ARE YOU HAVING A HARD TIME TRUSTING GOD?

We love being in control. We always look for that sense of security - be it in our finances, relationships, career, and even in our ministries. And one of our greatest fears is the fear of the unknown. We always want to be sure of what’s coming. 

 

To not know the future makes us vulnerable to fear, worry, panic, and anxiety, which later leads to a lot of other negative thoughts and actions such as grumbling, complaining, and even blaming God and other people, just like what happened to the Israelites in Exodus 16 after their deliverance from Egypt. Yet even during these times, God proves to us over and over again that He is the ever-faithful God whom we can completely depend on to provide everything that we need.  Still, why do we have a hard time trusting God? 

 

The Issue of Trust and Distrust 

When it comes to being trustworthy and dependable, we all fall short.  This is one of the reasons we can find it hard to trust God. We measure trust based on what we did or what others did to us.  We always remember those times that we didn’t live up to the things we said we would do -- all those memories of our broken promises, commitments, failures, and shortcomings. Likewise, we tend to remember every painful memory when others break our trust.  Because of the guilt, we find it hard to forgive ourselves and others; which in turn, affects our ability to trust.

 

But we have to see God differently. He is a God who will never break our trust. When the Israelites complained to Moses about not having food and water in the wilderness, ( not because God didn’t want to provide, but simply because they didn’t trust Him), God still provided for them by sending overflowing manna from heaven, quails, and even water from the rock ( not just once, but twice!). Exodus 16-17 

 

Here we see that God’s provisions were not conditional on whether the Israelites trusted Him or not. Despite the Israelites’ failure to trust Him, God still miraculously gave them all their needs to prove that He is a dependable and faithful provider. God is completely trustworthy. Therefore, we can trust Him. Even if we fail Him at times, He will never fail us. What He promised, He will do.

 

Learning to Trust God

To trust God is to acknowledge that He is the One who provides everything that we need. It is to acknowledge that God is the only “One” whom we can depend on. If we want to learn how to trust God completely, we must take Him at His Word (even if the Word doesn’t make any sense) and trust His every work (even if you can’t see how He’s working things out). 

 

God wants us to trust in Him completely for our daily bread and not just in our ability to store up His provisions. It’s worth noticing that God allowed them to be in the wilderness where everything was scarce. Why? So that the Israelites would see how powerful, faithful and trustworthy He is. God took away every possible source that the Israelites could rely on so that they will realize that God is the ONLY trustworthy source and that God is ALL that they ever need. (Deuteronomy 8:3, John 6:25-59)

 

God wants us to be reminded that we can’t do things on our own and that He is the provider of everything that we need. It’s time to do away with complaining, grumbling, and blaming others. It’s time to forgive ourselves from our past failure and it’s about time that we also forgive those who have broken our trust. We can’t do this in our own strength. We need God’s grace to be able to extend forgiveness and to be able to trust again. 

 

Do you have some pressing needs right now? Today, God is assuring you: You can depend on Him to provide for you and He will never break your trust.

 

Who Will Deliver Us From Terror?

The Great I Am, who is with us, is our deliverer. When we call upon our God, He works in ways we can’t even fathom. He works in ways that we may not even understand, but ways that are ultimately perfect according to His purpose and will alone. He sees our needs, He hears our cries, and He is always present to provide strength when we are weak and in distress. We need to remember that His desire is to save us. With His salvation comes redemption and deliverance.

 

What is Terror

We already know the wonderful truth that God, the Great I Am, is our deliverer. But, we also need to recognize what it is that God is delivering us from.

 

Terror comes from our sinful flesh. We may have heard about it before from our Sunday school classes or sermons from past years. But have we thought much about it lately? Have we even considered terror as a consequence of our own sins? 

 

Terror also comes when we stand in front of God. It can be overwhelming to think about the powerful nature of God in its entirety. It leaves us trembling. Another source of terror is when we wonder “Am I good enough?” When we choose our own ways, when we try to do everything for ourselves, or when we justify our place before God. 

 

Terror can cause us to be far from God. It is something that we need to defend ourselves against by fully relying on Christ. When we look at Acts 7, the Jewish leaders were terrified that their ways will be destroyed by God’s teaching through Stephen and the prophets before him. And so they tried to silence Stephen because they were filled with terror. We see that terror only has one option and it is to silence all the voices around it, including God.

 

Remain Calm and Trust Jesus

How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! Luke 1:47

 

Amidst all the harsh effects of terror, we can rest in the truth that there is a Savior who died on the cross to wash away the consequences of our sins. It is our Savior who will deliver us from our own terror.

 

Stephen is a classic example of a person who was fully embraced by God’s saving grace. Even as he was dying, being stoned to death, he remained calm and was full of the Lord’s Spirit. Because he knew that at this moment, the presence of Jesus is in him.

 

In Acts 6:15, we can even notice that everyone in the high council was looking at Stephen because his face became as bright as an angel’s. This is the calming effect of God’s saving grace in the midst of trembling situations. Do we still wonder how we get deliverance? Jesus our Savior. He is our deliverer. He has already rescued us.

 

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12

 
 

To See Like Jesus

As we begin to dive into the metaphors that Jesus used to describe Himself with the “Bread of Life” metaphor in John 6, as bigger question emerges. Why does Jesus use metaphors anyway? Enjoy the answer from our friend and author of “Delight”, Justin Rossow.

Jesus sits on the edge of a literal well, and is literally tired and thirsty. The disciples have gone off to find  food; for them, Samaria is a land of unclean enemies where you can’t even get lunch without the fear of  contamination. But Jesus stays behind.

You know the story. Jesus asks for literal water from one of these contaminated enemies, and the talk  quickly turns metaphorical: “If you would have known, you would have asked me, and I would have given  you Living Water, and you would never thirst again.”

What follows is some verbal sparring where this Samaritan woman seems to give as well as she takes, but  is  perhaps confusing enough for her final comment to count as raising the white flag: “When Messiah comes, He will clear up all of this debate about God and worship, and who’s in and who’s out.” Then Jesus drops a final bombshell: “I who speak to you am He.”

The disciples make it back just in time to see the woman going off in amazement to fetch her friends. They offer Jesus some of their Kosher Take Out, but Jesus says he has “food” they know nothing about, which causes some concern, since they are deep in enemy territory, and one does not just eat from a street vendor when lunch can make you spiritually unclean. But Jesus wasn’t talking about food food: “My food is to do the delight of the one who sent me.”

While the disciples are still chewing on that statement, the unclean enemy outsider woman shows back up, with a crowd of her closest friends. (OK; wait. She didn’t have any friends, remember? She somehow went to people who looked down on her and shamed her and threatened her, and told them about Jesus.) Seeing the crowd, Jesus gives his disciples a new lens, a new frame, a new way of seeing and evaluating and experiencing the situation in front of them.

“Look!” Jesus says, “Lift up your eyes, and see! The Fields are ripe for Harvest!”

Where the disciples saw unclean enemy outsiders who threaten to contaminate them, Jesus sees sheaves ready and waiting to be brought in. And that’s how metaphor works. A metaphor gives you a structured understanding of a situation that allows you to make decisions, reason out options, know what you can expect and what is expected of you. Metaphors can be overt or hidden; poetic or rather plain. The disciples were living out one metaphor when they feared Jesus might have broken food laws by receiving something to eat from the hand of an unclean Samaritan. That metaphor of clean and unclean, in and out, friend and foe breaks the world down into Us vs Them, and keeps Us and Them as far apart as possible.

An In/Out metaphor is a powerful way of organizing your reality. But Jesus lives by a different metaphor. Jesus inhabits a world where you give a thirsty stranger a drink, no matter what. And if the thirst is more than physical, how much more important is it to pour out the Living Water you have welling up inside you! 

Jesus later says that thirsty people should come to him to drink, and the water he provides will turn into wells of living water that gush eternal life. That water is the Spirit (see John 7:3-39), and the Samaritan woman at the well becomes that kind of Spirit-well to the people in her own village as she, filled and led by the Spirit, brings the very people who ostracized her to meet Jesus.

It’s not the last time Jesus talks about food, either. Here, Jesus says his food (or bread—food/bread is the same word)—his bread is doing the work the Father sent him to do. In John 6, Jesus will call himself the food/bread from heaven that comes down, like Manna in the wilderness, to miraculously feed a pilgrim people on their way. 

Jesus isn’t just waxing poetic; he wants you to reframe, restructure, reimagine your relationship with him so that the daily, desperate dependence wandering Israel had in on this miraculous food from heaven that tasted like honey and looked like coriander would become your daily, desperate dependence on Jesus as you wander in your own wilderness and slowly make your way Home.

Jesus very clearly knows the metaphors you live by will shape how you see God, how you see yourself, and how you see others. I think that’s why Jesus emphasizes the new kind of eyes the Kingdom requires: “Look; lift up your eyes; and see.” See with new eyes. Trade out your old paradigm for a new one. Pick up this metaphor and see your world through a new lens: “The fields are ripe for harvest.”

We sometimes get the idea that metaphors are for lovers and poets. And they are. But more than that, metaphors shape your understanding of your experience and tell you how you are expected to think, and feel, and act in any situation. Are you surrounded by unclean outsider enemies? One kind of response is appropriate. Are you standing in front of a field ripe for harvest? Are you a well of living water, and the people around you are dying of thirst? Then a different kind of response is required.

The Bible’s metaphors can sometimes be confusing. They might make you want to throw up your hands, like the Samaritan woman, and say, “When Messiah comes, He will explain all this!” And she was right. When Messiah came, He did explain all this. And when Messiah chose to explain all this, He said things like: 

“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me.”
“I am the true bread who has come down from heaven.”
“Come to me, you who thirst, and I will give you water and make you a well.”
“I am the Good Shepherd.”
“I am the light of the world.”
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”

“Look; lift up your eyes, and see!”

Justin Rossow is the founder of Next Step Press and The Next Step Community and author of the award-winning book, Delight! Discipleship as the Adventure of Loving and Being Loved.

For more on John 4 and the metaphors that shape our life and mission, see the article “Look, Lift Up Your Eyes, And See: Warfare, Containers, Harvest, Living Water, and the LCMS Constitution and Bylaws.”

You can find a more thorough discussion of how metaphor shapes your life and experience, and how to tap into the power of metaphor for ministry, check out the book Preaching Metaphor: How to Shape Sermons that Shape People by Justin Rossow.

“To See Like Jesus” was first published at https://community.findmynextstep.org/to-see-like-Jesus/. Used by permission.

 

 

Household Well: ”L” - Loves to try

A Household WELL is what we want to be, to bring the living water to a thirsty world. Jesus is shared and experienced not only at church but in our neighborhoods. 

Welcomes in Jesus

Engages with Neighbors

Listens for Insight

Loves to Try

I posted this video on my Facebook feed. It captures the essence of what we mean by the metaphor household WELL. 

https://www.facebook.com/100001583586062/videos/3743471235715626/

What do you notice about this video? What feelings does it evoke in you? What application to our 2021 Milestone (Household WELLs) do you see?

Imagine if every household connected to our ministry was actively drinking from the living water,  Jesus, and sharing Him with the spiritually parched!

In order to provide that water for others, we Welcome In Jesus, Engage With Neighbors, Listen For Insight, and we Love To Try.

What does it mean to Love To Try?

To define what something is, sometimes we need to clearly outline the opposite. 

Opposite of loving to: Obligation, drudgery, duty, the pressure to perform, need to, weightiness, seriousness, burden, commitment, requirement, responsibility.

Unlike Welcoming In Jesus, Engaging With Neighbors, and Listening For Insight, Loving To Try is an attitude. Welcoming in Jesus, Engaging With Neighbors, and Listening For Insight are all specific behaviors. Loving To Try is a contagious attitude that brings the three behaviors to life.  

We would like to see the call to obey Jesus or follow Jesus more of an exciting invitation to adventure than a heavy duty. 

So whether we are talking about attempting to establish a more consistent time in the Word and prayer with Jesus, or being more intentional in engaging with or listening to our friends, loved ones, and neighbors for insight into their journey, their passions, needs, celebrations, we can learn to have more fun. Yes, it is possible to enjoy being a household WELL.

Being a Household WELL is way more fun than we tend to make it out to be!

The number one perspective shift that must be made if we are to Love To Try:

Move from being an Expert to Experimenter. 

Here’s how. 

Obey Don’t Delay

When you get an idea you would like to try, do it! Don’t intend to do it. Do it. Don’t wait for a better time. Don’t put it off until all the obstacles are removed. Don’t give in to the inevitable second voices in your head that are trying to talk you out of it. 

Stay Curious

Unhook yourself from outcomes. Enjoy the journey. 

“Sometimes the inability to decide and move forward is not because we didn’t know what to do. We do know what we want to do. We are hesitant, though, because we’re obsessing about the outcome. We want insurance. We want to know how everything will turn out. Keep in mind, that’s what we want.  Here’s the truth: there is no way for any one of us to know with absolute certainty how a decision will turn out.” pg. 228 Fear Not, Dream Big, & Execute: Tools To Spark Your Dream And Ignite Your Follow-Through by Jeff Meyer (2018)

If indecision is largely the result of obsessing over the certainty of outcomes, decisiveness of action is the result of being curious.

I wonder how this will turn out. I wonder what I will learn, how I will grow, what deeper connection might be made. I’m curious what blessing will be magnified/multiplied in this interaction. 

Here are a couple of other love-to-try key principles.

Celebrate action, not perfection.

Rejoice in progress. Share the joy of taking a step. Don’t wait until the result is seen. You miss the beauty of the journey if you only memorialize the destination. 

People learn when they try.

Lessons don’t stick until they are put into practice. Choose action over intention. 

We are free in Jesus!

Trying, experimenting underscores the freedom we have in Jesus. We cannot fail. Jesus is with us. He loves us. And He loves to see us try. Just like a parent rejoices when their child tries something. 

We grow as teachers when we try.

You can’t adjust, tweak, or learn the best approach until we see other attempts not work. Once in a while we can get lucky and hit the nail on the head. Frequently, however, we try, learn, adjust, and try again. As we do, we learn what is worth replicating and what is not.  We also model the freedom and the thrill of trying. A culture of trying emerges.

Happy trying! 

 

 

Household Well: ”L” - Listens for Insight

A Household WELL is what we want to be, to bring the living water to a thirsty world. Jesus is shared and experienced not only at church but in our neighborhoods. 

           Welcomes in Jesus

           Engages with Neighbors

           Listens for Insight

           Loves to Try

I posted this video on my Facebook feed last week. It captures the essence of what we mean by the metaphor household WELL. 

https://www.facebook.com/100001583586062/videos/3743471235715626/

Imagine if every household connected to our ministry was actively drinking from the living water, Jesus, and sharing Him with the spiritually parched!

In order to provide that water for others, we must Welcome In Jesus, Engage With Neighbors, and we must Listen For Insight.

Insight--observation, understanding, wisdom, discernment

...an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, a situation, a person.

...penetrating mental vision or discernment; faculty of seeing into inner character or underlying truth.

...an understanding of relationships that sheds light on or helps solve a problem.

...understanding of the motivational forces behind one’s actions, thoughts, behavior.

...self-knowledge.

Why do you think insight is so important as we relate to our neighbors? And why do you think insight is critical as we consider our own part in the mission of distributing life-giving water to people who need it?  (As you consider these questions, I would love to read your thoughts. Comment below in the blog. Or, shoot me an email.)

Consider these two examples: 

1) Without insight, we can offer people something they are not seeking. Think about the times you’ve been on the receiving end of a salesperson that was trying to sell you something you didn’t need. More concerned with the sale, than meeting your need, they carried on until you left without purchasing. And, you never return again!  On the other hand, think about the time when the salesperson really listened to you, really was interested in what you were saying, listened all the way through, and really understood what you needed. They listened way more than they talked. They were patient, and in the end, you walked out with a new relationship even as you walked away with the purchase. There will be future conversations! Listening for insight yields true discernment.

2) I was on a coaching call the other day with someone who needed to gain some insight into her situation. I found myself a couple of times in the conversation wanting to jump in and offer advice. At another point, I wanted to show some empathy. She was really hurting. I am thankful I didn’t. Advice and empathy would have derailed the progress we were making.  Through practice, I was able to listen carefully to my own need to fix or comfort. And, because of that awareness, I mindfully resisted indulging my inner cheerleader, comforter, and wise sage advisor. I put myself on lockdown for a moment. Listening for insight nurtures self-understanding.

So we listen to God and others, and in the process, we gain deeper understanding of others, of God, and of ourselves. And with this precious gift given, we can better serve and love ourselves and our neighbors.  Let me close with a couple of questions for you to ponder. 

What are your biggest barriers to listening to God and others? Many will answer busyness. Others will say their own need to give advice. 

What opportunities this week will God give you to listen? I would love to hear the insights you gain as you do.

Happy listening!