examples of this in Scripture—like the psalm where He says over and over (26 times!) that His love endures forever. (See Psalm 136)

Then there have been the times I received a Bible verse from numerous sources over a short period of time.

Lately God has been speaking to me by repeating His message through songs.

Two different times in recent days–as I go through a heartbreaking circumstance with a loved one–a song has come on the radio at the beginning and at the end of an occurrence.

The first time a certain song was playing when I arrived in the parking lot at work. I turned the car off feeling encouraged by the song.

When I came out of work after my 12-hour shift, I turned on the car, and once again the same song was playing.

“Thank You, Lord,” I said feeling that He really wanted me to embrace the message of that song. The song was “The Air I Breathe” by Mat Kearney. The words that really spoke to me were “shame comes calling my first name.” All my life I’ve battled shame since I came from a shaming family. I knew God was warning me that the enemy would once again try to use shame to bring me down. He already was trying to shame me, but I knew I had to stay alert and stand firm.

The other line was “Every word You speak is the air I breathe.”  Through that line, I was reminded that I needed to pay attention to God’s words and not the words of “experts” or other people around me.

Then this past weekend, it happened again.

When I was leaving town to go to Vero Beach to visit my parents, the song “Blessed Be Your Name,” came on the radio. I paid attention because a friend had recently given me a verse from the New Testament that had to do with Job.

“You know we call those blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] who were steadfast and endured [difficult circumstances]. You have heard of the patient endurance of Job and you have seen the Lord’s outcome [how He richly blessed Job]. The Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” James 5:11 AMP

When she shared that verse with me, she focused on “The Lord’s outcome.”

It’s in the book of Job that the words “blessed be the name of the LORD” appear. (Job 1:21b) Another line in the song, “He gives and takes away,” is from that same verse: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away” (21a) I remember a friend said she didn’t like that song because of that line, not realizing that it came from Scripture. She also didn’t like the line that said, “the road marked with suffering.”

This past Monday as I drove back into town after three hours on the road, the song “Blessed Be Your Name” came on the radio again. (BTW–the station I listen to is The Joy FM) I heard the song leaving town and then coming back near the same location I had heard it several days before. I truly believe God wanted me to receive truth deeply into my soul, so He repeated Himself using a song on the radio.

So as I sit here once again waiting expectantly for God’s outcome in a circumstance over which I know I have no control–one filled with danger and trauma–I know I have to do what Job did. I have to trust in God.

This verse came to mind after listening to “Blessed Be Your Name” the second time. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” (Job 13:15 KJV) The question comes again from the Lord, “My child, will you trust Me?”

My answer is “Yes, Lord, yes” followed by a prayer, “Lord, thank You for using this excruciatingly difficult circumstance to help me to trust You more.”

“Blessed Be Your Name” sung by Tree63

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh2DmjvQW20

“The Air I Breathe” by Mat Kearney

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mYKdTOok08

 

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I Will Trust Him

In a previous blog, I shared that I sensed God was telling me that the best is yet to come. This promise focused not on heaven, but it referred to my life here on earth.

Then as the new year drew closer and even after it arrived, God repeated a related promise to my heart: “This will be your best year yet.”

Oprah speaks on a commercial in recent days about this being the year of our best bodies ever. That’s a goal I’ve too often focused on, taking my concentration away from the spiritual needs in my life. I want that to be true—my best body—for health reasons especially, but this year I want to be more focused on my spiritual health.

My first thought when I heard God whisper, “This will be your best year yet” was that all of the messy circumstances in my life would miraculously be straightened out. Prodigals would come home. Loved ones with physical, emotional, and spiritual problems would be healed. Lost loved ones would be saved. Marriages of those I know that are on the verge of divorce would be rescued. The proud would be humbled. The mean people in my life would now be sweet and tender.

Then God impressed something else on me which redefined how I viewed this whole “The best is yet to come,” and “This will be the best year yet” promises.

His words were: “This year you will learn to trust Me more.”

So this year ahead will be my best year of trusting God. I receive that. I already see it happening. In the past my anger, worry, fear, and depression levels would have been so much higher than they are today with all that’s going on around me and in the world. It’s amazing how many times even in this new year that I have felt overwhelmed by peace and joy.

As I embrace God’s definition of “best,” I realize that circumstances may not change for the better. Or they may even get worse.

But the key to it being my best year ever is learning to trust Him more.

As I reflected on the subject, I thought of some of my favorite trust verses. Four of these* immediately came to mind. The other three I looked up.

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. Psalm 56:3 NKJV *

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6  ESV*

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 ESV *

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. Psalm 18:2 KJV

In the above verse, many translations have instead of “in whom I will trust” these words “in whom I take refuge.” This helps me to see an action of trusting—taking refuge in Him. 

I will say to (some translations say “of” instead of “to”) the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Psalm 91:2 ESV 

Here’s another distinct action I can take to grow my trust: speak to and of the Lord in regard to my trusting Him. 

…in quietness and trust shall be your strength. Isaiah 30:15 ESV * (some translations say “rest” or “confidence” instead of “trust.”)

After being reminded of the truth presented in Isaiah 30:15, I see how close rest and trust are related.

I remember an acronym I thought of years ago: REST = Release Everything; Simply Trust. That’s just what I want to do in 2016.

It is my desire to memorize the seven selections above and say them out loud often to remind myself of God’s trustworthiness and proclaim it to the enemy. I also want to share these and details of my journey with others, so I can help them to trust Him more.

There are so many rewards in trusting God. In relation to the verses mentioned above some of them are: peace, guidance, protection, strength.

My joyful task in the coming days is to look up all the trust verses in the Bible. Through them I’ll learn more about trusting God, and I’ll take note of the wonderful benefits that flow to me as I trust Him. I’m so excited to see how this “best year ever of trusting Him” unfolds.

How about you? Is this going to be your year of trusting God more than you ever have?

The song I chose for this week is “Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle. I love the way the Lord speaks a word to my heart and then brings a song to go along with it. How perfectly Lauren’s song fits my pursuit of trusting God more in 2016.

The first link is to a video with Lauren singing the song. Just seeing the passion of this 24-year-old singer/songwriter lifts my spirits. Pray for her as she brings God’s message to the masses.

The second link is a video with the lyrics to the song, so you can sing along.

“Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_aVFVveJNs

Lyric video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv-SXz_exKE

 

 

 

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Silence and Solitude

It’s a new year.

And I’m still in the process of thinking about godly goals for this year.

One of the things God has already laid on my heart which I definitely want to increase in 2016 is to spend more time in silence and solitude.

Lately I’ve been assessing my days and realizing that if I don’t plan for this, I can go through the whole day without it.

Yes, I do have a short quiet time reading the Word and praying on work days in the morning when my husband’s still asleep, (something I’ve returned to during this past year). That is one time I have a little silence and solitude.

But on days when I’m not working, taking time for silence and solitude can be a challenge.

Here is some of what blocks those special times:

-constant playing of music

-long phone calls

-having the TV on too much

-viewing copious amounts of videos on the Internet

-having people talking around me and to me

-not making an effort to get away from the chatter

-uneasiness about being alone

Jesus took time for silence and solitude, so I know I need to do it. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16 NIV).

Here is what I read recently about this subject: “There is a ‘giving up’ when we practice solitude. We give up others and our dependency on them. We give up noise and our fascination with what we hear. We give up our tendencies to be trivial and obsessed with our manic pursuits. We learn to receive what only silence and aloneness can give.” (from Embracing Soul Care; Making Space For What Matters Most by Stephen W. Smith)

I confess that I’m sometimes obsessed with being with people. Their opinions matter more than they should. Too often I want to pour my heart out to friends instead of to the Lord. At times I mistakenly conclude that they might have a solution to my distresses that God does not—that they understand me more than God does.

Years ago I walked every day by myself for an hour. I listened to and for God’s voice on those walks. I cherished alone time and felt so close to the Lord. These days I want to walk with others when I do get around to taking a long walk. I confess that I’ve returned to fighting the idea of solitude that I had in the early days of my Christian walk. A part of me sees it as a negative thing instead of something that has great benefits.

Stephen Smith goes on to say: “Solitude replenishes the soul. This is why Jesus made solitude a regular and necessary part of his lifestyle and relationship with God. He detached from people so that he could attach to God. Solitude allows us to be stripped of others so that we can be covered with divine love.” (page 124)

Some ways I’ve discovered lately to find more times of silence and solitude:

-Walk alone with no MP3 player.

-Go on a bicycle ride; stop and sit for a time in a quiet place.

-Write alone with no music in the background when no one is in the house.

-Go to the beach alone early in the early morning. Walk or just sit.

-Drive in the car with the radio off—especially in early morning on the way to work when traffic noise is down.

-Sit in my recliner when my husband is out of the house with TV, radio and cell phone off.

-Lie on my bed in silence.

-Take a walk around the hospital on my work day during my 15-minute break instead of watching TV in the break room.

-Go outside in my yard in the evening and sit on the lounge chair that’s out there.

During these times I pray silently, read and meditate on Scripture, or just listen to and for God’s voice.

Not long ago, I felt so comforted by what God revealed during a time of silence and solitude.

Two statements came to mind, and the Word “shadow” tied them together: the shadow of the valley of death” and “the shadow of your wings.” I looked up the verses.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me… Psalm 23:4 NKJV

…Hide me in the shadow of your wings. (Ps 17:8 NIV)

… And in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge. (Ps 57:1)

In the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. (Ps 63:7)

Through this God reminded me that no matter how difficult a trial I was facing (lately at times my trials have seemed unbearable) He would protect me.

I’m looking forward to more time in silence and solitude this year. One thing I know for sure—that these times are going to draw me closer to the Lord and help me to grow spiritually. I’ll become more obedient. During these times I’ll be reminded that God loves me, He is for me, and He is with me. And I’ll be able to do what He has been instructing me to do again and again in recent weeks: “Receive My peace.”

 

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Immanuel: God With Us

During this Christmas season I once again marvel at the truth presented in this Bible verse:

“…and they will call him Immanuel” which means “God with us.” Matthew 1:23 NIV

Too often I take this truth for granted. And I forget to meditate on the wonder of it.

God, the maker and ruler of the universe, chose to come in human form to be with us–with me.

There is nothing on this earth that can measure up to that. If President Obama called me on the telephone and said, “I’m coming to live with you,” it would be amazing and extraordinary–and weird.

We in our town would be saying, “Can you believe the president is here with us?”

But that is small in comparison to “God with us.”

God calling us up through the prophets and announcing “I’m coming to be with you” and then doing it is above anything that has happened in history before or since, except for the resurrection.

Still I take it for granted. I think it’s because I’ve heard the story of Jesus’ birth over and over. Perhaps this is why Jesus tells us to become as little children. Maybe then we can appreciate the wonder of the Christmas story.

We in this century didn’t have the privilege of meeting Jesus in human form and yet He is still with us. He promised that before He left the earth:

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20 NIV

Even though that promise is in the Word in Matthew and other places, because of discouragement over situations I can’t control and disappointment over my own and other’s sinfulness, I often feel alone–like God is not with me–that He has deserted me.

My feelings tell me He believes the negative opinions others at times have of me and has decided I’m not worth being with. Or I feel He’s weary of my repeated sinning and has decided to be only with those who are living exemplary Christian lives.

Because people have abandoned me at times, my soul still won’t let go of the belief that God might do it too.

When those moments come, like one did yesterday, deep in my soul there is a whisper, “I am still with you.”

In times past I didn’t hear that whisper, and I would sink deeper and deeper into loneliness and depression. Isolating from others seemed the only thing to do, which made matters worse. Backing away from God was another wrong choice I made because I didn’t feel His presence in my times of pain.

Often I still don’t–even when I draw near.

In his book, Prayer Philip Yancey says, “When I am tempted to complain about God’s lack of presence, I remind myself that God has much more reason to complain about my lack of presence. I reserve a few minutes a day for God, but how many times do I drown out or ignore the quiet voice that speaks to my conscience and my life?”

I get into trouble spiritually when I convince myself my feelings are telling me the truth.

The truth is God is with me, no matter how I feel, no matter what other people’s opinions of me are, no matter how hard life is. The truth is that although I may sometimes feel alone, I never am.

And so as I once again believe this whisper from God, I contemplate the miracle of God being with me always.

Today I celebrate the wonder of who Jesus is: Emmanuel, God with us. Emmanuel, God with me.

“You’re Here” by  Francesca Battistelli

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SSIR1Smk3Y

This post was first posted on December 17, 2010. The song is a new one–one of my favorites of this Christmas season.

 

 

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Feasting on God’s Faithfulness

I was in the bathroom while attending a Christmas party with old and new friends.

Battling sadness over a recent family crisis, an old familiar temptation arose–to believe the lie that these women’s lives were so more blessed than mine–that God loved them more than He loved me.

Shame attempted to bully me while I was alone in the bathroom with “not good enough,” “all your fault,” and “your life’s an unredeemable mess” taunts.

But God’s voice broke through shame’s harassing whispers.

“Feast on My faithfulness” was the bold declaration I heard.

In my mind, I saw a banqueting table lavishly spread with food representing all that God had done in me and for me.

Next came a warning: “Don’t mourn over what’s not on the table. Enjoy what’s there.”

I received my bathroom truths and went out to truly enjoy time with these caring friends. Gone was the shame and self-pity that threatened me.

We went around the room giving prayer requests, and I briefly told of my situation and was prayed for. Then I basked in the laughter and joy of being loved by this group of women.

This episode reminded me of how often I am tempted to focus on what’s missing from my life rather than all the ways God has blessed me.

When I got home a verse I had read lately came to mind: “Many evils confront the (consistently) righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19 AMPC

Other verses have for the word evil: afflictions, problems, distresses, troubles,

I saw that I tended to focus on the evils that bombarded me ie evils that were a result of loved ones rejecting God or forsaking a close walk with Him.

God urged me to go to part two of the verse: “The Lord God delivers him out of them all.”

I began to list on paper what God had delivered me from:

-severe depression and suicidal thoughts

-debilitating fears

-bulimia

-smoking

-dependence on alcohol

-numerous health problems

-an obsession with trying to be in control

-shame based self-loathing

-bitterness toward my parents and others

-countless perplexing circumstances

I realized the list could go on and on.

Much of what came to mind were sins God had delivered me from. This gave me a peace that He could also deliver my loved ones from their sins.

During this holy season, I’m determined to feast on God’s faithfulness and maintain an attitude of gratitude for all He’s done for me and all He’s delivered me from.

As far as the “evils” that still confront: God is not finished yet. And He is still able to do above and beyond all that I could ask or think in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. (See Ephesians 3:20)

These things I know for sure:

God’s faithfulness is firm. His love for me will never change despite changing circumstances. He is always with me.

These are three excellent reasons to maintain joy this Christmas season.

Song selection: Great Is Thy Faithfulness sung by Chris Rice

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