Step-by-Step Trust

Jesus calls you and me to follow him on this path of life, and that decision takes trust. Not just that first primary decision to start following him, but also the daily, minute-by-minute, step-by-step decisions to follow him.

As I’ve read through the Psalms lately, trust is a continual refrain. In fact, it’s a refrain throughout the Bible. Today in my daily time spent with the Father, I read Psalm 50:15: “Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory” (NLT).

This verse doesn’t say, “work harder in your times of trouble” or “go to counseling in your time of trouble” or “run to all your friends for their support in times of trouble” or “feel sorry for yourself in times of trouble” or a thousand other things humans tend to do in times of trouble. (None of those things are necessarily wrong, of course, and they can help, but none of them are the primary places to whch we should turn.) God keeps it simple. “Trust me in your times of trouble.” His promise is twofold: He will rescue you and me and, when he does, you and I will give him glory because he did it.

God will rescue me. That’s his promise, and I believe him. My part is simply to trust him. And when he does rescue me, it will be because he has done something only he could do! That’s the only way for him to receive glory! If the transformation happens because I did something, or it can be accredited to a counselor or pastor or book or whatever or whoever else, then they will receive the credit and glory. God is not a credit hog, but he is very interested in getting all our worship–all our worship! God will use other people and other things in his process, but he is Jehovah Jireh. He is the one who brings real transformation of the heart and mind. He deserves the glory!

And he will receive it.

I’d love to hear your feedback. in what are you trusting God these days? How are you seeing him rescue you? (Tell us your story!) How is he receiving glory through it?

In what ways do you struggle with this? Why is it so hard to trust God step-by-step?

Facing Fear? Need Reassurance? Read This!

There are days when life feels so heavy and scary. Let’s face it, even as a Christ-follower and a leader, there are days when you face the future with great fear rather than great faith. I have faced days like these, and today is one of them. As I read through the Psalms, I gain some solace in knowing that King David faced many of the same kinds of days, and I take comfort in seeing how he handled them with faith and trust in God. On those days, David turned to God through prayer, worship, and meditating on God’s Word.

As so often happens, today I turned to God’s Word (I’ve been reading through the Psalms one at a time lately, and today I came to Psalm 40) and it spoke directly into my circumstances and feelings. I don’t know how God does this, but he does it consistently.

As I read Psalm 40:5, God flooded my mind with His Word and the reassurance I needed. If, like me, you are facing fears or walking through a valley in life, perhaps these will help you, too:

Psalm 40:5 (NLT)  “O Lord my God … your plans for us are too numerous to list.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Romans 8:28 (NLT) “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) “Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.”

Luke 1:37 (NLT) “For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mark 10:27 (NLT) “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

Do you have any other verses that help you face fear? Any other advice to share from your experiences?

Stay on the Path!

There’s a basic principle in mountain biking–and life–that I need to relearn once in a while. It’s so basic I tend to overlook it’s vitality. Here it is:

Stay on the path.


Mountain biking trails are full of ups and downs, small and large obstacles, rocky climbs and drops … and that’s what makes the ride fun! I can get into the most trouble when I face a challenge in the trail by trying to go around it. I go off the marked trail where very small obstructions are hidden in the weeds.

Life is like that. Psalm 37:34 says, “Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Travel steadily along his path.” The Bible is full of images of traveling along a path that God has marked out for us. The simple secret of life is to stay on that path. But too often we want to do our own thing, go our own way, follow our own path–and the world encourages us to do this.

God’s path is full of ups and downs, small and large obstacles along the way, rocky climbs and drops … and that’s what makes life fun! But too often we look for shortcuts or what we think in our little minds to be better ways. This impatience with God, not trusting his ways, is what gets us into the most trouble.

Patience takes trust in God. It also takes faith–that God is God and that his timetable is not my timetable. He does not act according to my timing or self-centered wants. He acts according to his own will, and he knows best what to provide and when. The secret is to simply travel steadily along his path. Just stay on the path he has for you and keep going–keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25) along the way, not impatiently running ahead of him and not passively laying around as he is moving ahead.

You see, not only did God build this path for your life, he’s riding along it with you, showing you the way. There is no oblstacle along his path that he does not know how to navigate. Just stay on the path!

Experiencing Excessive Misery and Joy Simultaneously

Can a person experience anguish and joy at the same time? These two emotions are polar opposites, right?

This morning as I read Psalm 31, I was surprised a bit by verse 7, written by King David, a man whose sight was blurred because of his tears (v. 9). He said he was dying from grief and misery had drained his strength (v. 10). He said he was scorned, despised, and ignored, even by some of his closest friends (vv. 11-12). People had been spreading false rumors about him; there was a conspiracy of lies and gossip aimed at making David look like the enemy (v. 13).

This all reminded me of the song sung by Buck Owns and Roy Clark on the old 70s TV show Hee-Haw:

Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me

You can face the gloom, despair, and agony of your life like the Hee-Haw gang or you can deal with it like David. King David kept his integrity and chose to trust God in the midst of his excessive misery. Here’s what David said in verse 7:

I am overcome with joy because of your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul (NLT).

David’s soul was in anguish, and yet he was overcome with joy because of God’s unfailing love. He was feeling anguish and joy at the same time! How is that possible?

  1. It’s only possible with God. God said, “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13). Only God can do that.
  2. The New International Version and other versions begin verse 7 with David saying, “I will be glad and rejoice …” David made a decision to be glad and to rejoice, even in the midst of his anguish. He trusted God with the anguish and made a decision to rejoice in God rather than wallowing in the sorrow. He placed his focus on the God who loves him unfailingly rather than on the sorrow that is temporary.

This all takes trust in God. Later, in verse 14, David says, “But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, ‘You are my God!'”

This is one of the greatest “buts” ever! David recounted all his sadness, grief, hurts, and dangers, and then he said, “but I trust in you, God!” “You are still my God!”

Like David, I can say confidently that while other things have changed and are changing, you, O God, have not changed. You’ve got all this. I trust you with all of it. I don’t understand it. I don’t think I deserve it. This is not what I hoped for or dreamed of. But I will trust you with all of it. My life, my future, is in your hands (v. 15).

What do you think? Can you experience gloom, despair and agony as well as gladness and joy at the same time? How do you do do that?

I Need Someone to Teach Me How to Live

I confess, even after 51+ years, I need the Lord to “teach me how to live” (Psalm 27:11). I don’t have this life-thing all figured out yet. I’m reminded of that fact every so often when I think I have everything under control.

God knows the best way for me to live. He knows the path ahead of me much better than I do, so I can trust him to lead me in the right direction (Psalm 25:4-5). Imagine taking a tour through a forest led by a guide who has been down this trail thousands of times, and yet constantly questioning his decisions or wanting to go your own way. Isn’t that what we do with God?

When I say, “teach me how to live, O Lord,” I must do 4 things: (1) humble myself; (2) surrender my will to his; (3) spend time with God alone so I can really listen to him; and (4) obey, no matter what I think or others tell me. I’m sure there are more. But these are the main ones for me.

God will teach me how to live when I live a God-centered (not a me-centered or problem-centered or what-everyone-else-thinks-centered) life. King David lived a God-centered life. in Psalm 27:1, he said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation–so why should I be afraid?” The apostle Paul understood this as well: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Both of these men put their focus on God, not their problems. They trusted God with all their hearts, and leaned not on their own understandings!

God will teach me how to live when I trust and obey his Word. I need a standard for how to live my life, and I believe God’s Word is that standard. I will choose to trust God’s way of doing life, which he has revealed in his Word. I believe His Word gives me the very best way to live my life, and I believe he never ever teaches me how to live in a way that is contrary to his Word.

God will teach me how to live when I choose to spend time with him. I’ve found that it takes discipline to make time to spend with him each day, but I can not know how to live if I don’t! God desires to spend this time with us and teach us his ways: “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me'” (Psalm 27:8). What a privilege it is to hear God say, “Come, take some time and have a conversation with me today. I want to talk to you and hear from you.” I want my response to always be like David’s: “And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.'”

God will teach me how to live when I wait patiently for him (Psalm 27:14). God does not work on my timetable. Sometimes I’m not sure if he’s listening or not. Sometimes my Plan A does not work out, even when I thought I was doing it his way. Sometimes God teaches you in the midst of the pain, uncertainties, and waiting. Patience takes trust. Trust takes patience.

God is teaching me how to live today. How is he teaching you to live? 

Life Is All About Timing

I have been praying for God to bring restoration in a personal matter for some time, and it’s difficult to understand sometimes why my prayer seems to go unanswered. Some people are praying for restoration of health or finances or a relationship or a career. And we wonder why God is not moving in the way we are asking him to.

“I, the Lord, will bring it all to pass at the right time.” Isaiah 60:22 

What a promise! Isaiah reminds us that God is in control of everything. He will bring it to pass at just the right time–his time. This is true, of course, for Bible prophecy, especially the Second Coming, which is the direct context of this passage. Jesus’ return and all the end times stuff is in God’s hands and all we need do is trust him. But this is also true in the everyday circumstances of life.

“The Lord will bring it all to pass at the right time.” Now, it may not come to pass until Jesus returns and gives me a new body and brings a new earth. Or he may choose to answer my prayer and restore things right now, but those things are temporary anyway. Either way, God is orchestrating everything to bring about his plans. What I never want to forget is that he is at work and that he loves me. He is for me … even in the midst of uncertain life circumstances.

Reading this chapter could not have come at a better time for me today. I was feeling depressed and tired with some current circumstances. Truthfully, I just felt like giving up. But I know that is not from God; that comes from the father of lies who is looking to destroy.

Satan, you are a liar! God is for me, so who can be against me? God loves me and is working all these things together for my good, because I love him and he has called me according to his purposes. The Lord will bring this all to pass at the right time! Father, you are the Sovereign Lord over all my circumstances. The timing is yours, so I will continue to trust you! 

What circumstances do you need to entrust to God today?

What do you need in order to surrender the timing of God’s answers over to him?

The Waiting (Is the Greatest Part)

Return to God and wait for him.

In my time with God this morning, I came across the vitality of returning to God and waiting for him (Isaiah 30:15). They are repeated throughout his Word so often, it’s important for us to think about this.

We return to him because he is our only real hope. He desires a relationship with us, so, like the prodigal’s father, he is always waiting for us to return. He waits for us to make a move back to him so he can show us his love and compassion.

We wait on him because he wants us to trust him. The timing is his, not ours. We wait because he is God and we are not. To wait for him to come through, we must have faith. We must learn to trust him.

We wait because, more than anything else, God desires a relationship with us. He desires for us to walk with him, listen to him, and to have hope that he will work on our behalf. We wait on him to test our belief that he really does work for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. We wait because the testing of our faith develops perseverance, which will make us mature and complete. Yes, waiting is a huge part of what God uses to grow us spiritually.

Waiting is all part of his purpose. We wait because, as Isaiah put it, waiting in quietness and confidence is our strength.

I am currently going through a period of waiting in my own life.I am learning how to wait on God and people. I am learning to trust him each day and every minute of each day. I am learning that I can not control any of this, and so I surrender my ways of doing things and my timing. This is not easy. I’m prone to want to be in control, but God is showing me that only he is sovereign. In my waiting, I am growing closer to God than I ever have been. I am hearing from him so clearly right now. I see him answering my prayers, little by little each day. I am learning the difference between expecting things to happen (which is more about me and what I want) and having an expectancy for how God will work (expectancy is the hope and trust I have in God to come through in his way). Yes, waiting is very hard, and it would be the hardest part without faith in God. But I’m learning that this waiting is one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my life.

By the way, waiting is a fundamental part of the Christian life. We are all waiting for Christ to return. We are waiting for our real home. We wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. We wait for his kingdom to come in all its glory. “Come, Lord Jesus.” We are a people of waiting.

The Bible says that some people will have none of this (see v. 15), and that is sad, because they miss out on all that God wants to accomplish in and through our lives. Instead of waiting on God, they turn to the world or to themselves for the power to prevail. It doesn’t work. Or they turn to idols to fill them up. It won’t do.

Our God is faithful. Those who by faith wait on God to help them will be blessed (see v. 23)! Waiting has a payoff that is out of this world!

What are you waiting for? 

How is God using a time of waiting in your life to make you into the person he wants you to become?

What to Do When Ministry Feels Like It’s Failing – Part 3: Redefine Success

This is the third and last planned post in this three-day series. I introduced the series in Part 1 and talked about the first reason we face failure and what to do about it in Part 2. Today, let’s tackle a second reason we sometimes don’t feel like we’re bearing fruit and what we can do about that.

At times, we may not see the fruit, the results, of how God is working through our lives. We may, in fact, see just the opposite, at least for a time and perhaps for our whole lives. We consistently share the gospel or teach or preach the Word or lead a small group or rear our children or stay committed to our spouse, and it seems like nothing is happening. We see no movement, or worse, things are digressing. Why does this happen and what should we do?

Is your ladder of success leaning on the right building? If you are defining success by worldly standards, you may end up terribly disappointed when you don’t see the results you are expecting. But God’s working does not operate as the world’s systems do. As Isaiah learned, the teaching of God’s Word may harden people’s hearts at first. In Isaiah 6:9-10, a passage quoted six times in the New Testament, God tells Isaiah to expect people to not understand his Word. Even though Isaiah would pour his life into preaching God’s truth,  the people’s eyes and ears would seem totally closed to God. Like Isaiah, we must believe that God is at work anyway, that his Word will not return empty, but he will accomplish what he desires through us (Isa 55:11).

We are to be witnesses of God’s truth and love. Period. How they respond is in God’s hands. This takes surrender.

What really matters is not outward successes, but our faithfulness to him. God makes the seeds we have planted and watered grow in his own timing, not ours. We may see the fruit in eternity if not here on earth. I believe we will be greatly surprised by what God did though what we thought were futile efforts. And those may be our greatest rewards in heaven.

How do you define “success” in your ministry?

If you were to redefine success based on God’s calling and direction rather than on worldly wisdom, how would it be different?

What to Do When Your Ministry Feels Like a Failure – Part 2: Respond When God Initiates

Yesterday I began a 3-part post about how to respond when you are not seeing any fruit in your ministry, small group, or just about anything else you are involved in. Read Part 1 here. In reading Isaiah and considering other Biblical leaders, I see two reasons why we face failure and what to do about each one. Today I’ll address the first one.

The prophet Isaiah faced certain failure. (In Isaiah 6:9-10, God actually told Isaiah that his ministry would cause people to harden their hearts and that they would be unable to understand or perceive God’s Word.) Isaiah was wildly successful in his failure, and we can see the main reasons in Isaiah 6:1-8. Pay careful attention to the progression:

First, Isaiah spent time with God, taking in his majesty (vv. 1-4). It’s significant that Isaiah saw the Lord in the Temple. If we want to meet with God, we must create the space for him. Before we can understand God’s purposes and plans for us, we must come into his presence and experience his power. 

Second, Isaiah came before God in complete humility (v. 5). He understood God’s holiness compared to his unholiness. To respond to God properly, we must know that he is God and we are not. He is transcendent.

Third, Isaiah was made holy by God’s touch (vv. 6-7). When we come before God in confession and repentence, he can and will purify our hearts and make us righteous. (See Ps. 51:10). Of course, the only way we can be purified and made holy for good is by faith in Jesus’ death for us on the cross. Because of that, we can come before God as new creatures in Christ. Now we can approach the throne of the Lord with boldness and confidence (Hebrews 4:1610:19), because now God sees the righteousness of Jesus in us.

Like Isaiah, before we are called to minister to others, the Lord Jesus and his angels must first minister to us. They must first forgive us and cleanse us and make us righteous in his sight. Notice that here again, solitude with God comes before ministry (see my blogs on solitude here). Once again, we minister only out of the overflow of what God pours into us!

Finally, Isaiah was ready to respond to God’s call (v. 8). Note that God did not command Isaiah to go (although it may be implied); he asked him, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” God left room for Isaiah to make a choice. Isaiah responded, “Me! I’ll do it! I’ll go for you!” Isaiah did not go out of his own initiative, but only through the calling of Almighty God.

This last point is vital for anyone who wants to be a leader after God’s own heart. If you lead from your own initiative, do not expect success in God’s eyes. You may obtain a certain amount of worldly success by ministering out of your own ideas and your own power, but in the grander scheme of things, what does that really matter?

This morning I was reading Chapter 6 of John Eldredge’s Waking the Dead. He talks about counterintuitive direction from God, something Isaiah surely received.

The particular foolishness of the church in the past century was Reason above all else. The result has been a faith stripped of the supernatural, the Christianity of tips and techniques. . . . Many of the churches and ministries I’ve known made their decisions by principles and expedience. We have our morals and we have our precepts, but where is the living God?

I think Isaiah would agree with this assessment.

If we want to be bear fruit, fruit that will last, we must be connected to the Vine. Apart from Christ’s presence, power, and purposes, we fail. 

What do you think? How important is God’s initiative in your leadership?

Revive Refocus Retreat Rewind

In October, 2010, the Northeast Christian Church small groups ministry partnered with the church’s prayer ministry to offer a retreat for our leaders. The retreat focused on connecting with God, abiding with him, and learning new ways to pray. Here are a few pictures to show some of what we did together.
Here are a few pictures from the retreat!
Chase Lackey led us in worship. Thanks, Chase.
Participants experienced personal, group, and corporate time with God.
Jay Close and the Northeast Prayer Team modeled “Community Prayer” in a group for us. Here, Jay gives a brief explanation.
At the end of the retreat, we were invited to do a prayer walk through the woods at Emerald Hills. For me, this was a highlight of the day. I came across this meadow, and though this picture doesn’t do it justice, this was a great place for me to stop and draw close to my Creator.
This is one of the many “prayer pagodas” along the trail. Many of the retreat attenders used these as prayer stations to stop and pray (individually or with a small group) about some specific Scriptural subjects dealing with our relationships with God.