God’s Reach through Seasons

season-dont-waste-your-season-life-seasons-seasons-with-god-embrace-your-season1God doesn’t just use one season for the next. We can tell each other that God works all things for our good and for His glory, yet we often use that thinking to convince ourselves that whatever we’re going through surely have purpose. It will turn into something. It will not only be purposeful but also beneficial. The soil of today grows the flowers of tomorrow.

But some of the stuff of today is manure. Sure, it might fertilize the flowers of tomorrow, and we might understand the purpose it has, but we still don’t like it. We’d rather distance ourselves from it. Not to mention all the things in our lives that need to be pruned and deadheaded. God doesn’t just turn everything in our lives into something useful. He gets rid of some things because of their detrimental effects. He doesn’t just use one season to produce the next. He brings one out from another. God knows the core of each one, and He reaches in to grasp the necessities that need to be pulled into the next.

We can’t understand the purpose of everything in each season of our lives, but we can trust God to be purposeful.

Lean Back and Trust

481512df567a16d75190348618e9ee61I caught myself leaning forward a bit in the office chair during staff meeting. I noticed it because I realized the person to my left, who was leaning way back in his chair, might not be able to see the person to my right. I started to lean back, then paused. I remembered one reason to not lean back.

I didn’t completely trust the chair. The first week I sat in in, it gave way. It wasn’t much. I didn’t fall. But it startled me. Others chuckled, because apparently, it wasn’t the first time it had happened. In fact, I soon learned that someone’s chair seems to give way a little bit every few weeks. I don’t know if it is always the same chair that somehow gets switched around or if the chairs are just faulty. Either way, I’m not going to trust them by leaning all the way back. If it ever gives way when I am completely relaxed in it, I will end up on the floor!

We say we believe in God, but do we trust Him? Or, do we lean forward a bit, because it’s safer? We keep a little bit of control (or at least, the illusion of it). But the truth is God is fully trustworthy. In fact, He’s the only One who is. He won’t let us down. Oh, we’ll feel uncertain. We’ll feel shifts in support. We’ll even fall and fail by our own standards, but God knows differently. He knows the support we need and the freedom to shift we need.

If we want to believe God, we have to go beyond knowing about Him and claiming Him when it’s comfortable and convenient. In order to truly believe Him, we must trust Him more and more, regardless of our circumstances.

Rebel Against Rebellion

We need to be cooperative. We don’t have to be against everything. We seem to share and shout more what we are against than what we’re for. We circle up with the people we agree with, cheer each other one, then stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our teamies as as we prepare to throw words, threats, and blame on the people we’ve pitted ourselves against.

When our focus becomes too much about what we are against, it begins to define who we are and obscure what we are for. Instead we can put down the destructive words and walk half-court. We don’t have to sacrifice our beliefs to meet halfway to find an foot of common ground that gives a firm foundation for moving forward. We can be cooperative, consistent, and  committed. We can be humbly willing to change. If we’re not, we giving the other side of the argument power over our response. We stay on the side of rebelling against someone instead of knowing where we stand and why.

We might not change anyone else when we fight, but we’ll be changed when we take a deep breath to honestly reflect, question, listen, and explore.

Trusting the Cornerstone

cornerstoneSee, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame. (Isaiah 28:16)

There’s a subtle, but important, difference between believing in God and believing God. You might easily declare you believe in God, but  look at your daily reliance on Him to determine how firmly you believe Him. Believing God means standing firmly on what He says, even when what you’re experiencing doesn’t match up to what you know God could do.

God promises He’ll answer, provide, and heal. Yet when we don’t experience answers, provision, and healing the way we expect to experience them, we feel tension between believing in God and believing God. But when we trust Him as the cornerstone and build everything firmly around Him, we feel, experience, and show our belief in Him. The cornerstone was laid by the priest as the first stone of a foundation and was the reference point for the rest of the structure. Every other stone was placed in relation to the cornerstone, which determined the solidity of the entire building.

God desires Jesus to be the cornerstone of your faith. Sometimes we want Jesus as our cornerstone, but we’ve built so long without Him, we’re unsure how to get back to the foundation. We claim that Jesus is the cornerstone, but when our world is falling around us, we become uncertain He’s enough. Sometimes don’t struggle with where we are or what we’re facing, not because of our trust in Him but because we’ve built for so long without Him, we trust ourselves more. Sometimes we believe in Jesus, but we don’t believe Him for everything.

When we are passionate about our relationship with Jesus, know Him to be true, and believe Him, we’ll share the task of placing every stone in alignment with Him. It’s not easy. It takes intentionality, attention, and patience. But He helps every step of the way.

To Believe or To Doubt

trustWho do you listen to and believe? Who do you doubt?

Think about the people you would quote most often without hesitation, trusting that what they say is truth? Perhaps you regularly listen to certain radio programs, watch television shows, complete Bible studies, read books, etc. None of those things are bad, but what happens when you stop filtering what someone says through God’s truth?

People are fallible. Even people who seek God’s truth and try to teach it as authentically as possible will miscommunicate at times. Hopefully, it’s not intentional (but sometimes it is), but you’re in a danger zone when you don’t make the effort to discern what is godly and what isn’t.

Of course, many things can be taken out of context, so sometimes we can get into heated discussions about whether or not someone is correct based on the context. Isn’t our time better spent by simply asking, “What does God have to say about this?” “How does Scripture address this?” We have misunderstandings all the time. We can misread or mishear something either because it’s not communicated well or not heard or read well.

Some of us tend toward gullibility more than others. Some of us tend toward doubt more than others. All of us have access to truth.

Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.” (John 14:6)

God works through relationships, but it’s only through a relationship with Jesus that you can intimately get to know God. Within that relationship, you are safe to question whatever you want. Jesus is secure enough to answer, and because he is truth, he cannot lie to you. Others can. Others can reflect Jesus, but they’re mere shadows. Certainly, God will use others in your life to teach you. You can and should respectfully question them; they won’t have all the answers, but as they seek God’s truth, they’ll help you seek God’s truth, too. You can and should doubt them, not necessarily in an antagonistic way but in a discerning way.

Start with Jesus. Seek him. Rest assured, you don’t need to doubt whether or not you can believe him. But even if you do, he will answer when you ask.

Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

Proving God

I started actively searching for God in my early twenties. I had a lot of information about God from my childhood, but I didn’t have a relationship with him. I don’t ever remember considering a close relationship or thinking one was possible. Looking back, I see moments God was drawing me close to him, allowing me glimpses of the possible. God is God, and God is good, even when we don’t acknowledge him.

During the process of trying to figure out who I am and why I’m on this earth, God came up in conversation and showed up all over the place. I didn’t always acknowledge it was him. In fact, I was a bit antagonistic and skeptical. I wanted proof that he existed and was everything that people said he was before I would step into this faith thing. I was not about to look foolish.

In reality, it didn’t matter how foolish I looked. It mattered how foolish I was being, and relying on my own understanding was—and still is—foolish. I was stubborn, believing I could sort through all the details of what people for centuries before me had sorted and ultimately come up with the right answer. I didn’t have to rely on anyone else. I was smart.

At least I was smart about one thing: I sought absolute truth. When I began, I didn’t know if it actually existed, but I was willing to set aside a lot of assumptions and seek. That step of openly seeking was just the crack in my tough intellectual exterior that was needed for God to show up and for me to be open enough to consider who he is.

Even when I began to believe God exists, I didn’t necessarily believe he is who everyone says he is, and you know what? He’s not! He’s not who everyone says he is; God is who HE says he is! But I hadn’t yet accepted him for who he is. I wanted him to prove himself to me.

As I look back on the process, I recognize how self-centered I was. Who was I to ask God to prove himself? Why does God ever have to prove himself? Why do we expect him to justify who he is? He just is. Period.

I don’t have to prove myself a mom. I am a mom. Period. Even if my daughters would disclaim me, I would be a mom. Even if something happened to them, I would be a mom. No one can take away my motherhood from me. If someone said I’m not a mom because they’ve never seen me with my daughters, so they have no proof I am who I say I am, I am still a mom. No proof required. It is who I am.

God is God. No proof required. No matter what you believe, God is God. No matter what you say, God is God. No matter what I deny, God is God. Proof or no proof, God is God.

I don’t just think God is God. I don’t just believe God is God. I know God is God.

And I know God personally. I’m glad I sought him. I’m glad he passionately pursued me—and still is.

Being Resolute in Forgiveness

Forgive us for our sins, because we forgive everyone who has done wrong to us. (Luke 11:4)

When have you struggled to extend forgiveness to someone?

When have you struggled to receive forgiveness from someone?

How completely do you accept God’s forgiveness of you?

Forgiveness is not easy. It’s easier in some circumstances than others, but it’s definitely not a simple process. It’s not the same in every situation. There will be times when someone says “I’m sorry,” and you can easily say, “No problem!” Other times you might hold onto the hurt for years. Someone might not actually say he or she is sorry. You might wait, expecting an apology and expecting to be able to forgive once the apology is given, but if you can’t forgive without the apology, you likely can’t forgive with the apology. Your forgiveness isn’t reliant on someone’s guilt and offering of forgiveness. We want justice and can’t imagine getting it without something tangible. God’s forgiveness doesn’t require justice. If it did, none of us would be forgiven. God’s way of forgiving is undeserved. Even when we know someone doesn’t deserve our forgiveness, we have to extend it when we’re trying to live by God’s will. We forgive because of who God is. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t learn lessons from what has happened in the past. It doesn’t mean you never think about it again. It doesn’t mean whatever is forgiven has no impact on your life. There are still consequences. Forgiveness simply places the situation into God’s hands. It’s the act of saying to God, “I yield this to you and trust you in guiding me how to deal with it. Use it to draw me close to you.” Forgiveness is more about your relationship with God than the worldly justice you crave.

Say “I forgive” to someone today. It can be to someone in your past or present. It can be verbal or written. You might need to say it to God because you no longer have contact with the person or don’t know how to reach them. It might be for something small or something big. It might be for a small piece of a larger issue or the big issue itself. Start somewhere. Start today.