Mountains. They’re beautiful, unless they’re in my way. And then they become a nuisance. I know that a 5 mile drive on the prairie will be a quick trip, but a five-mile drive through mountains is not.
I’m use to moving at a fast pace, but when I run into an unexpected spiritual or life mountain I stomp my feet and command it to move. Then when it doesn’t, I throw an adult size temper tantrum. When the temper tantrum doesn’t work, I try whining because I think that might be more effective. Then when the whining doesn’t work, I give God the silent treatment. Mature? Moi? Nah.
I treat mountains, those things that crop up in my life unexpectedly, as destructive forces out to destroy my life. This is me when I’m self-absorbed and self-led instead of God-absorbed and Holy Spirit led.
But God reminds me of the things I know and the things I need to remember:
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silencefor my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6
God is my hope. But life sometimes distracts me.
He is my rock, my salvation, and my fortress.
Why, then, does life shake me?
Because it’s far too easy to place our expectations in what we can control then to place our expectations in the One who controls everything, but seems so unpredictable.
But this mentality is faulty from the onset. We cannot control anything. We think we can because we have calendars we dictate. We have jobs we perform. We’re mothers and fathers who are raising little human beings. We decide whether we’re going to take the direct route to our destination or the scenic route.
It’s this control that we cling to that deceives us into thinking we’ve got it all covered. Then when something, whether it’s a sickness, an internal battle, or job issue becomes a mountain in your way and nothing you can do causes it to move, that’s when freaking out happens.
We worry and fret. We question God and ask: “why in heaven’s name isn’t he moving this mountain?” We try to invoke the name of Jesus and still the mountain doesn’t move. So then we come full circle and pull a grown-up size temper tantrum, whine, or give God the silent treatment. Sometimes we even try and hold our breath in protest.
God is our hope and our rock. Mountains are made of rock. And maybe God is in the mountain and he wants to meet you there.
Our hope, our expectations can be placed in the most trustworthy one: God.
So the next time you run into a mountain, don’t assume it needs to moved, maybe, just maybe it’s a place to meet with God and be transformed. Maybe your mountain, that you want moved more than anything else, is actually a holy place.
With Christ’s death and resurrection the beginning has ended and the eternal journey begins.
It is finished! No more wondering if we’re enough, because we are.
No more questioning whether Christ really is who he says he is, because he is.
It’s the end of the beginning. The end of wandering, the end of separation from God and the try hard life.
Jesus is our beginning and end. The veil that separates us from God is torn and now his love is accessible through the One who was torn, beaten, mocked, and killed for us.
We all have the same beginning: darkness and bondage even when we think we’re free and in the light. But when self rules our hearts and our lives, we become enslaved to what self wants: what we see, feel, and experience.
Christ has come to set us free from the tyranny of self. Christ defeated death so that we may live a life holy and set apart for him. So, you see, Easter really is the end of the beginning.
We get to live the middle part now. It’s the part of life between our resurrection from spiritual death to life, and the day when we see Jesus face to face in eternity. How well will we live?
Will we falter and fail? Will we doubt and question?
Yes and yes. But we have a power available to us. A power that says that “greater is he in me than he that is in the world.” And this I know: it’s grace that enables me to live this life for Christ, through Christ, and in Christ.
It’s grace that transforms me. Grace enables me to give myself up for a living sacrifice. It’s grace that enables our lives to be set apart and holy. I crash and burn when I try and live for Christ through my strength and understanding. I know failure well.
But the beautiful thing we get to experience in our failures is redemption. It’s redemption that makes getting back up again possible. It’s the daily resurrection of my spiritual life when I make “self” the number one motivator in my heart.
I want to live this middle life well, but I know how life gets monotonous and we forget what we did this morning let along two days ago. And when life gets monotonous I forget to look around and see evidences of grace in my life.
Or life is one crisis after another and rather than holding onto the anchor of grace we flounder and hold onto ourselves and our limited understanding. Crisis’ can blind us to the redemptive work of Christ in our lives.
It’s the end of the beginning! Your beginning steps are over and done and now it’s time to run. Run the race God has for you with your eyes fixed on the prize–eternity with the Father of Light. Let him shine that light into all the recesses of your life and keep on running.
You’ll make it. How do I know?
Because God is your strength. He is your love. He is your light. And he will finish it.
“You are my hiding place, you will protect me from trouble, you surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7
My everyday life is not calm, quiet, or still. It’s messy and noisy and involves many people. In my everyday life I’m a tired worn out mess. In my everyday life I end up on auto pilot and struggle to remember what I did the day before yesterday and even sometimes two hours ago.
I love the picture this verse paints—a hiding place, hidden from my troubles and surrounded by songs. Maybe it looks something like a water front cabin tucked into the woods of the northwest. Or maybe it’s a private island with white sand as far as the eye can see. Or maybe it’s a hidden nook in a secret garden with the scent of flowers wafting around.
How in the world do I tuck myself into Jesus while at the same time reaching out and ministering to my family, my church, and my community? Practically speaking, literally hiding is out of the question as is a weekend of solitude in my fantasy cabin. There are too many things that require my attention and time. So how does this verse apply to our lives?
He is my hiding place.
We live on two planes: spirit and physical. The soul—our mind, will, and emotions— is the tie between our spirit and our physical selves. What are my thoughts? What choices am I making? How am I feeling? These components need to be brought into obedience to Christ. We must live aware of our thoughts and how our thoughts lead to actions.
He protects me from trouble.
The fight between lies and truth take place in the battlefield of my mind and the renegade thoughts disrupt the peace of God in my heart. I bring trouble on myself through my choices and thoughts. So I tell myself: Think about Christ. Think about his love and promises. Practice living peace, joy, love, patience, goodness, self-control, kindness. Live aware.
He surrounds me with songs of deliverance.
Ah such hope! He is my hiding place, my protector and songs of deliverance soothe my anxious heart. Do you need deliverance from anxiety? Does fear overtake you? Do you question the sovereignty of God? God—our great creator who holds everything—including you and me in his hands, sings songs over us.
Hiding places make me think of quiet, dark, isolated places, but this verse reveals something different. I’m not alone in this hiding place. And it’s not dark. God is light and in him there is no darkness. Imagine his hiding place filled with the most wonderful and warm light and songs fill the air around you.
When you enter into his hiding place you leave the dark world that threatens your peace and experience the light of his presence. And His hiding place is spacious, light-filled rest. You might be facing a challenging job or boss. Maybe your children are driving you to distraction. You might be staring down a health crisis.
The hiding place is not there so you can hide from life—but so that you can find a way through life. It’s when we hide ourselves in Christ that we are strengthened because he takes our weakness and turns it into strength. Troubles threaten our comfort level, but when we find ourselves tucked into the light of God then our heart is kept safe. And it’s in the hiding place that God reveals his deliverance. He will reveal a way through.
God loves you. He cares for you. He provides safety and peace while you live the journey he’s set before you.
Will you step into the spacious, light-filled rest of Jesus? Will you quiet your soul so you can hear the songs of deliverance?
Here are a few quick ideas to help you hide in the Light:
Spend time in Psalms: some of my favorites are Psalm 84, 103, or 144
Play your favorite worship song and sit quietly before the Lord.
Recently I felt like my life came to a screeching halt when I heard the news of a life changing diagnosis for a dear friend. Not long ago, I was overcome by drama as mothers of teenagers often are. I fight for bravery in the face of the unknowns of my future. Will things be okay? Where is God in all my wonderings?
Jesus said that I will have trouble in this life and life has proven this to be true. But there is a theme that began in the Old testament and has continued to be woven into the New. It’s one of the many threads that tie the two testaments together and it is this: The Lord will be with you.
I take comfort in knowing that you too have a little mess-up in your life. It makes me not feel alone. And yet that solidarity can be a trap. It can fool us into thinking that we are on the same team that must win at being screwed up. It can trick us into the comparison game: ‘Well, I am not as bad as so and so’, or ‘boy, I really screwed up, look at her, she’s messed up too, but is making good, I don’t think I can have the life change she has’.
What if we accepted ourselves as wholly screwed up while at the same time embraced Christ for what he did for us? Which is the removal of our sin, our shame, and our guilt. What if we took the truth of God’s word and wrapped it around ourselves like a mantle and let the truths settle on our shoulders and actually felt the weight truth?
I think I would be wholly changed.
I think that my messed up soul imprint would begin to take on the imprint of God himself and then I must ask myself if I am really as messed up as I believe or is my mess somehow being made beautiful.
Or I am just seeing myself, without the guilt and shame, as God sees me.
Wholly messy beautiful.
Can mess be beautiful? I must believe it or I would be crippled by the weight of regret and bitterness and unforgiveness. Every time I have turned over my regrets to my Abba Father, I come away encouraged that there is redemption. Every time I let go of bitterness I smell the fragrance of the rose rather than feel the prick of the thorns. Each time I choose forgiveness I am reminded of my own forgiveness.
Every time I offer my mess-up soul to him, I receive grace in return and that is wholly beautiful.
Receive grace. Will you offer your messed-up self to him and open your arms to receive his grace? Grace that changes us into a new kind of beautiful we cannot even begin to imagine. Grace that reveals truth. Truth that reveals grace.
Which does the Lord want? Does he want my commitment or does he want my surrender? What exactly do these two words mean? I tell myself that I need to be more committed to spending time with the Lord. I need to be committed to loving people and serving others. But it is hard. I have weeks where I fail more than I succeed. And then I have weeks where I don’t do so bad. But it’s in the empty weeks where I stumble and fall and see just how clearly wretched I can be and how I just don’t want to do ‘this’ anymore because it is so so hard. So I looked up these couple of words and I found something I hadn’t known before.
to yield something to the possession of power to another
to give oneself up in to the power of another
to give up, abandon, or relinquish
to yield in favor of another
to bind or obligate
to give in trust or charge
to entrust for safekeeping
to do, perform
to engage oneself
The differences are subtle and it would be easy to exchange one for the other and mean the same thing, but I see something different between the two that is vital. It appears that with commitment I still retain authority over whether or not I commit. Commitment involves me doing something–pledging, obligating, or giving someone charge of something. Surrender involves yielding. Yielding is getting out of the way and giving authority of oneself up to the Lord.
I have been committed without surrender. Commitment without surrender has led to my lack of consistency in my walk with Christ. When I commit without surrender I am telling myself that I get to choose when and where I am committed to Christ. Maybe it’s just on Sunday mornings or when I am out and about, but the commitment can wane when I am with my family and I allow myself to act and say things that I would never dream of acting or saying to anyone else.
But surrender is where consistent Christ-living occurs. Surrender must be active and present for commitment to become woven into our daily moments no matter what we face. Maybe I need to be less of a committed Christian and more of a surrendered Christian. Maybe our churches need to preach more about surrendering instead of committing. Maybe we have it backwards.
Surrender first. Yield oneself to the power and grace of the Lord. Surrender all we are and hope to become. Surrender our pain and our joys. Surrender our wills to the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. Surrender to the One who holds us in his palm and whispers love to us in the darkest of days and deepest of nights.
Commitment second. Once surrender occurs, commitment is a natural progression. Surrendering leads to a people working through the power of the Holy Spirit and commitment alone leads to a people working through themselves which leads to inconsistency and legalism. Surrender is a yielding to the Lord’s authority and then giving him our pledge to live as he would have us to live. Without surrender commitment is empty and becomes a choice.
I know that each day I need to get up and surrender again. And sometimes I need to surrender every moment to the One who is my hope. I wish I could say this is an easy thing, but my heart deceives and who can know it? It is a fight to remain in that surrendered place and so I often I slip out of it without even realizing it.
I can only describe my experience with slipping out of that surrendered place and it usually starts with a dissatisfaction with the way things are. I begin looking around at all the pain and hurts in those around me and myself. I begin to focus on the unanswered prayers or the news that smacks me around and down. I begin being too aware of my present and not aware enough of his presence. These are clues that I have slipped out of surrender. Another clue is when commitment wanes and becomes too hard.
It’s both surrender and commitment. Working together. Complementing each other. Bringing purpose to our days. I need to choose both. Surrender and commitment, but commitment becomes a whole lot easier if I surrender first. Surrender is a loss of freedom that gives me freedom to commit and live for the Lord. It’s both and.
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