Trust Issues

The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation’

-Psalm 91:14-16

My devotional from early in the week, that I actually had already read a couple of days because it was so good, focused on trust. The writer wrote about how trust needs to grow and how it can grow slowly depending on the hurts we have experienced in life. As I read, a ton of thoughts began to swirl in my head. I thought about the different relational experiences that influence my ability to trust others. I thought about circumstances throughout my life that brought about questions of God’s goodness. I found myself feeling stuck.  Then the writer said something groundbreaking to me…

”But here’s the great news. God knows how to grow trust. He knows how to plant it, how to nourish it, how to repair it when it’s broken, and how to restore it when it’s been lost. God is in the trust-growing business.”

After reading that, I realized that I often just end on the fact that I have trust issues. I respond to my experiences in life as if there is no such thing as healing, restoration, or at least the slightest opportunity for growth. I had admittedly forgotten that my God is in the business of growing trust, even for growing trust in Him. The truth is that my God does restore, heal, and grow His people. My prayer is simply that I believe and remember that in my deepest parts; that I believe and remember that no past experience, relationship, or emotion can change that; that He truly is bigger than it all.

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all

-1 John 1:5


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That Pesky Relationship Junk

I always thought that my earthly relationships never affected my relationship with God. However, I have recently learned how untrue that is. As I look back over my life I see how I have dragged my relational disappointments and hurts onto God. Somewhere along the way I deemed God as unreliable, not trustworthy, a condemner, and someone who will never be as satisfied with me as I would want him to be largely because of the experiences I have had with other human beings.

It is true that our experiences and relationships help shape how we see ourselves, how we see the world, and sometimes we see them very poorly. But God uses that junk and works it out for our good. God is so gracious in that, by way of His Holy Spirit, He challenges the way we think and turns over on head the lies we believe by confronting us with what is true about Him and the way He sees us with His word.

Romans 8:1-2 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”
 
We are beautiful to Him; precious and valued.
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He has planned for us long ago.”
 
His love and commitment to us is unconditional.
Romans 8:38-39 “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
 

We can turn to Him when insecurities and lies bubble back up or when we feel the ache of past experiences and relationships. We can turn to Him to help us identify what those aches and pains really are, where they come from, and we can believe in Him for healing. He is the God who saves and continues to save us daily.

Psalm 68:19 “Praise the Lord; praise God our Savior! For each day He carries us in His arms.”

-Rushia

 


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Expectations

I spend much more time than I’d like to admit trying to navigate other people’s expectations of me. In any given decision, responsibility, or scenario I wrestle with what it would mean to others for me to respond in a particular way. The truth is, I want others’ approval, a pat on the back, a ‘you go girl’ for every time I do exactly what people want, when they want it, and how they want it. This plays out in my friendships, with family, at work, in community involvement, and even within in the church.

It isn’t wrong to consider others in our decisions. After all, how we live and the choices we make often don’t just affect us; they affect those around us. It is wise and necessary to care for others in such a way that we are mindful of how we respond, what we say, and what we do. The bible even instructs us in these things.

Romans 14:17-19 “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you too. So then let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up”.

Philippians 2: 3-4 “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests but take interest in others too”.

However, when we live wrapped up in the expectations of others our lives become about performance and people pleasing. We suddenly find our confidence, our hope, and our joy blown about in the wind from circumstance to circumstance and person to person. We lose our identity in what others expect of us rather than in the freedom and love of Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:23 “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people”

Proverbs 29:25 “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety”.

I challenge us to examine our hearts and pray boldly that the Holy Spirit would reveal to each of us our true motivation. May we find joy, hope, value, and purpose not in the approval of others but in the everlasting approval found in Jesus’ sacrifice for us and His promises toward us.
 
-Rushia

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Too Busy?

Probably one of the most common phrases we hear from others is “I am so busy”. Perhaps it is even one of the most common phrases from our own mouths. In some way or another how busy we are, how much time we don’t have, and how much more time we wished we had is brought up in conversation quite often. 

 
One of the things I love about our culture is the expectation and freedom we have to take part in the things we enjoy. Even the things we call obligations or the things that aren’t always so enjoyable like work, caring for loved ones, running errands, etc. carry a certain beauty in the freedom and means we have to be able to achieve them. I believe all of these things are blessings from God, grace from God, and ways in which we are made in His image. 
 
But if we are honest, we tend to use our busyness as a means to compare our lives with others. I have listened to and been part of conversations where to-do lists are stacked up next to others in hopes that one can prove how much more valuable and purposed their life is from the next. We compete against our brothers and sisters and this puts us in a negative cycle of pride and of performance.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

And if we are honest again, we spend so much time running around and thinking about running around that we don’t exactly take good care of ourselves, cultivate the relationships that matter most to us, and ultimately we neglect spending meaningful time with the Lord. 

As Jesus and His disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me”. But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken from her”. Luke 10:38-42

I wonder what life would look like if we were people who valued our relationships more than we did our to-do lists; if we were people who practiced the discipline of silence often; if we were people who saw intentional time with the Lord as the most important and necessary part of each day always.
Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth Psalms 46:10
As I write this, I face conviction in my own heart and reflect upon the many conversations I have had with others recently who have felt similarly. I am thankful to God for to-do lists because they aid me in being a good steward in the time He has given me. I’m thankful to God for the obligations and the enjoyment that I am blessed with. But I pray for us all that we wouldn’t forget that we are called to encourage one another and that we wouldn’t forget the mission at hand. 
 
-Rushia

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The Harvest is Worth it

The plethora of bright pink scratches that are all over my hand and forearm right now are totally worth it. Even though they are itchy and tender, that is not going to stop me from picking raspberries again. The fruit is such a delicious blend of sweet, tangy, and juicy flavor that I can ignore the pain. There are parallel lessons to be learned comparing picking raspberries and laboring for God’s kingdom.

“And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – ‭‭Luke‬ ‭10:2‬ 

  1. You actually have to work to get the harvest. It’s not like you just open your fridge and there is a bowl of berries waiting for you (unless you paid someone else to pick them for you). You have to go outside, probably in the hot sun, and search for the ripe berries, picking each one gently off the bush, taking care not to squish them. In the same way, we can’t just expect our friends, family, neighbors and coworkers to come to know Jesus without any effort at all. God invites us to participate in this labor by praying earnestly, loving and serving them unselfishly,  and being ready to speak to them about the truth of the Gospel when the Spirit prompts us to do so. 
  2. Discomfort is inevitable.  The bushes have thorns everywhere on the branches and stems. There are even thorns just millimeters away from the fruit. Try as you might, it is hard to avoid them, especially if you want to pick your whole harvest and not leave behind the mass of berries that are hiding farther inside the bushes.  In the same way, God calls us to follow Him out beyond our comfort zones and through difficult situation. If it were easy to master temptations, give selflessly, forgive those who have wrong us, and stand up for the gospel, we wouldn’t need God’s help. But it’s not and we do.
  3. Obvious doesn’t mean easy. I have several different varieties of raspberries growing, large ones, small ones, red, yellow, purple and black. The easiest to see are the black, not only because of their vibrant color, but because they grow in such a way that they aren’t covered up by as many. The black raspberries are not the easiest to pick, however, because they have the sharpest thorns. The majority of my scratches come from this bush. When we see a plan we think will be best for us and don’t understand why God is not allowing it to happen, he might be protecting us from being injured by thousands of tiny life thorns that we don’t even realize are there. We have to trust Him if he is leading us to another place that doesn’t seem to us like the best option.
  4. Most of the berries are hidden from view. You don’t realize how much you have to pick until you crouch down and start looking underneath leaves and approach the bush from multiple angles. Similarly, we might not at first see what God is doing in our lives and the lives of others on first glance. Once we labor along with Him for a while, we begin to see  how He is working all things for good and what fruit He is producing through trials and life circumstances.
 
Alright, enough reflecting. Go to the fields! The harvest is waiting!
 
-Liz

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With Us in Suffering

When I think about my own personal sufferings I often become overwhelmed with sadness and grief, guilt and shame, fear and anxiety. I can easily provide a list of experiences, happenings, and occurrences, and with that list comes another list of reasons as to why life stinks or why my relationships with others or with God suffers. Recently, I found myself challenged and encouraged by our brother Paul. The apostle Paul, responsible to writing much of the New Testament, was a man whose life was completely changed by the gospel and thus he lived, from that moment forth, with incredible commitment and sacrifice to the Lord. He did so, not out of obligation or as some sort of repayment, but in obedience, love, and surrender to the God who redeemed him.

Paul shares with us that he could have confidence in his own human effort if anyone could, but did not fall short of noting how worthless all those things are when compared to knowing Christ.

“I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more…I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless compared to the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Philippians 3:4-8 

He also shares with us a list of personal sufferings and even in that he chose to boast in his weakness in order to point to the grace, the mercy, and power of God in and through his life.

“…I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from my own people…If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that shown how weak I am”. 2 Corinthians 11:23-30

I am thankful for a God who is right here with me in suffering and who experienced suffering Himself. I am also thankful for a God who stands in victory and reminds me of the victory I have in Him. The one who redeemed me is worthy of all my praise and my life of commitment, sacrifice, and continual worship. This is true not out of obligation or some sort of repayment but from a heart of obedience, love, and surrender.

-Rushia


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Peace in a Broken World

There is a lot going on in the world, to say the very least. It seems like there isn’t a day that goes by where is terrible news is not flashing across our television screens or mobile devices; another shooting, an attack on whole communities overseas, a seemingly ever reaching terrorist organization, a contentious political campaign…the list goes on. I am sure that many of us are already adding to the list as circumstances that may hit even closer to our hearts stamp our minds.

It is very easy for us to live in fear, for our minds to run rampant, to be a mess of anxiety, and to feel helpless. In light of these things I wanted to share some scriptures that remind us of the peace and power of God that tends to our hearts and minds.

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Worship for a Perfect God

Here is a beautiful and humbling picture of how our worship is received by God.
 
Psalm 96:4-9 reminds us of the greatness of God and the worship he requires:
“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.”
 
Now, think of a child practicing the recorder, squeaking and squawking the notes to ‘Hot Cross Buns’ over and over again in an attempt to get it right. Or a child learning to play violin and the only noises they can produce for weeks on end sound like nails on a chalkboard. That is what our worship sounds like to God.
 
He, our majestic King and the Creator of all, is worthy of being presented only the most beautiful music, like that of a world renown orchestra or a talented singer who studied with the greatest vocal teachers alive. And yet, all we have to offer Him is the miserable, kind of annoying, plunking noise of a beginner that would never be allowed in a king’s court.
 
But don’t be completely distraught in our inadequacy or give up trying to worship because you feel you will never of it well enough. God does hear and accept our worship as worthy of Him- because of Jesus.
 
Imagine a child struggling to plunk out a tune on a piano in a hotel lobby. Then a stranger comes up to the piano, sits down on the other side of the bench, and starts playing alongside the child. The stranger plays beautiful chords and countermelodies that turn the child’s simple effort into an intricate and amazing song that starts to draw a crowd because everyone is amazed at the beauty of the music.
 
Jesus does to our worship what that stranger did for the child. Jesus stands with us before the Father and turns our feeble hearts’ cries of praise into a strong declaration of the majesty of our King.
 
“For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.””
– Romans 15:8-9
 
I am thankful for Jesus and His great sacrifice that I might be restored to relationship with the Almighty Father, be seen as righteous before Him and be able to offer worship that is worthy of His greatness.
 
-Liz

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Learning from Lazarus

In the book of John, chapter 11, Jesus does something wild! He raises his good friend Lazarus from the dead. It’s quite a spectacle and is the final straw for those wanting Jesus dead. The entire situation is spelled out in detail throughout the chapter and I believe reveals so much about God’s character and His relationship with us. Here are a few scriptures at the height of it all.

v. 40-44
40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

There are four things that really grabbed my attention about God’s character and how He feels about us just from these few scriptures.

1. Jesus’ prayer allows us to see His ongoing and intimate relationship with the Father. This prayer seems to signify their oneness.

2. Jesus prays this prayer aloud so that the people standing there would believe that He has been sent as Savior; that He is the One they’ve been waiting for to restore all things. In this I see how much He cares for and about the hearts of His people.

3. I am amazed at the power of God to raise anyone from the dead! From this I am reminded that even though it may feel like it sometimes and as cliche as it may sound, there is truly nothing too big or too small for God to work in and through.

4. We don’t have to lay in our grave clothes! Jesus didn’t just raise a man from the dead, He said “unwrap him and let him go!”. In Jesus we have new life and are free from slavery to ourselves and the things of this world!

-Rushia


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Championship Reflections

There is a connection between sports and faith. I’m not just talking about players who profess to be believers, but also the connection between how fans of teams respond after their teams win or lose. During the past few weeks, I have been wondering why sporting events can be so important to me at times, and whether it is healthy to get so emotional about the results of these games.
Athletes and the sports they play have been held in great esteem for hundreds of years. Paul the Apostle used metaphors to compare the Christian faith and athletic training. God created the human body to do some amazing feats, and it is fun to watch other humans push the envelope on what is physically possible. I believe God gave me a passion for sports, and that is a good thing.

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