What Do You Treasure? On Deception, the Heart, and Ministry

Before I entered full-time ministry, it truly was not a struggle to spend time with the Lord daily. That sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true. Even when I was working crazy hours on Capitol Hill and volunteering part-time with The Gathering, I still reached for my Bible and gave it my full attention at least once a day. I rarely missed a day. But this season has been different. Full-time vocational ministry is full of daily struggles and victories and is more spiritually challenging than anything I have experienced before. This dichotomy pushes me to spend time in the Word every day and to be more like Christ, so that I can be a more effective minister of the Gospel.

However, I often struggle to balance investing in others while also investing in myself and my own spiritual life. I also struggle to delegate and equip others rather than just doing everything myself and in my own power. Now, all too often, I am distracted by yet another need or task and have to remind myself frequently that I need to put my time with the Lord before everything else. He must be my first priority! My two years in vocational ministry have taught me that ministry absolutely must be driven by the overflow of Christ in my heart. If ministry is driven by my will, rather than by my love for Him, it is meaningless. Likewise, I have also learned that my passion for ministry must be exceeded by my passion for Christ Himself. Jesus is not only my motivation; He is my treasure.

Just as the man who found the treasure hidden in a field in Matthew 13 and sold everything he had to buy the field, I want to live my life in passionate pursuit of Christ, regardless of the cost.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
(Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)

While these verses reference the kingdom of God, the Lord has used them recently to show me much about my own heart. It is so easy to think that just because I’m pouring out my life in ministry, that Christ Himself is my treasure. When you sacrifice much for ministry, it’s easy to point to your clear prioritization of people as prioritization of the Lord Himself. Unfortunately, I’ve found that in the midst of rushing around to accomplish things and do ministry, it is simple to begin to treasure the ministry above Christ.

It’s a slow transformation.  One day you wake up and realize that your identity is completely wrapped up in your ministry – how successful you are, the ministry’s growth, and even how your leaders are doing spiritually themselves. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

I’m thankful for the discipline of the Lord. I’m so grateful that He is willing to pursue and recapture my heart and redirect my attention back to Himself. I’m thankful that He is a jealous God and that He will not allow my heart to be satisfied outside of Himself. Don’t allow ministry, even great ministry, to replace Christ’s position in your heart. He, and He alone, is your treasure. Cherish your people. Treasure your God. Don’t allow the lines to be blurred. 

He, and He alone, changes times and seasons

“He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” Daniel 2:21

Beth Moore’s study of Daniel that I’m doing right now is absolutely incredible. Completing one day’s work is never enough – I always want to work through the next few days (and I often do so). I’m learning so much and at the perfect time. Beth says “the highest theme of the Book of Daniel is undoubtedly the sovereignty of God.”

Wow. I love that. I think, if you step back far enough, that’s the highest theme of the Bible and I hope that someday when people look back at my life, they make the same remark.

Beth also says “God’s sovereignty also means that He has supremacy over all things and does whatever He desires with whomever or whatever He pleases. To miss God’s sovereignty in the book of Daniel is to miss the point.” I’m intrigued by Daniel 2:21 – “He [God] changes times and seasons…” Ecclesiastes says “to everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecc. 3:1) and Daniel is telling us that it’s God Himself who ordains, and changes these times and seasons.

So what about what I’m walking through right now? Yep, it’s God-ordained. He’ll change it when He’s ready or when He pleases. And this knowledge is beautiful and frustrating, calming and confusing. But it brings clarity. “God’s providence is intentional and purposeful” (Moore).

I love Daniel 2:22. It’s such a good follow up to verse 21:

“He reveals deep and hidden things;

He knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with Him.”

The fact that He knows all and is in total control is such a blessing… because I know that I certainly can’t see more than a step ahead, if even that, on a regular basis. I have trouble maintaining perspective, even when searching for the big picture. I falter and hesitate and find myself angry at the lack of information and insight I’ve been given. But I have to remember the promise above – God Himself knows and reveals these things and the light is with Him! Several years ago I found Stormie Omartian’s book Just Enough Light to be very helpful in understanding the state of my heart and it’s just as revealing now.

In her introduction she says, “More and more, God is teaching me to trust Him for every step I take. He constantly calls me to stretch beyond what’s comfortable. To walk through new territory when I would rather stay with the familiar. To face difficult physical, mental, and emotional challenges. To do things I know I can’t achieve by myself without His power. Each time something is required of me that I’m certain I am unable to accomplish in my own strength, I see a picture of just one or two steps being illuminated, while those before and after are engulfed in darkness and cannot be seen. This describes my walk with God. I trust Him for each day of life, grateful for every breath, determined to look for the blessing in the moment, no matter what the circumstances. I follow His lead – even when I can’t see where I’m going, even when it scares me to do so – because deep within my spirit I know that these simple steps of faith are preparing me for eternity.”

His sovereignty must be my focus and His leading my sole desire. These situations that are so troubling may merely be distractions from the big picture, but regardless, according to Daniel, they are ordained by God. My job is to embrace His plan and follow the path that is illuminated as it is illuminated.

A More Worthy Pursuit

A goal of mine used to be to read all of the U.S. Presidents and First Ladies’ autobiographies and any books they have authored (and it’s quite an extensive list). I love history and politics. I’ve always loved reading and I have many lists of books that I’d love to add to my library. Today I decided that a more important goal is reading all of these: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/OnlineBooks/ByTitle/

I waste too much time. I find that I talk a lot about valuing the eternal more than I value the here and now. But sometimes that’s a bit more difficult to actually live out. It means we have to really take a magnifying glass to our choices. We have to recognize that where we spend our limited time and energy highlights what we truly value. I want to value my relationship with God more than I value music, novels, shopping, academic pursuits, friends, and even ministry. I want to be constantly ingesting and absorbing books, sermons, and Scripture that bring me closer to Christ.

I want to really value Christ and live my life in constant pursuit of Him. I don’t want there to be a day that goes by that I’m not made more like Him. He, and He alone, is a worthy pursuit.

So does that mean I need to stop watching shows on Hulu, stop frequenting Ann Taylor and Forever21, and sell all my books on politics? Not exactly. What it does mean is that I need to more closely monitor how I spend my time and realign my priorities when I realize that the things of this world are crowding out my pursuit of Christ.

Something God  has been speaking to me about throughout this last week is how easily distracted I am by life. And not just by the hard things of life, but by the pleasures of life as well. The primary take away from this Easter season was I don’t love my Lord as I should because I don’t give Him the time that I should. He’s also reminded me that all the things of this life are worthless compared to knowing Him. The Apostle Paul learned this lesson as well:

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11

Would we say that a man loved a woman (or a woman loved a man) if they infrequently or sporadically spent time together, talked, or shared their lives? Unless there are extenuating circumstances that prevented communication for a time, most would consider that to be an incredibly unhealthy relationship. Couples in love delight to sacrifice other things to spend time with the one they love. After all, my boyfriend Josh is correct in his frequent assertion that “time spent is relationship built.”

So what relationship am I building? Am I growing in my knowledge of Christ and the power of his resurrection? The fellowship of sharing in his sufferings? Becoming like him in his death? Does everything I do reflect my love for him and time spent with him in his Word?

Wow. These are the things (growing, sharing, becoming) that are a worthy pursuit.

Character Close Up: Abraham, a man of great faith

You should check out Romans Chapter 4 – it’s amazing. Paul discusses salvation and uses Abraham as an example of justification by faith, not works. After a long, hard day on Capitol Hill yesterday, the verses in Rom. 4 were like oxygen to my lungs. Reading Scripture is the best way to do what Hebrews 12:12-13 says – “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (referenced also in this post). It changes and renews me. Totally amazing.

Abram (it’s later that he becomes “Abraham” and/or “Father Abraham,” as you may know him), is first referenced in Genesis 11:26. He’s at the tail end of a long genealogy of the descendants of Shem (one of Noah’s three sons – read Genesis, it’s fascinating!)… I love how with Abram, the genealogy continues, but the story becomes much more important. Scripture begins by detailing his life and his circumstances. He’s married to Sarai (Gen. 11:29), who is barren (11:30), and he lived in Ur but moved to Haran with his family (11:31). His story can be found in Genesis 11-25. To give you a bit of perspective – there are only three chapters in the Bible to describe and detail creation and the fall, while fourteen chapters are given to discussing Abraham and his life!

There is no indication that Abram knew God until chapter 12, which is titled in my Bible, “The Call of Abram.”

But God gives him a huge directive with a tremendous promise (12:1-3):

“‘Now,’ the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'”

And Abram BELIEVES AND OBEYS! Verse 4 says “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.

It’s this kind of faith that sets Abram apart as a hero of our faith. Hebrews 11:1 says that “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

And this kind of faith isn’t seen just once in his life, but many times. God promises him a son and descendants that would be as numerous as the stars (15:5), and Abram believes! This faith was “counted to him as righteousness” (15:6) even before Christ came! There’s too much to Abraham’s story to tell it all here – but he believes God time and time again – even when the command of the Lord will hurt him or those that he loves (submitting to circumcision in Gen. 17 at the age of 99, offering Issac as a sacrifice in Gen. 22, etc.). He’s not always perfect – he definitely fails to trust God at times and gives away his wife twice when he’s scared of kings killing him so they can have her (Gen. 12, 20).

Despite his failings, God gave him a huge amount of faith. I want to have faith like Abraham – enough to simply hear God and obey, with no hesitation or delay, no weighing of pros and cons. Hebrews 11:8-10 highlights the incredible faith that he had, saying, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country […] for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Thus continues the themes of waiting, faith, and patience. Abraham’s life shows that God never fails us. His promises are true. Hebrews 12 clearly shows that we’re to run our races as Abraham and other men and women of faith ran – always trusting and obeying the voice of God. It’s this kind of faith that God blesses – not our works. Abraham was blessed because of his faith, not his circumcision. Look at this:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:18-25, emphasis added).

and all I could say and can say to that is WOW.

Preview – Character Close Up: Abraham

I’m falling behind on posting daily, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking! Up first thing tomorrow morning will be a look at Abraham.

Cool thing about this guy? He’s the one we can look to for confirmation of the idea that salvation is for the world (not just the Jews) and is by grace alone, not by works lest men should boast (Eph. 2:8-9)!

Until tomorrow I’ll leave you with this thought – if it’s the law that saves us, then all of God’s promises are void (Romans 4).

Playlists and heart conditions

Jason Upton is quickly making his way back up to the top of my iTunes “most played” list.

If your playlist says anything at all about your heart, then I think something very good has been going on in mine. You know how some artists somehow manage to capture all of the thoughts, dreams, and ponderings of your heart? He’s definitely been the one I most identify with lately. And he’s also pretty much all I’ve listened to for the last week or so.

The Holy Spirit has used his songs to strengthen my heart – reminding me that even when everything in my life is unknown and nothing is certain, that God Himself is my sure, steady Rock and Redeemer. Furthermore, his music reminds me that life isn’t about me. Life is about being pursued by God and in turn, a pursuit of God Himself. Apart from God and a relationship with Him, we have no life.

I had several conversations yesterday that were very instrumental in continuing to shape my understanding of this season of my life and what God’s doing in me. The first was great because my friend drew my attention to the fact that all that is going on in my life simultaneously is happening with purpose. God is allowing there to be a great amount of uncertainty in pretty much all the major areas of my life because He’s definitely, without a doubt, asking me to increase the level of trust I place in Him. Think of any major area of life – yeah, I probably have no idea what God’s doing in me there, other than that I know that there’s nothing that’s sure except for God Himself.

The other conversation was also beneficial, but in a different way. It was another reminder that even the things in life that should be the most certain, just aren’t. And maybe they’re not meant to be in the sense that I want them to be.

There’s a line in Jason Upton’s song “Just Like You” that says “I’ll risk it all if You’ll make me just like You.” It’s an amazing line and is one that definitely I can relate to, but it struck me that we really risk very little. And what we risk is of no real eternal consequence. We risk our finances, our career path, our security, our rights, and many times our dreams. But when you really consider the value of those things to eternity, we find that they pale in comparison and we’re faced with all of our childishness, our grasping, our selfishness, and our inherent lack of trust.

My favorite song of Jason Upton’s is called “No Sacrifice.” I highly recommend it. It’s been a song I’ve clung to for years.

“To you I give my life, not just the parts I want to
To you I sacrifice these dreams that I hold on to

Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
This is no sacrifice
Here’s my life

To you I give the gifts
Your love has given me
How can I hoard the treasures that you’ve designed for free?

Because
Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
This is no sacrifice
Here’s my life

To you I give my future
As long as it may last
To you I give my present
To you I give my past

Because
Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
This is no sacrifice
Here’s my life”

Rest

I’m enjoying blogging every day. I find that it helps me focus on the truths I’m reading in Scripture and that it allows me to process what God’s doing in my heart more completely.

The theme of today has been rest. No, I’m not still at home in my pajamas. But I was ’til about 2:00 p.m. this afternoon! Today’s the first Saturday in over a month that I was able to sleep in, make breakfast, and spend some time with God. I have a favorite spot for quiet times – a massive green chair in my living room that’s perfect for cuddling up in and reading my Bible.

Like I said yesterday, I set my heart last night to embrace this season of waiting and to use this weekend to rest. And really rest regardless of what my schedule dictates I must do.  So I took this morning slow and haven’t rushed at all today, even when I was running behind. I was right – this is exactly what I’ve needed and I need it far more often.

I drank several cups of coffee, listened to Jason Upton, had a long phone conversation regarding ministry with a very dear girl, and spent time this afternoon catching up with an old friend over Mexican food (we actually found a decent place in Crystal City!) and ice cream. Time spent like this is soothing to my heart and I begin to remember what relationships are about.

Rest changes me. Yesterday the rain made me irritable and tired. Today, the rain almost emphasized rest and peace. Even the torrential downpour wasn’t going to be allowed to ruin my day (I’m totally a sunshine girl). If I owned a pair of rainboots I would have taken a long walk and gone and splashed in the puddles. You see, my perspective is really all about my heart condition. Where I set my heart is crucial. If I allow my heart to grow angry and restless, I will be angry and will get no rest. If I’m focusing on God and His Word, I will have peace and rest, and my soul will be restored (Psalm 23:3).

Proverbs 4:23 says “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” I’ve heard that verse used in every sermon on relationships I’ve ever heard. And it applies there, but we need to see it as valuable outside of that context as well. I need to guard my heart against worry, stress, and insecurity. I need to be wise with my time so my heart can grow and find rest in God’s Word. If my heart’s not right, nothing I do will be right. It makes total sense.

I’m also reminded of Colossians 3:2-3: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

My life’s been hidden WITH Christ IN God. I cannot think of anything more amazing. And that should be my focus – the focus of both my heart and my mind; my will and my emotions. When all of those parts of me are in line with Scripture, then rest becomes easy.

The waiting (from 3/12/10 – posted 3/13/10)

“The waiting is to teach us our absolute dependence on God’s mighty working.” Andrew Murray, Waiting on God.

My last post was on running and focus. Today is about waiting. All day at work I watched the clock. Time is never slower than when you’re watching it (a lesson from yesterday, for sure). And that’s especially true on a Friday afternoon. And then I sat in traffic for an hour and a half on my way to see Josh. Let’s just say I am running very low on patience these days.

So yes, life is about running and running well – to reach the finish and receive the prize. But today, I realize yet again that even in all of our running, there must be rest. On Sunday I’m meeting with my mentor, Lauren. In her e-mail to me today, she mentioned that we’ll be discussing balance, rest, and finding quiet places with God.

Balance for me is something that’s very difficult. I like to be always busy, always moving, always running quickly. I think though, that there are weeks and months like these last few, that God has to walk me through to show me how very dependent I am on Him. Sometimes I cram too much ministry into my heart and life to make enough time for quality rest and time with God. I’m in the midst of a humbling process and am realizing again how very human I am. And to remember once again, that unless I’m filled, I can’t pour out. I must be full of God and His Word to have life and to give life.

This life, after all, isn’t about me – it’s all about Him. He “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25b), and “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Apart from Him I can do nothing. If I feel like I can’t breath, or I’m exhausted by life and how quickly I move, it’s likely because I’m not relying on Him or drawing on His strength. I’ve once again fallen into pride – HUGE pride – the belief that I can take care of myself, order my own life well, help people, and make a difference without being carried through all of it by the One who gives me life itself.

This weekend, I’m going to practice waiting. And it’s going to involve some worship, some sleep, some working out, and some time in my favorite chair in my living room with God. It’ll be totally worth it and I’m sure it will be exactly what I need.

Character Close Up: Esther

You might have just rolled your eyes at the subject of this post. I know that a couple years ago, I definitely would have.

I used to view Esther as just another focus of women’s Bible studies. I thought she was overhyped just because there were so few women who are the major focus of stories in Scripture. I lost track of how many times I heard about her at summer camp break out sessions for girls, in jr. high Bible studies, and in youth group discipleship programs. So when one of the girls in my small group asked if we could study the book of Esther almost two years ago, I have to admit that I was more than a little disappointed. I thought I had left Esther behind in youth group.

Not that Esther didn’t inspire me – she did – but I think I thought that “if I perish, I perish,” while inspirational, was all there really was to Esther. I wanted to do a study that was “substantial” – something that would change the hearts of these girls forever. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There’s definitely a reason that the book of Esther was included in the Bible! After leading a study on Esther for the girls in my Gathering small group and really digging into and studying the Scripture, Esther now definitely stands close to the top of the list of Biblical characters I want to emulate in my life.

She was totally amazing. God knew exactly what He was doing when He chose her to help deliver the Jews, and He didn’t just choose her and throw her in – He stayed with her and empowered her and taught her so much about following His will.

The character traits that Esther shows throughout her story are these: an intense commitment to prayer and fasting, absolute and immediate obedience to the leadership placed over her, radical submission to God and to His plan, and an extreme desire to change her world and save not only her generation, but an entire people. Her statement “if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16) could stand alone in testament to her faith – but it doesn’t have to because she actually lived it out.

Her story would terrify anyone – she was a beautiful orphan taken away from her uncle Mordecai and all she’d ever known (2:8). This had to have been scary and seen (at least at first) by Esther as a negative circumstance  – after all, she was young, probably had plans of her own, and the king was known for being quick to anger, irrational, egoistic, had a harem, and had banished his previous (and probably pregnant) queen.  All of these are negative, but Esther takes it all in stride .  She acts in wisdom, gains favor, and lets God position her for greatness though she knows nothing of the drama to come or her role in it (2:9).  Her trust and obedience is amazing.

While reading Esther, I get the sense that she had a sense of what God would call her to do and did it – she ran  “so as to take the prize” (Eph. 3:12-14). We see Esther throwing off the weights (insecurity, fear, discontent) and running her race faithfully. Esther prepared herself to meet the king for a YEAR (2:9).  She could have become frustrated and maybe even asked “God, why am I here?  What are You thinking? Why aren’t You using me?” God was teaching her to wait. Esther was so wise – she asked for what Hegai advised – she was in it to win it and to please the king.  Otherwise she’d be just another concubine.  She wanted to be his wife (just as an aside – you want to learn how to talk and relate to a guy? It takes wisdom. Read Esther).

Esther is crowned queen and is queen for FIVE YEARS and it’s NINE YEARS total before God’s purposes become clear and she recognizes God’s strategic placement that brought her to the palace (4:12-16).  Once it is clear, she doesn’t cling to her position, her crown, or her life. Instead, she’s willing to lay it all down and potentially give her life for her people. She fasts and prays for wisdom, and then acts.

Esther gives us a model to follow when we feel God is asking us to do something difficult –

  • Calculate the cost
  • Set priorities (others before self)
  • Prepare (Esther fasted and prayed, and got other people involved in the process)
  • Determine a course of action and move boldly in the direction God has called you to follow.
  • Esther and Mordecai do not despair or just wait for God’s intervention – they recognize their positions hold purpose.

Esther has the most compelling ending I can think of – because her obedience a WHOLE NATION was spared certain death and destruction – her life made a difference.  The Jewish Feast of Purim was established to celebrate Esther’s life and to remember her bravery and obedience to God.

I’m not certain that I would react as Esther did and that’s one of the reasons I want to cultivate the patience, wisdom, and faith we see in her life. I feel like if I were thrown into a situation where I was torn away from my family and sent to be a concubine to a crazy king, I might be more than a little upset with God. While that particular situation is highly unlikely, I want to learn to handle difficult circumstances with grace and to never blame God for where He might decide to put me or what He might ask me to walk through.

Esther is a Biblical example of someone who learned to suffer well and to let her suffering shape and develop her character. Her life should definitely make us question how we handle difficult circumstances and how we can develop the same character attributes that we see bringing her favor with God and with men. God is just as sovereign and strategic in our lives and it’s important that we recognize that. Each of us is being shaped and placed exactly where God wants us to be and our actions echo into eternity as well. Esther is the perfect person for me to study again as I’m asked to step back, cede my life again to Christ, and simply obey.

Thoughts from a snow day

I find out a lot about myself when I look at how I spend my time. I typed something in a conversation the other day that hit me pretty hard once I looked at it again. I said, “Sleep always trumps food. Wait no, sleep trumps everything except God.” And then I realized that all too often, even sleep trumps God in my life. And then… when I take a deeper look I realize how much pride I struggle with… the idea that I’m somewhat in control is probably one of the hardest things for me to let go of. I find that I let it go and then somewhere between there and here, I’ve unknowingly picked it back up again. It determines how I behave, how I spend my time, and where I place my trust.

Pride. Sin. They keep me from God. I know that He’s completely sovereign… that He holds my life in His hands, allows each breath I take to provide oxygen to my lungs and has all of the hairs on my head numbered, but so often I question His timing, His plan, and the path I’m walking down.

Change. There’s very little I hate more than change. Especially if it’s life-altering. I recognize also, that change is good and that without change we die… but these recognitions don’t make it any easier to make the leap. I find that when I’m faced with it I begin to shut down on the inside… I tell myself it’s ok, that I’m ok, and that the distrust is merely preparation for the inevitable losses that will occur.

I’ve been this way my whole life. I’ve never been able to dive head first off of a diving board or do a cartwheel. And I think it’s because I’ve always been too worried about protecting myself – as if I could add even a second to the days I’ve been allotted (Psalm 31:15, 139:16).

Fear is a lack of faith. And its sin. We so clearly see that in the life of Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter’s an ordinary guy who displays extraordinary faith at different points in Scripture – He leaves his job to follow Jesus at just His words, “follow Me” (Matt. 4:18-19), walks on water out to meet Jesus at the word “come” (Matt. 14:28-29), and understands who Jesus really is before many other people do (Matt. 16:16, Mark 8:29). However, Peter is so often reactionary and easily swayed instead of unmovable in his faith. He starts to sink when he is distracted by the wind and the waves (Matt. 14:30), he cuts off a soldier’s ear when Jesus was arrested (Matt. 26:51), and then swears he never knew Him when he’s associated with Christ later (Matt. 26:69-75).

All of this to say: I find myself feeling a lot like Peter today. I feel like sometimes I wake up to the fact that I’m walking across water and I can’t make it on my own – I will certainly drown unless saved by grace. These times, the times when I recognize how very much I need Jesus – the times when my total insufficiency comes to light and all of my pride is exposed – this is how He keeps me close. In His overwhelming goodness, He walks me through change often so that my own heart is exposed and I’m forced to come to terms with the fear residing there. Without the grace of God, I’d be off always doing my own thing… forcing doors that aren’t supposed to open and clinging to things that I should gracefully let go of.

Ryan shared Acts 16:6-10 with me the other day:

“6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down lto Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul3 had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

The message here is great and I love the way he put it: “They kept moving. God closed doors. They changed directions. God closed doors. They went a different way. God showed them what they were to do.”

I was also reminded of Matthew 6:25-34 today:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?7 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, jeven Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I’m learning to leap. I’m learning to let go. I’m learning to trust completely, all over again. All because of this truth: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16)”