trusting in the Lord does not mean throwing caution to the wind

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.

Proverbs 3

Perhaps it should go without saying, though I think we have to tell the truth to ourselves and each other, that we simply don’t throw caution to the wind when we’re trusting in the Lord. In a strange sense we do in that we no longer want to act out of fear, or be led by that, except for a proper fear of God which is altogether different. Not to say that we don’t lock the doors of our house, or latch the windows at night, surely out of common sense, and not out of our own human emotion of fear.

When God’s leading might coincide with what we might ordinarily do, left to ourselves, than I can well imagine that the enemy’s accusing breath might be near, with some choice words to put us in our place. But the breath and voice of God are different. There is no doubt that under God’s leading there is quite a lot that we won’t do, and then other things we will, that without that leading would not have been the case. A key component in this is to wait on God in prayer. Our thought might be good, but the way of carrying it out, even if one is thinking only of the timing, may not be that good. We need to wait on God in trust that somehow God will direct us.

Obviously we don’t throw caution to the wind by doing what we feel like doing, and then attributing that to the Lord’s leading. There are times when any one of us might be susceptible to this. For example, we might like someone of the opposite sex whose looks might appeal to us. Of course that doesn’t mean we act on that impulse in a way which violates our covenant with our spouse and with God. In fact we reject such feelings as in any way offering us guidance as to what we can or even should do. Instead we submit ourselves to the truth of God’s word, even when that might go against our feelings at the time. Perhaps particularly for guys, and I’m thinking of a business trip alone in a motel, that might mean spending time in the word, and listening to the kind of music we enjoy, rather than watching at best a questionable movie, or even going to some pornographic website.

Our goal is to follow the Lord’s leading in all things. Part of that leading may be the freedom to make some decisions in collaboration with others in such a way which ends up agreeable to all. And that would include decisions within the family especially involving the wife and husband where there might be a disagreement, or different way of seeing things. Instead of jumping to one conclusion or another, it would seem best to spend some time together in prayer on the matter, and both pray separately with the goal of arriving to some place of peace between the two, all the while seeking the Lord on it for direction. Some things might be a matter of choice, and what might be best is for both to pray and reach some kind of peace together, seeking to find what’s best in the Lord’s eyes, all things considered. A considerable amount of wisdom beyond what any of us possesses in ourselves will be needed. Of course in answer to prayer God is always willing to grant that (James 1).

And so there will be times and matters in which we’re not sure what we should or shouldn’t do. Just because we are committed to the Lord’s leading in all things, doesn’t mean that everything will be easy. Perhaps while what we’re thinking may be alright, someone else has to work through it as well. And in the process both can grow. Relationships pleasing to God, as well the goal of complete trust in God must always be at the heart of what we’re about, along with the mission of God which is ours in Jesus as well, in terms of the gospel.

Properly understood, we don’t throw caution to the wind. Even as we continue to commit ourselves to being led by God in all things. In and through Jesus.

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concentrating on what is at hand, on one’s calling

Life is full, busy, and actually good, but has its challenging aspects as well. And we see the bigger picture around us, as best we can. There are so many things we can get involved in, and many of them might be good. It is not bad, and actually commendable I think to work at understanding the basics of difficult topics in the world and the discussion and debate surrounding them.

I remember one much respected pastor and Bible teacher who said something like we in Jesus should say: “This one thing I do,” instead of, “These many things I dabble in.” I think we need to prayerfully endeavor to do well at what is in front of us, at the task at hand, and actually guard that. If we spread ourselves too thin, we won’t do as well. But more importantly, we might be taking our eyes off the calling God has for us.

That said, we still need to be open to new things, new directions the Lord might be taking us. At the same time making our priority what God has called us to now, what we are called to love and nurture. As we watch ourselves and keep trying to grow up together with others in Jesus.

gently leading others

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

Isaiah 40

Isaiah 40 is truly one of the great passages of scripture, like Romans 8. I hesitate to say that, because I believe we should consider every part important, even the most obscure passages that we might not understand well, if at all. But this passage comforts God’s people both with God’s immense greatness and immeasurable goodness and in terms of God’s great salvation.

What seems especially helpful is the idea of God’s gentle leading. Oftentimes when people, when any of us think of God, we think of an extension of our experience with authority figures, which too often has not been encouraging, but quite the opposite. Or perhaps for some of us, those people were largely absent from our lives. The picture of God given to us in scripture is that God is beyond everything and yet nearer than the breath we breathe. That God is just as much intimate as God is transcendent. That means that the God who is not overwhelmed in the least enters into the picture for humankind, for the world, yes, for us. And God cares for us.

I love the imagery quoted above (see NRSV in link, “[God] will gently lead the mother sheep.”) That God leads the sheep, us, gently. We need that. And in turn, that is how we’re to help the young among us. Not pushing them, or being gruff with them. But gently leading. In fact, we can take that as the cue on how we’re to influence each other. Not that we’re in life to manipulate, but instead we want to learn to follow God’s leading, and hopefully help others to do the same, since we know that is best, and in fact is wonderful.

When one looks at the entire Story in scripture, one also sees that God leads out of weakness, that actually God’s weakness is strength. It is the way of the cross, the way of suffering love for us and for the world. And a part of our salvation for us now in this world, is to learn in and through Jesus to take that same road for others in our commitment to Christ and the gospel.

Let’s pay attention to those who gently lead, and especially to our Lord God, and then learn to follow in those steps. In and through Jesus.

where God is leading

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

How God leads us as his children through faith in Jesus is in some ways straightforward as we see from the pages of scripture, but in the mere fact of the matter quite beyond us. Even the idea of God, the reality of God’s existence is beyond us as humans, we can say finite and sinful as we are.

I am increasingly convinced that God’s leading is often against the grain of our own inclination and understanding. It is not like reason and experience are not factored in at all. In at least some provisional, necessary way they usually factor into God’s leading. But left to ourselves we would go a different route. At least that most often seems to be the case. And God’s way often surprises us even if on hindsight we can begin to gather how his hand was in our lives all along to lead us that way.

What we need in all of this, in this venture and in this life– is faith. We need the audacity and courage that comes from faith in God. Jesus said that even with the faith as small as a mustard seed we can say to a mountain, “Be removed and thrown into the sea,” and it will happen. Jesus’ application was in terms of prayer, that if we believe what we ask will be granted, then indeed it will.

I don’t think, particularly if the leading involves a major change, that we shouldn’t look to God to verify it repeatedly especially in the face of questions perhaps concerning major difficulties surrounding it. The Lord may not answer all of our questions, but he can give us a peace that is beyond, transcending those problems.

God wants to lead us in and through Jesus by the Spirit. We need the faith to give in and let go. And follow.

 

fitting in

One ongoing struggle in my life has been the problem of not fitting in. I am thinking in terms largely of thought from which practice or life formation can come. So I have ended up gravitating to churches which while taking a particular stance, the least being adherence to Christian orthodoxy, gave room to think within that commitment.

I am more than a bit wary of the idea that one can find a church tradition or even another person with whom they’ll see eye to eye with on everything. Such expectation is not only unrealistic but unhealthy as well. What is promoted is some sort of cookie cutter mentality. One can’t think or become settled into a faith of their own and therefore may have little or no faith whatsoever.

A crucial balance to this is to avoid the notion that what others think and believe doesn’t matter or is of little worth. When we become aware of differences that do seem significant what is then needed is some kind of discourse, ongoing conversation, talking it through. In the course of that there may be some change or modification of one’s thinking, perhaps a consensus reached with the other. But again how the church especially at large has read the Bible should never be dismissed. It at least should be respected even if it is not followed to the letter.

In the end finding our place in fitting into the whole is important.  Maybe we would be content enough to remain where we’re at, but for some reason we can’t settle in. Perhaps the Lord is seeking to nudge us in a different direction.

In this life I not only doubt that there can be perfect agreement on everything, but again I see such a hope as doomed to frustration. But by God’s grace in Jesus by the Spirit we can find our place to be planted where we can grow and bear much fruit with others. As the Lord’s church in and for the world to the glory of God.

 

time to move on

The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”

Israel as a community was on a journey out of Egypt in what had become a land of slavery into the promised land God was giving them. They may well have settled in at Mount Horeb, at least they were there for some time relative to the journey. But finally the Lord through Moses tells them that it’s time to move on and enter into all that the Lord had for them.

Although I tend to want to shy away from applying scripture like this, I do wonder if there isn’t something here for us, at least for myself. We tend to get acclimated in all kinds of ways that may not be necessarily good. And we can have old ruts, old tendencies which actually are not good. The Lord may purposefully be pushing us into a challenging place so that we can go and grow beyond where we have lived perhaps far too long. I can’t help but think of James’ words about testings here:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

We have to move on and move out beyond where we live and into all of God’s will for us in Jesus. I for one want to do that. And I need to do that now.

trusting in God against the grain of our own understanding

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

If there’s one stronghold that can bind me perhaps more than anything, I would say in a certain sense the desire to figure out or think through issues, and particularly problems so that I can make good, informed, wise decisions can dog me and actually turn against me. A synonymous name for this in my case is worry.

This is the case once again of a good thing becoming bad, of a blessing becoming a curse. God has given us our minds, and God wants to give us wisdom and understanding, insight for living. There is a difference however between trusting in the insight God has given us, and trusting in God himself. That may be too subtle for us to figure out, but it can play out something like this: We prayerfully read up on something which we have to do and in spite of what decision we would make based on our own understanding, something like the Lord’s peace seems to lie in the other direction. Or having asked God for direction, we make a decision only to later sorely regret it because it goes against the grain of our own understanding.

This is indeed tricky territory, not easy to negotiate no matter what. The question ends up being are we going to rely on God when making decisions, or on our own reasoning? It is not like our mind is suspended. God works with and through our minds, and to some extent they are likely processing in most every situation. Yes, we often have to make the best decisions on many things great and small, hopefully all the while looking to God for wisdom and for his leading.

In the end we have to trust the outcome of everything into God’s hands. That is part of the whole. The Lord may help us see something down the road which may more or less alter our course. Our responsibility is to work at it, rest in the decision made, and remain open to more light, in all of this trusting in and submitting to God. We can be sure that at least our lives can become more in sync with God and God’s will in Christ through this.

All of this part of the way of wisdom for us in Jesus.