Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Praising God BEFORE He answers our prayers?


He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:3

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

Praise itself is an act of faith. When we are able to praise God before we see the answers to our prayers, we're saying, Lord I trust you to work this out, according to your purpose. I'm going to thank you now for what you are going to do.
   I read a lot of books, especially in the summer when there are not so many things grasping for my attention. I was reading a Christian fiction book called "Stand by Me" and this was a sermon being preached in one of tonight's chapters and it spoke to me. (Isn't it amazing how God can use all sorts of things to get our attention?)  I love thinking about praise being an act of faith. We can all stand in church and sing but are we truly praising Him in our lives? Are we telling Him through that worship that we trust Him even when there seems to be chaos surrounding us? When we are able to put our trust in God by actively praising Him, we gain a new perspective. Usually the new perspective that God gives me is that it isn't all about me (gasp!). 
   And you know what else I've learned? The world is watching. They are waiting to see if a child of God can truly praise Him when feeling afraid. So, it's a balancing act. The balance of praising God in the quiet moments and being a outward testimony to his grace. This can actually lead others to trust in God when they are faced with a challenge. It's not, however, about being perfect.  Nobody expects that. There are so many times that I pray that God can use me despite myself. That others can see past the "Laura" to the God in me. Praising God when we don't have all the answers (or any of the answers)? Super hard to do. It can even feel impossible. But I am slowly learning to trust that God is bigger than the uncertainties in my life. I promise you, this lesson is becoming a life-changer for me and my family. 

Psalm 40:3 in the Message says, "He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God." Psalm 56:3-4 says, "When I get really afraid I come to you in trust. I'm proud to praise God; fearless now, I trust in God. What can mere mortals do?"

So, tonight I say, "Thank you, Lord for what you are going to do. Thank you for my new God-songs you have given me. I am proud for the chance to praise you. I trust in you. I love you. Thank you for my flawed worship because even then you see me as your righteous child. Oh, Lord, I want to be able to say, I am fearless now." 

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Way in the Wilderness

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:18-19

     How many of us fear that our past decisions will impair our ability to serve God or block God's willingness to show us favor? We fear that our mistakes are bigger than anyone else's or that God will continue to hold us back even after we've asked for forgiveness. Isn't that exactly where the enemy wants us? He will watch us sin, gloat over our mess, and then convince us that we are not worthy to serve God or worth His blessings on our lives. That is a win-win for the enemy. He can't have a believer's heart but he sure can whisper lies of insufficiency and unworthiness to us.
     How do you and I avoid the cycle of sin and self-condemnation? Sometimes my desire is to look to others for acceptance to compensate for my disconnect from God. It will always backfire, however, because another person can never fulfill the sometimes un-named desire for connection with God. Have you ever felt, even as a child of God, that longing for more? The longing for connection? When I feel that sense I know that I have stepped away from God and have moved towards other sources of connections. For example, when I am struggling with a decision I tend to talk to my husband or pick up the phone and talk to a friend and then I start praying and looking for guidance in the bible. I have done that so many times without even thinking about the fact that I am working in the wrong order. First should come prayer and seeking answers in the bible and then looking to Godly counsel.
     What am I getting at? When I am feeling a cycle of the "I'm not good enoughs" hitting, I typically tend to seek others who will make me feel better. Then, when that doesn't work, I go to God in prayer. My desire is to discipline myself to go to God first for acceptance and guidance. When I learn to seek Him first, I will never again cycle through the self-condemnation. If the enemy can get us to condemn ourselves, then his job is done!
     What is your fear right now? You may feel like you are in a wilderness without a GPS. I know that is where we are right now. My lack of understanding can be frustrating. I don't know why God leads us through the wilderness but I do know that He doesn't send us out to the wilderness with a backpack and well wishes. He walks that wasteland with us. All I can do is put my hope in God and rely on His promises. He will make a path and He will provide the stream. Now, I may feel lost and thirsty before He gives me provisions but He will not fail me.
     Rely on His promises: He has redeemed you and will call you by name. You may pass through the waters but you will not drown. You may walk through the fires but you will not be burned. (Isaiah 43:1). He loves you (John 3:16).  Seek Him first and He will provide for you (Matthew 6:33). You are never condemned or defined for the past or present (Romans 8:1). He will work all things for your good if you love him and are called for His purpose (Romans 8:28).
     Life isn't easy sometimes but we can rely on the One who knows that better than anyone.

Thank you, Lord, for always accepting us. Thank you that you love us, correct us, and guide us but never condemn us. Thank you for wanting us. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting is the hardest part

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
We wait on the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33:18-22

So, for those of you who have read my blog periodically over the 9 months or so, the "Year of No Fear" has been in full drive, no? We've laughed with several of you about the timing of the blog and the   course of events (yes, you have to just laugh sometimes). Several of you have noted that since I felt compelled to write this blog, we've had a tornado strike, a cancer diagnosis, and a job loss. But through the irony of the timing, I have to say that God knew (of course) what we would be faced with and I fully believe that He used that time prior of extra prayer and studying His word to prepare me for the coming months. I have spent time reading some of my posts prior to my diagnosis in February and am enthralled by the words that God gave me through those months to be used in my own life. He gave me those words to show His faithfulness and love to me.

It's been some time since I have posted-living between the reality of our situation right now and learning to wholly trust in God has been a struggle. (You can read more about it in an earlier posting http://ayearofnofear.blogspot.com/2012/02/day-40.html. )God and I have had many many discussions about the hurdles my family has been facing for the last few months. I have cycled between fear, sadness, and had moments of situational anger (mostly about my hair loss-vanity at its finest!). But you know what? We haven't struggled alone. Many of you have cried with us, prayed with us, laughed with us, and have gone through the emotions with us. Through all of this, we have not battled isolation or loneliness and I am thankful for that.

I was sent this passage from a precious friend of mine yesterday morning as we were facing a scary doctor's appointment that held the potential for news of an intensified and prolonged treatment plan. As I read this prior to the appointment, one of the parts of this that jumped out at me was the "waiting on the Lord" part. Oh, that is the hard part. I hate to wait. You can ask my extremely patient husband how anxious I become when waiting. Saying that, I feel like this season we are in has been one long "wait on the Lord". We've waited for test results, treatment, recovery from treatment, job interviews, feedback from job interviews, and the list goes on and on. I am learning, however, that God does things in His time for our good. He has given us hope over these last 5 months and he has shielded us from so much. I have had moments of feeling overwhelmed and sad but I can honestly tell you that I have been able to rejoice and praise Him as well. This season has purified my worship and brought me to Him. He understands loss better than anyone and can absorb my sadness, anger, and despair. I no longer struggle with telling God my frustrations and true feelings. He knows them anyway and it strengthens my relationship with him when I am honest about my feelings.

Please keep us in your prayers as we continue walking through the rest of my treatment and Jeremy's job search. We know God's unfailing love is with us and our hope is in Him.
In the meantime, we are spending the summer together while I work hard to grow a head of hair :)