He leads us through change

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
— Psalm 37:23 NLT

Life changes are rarely brought on gradually – unless, of course, they are of our own making. But unless the change is something we’ve considered and then instituted, change is typically an abrupt thing. Almost everyone can remember a time when, in the blink of an eye, everything changed. It’s usually in those moments that you realized how good you had it, and you’d give anything to return to the way things were.

Life is always changing. Nothing ever stands still. Relationships, jobs, seasons…they’re all constantly evolving.

But if we’re paying attention and following our Shepherd, we have the possibility to see things grow and flourish – changing for the better. Jesus didn’t save us from sin and then leave us to fend for ourselves; he is inviting us to journey with him.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
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.
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.
— Psalm 23 NLT

In all things, we can find hope by following not the fleeting things of this world, but the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who is the same today as he was when he walked this Earth. He was the same then as he was when he created the World. That Jesus – that creator, savior, and redeemer – is just a breath, just a prayer away. He is always by our side, and he is always leading those who put their trust in him.

I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
— Psalm 16:7-8 NLT 

 

 

It’s time to go

It takes more faith to follow than to wait.

Have you ever noticed that?

Well, Ok. I digress. I don’t think it takes more faith, but it definitely takes a different kind of faith. I’m finding that obedience looks one way when you’re in a “waiting season”, and a different way when you’re in a “following season”. To be honest, I actually don’t have much experience with “following” seasons.

Let me try to explain what I’m talking about. Most of my twenties were spent waiting. I can give you a few quick examples to help clarify:

  1. We waited about a year on a specific job offer for my husband.
  2. Then another year waiting for that job offer to evolve into a full time position.
  3. Many years were spent waiting for the right time to buy a home. The first time we looked into it was in year one of our marriage. We bought our first home in year eight, after living in five apartments in two states.
  4. I spent a couple years in a very difficult job, pleading with the Lord to move me to something else.
  5. Four heart-breaking years were endured trying to find community after a cross-country move…

A time of waiting could be explained as a time of unfulfilled dreams or unmet desires. In all of these situations, I had to learn to be content where I was, and believe that God would bring things about in due time.

I’ve found that when you’re waiting for something – for God to move in some way or to give you a green light for something – often, obedience is trusting God’s timing and letting go of your expectations of what it should look like. It’s resting in peace, knowing that he’s working in ways that you very well might not be able to see.

It’s also having an open heart and being willing to be made more like Jesus. There’s never a shortage of things he wants to teach us (like love, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control…). He has provision ready for us every single day, regardless of the season or stage of life we’re in. We just have to both submit to him and partner with him.

But then when he’s finally moved in that big way or he’s given us the green light…?

Yup. It turns out this is new territory.

lili-popper-29472-unsplash

I feel like I’m back to square one. Like I said earlier, I don’t have much experience in this. All of a sudden God is on the move, and he is beckoning me to follow.

And I find myself flailing about and stumbling with every step I take. He’s leading me, but I’m tripping all over myself as if I’ve forgotten how to walk. I’m falling down and getting my hands bloody and ripping my clothes. I’m collecting bruises. I learned how to be obedient in those waiting periods by surrendering to Jesus and putting him first, but I’m having trouble applying the lessons from the past season to this new one. I know they translate and that God has given me everything I need to continue and learn, but it’s tough figuring out exactly how.

To put it bluntly, I feel like I’m being a bad follower. I feel like my faith should be stronger and I shouldn’t be so easily distracted.

After crying out of frustration to my husband and seeking his advice, he reminded me of what Paul said in Romans 7:19-25,

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus has died for me and set me free from my sin. I’ve sought forgiveness and he has given it to me. So even though I stumble, even though I fall, I can rise up and keep going because of his grace. Even though I am attacked, I am not defeated. Even though storms come, I am not overcome. If I have to war with sin, it doesn’t mean that I’m a failure and I can’t do this. Jesus has forgiven me. Not only that, but he’s ready to help me. Paul couldn’t get it right all of the time. I can’t get it right all of the time. But Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

There are new lessons to learn in this season of following. But it turns out that the first one I need to learn is to trust in Jesus. The very same thing I had to learn in the waiting season, but with an added level of difficulty, coupled with the added bonus of his grace and the double added bonus of the history of the last sixish years.

Maybe this doesn’t look so different after all.

My first lesson in obedience is to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.


Featured Photo by Lili Popper on Unsplash

Get ready

The book of Ephesians closes out in chapter 6 with something very interesting. Paul tells us to, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God‘s armor so that you’ll be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

This makes me wonder, how many times during the day do we think about what’s going on around us spiritually? I’m guessing that for some of us it’s close to zero. Since it’s not something we can see or physically touch, it’s easy to forget that our enemies are not made of flesh and blood, but that there are evil rulers, authorities, and mighty powers at work in this dark world (as Paul puts it). I ended up putting this passage on my list of verses to memorize because it’s powerful to be reminded that there is more going on than my eyes can see.

But it’s not helpful just to be aware that more is going on, but to also know that the Lord has provided a way for us to stand firm and fight.

Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and to put on all of God’s armor. The first thing to realize is that God’s armor isn’t like earthly armor. Physical fighting requires a person to acquire certain skills, build strength, and learn to think quick on their feet. But muscles and a cunning mind aren’t going to help us here. In order to be equipped in the spiritual battle, we need to be armed with spiritual things.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Notice how every piece of this armor is from the Lord. This armor, this ability to stand firm and fight, has everything to do with God and his provision. Our belt is God’s truths. Our body armor is his righteousness. Our shoes are his peace. Our shield is having faith in his ways (not our ways). Our helmet is the salvation he offers us, and our sword is his Spirit.

One of the biggest parts we have to play in all this is where we’re putting our trust and how we’re prioritizing our time. How can we use the shield of faith if we’re looking to our own logic instead of God? How can we use the belt of truth if we don’t know what the truth is? How can we use the helmet of salvation if we aren’t trusting Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins?

If you need a practical step today, I would encourage you to take time each day for prayer and reading the bible. If you need a book to start in, try Romans. The best way we can start learning to fight is by going to his Word for that first piece of armor, the belt of truth. Only by going to his Word can we learn about God’s character, promises, love and sovereignty.

Place your trust in him today, and let him begin teaching you how to battle.

Scriptures referenced: Ephesians 6:10-17 NLT
Mountain Landscape Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash