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There are days when it feels like we take one step forward and slide two steps back. Reflecting on God during these times is especially helpful. It is when I am sliding back that the Lord is there to support me, to hold me up, and to keep me from falling.

Some might distrust how certain I can be in saying these words. Who is to say that I am not ‘whistling in the dark’? This expression refers to the idea that when you are alone in the dark and there is a fear factor, you might whistle to yourself to portray freedom from fear. When the fear is real, whistling is not going to help. Our biggest need is courage – the strength to face the fear and push through it; and to gain confidence as we push on.

Courage to fully trust in God comes about with vision. He knows me better than I know myself and I trust His judgement better than my own. When I trust in His presence, it is exactly like having a strong protector by my side. When I falter, my vision and knowledge of Him sustain me.

Life brings setbacks and difficulties. We cannot expect that life will always be easy, wonderful and kind. This week I have seen dear friends encounter setbacks and suffering. To avoid falling into discouragement myself, I paused to reflect on God. Psalm 118 came to mind: 13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. 14 The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.

I love it when scripture reflects the conditions that are on my heart! As I read through the entire Psalm 118, it is a song of exaltation and praise to God, and it reminds me that even in Old Testament times, there were people who knew to trust in God, because He IS the Person and Protector that sustains and keeps us safe, even if the world is not going so well. Praise His name!

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Years ago, I remember a season at work where a series of circumstances led me into a state that I can only call paranoia. A fellow worker was saying and doing things that were ‘out to get me’. I was very unhappy. I could not find a way to clear thinking, and I was inconsolable. It took me years to understand why I ever got into that kind of thought — and I know I was at fault. My perspective was in a bubble that could only be fixed by time and working through it.

In 2 Samuel 24, David had been doing things in a certain way as King of Israel, and a time came when his perspective was clearly in a bubble. On the surface, his perspective does not seem that bad – he simply wanted to take a census and sign up some local militia teams. God’s perspective had been overlooked. Israel had been messing up a lot, and God was not pleased with Israel. It was also a time when David was being prideful rather than taking direction from God. A prophet had spoken on behalf of God and basically advised ‘be happy with what you got, and do not worry about a census.’

The human perspectives I describe here would fall into the area of ‘distressed’. It may have taken years for each of us, individually, to come up with the perspectives we have. The perspectives are conditioned by joy, sadness, anger, and every other emotion. The hard part comes when we have to lay it all at Jesus’ feet. Is what we are thinking accurate, reasonable, and under God’s blessing?

David had a surprisingly rapid response to Gad, the seer for God at that time. Gad relayed three choices from God, on how to make things right. All three choices were tough, and the only real difference was duration of suffering. In verse 14, David’s response to Gad was “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” Putting the choice in God’s hands removed human short-sightedness, and it made the suffering duration shorter albeit painful: Over 3 days, 70,000 people died as the result of a plague, and this brought the heart of the people (and David) back to God.

I long for God’s perspective in our lives BEFORE we get to a place where our perspective is distressed by life. I fear that we are too much buried in our distressed perspectives to see our way out to a solution. I pray that God would enable us to find correct perspective in our lives while we can still respond to correction.

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A friend was jokingly telling me about all the money plans he now has to keep track of: a former wife, a growing family, the need for another car, and the costs of a house mortgage. It can be a lot to worry about, and there is another one that comes into the picture as you get older — retirement. For retirement, I have to make sure my plans are on target to where I need to be. I am years away from retirement, but the plans that God has for us can be quite unexpected.

I remember a time or two when my children would come running and they would need attention for something. There was a good chance I had to drop everything and respond immediately. I am hopeful that
I can be as responsive to God, at the first notice where he says ‘jump’ or ‘do this’; I feel a strong drive to be attentive and responsive to His call. I want to be attentive — but it can be difficult to know God’s plan when the occasion is minor in scope — it might be as minor as holding a door for someone or giving a kind word. For the little things, it might be so minor that I never see the big plan.

For longer term plans I expect that God will warn and prepare me before he calls me.

This is reflected in the oft quoted verse from Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I am called upon to be attentive, to plan what I can, and give the rest over to Him. Let’s go!

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On some subjects, I know what I am talking about. But, what I think I know is not enough. In I Corinthians 8:1b, Paul said We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.

People can be so used to doing things in a specific way, that they cannot tolerate the situation when it is not done the way it is ‘supposed’ to happen. Paul referred to this in an ancient context format, by referring to food sacrificed to idols. Some Christians could not handle the idea that some stuff ‘has to happen in a certain way’. Here is the original:

7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

What we do with the food does not matter. The love of God matters.

What other brothers and sisters in Christ think matters too. It matters because it can hurt them — offending their sensibilities in Christ. If it is an offense to them, it is a sin: you are sinning against that brother or sister. When we sin against a brother or sister, we sin against Christ. Now it gets uncomfortable —- like Paul, I have to conclude “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

I have to conclude – even if I am strong in Christ, and even if the food aspect does not bother me – I need to do what I can, not to offend. The love of God matters. We should not lose a brother or sister in Christ just because of a strong opinion on something.

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The entire US nation longs to see our current election cycle finish soon. The experience has provided very few options that match up with the Fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5 says 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

I expect that politician’s messages to each other are unlikely to demonstrate the power and presence of God’s Spirit. Their back and forth message is about bullying, survival, and demonstrating “I am the better choice”. Truth takes a backseat to the message of striving to win.

I have to recognize that selection starts with me and God. God MUST be part of the equation if we want to discern integrity and truth in the people we live and work with — and in whom we elect.

Before we vote, we need to take stock of how much love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are seen in our choices, and select the candidate that is closest to God’s choice.

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