Tag Archives: Scripture

Open Palms and Applications

Trust is not a new topic for my thoughts, my prayer life, nor for this blog. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned and written about trusting Jesus over the past five years and a little update about where we are now:

In 2013, I wrote about what it looked like to trust the Lord in moving to Wheaton.

1.) Trust is harder when you feel the need to prove yourself. Control is a natural feeling when situations seem to necessitate changing other people’s perceptions. I’m young, I’m single, I’m currently living at home while I finish up my M.A. – it can feel like all eyes are on me when it comes to my future. What is she going to do next; how is she planning for it? When the goal is less “pleasing God” and more “appeasing  man” (Galatians 1:10), it becomes a lot harder to step into crazy places of trust. Because, as might be self-explanatory, it can make you look a little crazy.

2.) Trust is synonymous with peace; it’s not synonymous with comfortable. There is tension, impatience, and anxiety when I’m trying to figure things out in my own strength. Manipulating variables so that I feel like I have a handle on something usually means I spend most of my energy trying to keep my handle on it. When I’ve submitted something to the Lord and am walking in what I know to be His will, there’s an inhuman level of peace and security. It’s the kind that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), because you feel it permeate everything even when the variables don’t make sense. He offers peace and it’s amazing. But peace doesn’t mean it ever really feels comfortable. It’s imbedded in my human nature to want to be in control of things. Just because I’m feeling divine peace doesn’t mean that I’m ever like, “wow, it feels so natural, comfortable, and easy to give up everything that makes conventional sense so that I can trust Jesus and watch Him show up!” Feels good, exciting, and full of security in who He is – but it’s rarely comfortable.

3.) Sometimes, trust is less about the emotion and more about the action. If God says to do something, I wouldn’t second guess it, regardless of how much sense it makes. Scripture is full of stories of those kind of commands. My life is full of those kind of commands. Chances are, if it’s something that brings Him glory, and is something you wouldn’t choose or didn’t bring about, you can probably trust it. What’s more, if you’ve prayed, fasted, been honest about your humanity in it, and sought wise counsel (remember 1 Corinthians 1:27 here), and the consensus is that it’s right, I wouldn’t hesitate. This may mean giving away the money, signing up, buying the ticket, getting in line, or getting rid of most of your army (a la Gideon in Judges 7). You’re heart still may be wrestling, the doubts may still creep up, and the discomfort may feel debilitating at times, but sometimes, you’ve gotta force the step and pray for faith as your wait. Believing with unbelief is not an unfamiliar concept to our Lord (see Mark 9:23-25). Thankfully.

In 2014, trusting God was less of concept that I was trying to wrap my head around and more of a gracious, nudging, reassuring command of the Lord.

4.) Trusting God starts with the small things. How am I supposed to believe God for miraculous provision or impossible actions if I’m not believing that He will sustain me today? You can pray for God’s glory and for miracles and you can want Him to show up all day long, but if you aren’t willing to give Him the little places of dependance this hour, your soul is going to struggle when trusting Him means turning everything on it’s head. You’ll struggle when trusting makes you look really crazy. Have faith that God sees everything, including your emotions, your frustrations, and your confusion. If you don’t see Him as big enough for your daily slough, then your conception of Him is still too small. I’m grateful for all the crushes, tough classes, and “small” prayers that had me clinging to the Lord; every time I believed Him and He proved Himself faithful, my heart gained that much more resolve in trusting Him with all my finances, healing for my body, and open doors for my future.

5.) Trust is strengthened when we look back. Journaling may not be your forte, but I highly suggest writing your prayers, your stories, and the works of God in your life – big and small – down. Or speak them into your iPhone voice memos. Set up rocks in your bedroom. It doesn’t matter, just find some way to keep an account. When you see His faithfulness in the details, when you see pieces of the story that connect in ways you missed in the moment, it becomes easier to trust that He is who He says He is and that He knows what He’s doing. Help your heart out here. Not only that, but it makes it easier to tell the stories and give the Lord glory when you have a way of looking back on what you believed Him for and how He showed up. You can’t tell the stories of how the Lord has shown up if you don’t remember them.

 

2015 had me smack-dab in the middle of the trusting God, confused and frustrated by things that didn’t seem to be working out or lining up, and using truths from my past to propel my faith.

6.) Trust rarely makes sense in the moment. It feels uncomfortable. It’s often not what we want or had anticipated, both on the front-end and the back-end. Trusting God doesn’t mean we ask for want we want and then open our hands to receive; we ask Him what He wants, open our hands in submission, and then act, pray, and live accordingly. And the things that He gives us are usually not the things where we go, “this is exactly what I thought, happened exactly the way I anticipated, and is exactly what I wanted to do!” From what I can see, that’s not typically the reaction when God says He’s going to light wet wood on fire (1 Kings 18) or asks you to march around a city for a week (Joshua 6). If it makes sense to my rational mind, it’s probably in my control, which means that it’s more about me than it is about the glory of the Lord. When it feels a little crazy and like it doesn’t totally make sense, that’s when I know I’m probably on the right track. That doesn’t mean that we’re rash, unthoughtful, or idiotic; quite the opposite, in fact. The things of God should demand more thoughtfulness, prayer, care, and processing. Just because we step into them with care and intentionality doesn’t mean that they likely make logical sense. Jesus gets the glory in things that are impossible or strange for our humanity; it makes sense that those are also the things that tend to raise an eyebrow.

A big year for my trust in the Lord, the health issues, life changes, and future plans of 2016 deepened my trust in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

7.) Trusting God means confidently believing that He can . . .We need to have a bigger view of God than we often do. To use some good, adjectival conditionals: He’s stronger, more loving, more faithful, more powerful, bigger, better, and greater than we dare to imagine. The response that people have in Scripture to those who doubt or question the craziness of their trust is always, “who should speak against, stand against, or hold back the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). How can I not be all in with my God when I know who He is? As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say, not only do we believe that He able to do it, but that He will (Daniel 3:17). A little future imperative to demonstrate just how resolved they are in the belief that God not only has the abilities but the trustworthy characteristics that define His actions. We should have that same confidence.

8.) . . . but also believing so fully in His sovereignty that you are okay with “He may not.” If our “trust” is contingent on a certain outcome, it’s not real trust. That is just us believing for something that we want. Our view of God should be big enough that it leads us to believe Him for impossible things, but it also has to be big enough that we believe any outcome means that His sovereignty is still in control. It doesn’t mean we have to love all the different outcomes equally, but they should not affect our trust. As soon as we put our hope in the expectation of the thing itself, we’ve missed the point. In that, we run the risk of having a disappointed or offended heart. The end result of trust CANNOT be the object of the trust, it has to be Jesus. If all we ever gain in this life is Jesus, that is more than enough. And if our “trust” leads us to be disappointed, disillusioned, hurt by, or offended with Jesus, then it somewhere along the line we lost real trust. Ultimately, we don’t get the healing, the home, the open door, the family, the city, the situation, or the resolution, we get more of Christ.

9.) Trust comes from intimacy. That is why trust has to come from a nearness to the Lord. First, we only know the heart of God and what He’s leading us into by being near to Him. That means investing time, emotion, and energy into the relationship – like with any human relationship. What is Jesus asking you to do? Don’t ask me; ask Him. Ask Him to speak. Sit and listen, without any pretense. Soak yourself in Scripture. Learn what it means to be intimate with our incarnate God. Experience the nearness of God with others, in community. Second, if the real prize of trust is gaining Jesus, that’s going to feel pretty lame if you haven’t experienced the life-changing, radical, consuming love of the Lord. If you don’t quite get how Paul can say that everything is a loss compared to the infinite value, the surpassing worth, the excellency of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8), then let your journey with trust start there.

And here we are, nearing the end of 2017 . . .

I’ve submitted an application that pretty much every current plan for my future is dependent on. I’m walking forward in things that aren’t, by any human terms, for sure. I’m doing things, talking about things, and praying for things in a way that is a little crazy. The rubber finally meeting the road on some of the biggest places of trust in my life. And I’m all in with trust. I’ve stepped off the ledge and it’s up to Jesus. I’m not betting on any human process here; I’m betting on Him.

When it comes to believing my God, I’m all in.

I know, it’s crazy. It’s always crazy. And believe me when I say it’s not always comfortable. I’m not under any illusion that everyone understands. But if God is who I believe Him to be, that means He either gets everything or nothing. So, He gets everything.

And time and time again, He’s proven that He’s worthy of that.

More than that.

Here’s how it goes: He asks me to keep my palms open. To let Him work. To step out of the way, give up my control, so that He can get the glory. He, graciously, slowly, and methodically places things in them. His dreams, hopes, things to believe Him for.

The hardest part for me isn’t opening my hands in the first place or getting okay with whatever Jesus puts in them.

It’s keeping them open when He fills them.

When something is in our hand, our biological reflex causes us to want to clench our fist. We want to grasp onto, wrap our fingers around whatever our palms feel. As soon as I do that, I take the glory away from Jesus, I throw away my trust, and I try and manipulate His plans into something I can control.

It’s easy to trust when my palms are open and empty. It’s a heck of a lot harder when I’m holding something concrete, something He’s given and grown in me, something that I’ve come to love. THAT is when He asks me to trust Him. To hold the things in my hand with steadfast, unwavering faith. To believe that He can. And to keep my palms open, so that He can give and take away as His sovereignty demands.

To be unoffended with the outcome.

To gain Jesus.

This is what I’m learning about trust nowadays.

10.) Trust really has very little to do with us. If you think that trusting God is solely about His faithfulness to you or your role in it, you’re probably missing the point. Our God is faithful just because He is. It is, very simply, who He is. And chances are, the things that we are trusting Him for reflect more than His faithfulness to just us. Remember, His vision and glory are for the nations, the marginalized, and the grand narrative of humanity. It’s less about your ability to hear him, to pray steadfastly, to fast continuously, or even how well you live into the other nine parts of what it means to trust the Lord, and more about who He is. Because, ultimately, it’s not about you. A small part of it may be, because, in His infinite love and mercy, the God of the universes chooses us and cares for us. He demonstrates His faithfulness to us because He’s not just a God of the macro things but delights in the details of who we are. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think that we, in some twisted and subconscious way, are in control because of our trust in God. We’re not. He is. Which means all of it has very, very little to do with us, and everything to do with who He is.

That’s the story. And He’s the only one who gets the glory in it.

The Old, Old Story (revisited)

Yesterday I posted something that I had been asked to write in one of my classes (the Old, Old Story). We were given two pieces of paper and ten minutes to write our retelling of the narrative of Scripture. While colored beads and the Roman Road crossed my mind, I ended up telling the story that I posted on Wednesday night – the story of the Bible as the story of love, as I’ve experienced it. I posted that first because it’s what I wrote first, what moved my heart first. But the significance of the assignment didn’t end there; the next week, to our surprise, the professor handed out two more pieces of paper and slowly, methodically, and gut-wrenchingly took us through the narrative of Scripture again. This time, it was through the lens of suffering. Story after story left a bitter and painful taste in my mouth. “Why does no one ever tell the story this way?” I wondered. And now that I had begun wrestling with it, in conviction and distress, I found myself crying out like the Israelites: “where the heck were you in all of this, God?” As he finished his presentation and left us in a room with our blank papers, I wrote the story again. I told it a little differently this time:

In the beginning God created

. . . everything.

He created beauty, nature, time, and space. It was so very good.

Then God created man and woman. He loved them; He loved them so very much. He loved them so much that He walked with them and talked with them, in perfect, unbroken communion. That was good too.

Then sin was introduced to the story and the Enemy of God, this fallen angel, convinced the man and woman to doubt their God. As this relationship with God is ripped apart, as God in His perfection can’t live among their sin. The world fell under a blanket of darkness. The story continues, however, it is full of much pain.

Man and woman worked the land with toil, while siblings began murdering one another. Languages are confused and the earth is flooded. There is death around every corner. The people of God wander in the desert, now dying because of famine, and the ones that live are sold into slavery. It is generation after generation of hardship and of suffering. It is the cries and tears of a people who wonder where their God is and why it seems as if He’s abandoned them.

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Yet, God allows it. He cries along, as the story continues to challenge, oppress, and hurt the ones He loves. The thing is, there is no easy answer for why He allows it. It’s not the kind of story you put in a children’s book because, for all the moments that God is faithful and pours out His love on people who continually reject Him, there are an equal number of moments where it’s just hard.

However, for all the suffering, God’s sovereignty is present in it all. He mourns, laments, and cares for His people, until, in His perfect timing, He physically enters into the scene. God – the triune, relational, omnipotent, omniscient God – takes on the form of a servant, takes on flesh, and walks as one of us.

He walks as one acquainted with all suffering. He feels for us, with us, and as one of us. He grieves the loss of loved ones, lives in poverty, flees his home, faces abandonment, rejection, and false accusations. Until ultimately, His love for us brings Him to the uttermost suffering. Physical torture, emotional strife, as the weight of every sin is placed upon Him. Bearing every punishment that we, the sinful, broken, unfaithful people deserved. He suffers not only with us, but for us. For the sake of repairing what we broke, what we deny, and what we could not atone for.

He doesn’t stay defeated, however, but rises from the dead. His power breaks death and hell. He ascends to the place of perfection – where there are no tears, pains, or suffering. He repairs the relationship so that we can enter into holistic communion with our all-loving, all-holy God. . .

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. . .and that’s where we are going to end the story for now.

It feels trivial and almost sacrilegious or inappropriate to move onto some glorious explanation of heaven, Jesus’s second coming, and the eternal hope of the world in God’s ultimate victory. Because, while that is a very important part of the story – a beautiful, integral, necessary part – it doesn’t feel fair to move on just yet. Because the whole beginning isn’t fair and there’s no way to overlook that now (although, I didn’t seem to have a problem often doing it up until this point). It’s not fair that David lived as a King while the Israelites were enslaved for 400 years. It’s not fair that everything, except Noah and the animals, were destroyed in a flood or that Abraham and Sarah couldn’t conceive a baby for 100 years. It’s not fair that Job lost everything or that Naomi’s husband and sons all died. It’s not fair that today there are 6.3 million people who have fled everything and often everyone they know. It’s not fair that Allie’s dad died of cancer or that Ezra had a brain tumor that took his little seven year old life. None of it is fair.

It’s also not fair that Jesus died on the cross for the sins that we deserved to pay an eternal price for. It’s not fair that Jesus repaired the relationship that we broke – that we continually break. It’s not fair that God Himself would be acquainted with suffering, suffering that He didn’t deserve. He didn’t owe us anything and yet He felt for us, with us, and because of us. It may not be fair, but it’s just, and His sovereignty overarches it all – whether it makes sense to us or not. It’s not fair, but it’s love. And love seldom makes sense.

This is a story of incomprehensible love and suffering. Both love and suffering contain some level of meaning and philosophical reasoning (the class I’m taking this semester on Suffering proves that). But it doesn’t mean that we need to move on from the affective just yet. Because when I look into the eyes of a refugee who has just lost their home, family, and freedom, I can’t just jump to the glory. The narrative of Scripture itself doesn’t just jump to the glory. The point is that glory has come at an incredible price – sometimes the price of our sin, the sins of others, or the price of a world that groans because this is not the way it was created to be. We need to be okay with sitting in that, lamenting in that, for a minute. That was the whole point of what I learned at the Home of Hope and wrote about in “because I’m with you.

It’s okay that we can’t move on to, “but glory!” just yet.  It’s actually necessary. Not only would that diminish painful experiences, but it also neglects a view of the Gospel that highlights the empathy and embodiment of Jesus. The incarnation was not simply about Christ becoming Love and redeeming our sins unto Himself; it was also about walking as one of us, suffering and being tempted as we are (Hebrews 2:18, Philippians 2:8).

It is a sad reality, one that I have clearly, albeit non-consciously, fallen into. The reality that we only see the Gospel via the lens of beauty. While it is a true and necessary lens, it is incomplete if it ignores the pain of millions of people (if I allow it to ignore my own pain), including our Lord, past, present, and future. There is a necessity in lament that we, as American evangelicals, or perhaps as humans, are often uncomfortable with. It is why we prefer movies that have resolution, move on quickly from news articles that end in depression, or get squirmy when people cry in front of us. This narrative, this old old story, has the most glorious, pervasive, incredible ending and victory that we would imagine. However, that does not mean we need to jump there just yet. To overlook or brush past suffering is to discredit and delegitimize so much of our human experience, including the experience of our Lord. Lament is heavy, but it’s beautiful and it’s an important lens that we need to look through. It allows us to see ourselves and the world with a heartbreaking reality, to cry out for God with the same kind of gut-wrenching cries He used, and it ultimately frames hope in its magnificent, brilliant, eternal light.

The Old, Old Story

In the beginning, God created . . .

. . . and He created everything.

Every star, every blade of grass, every rock that has eroded into the sea. Night and day, every animal, every insect, every wave, He created. It was all beautiful and very good. Then, He created man and woman. He loved them and He was in relationship with them. God walked with them, talked with them. He loved them so very, very much.

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But, then sin is introduced to the story, as the Enemy of God, this former fallen angel, distracts man and woman away from their First Love. God, in his perfection, can’t tolerate this sin. Yet He loves His people, so thousands of years pass as He constantly draws His people back to Himself. It makes Him sad and angry, but He loves these people so much. Sin keeps getting in the way, but story after story God faithfully and relentlessly draws near to the ones that He created, sustains, and loves.

Then we reach the climax of that love – God the Father, in His mysterious, triune, relational nature, sends His Son, and extension of Himself, to walk among us. To be like us. To serve us. To be tempted in every way. To model the heart of God for us. Ultimately this Son gives up His own life and perfection to die a humiliating, horrific death, as the blameless sacrifice, as we could never atone, to repair the relationship. He brings us into the fullness of God’s infinite love for us. Jesus took the punishment we deserved, because of His great love for us.

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Yet it wasn’t merely His death that is significant, for three days later He rose from the dead, defeating both death and sin, repairing the breech, and drawing us into communion with God. He left His very Spirit, His Holy Spirit, to indwell us, that we might know and remain in fellowship with God, even on earth. The perfection of this fellowship that we will ultimately come into, as we step across eternity and live in eternal relationship with God in Heaven (or when Jesus returns to completely heal the earth).

It is the grandest story of love – of a God who created everything in love, who drew an unfaithful people to Himself in love, who chose to walk as one of us in love, who paid the price for the sin that we deserved, in love.

Love who rose again, defeating death and sin, who sent His Spirit to testify to our souls of that love.

This is our God, who daily, minute by minute, is displaying, speaking, and proclaiming His great love for us.

We confess that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We repent of the ways in which we reject Him and His love. We believe in who He says He is and all that He’s done for us. We go out and continue to tell people of this great love of our great God!

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Reflections on Car Church

“Time for car church!” The four boys in the front seats pulled out their Bibles, while the three of us girls, crammed in the backseat of a friend’s SUV, wiggled to grab our backpacks. We were a solid 10 hours into a 22 hour road trip for Spring Break. And it was time for car church.

Being in a car full of Wheaton students, the Bible major of the group read a passage for us in Greek. Our text for the morning was Matthew 14:22-33. A familiar passage. Yet as a car full of personalities, academic disciplines, and individual relationships with the Lord began talking through these verses, the Holy Spirit began to move in our hearts and reveal new truths about this story.

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, why did you doubt?And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

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at some gas station in Nebraska

As we began discussing, the first thing that came up about the passage was the context. This was Jesus’ third attempt at being alone in the chapter. The crowds are being a little more than demanding, to say the least. Yet Christ, in His perfect wisdom, cares for them without sacrificing His intimacy with the Father.

A little twinge of guilt was replaced by a wave of grace as I realized it had been days since I was alone with the Father. How often do I fight for time alone with my heavenly Daddy? Do I see my time with the discernment of Jesus, knowing when to love the people around me and knowing my limits when I need solitude and rest? Am I able to love people out of a place of fulfillment and refreshment from my communion with the Trinity?

•      •      •

As car church continued and we went on in the passage, we reached a Greek phrase that struck us all:

Ego eimai. 

Ego eimai is Greek for “it is I.” It is the same word used in the Septuagint when God names Himself as I AM to Moses. Jesus isn’t just reminding them that He’s still there, He’s reminding them who He is. He is is the Great I AM. The omnipotent, omniscient, Creator of the universe, sustainer of the world, Trinitarian God. The same I AM that parted the Red Sea was walking on the stormy waves of the lake. This the God who loves us. This is the God who knows, redeems, and upholds us. This the God who reaches out His hand and tells us to walk towards Him, in faith and in trust. The Great I Am of the universe, who silences waves and governs scientific principles, also calls us by name and tenderly carries our hearts.

As live in places of fear, looking at the circumstances and unknowns of my life, I hear Him graciously calling out to my heart: ego eimai. It is I. I Am.

•      •      •

With the clear presence of the Holy Spirit and excited to read on, we reached the phrase where Jesus chides Peter for his faith and asks why he doubted. However, the question Jesus asks, in the Greek, is a little different than we think of it. The question Jesus asks Peter, literally translated, isn’t merely “why do you doubt?,” but “in what are you doubting?”

Again washed in the weight of conviction, I realized this is the question that Jesus asks me as my heart wanders away from trusting Him. When my eyes see the waves beneath my feet and the wind beating at my back a little too clearly, He addresses my heart: Maddie, in what are you doubting? Am I doubting his goodness? His trustworthiness? His timing? His love for me?

•      •      •

How many times have I read this story? How many messages have I heard preached from this text? And yet, that afternoon in the backseat of a car, speeding through the cow populated fields of Nebraska, I met my God in a new way.

I pray it is the same for you, wherever you are, this Tuesday afternoon.

A Prayer Journal Entry

Brace yourselves. I’m about to get real, real over here. When I was praying the other night, I had to have some Maddie and Jesus honesty time. And while normally Maddie and Jesus talks stay between Maddie and Jesus, I felt like I needed to share these. First, I want to let you know where I’ve been spiritually. I should only… Read more. . .

Five Non-Cliche Truths You Need To Hear Today

One thing that I’ve learned in my mere twenty years on this earth is that if I’m not preaching to myself and letting Jesus speak His truth over me, then something else is going to. It’s like my heart wakes up every morning searching for something to cling onto. And to be totally transparent, the… Read more. . .

The Necessity of Hope

Doing my “monthly recap of the movement of God,” I noticed a trend between February and March. . . Hope. I think this is one of those I-grew-up-in-the-church-and-I’m-pretty-sure-“hope”-was-one-of-my-first-words kind of things. We’ve become numb to the true reality and necessity of what hope is, and the actual depravity of those living in hopelessness. Feeling like… Read more. . .